The “Harder Road to Travel” on Same-Sex Marriage

rainbowflagThe issue of same-sex marriage is heating up as the Supreme Court is currently hearing arguments in two cases pertaining to the issue (i.e. the Constitutionality of The Defense of Marriage Act [DOMA] and of Proposition 8 in California). The rulings are expected in June and could see the advent of homosexual marriage legalized in the land.

It seems that many are lining up to take sides in anticipation of such a ruling. The President came forward with his “evolution” on same-sex marriage last spring in his interview with Robin Roberts. This past week saw former Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, reverse her stance and vocalize her support, as well as the first sitting Republican Senator, Rob Portman, to offer his change of mind on the matter. This coincided with recent same-sex affirmations by prominent evangelical figures in the United Kingdom (Steve Chalke) and in the United States (Rob Bell).

What is difficult to hear in some of these confessions and elsewhere is the misleading polarization that being against same-sex marriage (or to maintain the biblical teaching that homosexual behavior is sinful) is equated with being unloving. The assumption is that one must be either gay-affirming or loving but they cannot be both. This is patently unfair and untrue.

A helpful and fair-minded corrective can be found in the work of Dr. Robert Gagnon, Associate Professor of New Testament, Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, entitled The Bible and Homosexual Practice: Texts and Hermeneutics (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2001).

This book is a near-exhaustive exegetical analysis of all the pertinent texts in the Bible that address the issue of homosexual behavior and has garnered praise from a wide array of renown New Testament scholars, conservative and critical alike. Although over ten years old, almost all of the conventional arguments that make their way into blog posts, YouTube videos, or Facebook updates suggesting God’s approval of same-sex conduct have been thoroughly addressed and refuted in this work. He rightly concludes that “[s]ame-sex intercourse is strongly and unequivocally rejected by the revelation of Scripture” (p. 487). But compliance with the biblical position does not, nor should ever, equate to being unloving. Indeed, he makes the case that to be a Christian, let alone a Christian pastor, and to affirm same-sex intercourse and marriage is to take the unloving stance. He concludes his work with helpful call to remain faithful on the tough path:

“The final word on the subject of homosexuality is and should always be: love God and love the homosexual ‘neighbor.’ The homosexual and the lesbian are not the church’s enemy but people in need of the church’s support for restoring to wholeness their broken sexuality through compassion, prayer, humility, and groaning together for the redemption of their bodies. … The core proclamation of the gospel declares that God made amends for human sin while humans were still ungodly and hostile sinners, that God experienced the pain and agony of offering Christ up to death in order to rescue the maximum number of people from sin and transform them into Christ’s image. To denounce same-sex intercourse and then stop short of actively and sacrificially reaching out in love and concern to homosexuals is to have as truncated a gospel as those who mistake God’s love for ‘accepting people as they are’ and who avoid talk of the gospel’s transformative power. It is to forget the costly and self-sacrificial work of God in our own lives, past and ongoing. The policy stances that the church must take toward same-sex intercourse do not diminish the believer’s call to love the individual homosexual” (p. 491–92).

He continues:

“This book has been aimed at showing that affirming same-sex intercourse is not an act of love, however well-meaning the intent. That road leads to death: physically, morally, and spiritually. Promoting the homosexual ‘rights’ agenda is an awful and harmful waste of the church’s energies and resources. What does constitute an act of love is befriending the homosexual while withholding approval of homosexual behavior, working in the true interests of the homosexual despite one’s personal repugnance for same-sex intercourse, pursuing in love the homosexual while bearing the abuse that will inevitably come with opposing homosexual practice. It is the harder road to travel. It is too hard for many people to live within that holy tension. Yet it is the road that leads to life and true reconciliation; it is the calling of the church in the world” (p. 493).

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