How should a Christian react to the same-sex marriage controversy in our country? It seems kind of complicated to me.
Because debates about same-sex marriage usually include political, legal, cultural, and economic issues as well as moral and religious ones, they can get complicated. That also means our reactions may be somewhat mixed. Here is an incomplete list of responses that I personally believe merit consideration among us.
We can appreciate efforts to treat all citizens fairly. One aspect of the current debate has to do with laws that are judged discriminatory or economically burdensome in our pluralistic society. Even if we believe legalizing same-sex marriage is not the best remedy for perceived injustice, we can defend the civil rights of fellow citizens and seek equitable legislation for everyone.
We can acknowledge that the way we've treated heterosexual marriage is a big part of the problem. As a society—and most churches in society—we have abused and belittled "traditional" marriage to the point that the majority of those around no longer think it's worth fighting for. We have begun and ended marriages for frivolous reasons and tolerated shameful spousal behavior, often still calling matrimony a "sacred" institution. We have redesigned marriage for personal happiness or pleasure with minimal regard for God's standards of conduct. Our rejection of same-sex marriage should be accompanied by repentance for the way we have disrespected God and distorted the goals and purposes of marriage as he designed it.
We should grieve for our culture as it moves toward rabid individualism that exalts personal happiness and self-fulfillment above God or God's definitions of what is right and wise. God creating male and female to be complementary sexual creatures within a consensual and contractual union means less and less in today's public square. But who is the loser in this? Not God. It's logical to make personal opinions and happiness supreme and then to ask the government to protect individual rights so everybody can pursue their brand of happiness any way they choose. We also believe that's shortsighted and self-destructive—for souls as well as for society in general.
We should speak distinctly to share our God-given convictions as we have opportunity. To a degree we speak to clarify fitting goals and purposes defined by God when it comes to procreation, sexual behavior, the nurture of children, the role of spouses, and expressions of affection and companionship in society. We can appeal to human reason, point to lessons from history, and make every effort to honor our own marriage vows so they show others what marriage really is and really gives. But primarily we do not seek to save culture or exalt tradition. We point fellow sinners, homosexual and heterosexual, to the Lord who surpasses us all in love, wisdom, and power and who saves sinners forever.
We should bear our cross as followers of Christ crucified. These words are being written while the U.S. Supreme Court is still deliberating legal aspects of same-sex marriages. You may be reading this article after the high court has spoken. Regardless of its decision, I am confident that the basic concept of same-sex marriages (or civil unions) already enjoys the approval of most of our nation's citizens. When we oppose that concept, especially for religious reasons, our opposition brings a social stigma. Genuine Christianity is always countercultural and always entails bearing a cross as we deny ourselves and follow Christ. As God so wills it, let that also be a part of our reaction to same-sex marriage.
Contributing editor Forrest Bivens, professor at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary,Mequon,Wisconsin – reprinted by permission from Northwestern Publishing House Milwaukee, Wisconsin