Today’s question is one a lot of pastors face. I know because I see it frequently pop up in the inbox. As people find Christ, are converted, and are called to live differently than their pre-conversion passions, this raises endless questions about living arrangements. This question originates as a follow-up from a listener named Cameron.
“Hi, Pastor John! In episode 920, “Divorce, Remarriage, and Honoring God,” you argued that people should stay in a second marriage, even though it was entered wrongly. You said, ‘A prohibited relationship can become a consecrated and holy one.’ My question is along this line. Does this principle also apply to people in same-sex marriage relationships or in polygamous marriages? After conversion, would you advise them to stay in similar relationships and somehow consecrate them? What makes those two scenarios different in your mind?”
No, I would not recommend that two men or two women living together, practicing homosexuality, remain in that relationship. The reasons are several. The situations are different between a man and a woman entering a marriage they should not enter and a man and a man entering a relationship they should not enter. Let me try to explain some of those differences that would result in my decision not to recommend that they stay there.
Truly a Marriage
The reason I took the position that a man and a woman in a marriage that they should not have entered should stay in that marriage and seek to consecrate it to the Lord is because the Bible, while not condoning the entrance into the marriage, nevertheless calls it a marriage.
“Two men or two women entering a relationship of sexual union with promises is not a marriage.”
Here’s what it says in Luke 16:18: “Everyone who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery [so don’t do it, in other words], and he who marries a woman divorced from her husband commits adultery.” He does use the word marry, not just sleep with. He calls it a marriage.
Jesus says to the woman who had been married five times, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; for you have had five husbands, and the one you now have is not your husband” (John 4:17–18). Jesus differentiates the five from the one, even though she’s living with the one. He says, “No, he’s not your husband. The others were, and he’s not.”
I conclude that while it was an adulterous act to marry under the conditions that Jesus disapproves of in Luke 16, nevertheless, it’s called a marriage. A marriage is a matter of covenant faithfulness between a man and a woman. Therefore, I would encourage that couple to repent of what they did wrong and to ask for forgiveness and to consecrate their union, which, though it should not have happened, may nevertheless be holy before the Lord.
Not a Marriage
But two men or two women entering a relationship of sexual union with promises is not a marriage. It’s not a marriage. You can’t consecrate a marriage that should not have taken place if it is not a marriage at all. The union of two men and two women is not gay marriage — it’s no marriage. I don’t like the idea that so many people are willing to use the term gay marriage instead of calling it so-called gay marriage, because there is no such thing in the universe as so-called gay marriage.
Marriage, which is defined by God in this world according to his word, is not a man in union with a man. That’s our imagination. His definition goes like this. Jesus quotes Genesis 2:24: “A man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” That’s where Jesus went in Matthew 19 and Mark 10, and it’s where Paul went in Ephesians 5, when they were seeking to give the most essential definition of marriage.
That’s the main reason one relationship can be consecrated as a holy marriage and the other one can’t. One is a marriage and the other is not a marriage — no matter how many thousands of times legislators and laws and judges and news commentators say that it is. It isn’t. That’s the first difference.
Here’s the second reason that I would recommend that a man and a man or a woman and a woman in such a relationship not try to consecrate it but move out of it. The second reason why I treat a man and a woman entering a marriage they shouldn’t differently than a man and a man entering a relationship they shouldn’t is that you can’t make honorable what God has said by nature is dishonorable.
“No amount of repenting, faith, or consecration can turn that which is by nature dishonorable into an act that is pure.”
In other words, homosexual behavior is not wrong just because it’s commanded that we don’t do it. It’s wrong because, by nature, it is dishonorable and shameful. In other words, sexual relations between a man and a woman are not, by nature, dishonorable and shameful. But sexual relations between two men or two women are by nature dishonorable and shameful, according to Romans 1:26–27.
Romans 1:26–27 goes like this:
For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.
No amount of repenting, no amount of faith, no amount of consecration can turn that which is by nature dishonorable and shameful into an act that is holy or pure or honorable. That’s why I would encourage two men or two women involved in such acts to renounce the sin, repent, ask for forgiveness in the name of Jesus, and no longer make any provision for the flesh, as Paul says in Romans 13:14.
What About Polygamy?
We did an APJ on polygamy about three months ago in episode 1304: “Did Jesus Endorse Polygamy in the Parable of the Ten Virgins?” Maybe I can just refer Cameron back to that one for some thoughts on that issue.
It’s not exactly the same issue when he raises it alongside homosexuality. It’s not the same issue because it doesn’t involve sexual acts which, by nature, are dishonorable and shameful. But it is not in accord with God’s original will for marriage, according to Genesis 2:24. It can’t be consecrated in the same way that the marriage of one man and one woman can be.
The aim would be to help those who realize this to find the most just and gracious way to bring a polygamous relationship to an end. That won’t be easy, and great wisdom will be needed, especially in missionary contexts.