Following the vote in Parliament on the 5th February, the media frenzy surrounding the government’s bill on same sex couples marriage has quietened down for now. There are several stages for it to go through before it becomes law, and the public debate will doubtless continue to be robust and heated. However, regardless of the final outcome, it’s worth taking time to consider what our position should be as followers of Jesus.
Debate about marriage law is not new; indeed the Pharisees tested Jesus by asking him a question about divorce cf. Matthew 19:3-12. Jesus’ answer did not appeal to tradition, to Old Testament law, or even to social convention. His answer was firmly grounded in God’s creation plan as revealed in the early chapters of Genesis. According to Jesus, God’s plan was to create human beings as ‘male and female’. God ordained that in marriage ‘a man would leave his father and mother and be hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’. His conclusion so far as divorce was concerned was: ‘What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.’
The Pharisees were not satisfied with Jesus’ answer, and even his disciples found Jesus’ teaching hard to accept, so we should not be surprised that a biblical understanding of marriage between a man and a woman is unpopular in contemporary society, and even some wings of the Christian church. Jesus himself said that ‘not everyone can receive this saying’.
The challenge we face is to uphold the creational principle that biblical marriage is a union between a man and a woman that is exclusive, permanent and sacred in the sight of God. Does that mean there is no place in the church for those who have not attained this high standard? Of course not! We show compassion and love to the broken. We seek to bring healing and reconciliation to those who are hurting. We offer grace and forgiveness to the fallen. There is a safe place in our church family for everyone regardless of their sexual orientation. At the same time we affirm Jesus’ teaching that any sexual activity outside marriage between one man and one woman is sin and needs repentance if we truly wish to follow him.
This blog post featured in the March 2013 edition of Lifelines