What the Bible Says about Same-Sex Marriage
by Dr. A.J. Higgins
This article by Dr. A. J. Higgins M.D. (New Jersey, USA) sets out the Bible’s teaching on marriage, especially as it relates to the issues issues of homosexuality and same-sex unions.
In Ephesians 2:2 we are told about the “course of this age”, which carries men along. It is like a mighty ocean current that lifts up and sweeps along everything in its path, carrying it to its destination. This ‘current’ is really the thinking of society, directed by the god of this age. We ourselves are not totally impervious to its influence. Many believers are being educated in systems where anti-Biblical thinking is accepted as the norm. Many families, raising children, are contending with a permissive education which condones these evils. Each of us is being desensitised to the aberrations in every sphere of life. We have become much more tolerant of, and comfortable with, the alternative lifestyles all around us.
We are not in a position to legislate for a society which has rejected Biblical absolutes and turned to the quagmire of relativistic thinking and legislation. Yet, while our views of marriage are not acceptable to an unbelieving society, we must reaffirm God’s pattern for everyone, and what must be maintained in the lives of those Christians who seek to honour the Lord and who gather to His Name.
God’s Pattern for Marriage
Marriage is God’s ‘invention’ for His creatures. He planned it, designed it and carried out the first wedding ceremony in the garden. He created one man and then formed one woman to be his help and bride. He did not form John to help Adam. He did not form Eve and Sally to be helps to Adam. He did not form Eve first and bring Jane along to be her companion. He formed one man and one woman and brought them together as husband and wife. It was not merely that God knew that this complementary union of two genders was what is best for humanity. He had something greater in view – something so incredible and tremendous that nothing short of this man-woman union could possibly reveal it and represent it. It is the union of Christ and His Bride.
The teaching of the Lord Jesus in Matthew 19:1-12 reaffirms that God’s pattern for marriage is one man and one woman. It makes no allowance for any other form of marriage. If some should challenge this by saying that society was too biased at that time, then the accusation must be laid at the feet of the Lord Jesus as well.
Leaving the garden and its original pattern for marriage, the remainder of Scripture only reinforces God’s prototype. Men quickly departed from and distorted God’s perfect plan. Polygamy reared its ugly head in Genesis 4; homosexual behaviour in its destructiveness in Genesis 19; adultery in Genesis 39; incest in Genesis 38; fornication in Genesis 34. All were either explicitly or implicitly condemned. We must not lose sight that God is unhappy with every form of sexual evil, not just homosexual behaviour. His holiness is violated whether it is adultery or homosexual acts.
All around us is a mighty torrent of public opinion which views marriage between two people of the same gender as legitimate and ‘normal’. Many arguments are advanced, from love ‘sanctifying’ everything, to the fact that two consenting adults can do as they wish as long as they do not harm others. To those who have left God out of the equation, all is plausible. But what of the Christian worldview of marriage? Is union between two individuals of the same gender allowable? Our only recourse is to see what the Scriptures say about it.
This discussion may seem harsh to the ears of some believers; other may feel that stating the obvious is hardly necessary. Tragically, many believers are being faced with these arguments in schools, on campuses, among neighbours and in offices. There is a need for the Scriptures to be opened for our help.
There are a number of Scriptures which deal with the issue. Liberal theologians have tried to reinterpret these to avoid the obvious condemnation involved. It requires incredible mental gymnastics and theological pole vaulting to overcome the clear meaning of these Scriptures. It has been suggested by some, for example, that the sin of Genesis 19 is not homosexuality per se, but forced relationships, similar to rape. Likewise, Romans 1, we are told by some, is not homosexuality, but perverted homosexuality, such as adultery (relationships outside of a “stable homosexual relationship”), incest, and pederasty (with a child prostitute). Writing such things is not pleasant. But the wickedness which abounds and the increasing lawlessness of our world, with its bold and arrogant attacks on the Word of God and the purity of God, demand that we face the challenges.
