Pastor John, what should a church council or board do if one of their pastors asks to officiate a same-sex wedding?
I don’t feel like I can answer that question without dropping one level down. This is so sensitive and explosive and politically agitating that I want to go down to the bottom, and then come back up to the practical question. The practical question is relatively easy once you get the other things, which are not easy, sorted out.
The emotional and physical sensations that we call same-sex attraction are disordered emotions and disordered sensations. And that disordering of the soul’s emotions and the body’s sensations are rooted in the fall of humanity into sin, and, more specifically, they are rooted in the sin that is understood as exchanging God’s glory for images (Romans 1:23).
So the exchange of woman as the glory of man for another man is a parable of the exchange of God for images like ourselves. A person who experiences this disordering of the emotions of the soul and the sensations of the body may or may not himself exchange God for images. He may be a Christian. But the disordering he is experiencing is rooted in that original sin and in that ongoing human bent of soul that we all have, all of us.
The issue becomes: What do we do with the disordering effects of sin in our lives? I say our lives. And you will see why in a minute — even John Piper’s life. The Bible says that if we embrace the disordering as good and normal and live our lives in accord with the disordered inclinations, then we will be living and affirming a parable of rebellion against God. And the Bible says those who live out that kind of rebellion do not enter the kingdom of heaven (1 Corinthians 6:9).
Rooted in Rebellion
Now that has nothing — get this — nothing to do with the peculiar nature of sexual disorder or same-sex desires. Nothing. This is true for all our disordering of all our lives rooted in sin. That is why 1 Corinthians 6:9–10 lists homosexual practice along with others. So here is the list:
Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral [that is, fornication, because it is distinguished from the next two], 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. (1 Corinthians 6:9–10)
In other words, if you embrace and live out as normal and good any of these, you perish, because you are living a parable of rebellion. We all experience temptation to sin on a spectrum of intensity. There are occasional thieves, and there are kleptomaniacs. There are people who occasionally drink too much, and there are alcoholics. There are those who commit adultery once and never again, and there are predators. There are those who experimented with homosexual acts for a season — maybe they were in prison, maybe they were a teenager — and don’t anymore, and there are those who celebrate it and pursue it as normal.
Paul’s point is that if you embrace adultery as good and normal, or if you embrace stealing as good and normal, or if you embrace greed as good and normal, or if you embrace drunkenness as good and normal, or if you embrace homosexual intercourse as good and normal, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. This is not rooted in the nature of the sexual sin. This is rooted in sin and rebellion, regardless of what the issue is.
Blessing Eternal Suicide
Officiating at a so-called same-sex “wedding” is the same as putting your blessing on the choice of two people to commit eternal suicide. The pastor is solemnizing and making official and blessing their choice not to enter the kingdom of heaven.
Now I would say that if a pastor asks his board if he can do that, he has given a signal that he is disqualified from his role of leading the sheep into the kingdom of heaven. And so he has put himself in a position of needing church discipline. And his board should follow the principles of Matthew 18 to seek his repentance as gently and patiently as they can. And then if he does not repent of his willingness to bless people’s eternal suicide, and thus lead them out of the kingdom of heaven and into destruction, he should be dismissed as a false shepherd from both the pastorate and the church.
With regard to two men or two women who ask to be married, a pastor should ask to meet with them, I think, if they are willing, in order to explain to them, as patiently and carefully and lovingly as he can, why he recommends to them that they not go forward with their plans for the sake of their own soul. And in that process, hopefully he will share the gospel and invite them to life in Christ and to his church.
Sorrow and Compassion
These are days when all Christians, especially pastors and church leaders, need to stand rock-solid on the biblical teachings about God’s good and beautiful plan for sexuality — without any swagger and without any fear.
American society is in the midst of a passionate pursuit of self-destruction. So our demeanor should be a mixture of sorrow and compassion and anger and total confidence that our God is in control, and he will attain his Christ-exalting, church-purifying, mission-completing purposes.