Some Advice on Same-Sex Marriage for the US Church From A Canadian…

Reposted from Canadian pastor Carey Nieuwhof’s blog. Lots of really great points in here:

Some Advice on Same-Sex Marriage for US Church Leaders From a Canadian

In June 2015, the US Supreme Court ruled that same-sex couples can marry in all 50 states, setting off a flurry of reaction by Christians and virtually everyone else on social media and beyond.

Ed Stetzer wrote a helpful background post to the shift in opinion that led to the decision and included links to a number of other leading articles in his post.

The social media reaction ranged from surprising to predictable to disappointing to occasionally refreshing.

I write from the perspective of a pastor of an evangelical church in a country where same sex-marriage has been the law of the land for a decade.

That does not mean I hold any uniquely deep wisdom, but it does mean we’ve had a decade to process and pray over the issue.

I hope what I offer can help. It’s my perspective. My fingers tremble at the keyboard because my goal is to help in the midst of a dialogue that seems far more divisive than it is uniting or constructive.

There will be many who disagree with me, I’m sure, but I hope it pulls debate away from the “sky is falling/this is the best thing ever” dichotomy that seems to characterize much of the dialogue so far.

The purpose of this post is not to take a position or define matters theologically (for there is so much debate around that). Rather, the purpose of this post is to think through how to respond as a church when the law of the land changes as fundamentally as it’s changing on same-sex marriage and many other issues.

Here are 5 perspectives I hope are helpful as church leaders of various positions on the subject think and pray through a way forward.

1. The church has always been counter-cultural

Most of us reading this post have been born into a unique season in history in which our culture is moving from a Christian culture to a post-Christian culture before our eyes.

Whatever you think about history, theology or exactly when this shift happened, it’s clear for all of us that the world into which we were born no longer exists.

Viewpoints that were widely embraced by culture just decades ago are no longer embraced. For some this seems like progress. For others, it seems like we’re losing something. Regardless, things have changed fundamentally.

But is that really such a big deal? For most of the last 2000 years, the authentic church has been counter-cultural. The church was certainly counter-cultural in the first century.

Even at the height of ‘Christendom’ (whenever that was), the most conservative historians would agree that Christianity as embraced by the state was different than the authentic Christianity we read about in scripture or that was practiced by many devout followers of Jesus.

Being counter-cultural usually helps the church more than hurts it.

.If you think about it, regardless of your theological position, all your views as a Christian are counter-cultural and always will be. If your views are cultural, you’re probably not reading the scriptures closely enough.

.Regardless of your theological position, all your views as a Christian should be counter-cultural.

.We’re at our best when we offer an alternative, not just a reflection of a diluted or hijacked spirituality.

2. It’s actually strange to ask non-Christians to hold Christian values

As the Barna Group has pointed out, a growing number of people in America are best described as post-Christian. The majority of Canadians would certainly qualify as having a post-Christian worldview.

The question Christians in a post-Christian culture have to ask themselves is this:

Why would we expect non-Christians to behave like Christians?

If you believe sex is a gift given by God to be experienced between a man and a woman within marriage, why would you expect people who don’t follow Christ to embrace that?

Why would we expect people who don’t profess to be Christians to:

Wait until marriage to have sex?

Clean up their language?

Stop smoking weed?

Be faithful to one person for life?

Pass laws like the entire nation was Christian?

Seriously? Why?

Why do Christians expect non-Christians to behave like Christians? Why?

Most people today are not pretending to be Christians. So why would they adopt Christian values or morals?

Please don’t get me wrong.

I’m a pastor. I completely believe that the Jesus is not only the Way, but that God’s way is the best way.

When you follow biblical teachings about how to live life, your life simply goes better. It just does. I 100 percent agree.

I do everything I personally can to align my life with the teachings of scripture, and I’m passionate about helping every follower of Christ do the same.

But what’s the logic behind judging people who don’t follow Jesus for behaving like people who don’t follow Jesus?

Why would you hold the world to the same standard you hold the church?

First, non-Christians usually act more consistently with their value system than you do.

It’s difficult for a non-Christian to be a hypocrite because they tend to live out what they believe.

Chances are they are better at living out their values than you or I are. Jesus never blamed pagans for acting like pagans.

But he did speak out against religious people for acting hypocritically. Think about that.

Non-Christians usually act more consistently with their value system than Christians do.