In Romans 1, Paul is not dealing so much with the history of individuals as with that of nations and societies. It is the chronicle of man’s downward spiral, his devolution, when God is shut out of his thoughts. When man becomes the centre of his own world, and self satisfaction the goal of each life, the normal pleasures of life do not satisfy. Men then turn to the abnormal to find satisfaction. The divine sentence, the “giving up” referred to in the chapter, does not make God the author of their sin. It is the release of the restraining hand of God to allow man to experience the full measure of his own depravity. As a result of this unquenchable thirst for something outside of God to satisfy, man goes deeper and deeper into sin in his fruitless search.
Amidst this we see the moral evil of “men with men” (males with males) working that which is unseemly. Verse 26 deals with lesbians and verse 27 with males and homosexual acts. “Leaving the natural use of the female” is another reference back to God’s intention in creation.
Romans 1 is not condemning incest or child prostitution. Those things are evidently evil. It is talking about male with male, not male with child. This is important because many try to read back into Romans 1 what they refer to as a historical cultural exposition.
Genesis 19 and Judges 19:22-25 exhibit divine wrath on the practices seen. It is true that the actions in Genesis 19 are those not of homosexuality alone, but of forced relationships. If we were left to this chapter only, we would not be sure of the reason for judgment. However, bear in mind that the Lord was visiting Sodom because of sin already committed, not because of the sin about to be perpetrated in chapter 19. We must look to other Scriptures which comment upon Sodom and upon the judgment of God, before coming to a conclusion on the nature of the evil in Sodom.
Leviticus 18:22 gives us examples of alternate sexual practices. “Thou shalt not lie with mankind as with womankind. It is abomination.” There is no suggestion here of perverted sexual practices within ‘legitimate’ homosexuality. It is the act of lying with mankind which is called abominable. In Leviticus 20:13 God gave commandment concerning the execution of those guilty of such practices: “If a man also lie with a male as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination. They shall surely be put to death.” The preceding verses deal with abnormal sexual practices which, in the OT under law, had to be punished: adultery, incest, bestiality etc. Amidst this list is the act of “lying with a male”. It is not possible to restrict this to a particular abnormal form of homosexuality, because then every other prohibited relationship in these verses would have to be redefined as well. This is not exegetically possible.
These verses are not cited to suggest that we mistreat people involved in alternate life styles in any way. We are to respect human dignity, and to recognize the worth of every human being. Inherent in human worth is the privilege and responsibility of choice and free will. God has given each person that gift. What each does with it is a personal responsibility. God made Himself ‘vulnerable’ by this; if some have taken God’s gift and misused it, He will hold them accountable. We are not His instruments of judgment.
Deuteronomy 23:17 expresses God’s prohibition against sodomy. “There shall be no whore of the daughters of Israel, nor a sodomite (male homosexual) of the sons of Israel.” Jude 7 shows the exposure of the sin of Sodom. These New Testament references are critical to our understanding. In Jude 7 we are told that Sodom and Gomorrah gave themselves over to fornication “going after strange flesh”. The Spirit of God labels the day-to-day lifestyle of Sodom as ‘fornication’. It further defines this as pursuing strange or unnatural flesh. The expression “the natural use” is in Romans 1. Unnatural flesh is that which is contrary to God’s design in nature as displayed in Genesis 2. Further, 2 Peter 2:6-7 gives us the explicit character of Sodom. The “licentious behaviour” of Sodom is given as the basis for God’s judgment on the cities. What was this behaviour? Was it only a perversion of “healthy, normal sodomy”? Was it not the very character of a city given over to strange flesh? Note that in keeping with this, verse 8 makes clear that Lot vexed his righteous soul from “day to day” in seeing and hearing among his neighbours in Sodom. It was a day to day event, not an aberration.
We are taught in 1 Corinthians 6:9 of the exclusion of all such from the Kingdom of God: “…nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind…shall inherit the Kingdom of God.” The abusers and the effeminate are the active and passive parties in homosexual acts. It is important to note here that it does not refer to those who abuse others, but to those who abuse their own bodies with men. Could the Spirit of God give a clearer indictment? The inclusion of ‘effeminate’ within the list makes it clear that we are dealing with voluntary perverted practices, not forced, unwilling seduction.
Finally, 1 Timothy 1:10 states: “For them that defile themselves with mankind.” God’s Word is clear that there is no basis for any allowable, legitimate same-sex relationships. This is not an alternate lifestyle which the Word of God condones. It condemns it in the clearest and most distinct of terms.
