Should Traditional Marriage be Redefined?
The Current Debate:
Marriage is making headlines these days. Most of the press concerns a relatively straightforward question; should traditional marriage be redefined to include homosexual couples? Public opinion is divided on this issue and the legal status afforded same-sex unions is being hotly debated in the public square. It is necessary that followers of Jesus Christ be prepared to enter the debate with grace and truth, clearly articulating a biblical and reasonable position. As we consider the merits of redefining marriage, we must look beyond the simple question of whether homosexuals can sustain long-term loving relationships; certainly, they can. More significant are questions concerning the definitive essence of biblical marriage, the moral implications of homosexual behavior, questions of civil liberty and discrimination against same-sex partners, and the social consequences should marriage be redefined to include homosexual couples.
Biblical Marriage and Same-Sex Spouses:
The biblical teaching on marriage and on the complementarity of the sexes reiterates a truth that is evident to right reason and recognized as such by all the major cultures of the world. Marriage is not just any relationship between human beings. God established it with its own nature, essential properties and purposes, which will neither accommodate or be accomplished by same-sex relationships.
There are three fundamental elements of God’s plan for marriage, as narrated in the Book of Genesis. In the first place, humanity, the image of God, was created “male and female” as equal and complimentary persons (Gen 1:27). Second, marriage was instituted by God as a form of life in which a communion of persons is realized involving the use of the sexual faculty. This communion involves mind, body, and spirit. “That is why a man leaves his father and mother, clings to his wife and they become one flesh” (Gen 2:24). Third, God designed marriage to give the man and woman a special participation in his work of creation. Thus, he blessed the man and the woman with the words “Be fruitful and multiply, rule the earth and subdue it” (Gen 1:28). Procreation is a “prime directive” for marriage. Beyond these three elements, marriage is elevated by the Bible as a picture of Jesus Christ’s covenant relationship with his church (Ephesians 5:32).
Same-sex unions fail to express the complimentarity essential to God’s image and fundamental to Christ’s church. Such unions defy biological realities, denigrating the value of gender difference in humanity and calling God’s creative wisdom into question. Homosexuality closes the sexual act to the possibility of conceiving children; it prevents the union from giving life. There are no reasonable grounds for considering same-sex unions to be in any way similar or even remotely analogous to God's plan for marriage as it is outlined in the Bible.
Biblical Morality and Homosexual Sex:
The Bible does not condemn “homosexual orientation” any more than it condemns one’s “propensity to overeat.” It does however include homosexual behavior when it strongly condemns all forms of extra-marital sexual activity (Genesis 19:4-5 Leviticus 18:22; 20:13; Romans 1:24-27; 1 Corinthians 6:9-10; 1 Tim 1:10). In other words, it may not be sinful to possess the condition, but it is certainly sinful to act upon those desires. Such a conclusion leads proponents of gay and lesbian relationships to ask more emotionally charged questions: how can a loving God allow us to possess a genetic orientation that may not be expressed without sin? Is that not cruel or unjust? Is that not in itself cause enough to redefine traditional marriage?
At this date, there is no hard scientific evidence either to support or refute the hypothesis that homosexual orientation is genetically controlled. The Bible teaches however that, at some level at least, all sin is genetically controlled. Sinfulness is part of the “nature” inherited by all humans from our father Adam (Ephesians 2:1-3; Romans 5:12 & 18; Galatians 5:19-21). Our inherited sinfulness expresses itself in immoral proclivities as varied as we are individual. In one person, this nature is revealed in propensity toward heterosexual sin. In another person, the same sinful nature expresses itself in propensity toward homosexual sin. The more fundamental question is whether or not humans are responsible to behave contrary to their inherited sinful proclivities. The Bible contends that we are (Galatians 6:7-10; Romans 6:6-23; 8:5-17).
Genetic propensity toward sin does not mitigate personal responsibility for sin. We cannot excuse ourselves from any forbidden behavior based on the argument that we are bent toward such an act because of “our nature.” If genetic propensity did in fact mitigate personal responsibility, where would it end? Does a “propensity” toward heterosexual sin justify adultery? Does it justify pedophilia? Can a bent toward greed excuse the thief? No, homosexual behavior is forbidden in the Bible along with all other forms of sexual immorality, and we are responsible to comply.
Civil Liberty and the Need for Same-Sex Marriage:
Many homosexuals argue that denying them legally recognized marriages is discriminatory. In truth, current marriage laws are not discriminatory. It is the right of every citizen to marry as they desire subject to age, blood relation, and gender. Marriage is not a right given to a couple; it is an individual liberty that, by definition, requires an opposite-sex spouse.
Activists also argue that homosexual “couples” need the legal status of marriage to share property, designate heirs, visit each other in hospitals, and give authority for medical decisions. On the contrary, homosexuals can already address these issues through the use of simple legal instruments such as wills and powers of attorney. The legal status of marriage is not required for homosexuals to be sexually active. It is not required for them to own joint property or to will property to one another. Marriage is not even required for homosexual couples to adopt children. Without redefining marriage same-sex partners can be fully recognized as “couples” for as long as they choose such recognition.
It may indeed be time the insurance and investment industry reformed its policy toward homosexuals to address questions of shared health insurance and retirement benefits for same-sex couples. Redefining marriage is ill-advised solution however; these are problems the industry must solve. Marriage is simply not necessary for same-sex partners to access all privileges afforded every other citizen of our country.
So why are proponents of same sex unions so intent on obtaining the legal status of marriage? Simply put, it is not enough for society to tolerate gay and lesbian partners, activists demand that we sanction those unions as morally equal to heterosexual marriages and of comparable value to society. Many Americans may well support some sort of social and legal status for “same-sex life partners” but efforts to super- impose a same sex alternative upon the traditional definition of marriage is morally reprehensible. It violates the freedom of conscience of millions of American Christians, Jews, Muslims, and others who believe marriage requires an opposite-sex spouse and want that distinctive protected.
