As we wait for the Supreme Court to issue a ruling on homosexual marriage, it is appropriate to consider whether or not this issue is a proverbial “hill to die on.” Many Christians have more or less accepted the changing tides and are ready to recognize and even support the marriages of homosexuals. What should our stance be on this issue?
I believe that this issue is a hill to die on. That is, it is my conviction that believers should not recognize homosexual marriages as marriages in any sense and we should not participate in such weddings. Let me give a few reasons why and then I’ll share what this means for me personally. First, this is a hill to die on because it is an attack on the authority and perspicuity of Scripture. (That Scripture is perspicuous means that it is clear; it can be understood.) There may be things in the Bible that are difficult to understand. Certainly there are portions of Scripture about which good, conservative interpreters disagree. But that such passages exist does not change the fact that the vast majority of Scripture is easily understood.
One issue about which the Bible is perfectly clear is homosexuality. The Biblical material is so expansive that I simply do not have time to discuss it all here. (If you would like to view a thorough exploration of the Bible’s teaching on this issue, check out this book.) But an honest look at the relevant passages will lead one to the inevitable conclusion that the homosexual lifestyle is diametrically opposed to all that Scripture teaches regarding God’s design for human sexuality and marriage. Again, there are things difficult to understand in Scripture – God’s view of homosexuality is not one of them.
Some who advocate homosexual marriage claim that the Bible is unclear about such things. Some go even further and claim that the Bible has nothing negative to say about homosexuality, but that it only condemns homosexual rape. Such claims are so preposterous they cannot be chalked up to mere foolishness. Rather, they are the result of intentional dishonesty. They represent an attempt to deceive self and others. If any of these claims are to be believed one must first concede that words no longer mean things. To say that something so clearly condemned by Scripture is not sinful is to deny the perspicuity of Scripture, not just the perspicuity of the relevant passages, but that of the whole Bible. If these clearest of passages cannot be understood, none can.
This attack on the perspicuity of Scripture is a back-door attack on the authority of Scripture. It is an attempt to remove the clear teaching of the Bible from the arena of authoritative revelation. This whole movement is an attack on the Word and for that reason, for me it is a hill to die on.
Second, this is a hill to die on because it is an implicit attack on the gospel. There are two different senses in which this is the case. First, homosexual marriage perverts the gospel picture that is biblical marriage. Biblical marriage between a man and a woman is not merely a human convention shown by the ages to be the most advantageous way to order society and propagate the species. No, Eph 5:22-33 shows that it is a picture of the relationship between Christ and the church. The husband loves his wife as Christ loved the church. The wife submits to her husband as the church does to Christ. Regarding this marriage union, Paul writes, This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church (Eph 5:32). When a man and woman are joined in this way, they point all creation to the story of the gospel. The gospel imprinted on the marriage between a man and woman is what makes that union sacred.
A homosexual union is a perversion of that picture. It superimposes an abominable act over the top of the gospel (Lev 18:22; 1 Cor 6:9-11; 1 Tim 1:8-11).
Homosexual unions pose an attack on the gospel in another sense – they deny the need for a Savior. How is this the case? They deny that sin is sin. To claim that homosexuality is not a wretched act of rebellion – like all other sin – is to say that God is wrong when He says that certain acts separate us from Him and lead to eternal condemnation. Some might reply, “No, we’re not saying there is no sin at all; we’re saying that this one particular act is not sin.” This brings us back around to the authority and perspicuity of Scripture. The Bible is so clear that homosexuality is sinful that to claim it is not sinful is tantamount to denying that anything is sinful. For the Bible is no clearer about murder or rape or stealing or lying than it is about homosexuality.
If it is legitimate to argue that the Bible is not clear on such things, then the Bible becomes irrelevant and the real absolute authority is the preferences and sensibilities of man. If we may remove one sin from the realm of wickedness, we may remove any. And if we may remove any sin, we may remove the need for a Savior altogether.
And here is the great tragedy. When we categorize homosexuality as something other than sinful, we remove the hope of the gospel from those who struggle with it. Repentance and faith in Jesus Christ is the only hope for rescue from any sin, whether it be lust, discontent, unrighteous anger, or homosexuality. Though we may try to silence our consciences, we still live in God’s world. And in His world, the human conscience will rage against sin, not as we define it, but as God defines it. When we say that one particular sin is not sin, we remove all hope from people that their consciences can find relief from that particular sin. If sin is not sin, then Jesus is no Savior and there is no hope for anyone.
It is compassion for the homosexual that should drive us to be willing to die on this hill. Their only hope for freedom is not in giving themselves over more fully to their sin, but in repenting of it and trusting in Jesus Christ alone to rescue them from it. And He can and does rescue sinners from all manners of sin, including homosexuality: …for such were some of you… (1 Cor 6:9-11).
Here is what this means for me personally. I’m speaking for myself, not the elders or the church. Out of fidelity to the Scriptures and compassion for the lost, I will not participate in a homosexual wedding in any way. I will not recognize a homosexual marriage in any way. This does not mean and has never meant that I must shun homosexuals (1 Cor 5:9-10). I shouldn’t shun any lost person, for I have the gospel that can make them free. It simply means that I will in no way recognize the existence of such a thing as a homosexual marriage.
If there comes a day when the government requires clergy to solemnize homosexual marriages under pain of fines, incarceration, or worse, I will have no choice but to obey God rather than men. God defines marriage as a lifelong union between one man and one woman. I am bound by His definition. And because this issue goes to the heart of the gospel and the integrity of the Scriptures, it is a hill I am willing to die on.