3. You’ve been dealing with sex outside of traditional marriage for a LONG time

If you believe gay sex is sinful, it’s really no morally different than straight sex outside of marriage.

Be honest, pretty much every unmarried person in your church is having sex (yes, even the Christians).

I know you want to believe that’s not true (trust me, I want to believe that’s not true), but why don’t you ask around? You’ll discover that only a few really surrender their sexuality.

Not to mention the married folks that struggle with porn, lust and a long list of other dysfunctions.

If you believe gay marriage is not God’s design, you’re really dealing with the same issue you’ve been dealing with all along—sex outside of its God-given context.

You don’t need to treat it any differently.

By the way, if you don’t deal with straight sex outside of marriage, don’t start being inconsistent and speak out against gay sex.

And you may want to start dealing with gluttony and gossip and greed while you’re at it. (I wrote more here about how to get the hypocrisy out of our sex talk in church.)

At least be consistent…humbly address all forms of sex outside of marriage.

The dialogue is possible. (Andy Stanley offers a great rationale for sex staying inside marriage here.)

We have that dialogue all the time at our church.

And people are grateful for it.

We also talk about our greed, our gluttony, our jealousy and our hypocrisy as Christians. It’s amazing. Jesus brings healing to all these areas of life, including our sex lives.

If you don’t talk about straight sex outside of marriage, don’t talk about gay sex.

4. The early church never looked to the government for guidance

Having a government that doesn’t embrace the church’s values line for line actually puts Christians in some great company—the company of the earliest followers of Jesus.

Jesus spent about zero time asking the government to change during his ministry. In fact, people asked him to become the government, and he replied that his Kingdom is not of this world.

The Apostle Paul appeared before government officials regularly. Not once did he ask them to change the laws of the land.

He did, however, invite government officials to have Jesus personally change them.

Paul constantly suffered at the hands of the authorities, ultimately dying under their power, but like Jesus, didn’t look to them for change.

Rather than asking the government to release him from prison, he wrote letters from prison talking about the love of Jesus Christ.

Instead of looking to the government for help, Paul and Jesus looked to God.

None of us in the West are suffering nearly as radically as Jesus and Paul suffered at the hands of a government. In fact, in Canada and the US, our government protects our freedom to assemble and even disagree with others. Plus, it gives us tax breaks for donations.

We honestly don’t have it that hard.

Maybe the future North American church will be more like the early church, rising early, before dawn, to pray, to encourage, to break bread.

Maybe we will pool our possessions and see the image of God in women. And love our wives radically and deeply with a protective love that will shock the culture. Maybe we will treat others with self-giving love, and even offer our lives in place of theirs.

Maybe we’ll be willing to lose our jobs, our homes, our families and even our lives because we follow Jesus.

That might just touch off a revolution like it did two millennia ago.

Perhaps the government might even take notice, amazed by the love that radical Jesus followers display.

Instead of looking to the government for help, Paul and Jesus looked to God.

5. Our judgment of LGBT people is destroying any potential relationship

Even the first 72 hour of social media reaction has driven a deeper wedge between Christian leaders and the LGBT community Jesus loves (yes, Jesus died for the world because he loves it).

Judgment is a terrible evangelism strategy.

People don’t line up to be judged.

Judgment is a terrible evangelism strategy. People don’t line up to be judged. Instead, they flee.

If you want to keep being ineffective at reaching unchurched people, keep judging them.

Judging outsiders is un-Christian. Paul told us to stop judging people outside the church.

Jesus said God will judge us by the same standard with which we judge others.

If you want to be ineffective at reaching unchurched people, judge them.

Paul also reminds us to drop the uppity-attitude; that none of us were saved by the good we did but by grace.

Take a deep breath. You were saved by grace. Your sins are simply different than many others. And honestly, in many respects, they are the same.

People don’t line up to be judged. But they might line up to be loved.

So love people. Especially the people with whom you disagree.

Love people. Especially the people with whom you disagree.

Those are a few of the things I’ve learned and I’m struggling with.

The dialogue is not easy when culture is changing and people who sincerely love Jesus sincerely disagree.

I think there’s more hope than there is despair for the future. The radical ethic of grace and truth found in Jesus is more desperately needed in our world today than ever before.

Is the path crystal clear? No.

But rather than being a set back, perhaps this can move the church yet another step closer to realizing its true mission.

I was tempted to close comments off on this post, but I will leave them open just to see if we can continue the discussion constructively and humbly.