Social Stability and the Impact of Same-Sex Marriage:
Same-sex marriage is being promoted under the banner of tolerance, equality, and civil liberty but is itself an assault upon the liberties of those who oppose it. Were homosexual couples looking for formal recognition only, the rights of others would not be directly threatened. A redefinition of marriage on the other hand, will contribute to the further demise of our traditional concept of family and decrease social stability in our nation. Robert H Knight outlines several levels of legal and social fallout that will likely occur if we redefine marriage to include same-sex unions.
- Businesses that decline to recognize non-marital relationships will increasingly be punished through loss of contracts and even legal action. This is already occurring in San Francisco and in Canada.
- Other groups, such as bisexuals and polygamists, will demand the right to redefine marriage to suit their own proclivities. Once the standard of one-man, one-woman marriage is broken, there is no logical stopping point.
- As society rewards homosexual behavior, more young people will be encouraged to experiment and more will be discouraged from overcoming homosexual desires.
- Society's expectations of marriage and sexual fidelity will change in response to the homosexual model. Some homosexual activists have openly acknowledged that they intend to radically shift society's entire conception of sexual morality through the redefinition of marriage.
These consequences, and others like them, will not be inadvertent. Proponents of same-sex marriage are counting on such fallout to advance their moral and political agenda. Though most individuals with whom you converse will not be aware of such a well-planned and focused strategy, do not be naive, the strategy exists.
Perhaps the most pernicious behavior of gay and lesbian activists is their effort to indoctrinate children and encourage the promulgation of their alternative lifestyle. What homosexuals cannot accomplish biologically, they are attempting to engineer sociologically. If they succeed, they will vacate biblical marriage of its value to children. Marriages are a social anchor for children, allowing them to observe their parents as gender and role models in the family. Same-sex unions intend to create fatherless or motherless homes when all human experience demonstrates that children living with their married mother and father are happier, healthier, and more prosperous than children in other types of households. Proponents of same sex unions hold personal sexual preference as a value above the best interests of children and society.
How Should We Respond?
1. Cultivate commitment and intimacy in your own marriage.
Arguments for the value of traditional marriage are not supported well by the rampant deterioration of heterosexual marriages. Homosexual acts are no worse than adultery. A motherless or fatherless family created by divorce is no better than one created by same-sex marriage. If we really believe in the traditional, biblical definition of marriage, we must demonstrate our belief through faithful devotion to our spouse. By cultivating the sort of commitment and intimacy that God has reserved for a man and a woman in marriage, we can express the wisdom of God’s plan and expose the insufficiency of other alternatives.
2. Learn to articulate a biblical position regarding homosexuality and same sex unions with grace, compassion, and humility.
Begin by learning to discuss the primary points of this position paper in your own words. Make sure you understand the issues and the most relevant arguments. Be compassionate. God doesn’t hate people who are homosexual; he hates what homosexuality does to people. Your opinion about same-sex unions is not likely to change anyone’s mind, but your patient, careful, gracious demonstration of the love of Jesus just might. Make it your prayer to win the person, not the argument. Genuine advocates for the homosexual position are not likely even to listen to opposing rationale unless the Spirit of God first touches their hearts and minds.
3. Teach your children the biblical views of marriage and the sanctity of human sexuality.
It is very important that you are proactive in discussing marriage and sex with your children as they approach their adolescent years. Arguments in favor of alternative families are politically correct in our culture and are being championed by teachers throughout our educational system. The mainstream media is not sympathetic to advocates of traditional marriage and biblical views of sexual purity. Do not let someone else provide the strongest voice as your children make up their minds about sexual orientation.
There are many excellent tools available for any parent wanting to instruct their adolescent child about marriage, sex, and family issues. Great resources can be found on-line at www.familylife.com. James Dobson’s Preparing for Adolescence is an excellent resource and can be found in most Christian bookstores. ChangePoint’s Due North program for 6th grade girls and boys is exceptional as well, get your kids involved.
4. Get involved in the political process supporting any effort to preserve a biblical definition of marriage as a life-long, intimate partnership between one man and one woman.
Jesus Christ did not spend his ministry years speaking against the many things that were wrong with society. Rather, he invested his energy in support of what clearly was right. He spoke of light, not darkness and life, not death. Followers of Jesus would do well to imitate the Lord’s method and be notorious for what we support, not what we oppose. Make it your goal to speak to the wonder of marriage as God intended it, between a man and a woman. Demonstrate the power of a family led by a faithful father and mother. Vote to protect the value of marriage in our culture, support politicians who cling to the traditional view of marriage and oppose those who treat traditional marriage with contempt. This is an issue critical to the moral health and survival of our culture, followers of Jesus should support any initiative that protects and preserves a biblical definition of marriage.
5. Support ministries that offer help, hope, and healing to those affected by homosexuality.
Exodus International is one example of an effective effort to provide a way out for homosexuals who want help. Homosexual communities are generally well connected. We cannot expect people to abandon such a supportive community and pursue radical life change without providing the resources and relationships they need.
6. Be a mentor to children from broken homes.
Children need strong personal connection with adults of both genders yet many are products of broken homes. Such children are present at ChangePoint and in every other community of our city. Ask someone in our Children’s or Student ministries about a fatherless or motherless child to mentor or get involved in a program like Big Brothers or Big Sisters of America.
7. Pray for God to protect the marriages and families of our culture.
The most significant thing a follower of Christ can do is pray for the marriages and families of our culture. The battle for marriage and family is not against the homosexual activists and it is certainly not against homosexuals. Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms (Ephesians 6:12).