October 2003 – At its leadership meeting in August, the House of Bishops for the Episcopal Church passed a resolution allowing dioceses to bless same-sex relationships.
“We recognize that local faith communities are operating within the bounds of our common life as they explore and experience liturgies celebrating and blessing same-sex unions,” the resolution stated.
Rev. Michael Hopkins, president of the homosexual group Integrity, which has been calling on the Episcopal Church to normalize that lifestyle since Integrity’s founding in 1974, said, “We have a significant move forward in the church toward the honoring and celebrating of same-sex relationships.”
A “move forward?” Are same-sex relationships to be given the blessing of the church, elevating them to the same sacred status as heterosexual marriage? Or is the decision by the Episcopal bishops a transgression of Scripture? Increasingly, people who claim to be Christians are coming down on either side of this divide.
The two become one
The battle in churches over “gay” marriage often begins with a contentious discussion of individual passages in Scripture that address homosexuality itself. In other words, if homosexuality is a sin (or blessing, depending on one’s perspective), then, obviously, same-sex relationships cannot be (or must be) validated.
Rather than beginning with such passages, however, many orthodox Christians believe the discussion must have its origin in the opening chapters of the Bible. It is only here, in the first two chapters of Genesis, that one can discern God’s purpose for human relationships, marriage, and sexuality.
In his book The Bond That Breaks: Will Homosexuality Split the Church? Don Williams notes that there is not only a clear design in Creation, but a clear progression of design found in Genesis.
“Humanity was created first as male and female in relationship (Gen. 1:27, 2:18-23); only then were the blessings of procreation (Gen. 1:28) and marriage (Gen. 2:24) added,” he said.
Scripture’s introductory chapters show God creating mankind in His own image, but expressing that image in mankind’s dual gender. “And God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them” (Gen. 1:27).
Together, male and female reflect God’s image. It would even be proper to suggest that the human race could not manifest the image of God if it were only male or only female – even if that single-sex race could somehow reproduce itself.
Moreover, this image reflected in two distinct sexes was also meant to draw man and woman together, for, in Genesis 2:18, God said, “It is not good for man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him.”
Thus man’s “alone-ness” was alleviated by the creation of a companion who would be suitable, a word which means “kindred” or “matching.” It is an intriguing word which carries the paradoxical concepts of similarity and distinction. Like matching gloves that are the same color and style while being made for the right and left hands, man and woman were created as matching human beings who are biologically and, in many ways, emotionally distinct.
It is their distinctiveness as much as their similarity that attracts and draws the two together, and Genesis 2:24 indicates how that relationship between a single male-female pair was to be permanently bound together: “For this cause a man shall leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave to his wife; and they shall become one flesh.”
Marriage, says Edward T. Welch in The Journal of Biblical Counseling, is in essence “a covenant of companionship that is ordained by God. It is the bringing together as one flesh two people who are truly ‘fit’ for each other.”
Episcopalian minister and evangelical author John Stott noted that Jesus, when questioned about fundamental issues of human relationships, also reminded His hearers of the created order found in Genesis.
For example, in Matthew 19:1-12, when asked to address the subject of marriage and divorce, Jesus referred back to both Genesis 1:27 and 2:24, whereupon the Lord concluded, “What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate” (vs. 6).
“What has God joined together?” Stott asked. “Answer: male and female. Jesus endorses the male/female union in marriage.”
This God-ordained pattern for humanity is transgressed by homosexuality, Welch said. “Homosexual acts and homosexual desire, by either male or female, are a violation of this creation ordinance and are thus sinful,” he said. (Emphasis in original.)
Furthermore, this reality gives context to the individual passages in Scripture that condemn homosexuality. According to German theologian Wolfhart Pannenberg, “[T]he biblical statements on this subject merely represent the negative corollary to the Bible’s positive views on the creational purpose of men and women in their sexuality.”
Love is not God
Still, proponents of same-sex marriage refuse to give up, and attempt to elevate “love” as a standard that transcends both individual Scriptural passages and the divine plan spelled out in Genesis.
As one homosexual advocate said in The Gay Academic, “The church must take a very open attitude to various sexual orientations and various forms of human relationships … as long as these are conducted in a loving and responsible way.”
