Christians who attend a “gay wedding” should be honest with themselves and announce publicly that they have changed their mind about homosexual practice in key ways that deviate from the only witness of Scripture. They will eventually come to that realization in the not-too-distant-future if they aren’t already putting on a fake mask now.
The question as to whether it is right and loving for a faithful believer in Christ to go to a same-sex “wedding” should be answered from a Christ-centered, biblical perspective. If the reader agrees with that premise, then the moral answer is a relatively easy one: Certainly not.
To be sure, carrying out this answer when invited to a same-sex wedding involving a family member, friend, or employer may create internal disquiet in the faithful Christian. It might lead to a severance of relationship or affect one’s job. Yet Christians are never assured by God that doing what is truly right and loving will never come at a cost. Quite the opposite. I will come back to why it is a scripturally easy answer; but first I want to note the differing opinion of some prominent Evangelicals.
Some Evangelicals Who Answer “Yes” or Allow a “Yes”
Some Evangelical leaders today who claim to accept (or at least once accepted) the scriptural view that homosexual practice is a sin do not see the answer as a certain “No.” Timothy Dalrymple, the CEO and President of Christianity Today, formerly the flagship magazine of Evangelicalism, actually attended a “gay wedding” in 2019, where he engaged in activities that could only be characterized as celebratory. His defense to me was that the employee who invited him was a dear friend to whom Timothy’s attendance meant a lot. So he went, albeit telling his friend that he held to a “traditional view of marriage.” For him it was “a Romans 14 issue,” a decision left to each Christian’s Spirit-led conscience.
Similarly, when addressing whether a Christian can attend a same-sex “wedding,” Focus on the Family called it “a Romans 14 issue” and cited Jesus’ encounter with the Samaritan woman in John 4 as an example of how Jesus “scandalously overleapt all of the social barriers in order to show His love and concern for her,” but without expressing “approval for her lifestyle or behavior.” It seems that Focus uses John 4 in part to indicate that one could attend a “gay wedding.” Yet nothing in that text suggests that Jesus would have attended an immoral wedding ceremony, least of all one celebrating a woman being married to another woman.
Preston Sprinkle, a biblical scholar who heads up his Center for Faith, Sexuality & Gender, thinks that saying “yes” to an invitation to attend a “gay wedding” is one of the options that “can be faithful to the biblical view that marriage is between two sexually different persons—as long as you don’t send mixed signals to the couple getting married.” He too appeals to Romans 14. He even advises parents to attend their child’s “gay wedding” lest they be shut out of their child’s life forever (and grandkids!) and miss an “opportunity to embody Christ’s love in your son/daughter’s life.” This is responding to the child’s manipulation and extortion to do evil, setting a pattern that will eventually lead to de facto, if not explicit, acceptance of the child’s immoral actions.
Megachurch pastor Andy Stanley is reported by one pastor as saying at a meeting with pastors (corroborated by other pastors present), “I don’t do gay weddings, but I can’t say I would never do a gay wedding. . . . If my granddaughter asked me someday, maybe I would” (also this). However, these are probably not the words of a Christian pastor who still believes homosexual unions to be sinful. Stanley, who has been drifting toward acceptance of homosexual unions for at least a decade, employs counselors like Debbie Causey who direct Christians struggling with same-sex attraction to ministries that affirm homosexual practice.
Not “a Romans 14 Issue” as the Analogue of Incest in 1 Corinthians 5 Shows
Attending a “gay wedding” is not “a Romans 14 issue” where believers can agree to disagree over matters of indifference like eating meat or not, which do not determine entrance into the kingdom of God (Rom. 14:17). Those who think otherwise either have difficulty reasoning analogically on this matter or else have departed in some way from the scriptural view of homosexual practice. They use arguments like wanting to stay in relationship with a “gay” family member or friend; imitating Jesus’ practice of eating with sinners; or comparing attending a “gay wedding” to attending a wedding of a divorced believer.
All these arguments can easily be seen as wanting if one compares attending a “gay wedding” to its most appropriate analogue: Attending an incestuous wedding between consenting adults “committed” to one another—for example, a man and his mother, or a woman and her brother. There may even be a “genetic sexual attraction” between close kin who are reunited late in life (see also this, this, this, and this). Incestuous unions are comparable to homosexual unions in terms of degree of severity (though from a biblical perspective homosexual practice is even worse) and problematic aspect (sex with another who is too much of an embodied same, whether as regards kinship or gender).
Paul’s response to the incestuous man in 1 Corinthians 5 gives us a good indication of what Paul’s response to attending a “gay wedding” would have been. True, Paul doesn’t mention that the self-professed Christian man who is in a sexual relationship with his stepmother is getting married to his stepmother. Yet, given Paul’s overall reaction to the situation, it is historically absurd to contend that Paul would have given his consent to their attendance of such an incestuous wedding, had it been requested.
The Corinthian response of being “puffed up,” inflated with pride, at their ability to tolerate an incestuous relationship, certainly made matters worse. That does not mean, though, that had they made clear to the incestuous man their disapproval of the relationship, Paul would have approved their attendance of a wedding between the two.
Paul insists rather that the Corinthian believers should “mourn” his actions, because it puts the offender at high risk of exclusion from God’s kingdom (1 Cor. 6:9–10). One mourns at a funeral. A person cannot go to a wedding mourning, since the entire point of the event is to celebrate the rendering permanent of the union. Marriage involves a commitment to stay in the union permanently. In this case, the parties would be declaring their intent to sin egregiously as long as they live, and celebrating that declaration. A believer can’t attend such a ceremony.
Indeed, Paul recommends that the Corinthians put the incestuous man, who “calls himself a brother [i.e. a believer],” out of the community (“remove from your midst the one who did/does this deed”), to cease “associating with” him, “not even to eat with such a one” (1 Cor. 5:2, 11). Obviously, such injunctions preclude something much worse: Going to the wedding of a man celebrating the grave immorality of incest. Going to a wedding that celebrates a gravely immoral union would be comparable to going to a ritual celebrating a person’s suicide or self-immolation.
Paul’s Act of Love in the Face of Today’s Excuse to Stay in Relationship
Paul’s actions may seem harsh, but Paul’s hope was to yet save the offender’s “spirit . . . on the day of the Lord” (1 Cor. 5:5). Paul’s actions are remedial, not punitive. The offender needs a massive wake-up call; otherwise, he is heading to hell in a hand basket. He does not need further accommodations to his death-inducing immorality by the church. Paul wants the incest to have stopped yesterday, for the sake of the offender (whom he seeks to reclaim), for the sake of the community (whose accommodations to immorality are threatening their existence), and for the sake of God (who expended the ultimate cost to redeem them, the atoning death of his Son).
We should bear in mind that this is the same Paul who wrote in marvelous praise of love just eight chapters later in the same letter. Paul did not violate that praise in the actions that he took toward the incestuous man.
To claim that Paul gives us no advice as to whether a believer can attend an incestuous wedding, making it “a Romans 14 issue,” would be historically ridiculous. Paul’s remarks in 1 Corinthians 5 make crystal clear that there is no way that he would have condoned attendance at such a celebration of immorality. Try any of the arguments that some Christians use to justify attendance at a “gay wedding” and see if they work well for an incestuous “wedding.” For example:
“It is better to go to an incestuous wedding and stay in a relationship with a person who wants to marry a parent or sibling than it is to not go and thereby cut oneself off from future opportunities to witness to Christ.” Do you think such an argument would pass muster for Paul, much less for Jesus? Attending an incestuous wedding communicates acceptance even if you tell your incestuous friend that you do not approve of incestuous unions.