An Open Letter to Conservative Christians Concerning Same-Sex Marriage

There have been plenty of times when I’ve written things that I knew would be taken wrong, mischaracterized and come back to bite me but perhaps no more than this one. I have lived in the Northeast, Midwest, Texas and now do ministry in the Northwest. I’ve experienced opinions on this issue that range from anger towards people and the issue all the way to complete acceptance and Scriptural reworking to remove the sin entirely.

The reality is that same-sex marriage is going to happen. It might not be after the Supreme Court decides these cases but we live in a world where the tide is turning and we need to be ready with an answer. There are a few areas that I think as believers we need to be very careful about on this issue. The two extremes are these:

  1. Homosexuality is the modern day leprosy and it has a special class of offense to God and as a result we should deal with it even more severely than other sin.
  2. Homosexuality is being increasingly accepted by our culture today and if we want to maintain relevancy as a movement we must relent on any declaration of it as a sin.

The base understanding that I have from the Bible is that God loves everyone, which means He loves you and he loves your gay friends, family members, coworkers, etc. This is really important because it is the fundamental truth of the Gospel we should never forget. Gay people don’t need heterosexuality to meet Jesus; they need Jesus for life change. In the same way we don’t have right standing with God because we are heterosexual, we have it because we are ‘in Christ.’

I think that a major reason the world has such a hard time with the church disagreeing with same-sex marriage is because they view homosexuality as their identity and they see or sense the hypocrisy that we live in.

In my few years I’ve watched a very lethal shift on the issue of homosexuality from a place of honest conversation to something that cannot be discussed because it is now seen as the core identity of those who practice it. We don’t view any sin we commit as identity defining but if we did we would probably be in this same place with greed, pride, adultery, lust. We are not clean on this issue but we have stood by and let the conversation move past us in fear that our own sin would be revealed. The truth is that your wardrobe, car, job, family can all take the place of God and often do but we rarely speak of it and when they become god in our life it is just as offensive to God as the practice of homosexuality.

In John 8 we find the woman caught in adultery by the scribes and Pharisees; it’s one of the most compelling pictures of transformation and forgiveness that we find in Scripture. Some have attempted to use Jesus’ statement to the Pharisees, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” But as is often the case we stop reading there. After they all left Jesus offered forgiveness to the woman by saying, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.” He didn’t write her a blank check to continue in the lifestyle she was living, He offered her transformation and relationship with Him. That’s what we have to offer. And the sin of the Pharisees and scribes wasn’t that they hated sin, it was that they hated her sin (and maybe her) while ignoring their own.

We do this.

As a church we ignore many of the sins that we should have just as strong feelings about as we do homosexuality. 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 highlights a clear prohibition against sexual immorality as a category. It includes; idolaters (those who would make sex a God), adulterers (those who cheat on their spouse –online or offline), and those who practice homosexuality (not those who are merely tempted). He goes on to list thieves (work time, work stuff, tax evasion), the greedy (do you own your stuff or does your stuff own you), drunkards (the casual manner we drink alcohol and joke about drunkenness is sinful), revilers (those who cut others down to build themselves up – bullies), and swindlers (people who use others to get what they want when they want it); he doesn’t leave anybody out. And then he reminds the people at Corinth that they shouldn’t get too high and mighty because regardless of where they might be now, they were seen as those people by God until they entered relationship with Jesus and God replaced their record with the perfect record of His son on their behalf.

We don’t hate sin, we hate some sin and this kind of partiality is condemned in Scripture and used for political gain by corrupt people.

Our standard should not be a political platform, a social focus, or an attempt to gain influence – it needs to be the Gospel. When we divert from the reality that we should hate our sin just as much as any other and have love for people as God does it diverts our hearts from God’s plan for us as a church.

I believe that God will work this out and that the church doesn’t need to worry (because we’re told not to worry – Phil.4) about what the Supreme Court chooses (although we should be praying for them -Rom.13), we should be the church and share the Gospel, including the hard parts of God’s Word. When it hurts us with conviction we need to be honest and not play games with our sin because when we don’t take our sin seriously we are judgmental to the world (which isn’t the appropriate direction for judgment from us) we are seen as hypocritical and disingenuous.

The Bible tells us as believers that we are to hold one another in the faith accountable in regards to sin (James 5:19,20; Galatians 6:1-15; Luke 17:3).

The Bible also tells us that we shouldn’t expect holy living from those outside of Christ, they need the Gospel not moralism (Romans 2:1-2). We tell the truth and God’s law, not so they will adhere to it but so they will realize they can’t and need Jesus to be their righteousness.

God help us from ourselves…

8 Comments on “An Open Letter to Conservative Christians Concerning Same-Sex Marriage”

  1. Brother, this is one of the best responses I have seen on this issue yet. I was just talking to a close friend of mine who struggles with this as a temptation but believes in hope and disagrees with Exodus Internationals views (and why they shut down). I believe we as Christians work so hard at governing sin rather than presenting Christ. Well said, brother.

  2. I loved this article. My concern is how to show love to gay family members who will be asking us to attend the wedding? I want to go to support him but don’t want to give the impression I condone it either. This person has said openly that the Bible is “hogwash & dreamers” and gives it no credit, in fact it was said that whoever believes in the Bible is “the problem “…They say God is ONLY love. How would you respond?

  3. Thank you for your article — very thought-provoking and so true. God’s Word is convicting which is why people tend to avoid it. Pastors need to get back to preaching/ teaching God’s Word. Our real identity — our most important identity is who we are in Christ. Each person Needs to be ‘in Christ’.

  4. Phil,

    I have never found another believer who understands what you have said here. This had been my stance for years, and I’ve lost friends within the church as a result. You wrote what my heart feels about this exact situation. I’ve always said, God views all sin as sin, and if we are to bring people to Christ, we have to love them while speaking the truth in love. I have a whole new respect for you as a leader after reading this post. I’m so glad God brought you into my life as a teacher and guide for my walk. Your humble spirit and gospel focus is exactly what is needed.

  5. First off I would like to say terrific blog! I had a quick question in which
    I’d like to ask if you do not mind. I was interested to find
    out how you center yourself and clear your head prior to writing.
    I have had a hard time clearing my mind in getting my thoughts out.
    I truly do take pleasure in writing but it just
    seems like the first 10 to 15 minutes are usually lost
    just trying to figure out how to begin. Any ideas
    or tips? Many thanks!

    • thanks so much! I would say it often takes space for me to process thoughts. I have a to do list that I use to dump stuff I’m thinking about rather than feeling like I have to keep carrying it. I also have specific days and times to focus on content creation, that rhythm has been helpful.

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