Betty DeGeneres, the mother of lesbian actress Ellen DeGeneres, believes that love is the only thing that matters in a relationship. Writing in The Advocate, a homosexual magazine, Betty DeGeneres responded to the question, “What would Jesus say to Ellen?”
Jesus “would call [Ellen] blessed,” she insisted. “He would not denounce her or banish her to hell because her desire for a significant other is with a person of her own sex. He would see her love as worthy and as pure as anyone’s love for another.”
Is a same-sex relationship blessed in God’s sight simply because the “gay” or lesbian couple love each other?
Pannenberg asked the question in a different way, “Can love ever be sinful?,” and then answered with an unequivocal yes. “The entire tradition of Christian doctrine teaches that there is such a thing as inverted, perverted love,” Pannenberg said. “Human beings are created for love, as creatures of the God who is Love. And yet that divine appointment is corrupted whenever people turn away from God or love things more than God.”
Certainly, as Jesus said, the dual admonition to love God and our neighbor rightly sums up “the whole Law and the Prophets” (Matt. 22:40). But it is fallacious to believe that this “law of love” contradicts specific commandments concerning homosexuality; Instead, love is expressed in them.
“Love is understood not by our definition but by God’s,” said Welch. “It is defined as obedience toward God. We do not autonomously decide what form love takes. God tells us how to love.”
As AFA Chairman Don Wildmon said, “We must always remember that the Bible says that God is love. We must never replace that truth with the principle that ‘love’ is God.”
Thus love becomes, not a vague principle by which we excuse our self-centered passions, but a specific ordering of our lives in a manner that pleases God.
God at the center of life
For pastor and writer John Piper, this is precisely the message of the apostle Paul’s reasoning in Romans 1:23-32 – which perhaps contains the Bible’s most powerful statement in opposition to homosexuality.
Piper said this passage presents a repetition of a three-fold pattern of human behavior: (1) Men replace God in their lives with what God has made; (2) God responds by turning men over to what they prefer; (3) men act out in their lives, according to Piper, “a dramatization of the internal, spiritual condition of the fallen human soul, namely, the horrendous exchange of God for man and the images of our power.”
“Failed worship is our worst disorder,” Piper said. “This is beneath all the maladies of the world.” He says we must repair our failed worship before we can repair our disordered sexuality.
In fact, the entire list of sins in verses 29-31 – which follows Paul’s discussion of homosexuality – presents all of man’s wretchedness as flowing from this profound disordering of life.
“Where does murder come from?” Piper asked. “It comes from this: ‘They did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer’ [vs. 28].”
Nevertheless, Paul’s discussion of the sin of homosexuality dominates this section of Romans. “The reason Paul focuses on homosexuality in these verses is [that] it is the most vivid dramatization in life of the profoundest connection between the disordering of heart-worship and the disordering of our sexual lives,” Piper said.
Homosexuality, then, is a form of idolatry, whereby God is exchanged for the temporal and carnal pleasures of this life. The result is that the marriage union is exchanged for mere self-centered sensual enjoyment of the sexual faculties, and the male/female model is exchanged for one in which one worships an image of oneself through same-sex copulation.
Piper stated that man can only re-order his life when he puts “the glory of God back at the center [of his life], like the sun in the solar system of sexuality (and everything else) that holds all the planets of our passions in their proper order. When you exchange the sun for a man-made satellite, all the planets leave their orbit and head for oblivion.”
A spotless bride
When man rightly orders his relationship with God through Christ, he begins, for the first time in his existence, to love God and experience Him properly.
It is little wonder, then, that the highest and deepest expression of human relationship – the covenant marriage union – symbolizes the covenantal union of God and His people, the Son of God and His bride, the church.
“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave himself up for her,” Paul said in Ephesians 5:25, adding, “that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she should be holy and blameless.”
A few verses later, Paul even quotes Genesis 2:24, which says that a man and woman become “one flesh.” Then he makes the case as clear as possible: “I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church.”
This is why the advocating of same-sex marriage nears the fearful line of blasphemy, for it perverts the one-flesh metaphor of man and wife to encompass the concept of Christ choosing for himself, instead of a woman, another man with whom to join Himself for all eternity.
The church in our generation certainly has the freedom to disdainfully reject the truths of Genisis, and, in effect, embrace sodomy as a metaphor for Christ and His people. But chilling words of Jesus in Matthew 11:24 should give us pause, "Nevertheless I say to you that it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment, than for you."