Rants and abusive viewpoints (on either side) will be deleted.

Show grace.

Respect those with whom you disagree.

If you want to leave a comment that helps, please do so.

But please spend at least as much time praying for the situation and for people you know who have been hurt by this dialogue as you do commenting on this post, on others like it or on your social media channels.

Maybe spend more time praying, actually.

That’s what we all really need. And that’s what will move the mission of the church forward.

7 thoughts on “Some Advice on Same-Sex Marriage for the US Church From A Canadian…”

    1. Thanks Jacob. One of the things I liked so much about this article, is how the points about Not expecting non-Christians to live like Christians, or Not looking to the government for help in enforcing “Christian Values” etc., are two great truths which actually apply to a much wider swath of things than just something like gay marriage. If the Church, particularly in America, began to really wrestle and grasp those things, then I think the mainstream stance on all sorts of things would really start to shift…..

  1. This article is subversive. It reminds me of the pope: just love everybody. Except those who question and critique the viability and credibility of the fruits of lawlessness.

    Certainly we do pray. But WE have a responsibility to uphold. We, made in the image of God Almighty, are accountable. Since we have come short of our responsibility to care, we are again living – that is, we continue to live – in Sodom. And will be judged accordingly.

    Please see:

  2. I am curious about the statement “our judgement of LGBT people is destroying any potential relationship”. I have never seen this. I have a number of gay people in my family and they hate my guts because I am a Christian. I have done nothing but show love to them, especially my brother in law. For ten years he ignored me, didn’t come to my wedding, refused to answer letters I sent him and had little interest in his nephews and niece. Finally, he turns up on our doorstep with his mother and puts out a hand to say Hi. So I gave him a big hug to let him know I cared. Later, when he was in hospital after being mugged we went to visit him and console him over the terrible damage that was inflicted on him. We thought we were friends with him. Then suddenly, with no warning he turns on us, and it seems was always playing the hypocrite because we were Christians. NOT because we had judged him, because we hadn’t. We had shown love and hospitality and friendship. In fact, we never even preached the gospel to him, mainly because my husband had already done it in his early days after he was saved.

    I am saying this because people who argue as you do tend to make blanket statements about ‘them’ and how we should treat LBBT people. I have met really nice gay people, and really horrible ones. The facts about these people are no different to the facts about everyone else, and frankly, preaching the gospel to them is no different to preaching it to others. It’s not about judgement, its about the truth, and nobody wants to hear the truth unless they are actually searching for it.

    Exactly the same as the process with Flat Earth. People go mad in herds and become sane one at a time.

    And you can’t tell other people how to deal with any sub-group of human beings because there IS no sub-group of human beings, that is part of the socialist/elitist agenda. They want to encourage divisions and victimisation.

    So, its a rant I suppose, and you can take it down if you want.

    God bless,


    1. This post put many things in perspective for me. I went to church when i was very young and made my communion then was given the choice at the time, to continue or to stop going to religion, or cataclysm I forget what the name was.

      Growing up I had many unjust things test my faith and I was not strong enough or wise enough to seek justice and blamed myself. I had sinned my whole life without knowing it, but I always felt wrong, something wasn’t right, and I felt like it was me. Apparently it was, and I did not realize therefor was unable to calm my unnerving fear of life. I turned to drugs and sex and things that made me feel good and feel like I belong. Looking back at the times in my life thus far, I am in my mid thirty’s, I look at the these times of sin and remembered “good times”.

      I have spent soo much time, much of the last 3 plus years, re-aligning with the values that do make me feel good, as you Jacob had mentioned. God lead me to the woman who would begin to change my view of myself and my spirituality. I can proudly say I have never cheated on my wife, this is how far away from the truth I am, this is an accomplishment. God can lead us to the answer but if we are not listening to the way he speaks we will never get there.

      As I continue to find the person God put me on earth to be, reading this post has given a leap of faith so to speak. Jacob, you have put many things in perspective for me, and I feel you have lead me down the path to enlightenment and I thank you for that. I will no longer judge and will love those who have different views and that already makes the future look brighter.

      My hope for the future is that the people of our nations begin to see through the lies we are fed, stop listening to these false beliefs and adopting them. These beliefs are set on chaos and enslaving the earths population to their gluttonous, envious, consumerism. This does not lead to happiness and love, just suffocation and pain. I hope more people in positions of power lead people down this path that you lead. Thank you.

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