It is not the church that is telling people today that a life without sexual fulfillment is not worth living. That is the message of our culture, not of our savior. Jesus himself came with a message to liberate us from such thinking. We have good news to share on this – very good news. Human fullness is not dependent on sexual fulfillment. There is an appetite within all of us that goes far deeper than our sexual desires, and it can be fully met in Christ Himself. Fullness of life is found in Him and nowhere else.
Sam Allberry is an author and pastor in the UK. He experiences same-sex attraction, but, because of his love for Jesus, he holds to a biblical definition of marriage and is committed to remaining celibate. Below, he answers some of the key questions being asked today about how Christians can respond to the issue of homosexuality and the church.
1. In light of the Supreme Court decision for all 50 states in the U.S. to allow same-sex marriages, how should the church in North America respond?
The church must respond with both truth and love. Truth, because we have been given an understanding of marriage in the Scriptures that is clear and non-negotiable. Jesus taught that marriage is predicated on sexual difference and that the only godly alternative is celibacy (Matthew 19:4-6, 10-12). We are not at liberty to depart from this blueprint as Christians. The state now has a different definition of marriage, but we must not abandon our own. In our own thinking and teaching we must preserve the teachings that Jesus and His apostles have given us. Marriage – as biblically defined – is an image of Christ’s relationship to the church (Ephesians 5:31-32). The coming together of the man and woman pictures and anticipates the uniting of heaven and earth (Revelation 21:2). The marriage with which the Bible begins is a trailer for the one with which it ends. Earthly marriage has built into it something of the gospel of Jesus Christ, and to abandon the Bible’s understanding of marriage is to abandon the gospel.
We must also respond with love. Even as we articulate the truth of marriage we must take great care to do so with the right demeanor. A counter-cultural message will not be compelling without a counter-cultural tone. We must not be condescending or resentful in the face of the cultural shift going on around us. We must extend the very same patient grace that God has extended to us. When Jesus saw the lostness of the crowds around Him, it moved Him to compassion, not hectoring.
So a good test for our churches as we respond to these times is not just, “Are we sticking to our guns on this issue?” but, “Are we remaining faithful to God’s revelation and making our church the sort of places LGBTQ+ friends and neighbors would feel safe coming to?” I suspect we have a lot of work to do on the latter.
2. Many people have said that Jesus never directly addressed homosexuality in the Bible. Is this true? What did Jesus teach about this topic?
Jesus never mentioned the word “homosexuality” but it would be a mistake to conclude from this that His teaching had no bearing on this issue. Jesus upheld and amplified the pattern for human sexuality outlined in Genesis 1-2. Marriage is between a man and a woman. Sexual activity outside this context, in whatever form, is sin (Mark 7:21, where “sexual immorality” translates the Greek word porneia, a catch-all term for all sexual behavior outside of marriage). So Jesus spoke against pre-marital, extra-marital, and all non-marital sex, which clearly includes homosexuality. He didn’t mention homosexuality by name, but in these teachings certainly included it. Jesus was not neutral on this.
3. I have some gay friends who have invited me to their wedding. Should I go? What should I tell them?