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Dear Christians: Please Stop Equating Divorce and Gay Marriage

Ever since last Friday’s Supreme Court decision to legalize gay marriage church leaders have been in a reactionary posture.  Some of this is to be expected.  Our parishioners and congregants are as varied in their views on this issue as they are on any other, and with those variances come a plethora of questions concerning the ruling and what the Church’s stance should be.  And as church leaders try to answer these questions and find a footing that is both Biblical and compassionate I’ve noticed a disturbing trend amongst those Christians who seem to be more sympathetic to the Supreme Court rulings than the majority of conservative Christ-followers.  Their questions tend to zero in on the church’s stance on divorce and take the tack of playing the comparison game:

  • “Why won’t you marry a gay couple but you’ll marry someone who has been divorced?”
  • “Why is the church giving so much attention to homosexuals but not addressing the culture of divorce?”
  • “Isn’t divorce as bad as gay marriage?  Why not condemn divorcees too?”

The problem with these questions is that (a) they make a major mistake in equating sins, and (b) they misrepresent the church’s stance on divorce.

Not All Sins Are Equal

One of the biggest myths that crops up whenever the church confronts societal sin is that “all sins are equal in the eyes of God.”  While all sins are equal in the eternal consequences that they reap (physical and spiritual death) not all sins are equal in the earthly consequences they generate.  This is why our justice systems have different levels of punishment for different crimes.  For example, we don’t give the death penalty to those who fail to keep the parking meter fed with quarters because that would be excessive.

Nor are all sins equal in their nature.  Some sins are “one timers”.  They are committed once then repented of, rarely if ever to be repeated again.  But there are “lifestyle sins” which are sins that our whole life and existence revolve around.  Sins of addiction, excess and, yes, sexuality fall under this category.  Lifestyle sins can be repented of, and the power of Christ can overcome them, but it requires a lot of effort, a lot of grace, and a lot of repentance to overcome such sins.

Now, how does this relate to divorce and gay marriage?  While they are both sins in the eyes of God, they are sins of two different natures (unless someone is living a lifestyle of divorce).  I want to be clear: God HATES divorce. Divorce destroys that which was made to last a lifetime.  It sullies the living parable of God’s love for his people that marriage is supposed to be.  It destroys families, wrecks children and has been the source of all kinds of pain. Divorce is sin.

But it is not an unforgivable sin, and the church decided to stop treating it like it was a long time ago.

On the other hand Gay Marriage is something that both advocates and provides an atmosphere for a lifestyle sin to flourish with little to no chance of being challenged to repent.  It attempts to normalize sin; to color it as something good and acceptable.  Whereas a divorced person can repent and return to his spouse, or marry another and then repent and remain faithful to his current spouse, a person in a gay marriage is being sold a lie that what they have is good, wholesome, and acceptable to God.  Gay marriage is dangerous and utterly destroys the picture that marriage is supposed to represent: the marriage between Christ and His bride, the Church.

The Church’s Stance on Divorce Has Not Changed

For those who think the church has turned a blind eye to divorce, rest assured, our view has not changed.  Divorce is still viewed as something sinful, destructive and unholy.  Yet, over the years the church has learned that ostracizing and excommunication are not the answer to confronting divorce.  Most churches have opted for a more grace-centered approach.  Divorces happen for a multitude of reasons and no two are alike.  Personally I have counseled couples to seek restoration, even in the face of adultery.  But I have also extended grace to those who admit, “I have been divorced.  I’ve repented.  I’m ready to begin a new life.”  Jesus can grant new life, and the Church needs to be on the front lines offering that new life to all.

What About Repentant Homosexuals?

If the church is willing to treat divorce as a forgivable sin, we must be willing to do so for those who attempt to leave the homosexual lifestyle.  Jesus promises new life to all, not just straight people.  Our message must be one of “Come just as you are, but don’t expect Jesus to leave you that way.”  Repentance must accompany salvation, no matter the sin.  However, we must recognize that anyone leaving a lifestyle sin is going to struggle with temptation and may relapse several times.  The church must be in the mess of their lives to help them rise when they fall.

But this does not mean we embrace legislation that attempts to normalize sin. Nor should we celebrate it. Nor should we play the game of trying to compare it to other sins.

Let’s be full of grace.

Let’s also be steadfast.

“Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness…” Isaiah 5:20

“Though they know God’s decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.” Romans 1:32

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2 thoughts on “Dear Christians: Please Stop Equating Divorce and Gay Marriage

  1. Dave, I always appreciate your perspective because I know that you wrestle with the difficult issues that are involved in addressing topics like this. Know that I’m not nor will I ever try to be antagonistic when I respond to you, just earnestly seeking your thoughts. Here’s the trouble I have with the way the church in general currently approaches this issue and other hot topics like it. We tend to want to operate from a position of dominance and power. Perhaps my perception is wrong, but it seems that many in our camp would rather vote on legislation than do the hard work of actually getting in the trenches, befriending sinners (like Jesus) and winning their trust – earning the right to be heard. This requires much more time. It requires getting uncomfortable. It may require being called names by the self-righteous.

    But, it seems, at least in my understanding of the Scriptures, that this was the way Jesus wanted us to operate. This is the way I interpret Matthew 20:25-28 although, admittedly, my interpretation of the Scriptures is not without flaw, I’m sure. I just don’t see precedent or command in the Scriptures for Christians to use governing authority to advance morality or the gospel. In fact, the early church operated and thrived in a political situation that was far worse than our own. I believe that if we would follow their example we would find ourselves in a far better position to be heard than we currently are. In my understanding of history, it is when the church has operated from a position of power that it has tended to look least like the church of Jesus. On the other hand, when it has operated from a position of “weakness” it has tended to explode. Do we think this is a coincidence or is it perhaps that Christ’s power is perfected through weakness (2 Cor. 12)?

    Please don’t misinterpret what I’m saying. Homosexuality is sin. I am not honoring it or condoning it or excusing it in anyway. I just think there is a proper way to address difficult cultural and societal issues of this nature and I don’t see politics being the way. Everything about our Lord suggests that humility and self-giving love is the way to go.

    • Jason, I always love your thoughts and you and I are on the same page. This article was written to Christians, not the world. I have had several Christian friends either celebrate this decision, which I think is dangerous, or make the comparison to divorce as if the tow were equal in nature. That’s what I was addressing in this article. I think the church operates best from a position of humility, but when confronting those in the church, we do have room for authoritatively teaching. I firmly believe that the Government can do whatever it wants, it will never change the church’s mandate or mission to seek and save the lost and make disciples who will do the same. Great thoughts as always!

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