This question comes in to us in many different forms. Here’s the essence of it: Pastor John, would you marry a heterosexual Christian couple that is living together? If so, how is that different than marrying two men or two women in a same-sex marriage? If not, why not?
I would marry them in certain circumstances. I start with the conviction that sexual relations outside marriage is sin. I think that is clearly taught in 1 Corinthians 6:18, “Flee fornication,” and in 1 Corinthians 7:2,“Because of the temptation to sexual immorality each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband.” So I start there. I dealt with a number of couples over the years who are at different stages of spiritual maturity and commitment to Jesus and obedience to his commands. Some I have been willing to marry, and some I haven’t.
Fruits of Repentance and Purity
For example, let me use an illustration: a couple is pregnant and living together — regularly sleeping together — because they think that, because they are committed and moving towards marriage, sexual relations is okay. You meet those folks. There are a lot of them out there. What I say to this couple is that they are living in sin. And, Would they repent and bear the fruits worthy of repentance, fitting repentance (Luke 3:8)? And that fruit would be to move out and stop living together until they are married. Now if they refuse, I tell them: No, I won’t do the wedding. And if they are members of my church, they would be disciplined for that kind of willful sin. In my experience, couples have walked away. They have gone to find somebody else who will agree with their values.
“Neither the sin of fornication, nor the presence of a baby, makes repentance and holiness impossible.”
But here is the other situation: If they see the wrong of what they are doing and repent and bear the fruit of purity and public display of the lordship of Jesus in their lives, then I would move forward with their wedding plan, all other things being in proper order. Their moving out of a living-together situation and living in chastity would testify to God and to me and to all the people they know who really know what is going on — yes they do; they think they may have it concealed, but they don’t — that they are really serious about repenting of their sin. They are sorry for what they have done. They are turning to God for forgiveness through Jesus. That bears a beautiful testimony of the grace of God in their lives. In that case, yes, I will follow through with the wedding. And the reason this seems right to me is that neither the sin of fornication, nor the presence of a baby, makes repentance and holiness impossible.
We have talked before on this podcast of the painful failure to offer pure and virgin bodies to each other at the altar of marriage. We have talked about that. That is a great sadness. But, it is not unforgivable. Purity on the other side of sin is possible through the justifying and sanctifying work of Christ. That is what I want these couples who have sinned to embrace. And the fact that they, in their past, have the sin of fornication and a child is present in the womb doesn’t diminish the possibility of purity and holiness in the present and in the future.
One Essential Difference
I am not sure how the person who asked the question is thinking when they ask: Well, if you are willing to do that, why wouldn’t you marry two men or two women? But here is the difference. It is the main relevant difference: If two men had been sleeping together in a same-sex relationship and came to me wanting to marry them and said they were sorry for the sin of sleeping together before they were married, I would willingly help them receive forgiveness and trust Jesus and find repentance and move forward in holiness. If they then looked at 1 Corinthians 6:9–10 which says, “men who practice homosexuality will not inherit the kingdom of God” — they look at that — and they admitted that they were in danger of destruction in the past and still wanted to move forward into a relationship I would say: No, because now you are moving back into the very same sin that you just moved out of.
“Homosexual marriage doesn’t exist. It is a mirage in our culture. The Bible knows nothing of it.”
Now, that is the difference from the couple that is about to be married. They are moving out of the sin of fornication. They are being chaste. They are marrying according to God’s ordinance, and they are not sinning in the marriage. Whereas, the same-sex couple are moving out of a sinful relationship and about to turn and move into another one, because when Paul says, “Men who practice homosexuality...” (1 Corinthians 6:9–10), he doesn’t say, “Except in the case of marriage.” There is no such thing as homosexual marriage. It doesn’t exist. It is a mirage in our culture. The Bible knows nothing of it and therefore it can’t be used as a warrant in order to justify homosexual behavior.
So, I want people to repent of the sin they have done. God holds out hope for all sinners who will turn away from the sins of the past, embrace Christ as their righteousness and their forgiveness, and move forward into lives of holiness.