We get many questions from boyfriends and girlfriends who are trying to discern God’s will in a spouse. What types of things are marriage deal-breakers? And that’s the theme of today’s question, a really important one from a young man.
“Dear Pastor John, I have been with my girlfriend for eight months now, and I believe that she could be the one God has for me. She loves Jesus, and shows it in many ways. The next step in our relationship is marriage. We both love each other dearly, and we would both be excited to be married together. However, there is only one thing that stops me. She has told me on several occasions she doesn’t believe homosexuality is a sin. I point her to Romans 1:26–27. But she gives me no indication she will back down. Is this a deal-breaker for our relationship?”
Till Death Do Us Part
Yes, it is a deal-breaker. Now before I say why, remember that before you are married, you have the awesome privilege of marrying or not marrying. It’s not a sin to break off an engagement for biblical, godly reasons.
“I cannot imagine that you both have the same heartfelt conviction about the authority and preciousness of the Bible.”
But once you are married, what she believes can’t end the marriage. You’re not free to put asunder what God has joined together (Mark 10:9). You make you vows, form a holy covenant, make promises for better or for worse, till death do us part. And that means for worse beliefs.
She may cease to believe in Jesus at all after you’re married. She may become a Satanist. She may become a witch, a real witch. But she’s your wife by sacred covenant before God. And he’s the one who created the union, not you. What God has joined together, let no one put asunder. But for now, you’re not bound to her in this way. And I’m arguing you should not be.
Five Reasons to Call It Off
Now why would I say that it is a deal-breaker? Here’s what you say: “She has told me on several occasions that she doesn’t believe homosexuality is a sin.” I assume you mean homosexual activity. “I point her to Romans 1:26–27, but she gives me no indication that she will back down.”
I’m going to give you five reasons why I think that’s a deal-breaker for marriage. And I’ll put them in the order of what I think is least important and end on the one that I think is most important. I might be wrong about the order, but each of them is valid, I think.
1. Raising Kids
Differences between you like this will create enormous pressures and tensions when it comes to teaching your children right and wrong. It’s one thing to say, “Mommy likes coffee and Daddy doesn’t.” It is massively different to say, “Mommy believes two boys kissing and having sex is good, and Daddy thinks it’s evil.”
“The fact that she can affirm homosexual activity and you can’t signals deep differences in your most basic spiritual instincts.”
This will be incredibly disorienting to the children, and it will confuse them about how to form important moral convictions. Not only will it be morally damaging, I think, to the children, but at that very point, it will be deeply aggravating between the two of you.
I know from experience how differences between me and Noël were magnified tenfold when it came to how we would influence the kids with those differences. “Your way or my way.” And we never had any disagreement coming close to this one.
2. Tip of the Iceberg
If you disagree on something so visceral, so explosive, so rooted in Christian history and in Scripture, it is virtually certain you will have other serious clashes.
It is almost impossible to imagine that such a disagreement could exist in isolation from others. If they haven’t come out yet, they will. You may feel like you can stash this difference in a silo, and that you can segregate it from your daily interactions. I think that’s incredibly naïve. It won’t stay in a silo. And even if it did, it will prove symptomatic of other deep differences that will eventually come out.
3. This Has Roots
The reason for this inability to silo this difference is that convictions like this, one way or the other, don’t float in your mind like clouds. They have roots. They come from somewhere.
“The Bible teaches not just that homosexual activity is wrong, but that it signals you’re headed for eternal destruction.”
These roots include deep spiritual and moral instincts and inclinations. The fact that she can affirm homosexual activity and you can’t signals deep, deep differences in what your most basic moral and spiritual instincts are. The spiritual roots of her and your convictions are very different.
Roots do not just bear one branch. They bear all kinds of branches and fruit. When the roots of spiritual instincts and inclinations are different, there is no predicting what the fruit differences might be.
4. Biblical Authority
Close to the most important issue is biblical authority and clarity in your lives.
She may or may not give assent to the infallibility of Scripture. She may say that it has final authority in all her decisions and convictions. But all of that is for naught if there’s a deep resistance to what the Bible teaches, so that she finds a way of making the Bible mean something that it just doesn’t mean, or she simply ignores the Bible and goes with a vague sense of what love is.
In other words, I cannot imagine that you and your girlfriend have the same deep, heartfelt conviction about the authority and preciousness of the Bible. You don’t have the same conviction about its practical place in governing your thoughts, feelings, and actions. That’s a deal-breaker. It is a deal-breaker if you love the word of God for what it is and submit to it as the guide of all of your life, and she doesn’t.
5. Preserving the Gospel
Finally, even more important than that authority of Scripture is what this authority says, what it teaches. What it teaches is not just that homosexual activity is wrong, but that it signals you’re headed for eternal destruction.
“To approve of the very pattern of life that the gospel is designed to save you from is to oppose the gospel and promote destruction.”
Here’s 1 Corinthians 6:9–10: “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.”
What this means is that your girlfriend is wrong not just about the rightness of an act, but about whether the pattern of those acts forms the path that leads to hell. Paul says that the gospel is given so that people can escape that path of destruction.
The next verse says, “Such were some of you.” In other words, you were active participants in a life of homosexuality, but you’re not anymore: “But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Corinthians 6:11).
But to approve of the very pattern of life that the gospel is designed to save you from is to oppose the gospel and promote destruction. I don’t see how you can believe this and move forward with the deepest and most precious union of souls and bodies that exists on the planet among human beings. It’s a deal-breaker.