So, if you recall from my initial post, I am building a biblical case for why I think God would honor a same-sex marriage. We began with our first principle, God is love. And from there, we moved to Christian anthropology, which says that mankind is made in God’s image. Now I would like to move onto the implications of all this, which (oddly enough) is where most people start.
You see, most folks will start talking about the practical stuff first. They’ll say “this is sin” or “that is okay” or “this is what it looks like.” And that’s all good and well. It’s not a bad thing to talk about what is and is not a bad thing. One of the failings of my generation, which I am willing to admit, is that we often lack much of a hamartiology (our theology of sin). We don’t like to talk about sin. We’ve seen people accuse others of sin so often that in common language the term has come to mean little more than “that thing that I don’t like or disagree with.”
But, the Bible has a lot to say about what misses the mark.1 And when you want to rage against injustices like oppression and intolerance, it’s very difficult to do so if you’ve jettisoned the concept of sin altogether in an attempt to shield yourself from accusations.
So, I’m a big fan of having a strong theology of sin. But, I want us to keep our theologies where they belong. Because sin in our world is inherently tied to the human race, we cannot talk about hamartiology until we first talk about Christian anthropology. And since humans are made in the image of God, we cannot talk about humanity and the imago Dei until we first talk about who God is. And that is why we began with that first principle.
Anyhow, with this understanding in mind, I would like to suggest that whether or not we believe that homosexuality misses the mark of God’s ideal intention for people, such a thing is secondary to God’s intention for people to live in passionate and deeply-committed covenant relationships.
Sure, LGB marriages aren’t perfect. But, if we’re going to be completely honest, what marriage is? I happen to think that complementarianism misses the mark of God’s ideal, but I don’t think that people with a complementarian approach to marriage should therefore never get married. I think that shotgun weddings by their very nature fall short of what God would prefer, but sometimes something like that is actually the better option.
In fact, when we look throughout the Bible, it would seem that marriage is one area where God is ready and willing to work with exceptions to the ideal. For instance, throughout Scripture, God allows polygamy with such prominent figures as Jacob (Gen 29:15-28), David (1 Sam 25:39-44; 2 Sam 3:2-5; 5:13-16), Solomon (1 Kgs 11:1-3), or even Israel as a whole (Dt 21:15). If you were a woman in ancient Israel, and your husband died, you would then have to marry his brother (Dt 25:5), whether you or he wanted to or not. Or, if a girl was raped, she would then be forced to marry her rapist (Dt 22:28-29). Soldiers of conquering armies were allowed to take virgins from their conquered enemies as their wives (Num 31:15-18; Dt 21:10-14). And slave owners were able to assign spouses to their slaves (Exod 21:4).
I think we can all agree that these sorts of marriages are not God’s ideal will for anyone. And yet, God was willing to work with such exceptions. It’s not that God wants a girl who has been raped to have to live with her rapist and submit to him as his wife. But in a barbaric ancient Near Eastern culture where a rape victim stands little chance of finding a husband, and where a lack of husband could spell starvation and death for a girl, (odd as it may seem to us) it might actually be better for a girl to marry her rapist than be left to the alternative. Likewise, it isn’t that God particularly likes the idea of someone treating others as property and forcing their slaves into marriages. But, if you are enduring the hardship of slavery, a companion is a welcomed comfort, even if you didn’t get to choose them. And a similar explanation could be given for any of the unfavorable examples of marriage that we see in Scripture.
I’m not saying that these situations are perfect, or that they would work today, or that they even always worked out for the best back then. What I am saying is that when it comes to marriages, the Bible doesn’t seem shy about the fact that God is willing to work with exceptions to His ideal will.
When we think about everything we’ve covered so far, from God’s loving nature, to mankind’s inherent need to be in intimate covenant relationships, to Scripture’s examples of non-ideal expressions of marriage, it’s hard find grounds for why LGB marriages can’t be blessed by God.
Now, some of you may have noticed what could be a glaring shortcoming of this case that I’ve made. And that is that this approach doesn’t really have anything to say about whether or not gay marriages are sinful.2 Traditionalists might dislike this approach because it doesn’t require that we call out homosexual relationships as sin. Gay affirming folks might dislike this approach because it doesn’t make the claim that homosexuality isn’t sin. So, this case that I’ve built doesn’t necessarily fit into one camp over the other.
However, I prefer to think that this case actually offers the versatility of being able to fit into whatever camp a person find themselves in. LGBs can see this as an affirmation that their marriages meet a deep-seated need, a need that is placed there because they bear the divine image. Likewise, Traditionalists can see LGB marriages as an expression of God working with exceptions to bring about something much more central to who we as humans are, and even who He as God is. Traditionalists wouldn’t have to accept that gay marriages are without sin, but only that until someone comes along with a completely sinless marriage (of which there are currently none), we are all in this together and we all need the ability to express our imago Dei through committed and loving relationships.
You can apply this approach to any number of situations, and I think that it ought to offer hope. To the man or woman struggling with feeling as though God wouldn’t approve of them in a LGB marriage, take heart. God is not quite so concerned about the particularities of your relationship as He is with you getting to reflect His image. To the mom or dad feeling like you shouldn’t attend your gay child’s wedding because you think it might compromise your obedience to God, be encouraged. God is willing to work with exceptions to help people fulfill their imago Dei, and so too should we. The greater tragedy would be to deny your child their image of God simply because you don’t think it is what God would want in a perfect world.
So, there you have it folks. Gay affirming or not, I think that a biblical consideration of who God is and what it means to be human creates a strong foundation for why God would, and often does, honor same-sex marriages.
Thanks for working through this with me. God bless!
1: Whereas the Old Testament does not have a single all-encompassing term for sin (often getting at the idea in a roundabout or nuanced way by referring to “iniquity,” “uncleanliness,” “guilt," “abominations,” etc.), the New Testament consistently uses the Greek term hamartia, which literally means “missing the mark” such as in archery. Okay… nerdy rant over.
2: Although I may choose to define sin as missing the mark of God’s ideal, others have different definitions. And so, with a different hamartiology, one might say that even though an LGB marriage isn’t ideal in a strict sense, it isn’t necessarily sinful.