What does the Bible have to say about gay marriage? Is it a non-essential issue or only relative to how society perceives it? How does God see marriage? Does what the Bible says about homosexuality still apply today? These are all important questions every Christian should know the answer to, and in light of the many recent political discussions on the subject, we must also be able to defend our position soundly with Scripture.
It is most likely that in the upcoming week or so, the United States Supreme Court (SCOTUS) will make a decision on how marriage is legally defined in response to California’s Proposition 8, which declared that marriage in the state must be between a man and a woman, overturning the previous ruling in California that same-sex couples had the right to marry in the state. They have a few options to make in their rulings, but there are basically three consequences:
- The Supreme Court rules that gay marriages are unconstitutional – disallowing any gay marriages in the country.
- The Supreme Court rules that gay marriage is a state by state issue – making it not a federal issue but up to individual states whether or not to recognize gay marriages.
- The Supreme Court rules that no state has the right to decide whether or not to recognize gay marriages, and all states must recognize gay marriages.
This is the first introduction of a series of blog posts that will address what the Bible says about homosexuality, government, and marriage, but in the meantime, on matters such as this, how should we decide whether to obey the laws of our government or Scripture?
We have an obligation to obey our government, but when government interferes with what God’s Word clearly teaches, we must subject ourselves to God rather than men (Acts 5:29). But is it really so simple to say, “disobey government to obey the Scriptures?” If the Bible says, “Whoever sheds man’s blood, by man his blood shall be shed” (Gen. 9:6), and our judicial system releases a murderer because of some sort of technicality, should we take law into our own hands? Or what about God’s command for parents to put to death the rebellious son (Deut. 21:18)? Certainly we wouldn’t do that. Addressing the issue of homosexuality, should we put to death those who practice this as well (Lev. 20:13)?
It is first important to remember that the commands God laid out in the Old Testament were a reflection of His moral character, and His character does not change. Furthermore, it is God’s character that defines what is good and what is evil. It is not based on a vote or a country’s social views. What is good and evil, like God’s character, does not change. Morality, in other words, is absolute. Without God, law (of any government) becomes relative being built on philosophical humanism, and relative law severely lacks authority.
That being said, however, we must also remember that Christ is the fulfillment of the Law, and by loving God and your neighbor, you fulfill both the Law and the prophets (Matt. 5:17). That makes sense, since Jesus Himself is God, and is the truth in His very Being (John 14:6). But what does this mean for the OT commands? Christ fulfilled them perfectly – morally, judicially, and ceremonially. As New Testament believers, then, we fulfill the absolute Law through love, which is what the Law intended to accomplish. “Love is the fulfillment of the Law” – Rom. 13:10.
How does all this apply in a discussion about when we are called to disobey the government? How does this help in answering the aforementioned question, “is it really so simply to say, ‘We disobey government to obey the Scriptures?” It is that simple, but remember, we fulfill the laws of the OT through Christ who fulfilled them as we act out love. But love doesn’t mean we look the other way when evil exists, nor does love mean we ignore wickedness. Remember, the God-ordained purpose of government is laid out in Romans 13:1-10.
Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. Therefore, whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves. For rulers are not a cause of fear for good behavior, but for evil. Do you want to have no fear of authority? Do what is good and you will have praise from the same; for it is a minister of God to you for good. But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil. Therefore it is necessary to be in subjection, not only because of wrath, but also for conscience’ sake. For because of this you also pay taxes, for rulers are servants of God, devoting themselves to this very thing. Render to all what is due them: tax to whom tax is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honor to whom honor. Owe nothing to anyone except love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law. For this, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and if there is any other commandment, it is summed up in this saying, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love the fulfillment of the law.”
Thus, we are always to obey the government unless the government interferes with
God’s law. So what if the government permits gay marriage? While I do not advocate civil disobedience in any way, especially while considering Paul’s teaching in Romans 13 that we are to subject ourselves to rulers and authorities, at the same time, because homosexuality is clearly contrary to God’s character, and permitting gay marriage is UN-loving, we cannot endorse, recognize, accept, or celebrate such marriages. The church cannot marry gay couples. It’s not the loving thing to do. In the following posts, we’ll discover more on how the Christian should view marriage and respond to homosexuality.