Aside from God answering the prayers of His people, we cannot stem the tide of societal norms. We do, however, maintain Scriptural standards for God’s pattern, as given in His Word, which is our only guidebook for life.
We must never descend into hateful vitriolic diatribes against others. We may find their behaviour abhorrent, but we must remember that each is a soul for whom Christ died and who is a candidate for God’s salvation, just as each of us was. You will have to learn to work side by side with these people in your job, giving them the respect they deserve; you will live side by side with them in your community. Some believers have even had to live with this within family structures, where children have chosen this lifestyle. All this takes great wisdom and care, grace and conviction. Biblical standards must control your home, even though you cannot (and you should not) control the homes of your unsaved family members.
Some Points to Ponder
Why have alternative lifestyles become so prevalent in our day? What has happened to shift the thinking of both professional organizations and the man on the street, that now not only condones, but applauds these lifestyles?
R. Albert Mohler, in his excellent book, Desire and Deceit, details how the Gay-Lesbian community used the HIV/AIDS epidemic to actually gain sympathy and support for their lifestyle by posturing it as an unfortunate and “to-be-pitied” community. What should have been a disease which awakened society to the abnormality of this lifestyle became a means to their acceptance.
The question is often asked if there is a genetic basis for homosexuality. To date, despite huge investments in research and a frantic search to prove it is so, no firm evidence has been found. Hormone levels, genetic changes and other findings have not been substantiated. If there were something found, the question would still remain: did the chemical change cause the same-gender attraction, or did a persistence in same gender attraction lead to a chemical change in the body.
Even if a clear basis is found for same sex attraction, there is a greater and more fundamental principle. God has forbidden sexual relationships outside of marriage, which He has defined as one man and one woman. Thus, all, both homosexual individuals as well as heterosexual singles, must sacrifice their desires to the Word and will of God.
There are Christian parents who find their children moving in this direction. Have they failed as parents, as role models, and as teachers of Biblical standards? Not at all. It is well documented that sexual identity is not completed until somewhere in the teens. In a past generation, where ‘normal’ was a heterosexual attraction, individuals passed through this stage and moved toward normal. Today, however, children in preteen years are being taught that this is another ‘normal’ way of expressing their sexual desires; they are now immersed into a world of ambivalence. They are actually being pressured to explore if they may be homosexual. As they come to grips with sexual identity, they are being told that any inclination toward same sex relationship is wonderful. It is now virtuous, almost courageous to ‘come out’ and be identified with a gay-lesbian-bisexual-transgender community. What was once passed over and relegated to a developmental stage is now being pushed upon vulnerable young people.
One of the greatest forces in altering public opinion has been the media. Routinely, homosexual individuals are portrayed in movies and television programs, as sensitive, caring, intelligent people. In contrast, all opposed are viewed as ignorant, coarse, rude, and vulgar homophobes. The effect this has had upon morals in our society is incalculable.
As fellow believers, we should have empathy and prayerful concern for believing parents who must cope with children who have embraced this lifestyle. Maintaining their relationship with their children and yet maintaining their Scriptural standards is a huge challenge and we must never become judgmental.
We must also recognise, that among us are believers who struggle with same-sex attraction. They feel disenfranchised and alone. To mention this to anyone is too embarrassing and dangerous. They live, not only with the desires which they know cannot be fulfilled, but with the inability to communicate their burden to anyone, and with a sense of guilt. Yet whether a struggle with homosexual thoughts or inclinations, each of us struggles with the flesh in either a same-sex manner or in a heterosexual direction. Each must deal with the flesh in the presence of God and seek grace from Him. In 1 Corinthians 6:13, Paul taught that “The body is not for fornication, but for the Lord; and the Lord for the body.” The first part of the verse is obvious and easily understood. The latter part, “The Lord for the body,” may indicate that He is able to give grace to maintain your body in purity and sanctity for Him.
We must never lower Biblical standards because of a changing moral scene; but we must display the mercy of God while maintaining the holiness of God.
(Used with permission from Truth and Tidings magazine)