This is a question that, I’ve been asked, and will be asked more and more. Same-sex relationships and same-sex marriage are cultural touchstones. Those coming from a Christian background in their past often instinctively find their way toward phrases like “we’re all God’s children” or “a God of love is a God of fairness and justice for everyone” or “aren’t we all made in the image of God?” To many, they just feel right—obvious even.
As a Christian I would humbly point to Scripture and say three things in response to an honest question like this.
First, the Bible affirms that every single human being is created by God and precious to God.
The Bible says that—unique among the stars and the mountains—humanity was created “in the image of God” (Gen 1:27). We are created beings, in the image of God, and precious to God. In light of this every single human being is something glorious and should be treated as such with dignity, value, and respect. This means each person’s value and worth are rooted beyond cultural consensus, rooted in the very fabric of creation.
This includes people of every ethnicity and every nation, it includes the disabled and beautiful, it includes women and men, it includes the heterosexual brother and his homosexual sister, it includes the elderly and frail and the young and strong. Nothing can take away this inherent value—no men in white hoods, no dictators, no court or congress. As Christians we should speak this louder than any other group. As Christians we should be the first to step in if a gay person is being attacked on the street by a hateful person. Genesis 1 radically reshapes every interaction we have with every person.
Second, the Bible says that if we are made by God, in his image, then God defines what his image should look like.
The same source of our innate value—our design—means we must go a step further and ask, “What is our design? How are we designed to live?” To be a Christian means to acknowledge that we are people submitted to the design of our creator as laid out in his Word. God is good and what he makes is good. His design for our identities and our relationships is specific and clear in Scripture, and is for our good. Honest Christians dare to say, “The God who made us can tell us how to live in a way that reflects his image and leads to our good and his glory.”
This is why an honest reading of Scriptures like Genesis 1-2 and Ephesians 5 lead us to affirm that biblical marriage is a completely monogamous covenant relationship between one man and one woman for life. We do not say this to demean the value of our gay friends as made in God’s image. Instead it is precisely because they are made in God’s image we desire them to live in his image. In God’s infinite wisdom he put desires for companionship, love, sex, commitment in the heart of humanity and these are glorious. Is it so radical to say that love means more than biological urges, that it bears the very fingerprints of God? No, but today it is radical to say that the One that designed romantic love designed and commands the place for it to be expressed.
I believe that marriage is designed by God to be between a man and a woman, but not because it is “traditional.” Cultural traditions shift and change with terrifying speed. I don’t want to tie my wife’s value to cultural consensus in light of the thousands of years of treating women as property.I’m not advocating traditional values, I’m advocating the radical idea that our universe is not senseless but designed.
Third, the Bible says that biblical marriage is a uniquely precious way we reflect God’s image.
What’s the big deal about marriage specifically? In some ways marriage is just another way we image God, among the many many laid out in Scripture. But in another way it is utterly unique. Ephesians 5 calls marriage a “mystery” that refers “to Christ and the church.” Embedded in the very fabric of creation, of this image, is a picture. It’s a picture of humanity that has gone astray, left its home, and found itself lost and condemned. It’s a picture of a husband who would lay down his own life to bring his people back home. It’s a picture that says we all fall short of God’s image (Romans 3:23), but it’s a picture that says God’s grace extends to everyone who will turn to Christ (Romans 3:21–15). It’s a picture that says by returning to our design we find more joy, more life, more glory than we dreamed.
The gospel leaves no room for self-righteous Christians when it comes to same-sex marriage. The very definition of being a Christian is that we have acknowledged that we have turned from God’s design, his laws, his love and that there is no way back in and of ourselves. None of us can be reconciled to God by being heterosexual, conservative, churchgoing people. Instead, the gospel propels us to go to people and say, “There is a way to be what we were designed to be, there is a way to go home and it’s found in trusting a good God for salvation and submitting your life to him.”
In this life we experience this salvation in part, but one day we will experience the whole. One day the story of a bride and groom will end in a wedding (Rev 19) and the most selfless, self-giving love in the universe will resound through creation. And impossibly, astoundingly, this will fulfill the mystery hidden in marriage. This, this, is why marriage between a man and a woman is uniquely precious.
In the end…
Two comments on these three points.
For my friends that do not consider themselves Christians hear this: Wrestle with the gospel picture embedded in marriage. Everything hinges on that gospel picture and until you understand it, you won’t understand the implications. We want to walk alongside you as you wrestle. We want to welcome you into our churches and our lives. We want you to find God more glorious than you imagined and his design more wonderful than you hoped.
For my friends who do consider themselves Christians hear this: Our task is the same as it has always been. To bring sinners to the feet of Jesus and dare to tell them, “Turning everything in your life over to him is worth it.” The cost feels higher now, but it is far outweighed by the gain. Everyone is worth bringing. No one is beyond his power. We were not.
So in this cultural turmoil, where can we stand? We stand with Jesus in seeing people like me about to be stoned for their sin and saying, “He who is without sin cast the first stone” (John 8:7). We also stand with Jesus in saying to the world what Jesus says to me: “Go and sin no more” (John 8:11).