With the ever-shifting tides of social norms in America, Christian Millennials will need to answer questions that haven’t really been asked in previous eras. This, of course, is not unique to Millennials; each generation faces its own sets of advantages and challenges. One of the unique questions that Millennials will need to answer is, “Will you be attending (insert gay friend or family member’s name here) ‘wedding’?” Obviously, every age group will have some proximity to this question, but the Millennials are the ones who are living in the midst of this cultural change. It’s our friends who are getting “married.” We’re the ones being asked to be best men and maids of honor. Our generation is the first “same-sex marriage” generation.
Given that this glaring reality is staring Millennials in the face, I think it’s appropriate for Christian Millennials to think carefully through this issue, and the implications of our various responses. Clearly this is a hot-button issue, and experience has already shown me that saying anything about this subject is bound to start a fire-storm of controversy. But I believe that, when Christians are asked to attend a same-sex “wedding,” their response should be to humbly, lovingly, decline.
Why not go?
The most fundamental reason is that such a “wedding” is no wedding at all. As Christians, the Bible is our final authority for faith and practice, especially with regard to topics that it itself explicitly addresses; and the Bible pretty explicitly addresses marriage. It is the covenant union between one man and one woman, joined together by God himself (Genesis 2:18-25, Matthew 19:3-9, Ephesians 5:22-33). The legal union between two people of the same sex may be something, but it will never be marriage. Marriage is something that has been established by God into the very fabric of reality itself; and legislation can’t possibly touch it.
Now, at this point some might be tempted bring up Romans 13. Aren’t we supposed to be subject to our governing authorities? My answer is yes, but only within the sphere that our governing authority has sovereignty over. If I turn on the television to discover that congress has passed a bill to annul the law of gravity, I’m not going to celebrate by walking off the building. Why? Because congress has no authority over the law of gravity. That law is outside of congress’ jurisdiction.The same is true with regard to marriage; it’s an untouchable reality. No sooner could congress establish a law that triangles have four angles. So (as R.C. Sproul Jr. has so helpfully pointed out) to attend such an event is to encourage the delusion of those involved.
But what’s even worse, to attend a same-sex “wedding” is to celebrate sin.
Let’s use another example; imagine for a moment that our culture was to descend into such depravity that people start throwing “Porn-subscription Parties.” Imagine you get an invitation in the mail that reads, “John Doe would like to cordially invite you to celebrate his subscription to Extra-X Porn company: the party will be held at…” Now, even if there’s no porn being watched at this imaginary party, I should like to think that Christians would know to decline such an invitation. Why? Because the invitation is to “celebrate his subscription” to sin. “I don’t want to celebrate that!” ought to be our response. Or worse yet, imagine it’s a wedding between a 40 year-old man and 9 year-old girl. With both of these situations the answer is (I think) clear; we don’t want to celebrate sin.
Yet celebration is exactly what we do when we attend weddings. We are there to solemnize and affirm the union; it’s a joyous occasion. That’s why traditional weddings has that part in there that says, “If anyone has any objections to this union, speak now or forever hold your peace;” the silence that follows is the affirmation of the union. However, if the Bible is right about sin, the “wedding” of a same-sex couple is not a joyous occasion. It’s a tragedy! What is the Christian attendee supposed to do when the official says, “I now pronounce you husband and husband”? Is he to clap? Is he to weep? As a Christian, I don’t believe there’s any way to reconcile the inconsistency of his disapproval of what’s happening and his presence there as an attendee. The purpose of the event is to fundamentally celebrate sin, and Christians simply can’t do that.
Can’t we use it for evangelism?
This is the million-dollar question, isn’t it? What if I go there to show the love of Jesus; to show some grace? I can certainly empathize with this impulse. After all, didn’t Jesus hang out with sinners? Didn’t Paul say that it’s not the sexually immoral of this world that we’re to distance ourselves from; insinuating that we should associate with them? Not only that, but Paul even says, “I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some.” (1 Corinthians 9:22).
However, I think we might be hasty to assume that these examples give us license to attend a celebration of sin. First of all, there’s no reason to believe that Jesus was in any way overlooking or affirming the sins of the sinners he was hanging around. In fact, his habit was to tell them stop sinning.
Additionally, there is a huge difference between associating with sinners and affirming their sins. If a non-believing gay friend asks you to attend his birthday party, you should most definitely go! Why? Because the birthday party is not intrinsically a celebration of sin, but his “wedding” is. We should remember that the Paul who instructs us to associate with sexually immoral of this world–who became “all things to all people, that by all means [he] might save some–is the same Paul who strictly forbade Roman Christians to join in the pagan drinking parties (which would turn into orgies) which were prevalent in their particular culture (Romans 13:13-14). Why? Because becoming all things to all people does not involve the celebration of all peoples’ sin.
But even more fundamentally, a Christian’s presence at a same-sex “wedding” is actually not helping his witness; it’s hurting it. A Christian who attends a same-sex “wedding” may think he’s bringing the gospel, but he’s actually undermining it. How is this? Well, let’s just define our terms for a moment. The gospel is the good news of what Jesus has accomplished with his life, death, and resurrection. What makes the Gospel good news is the bad news of sin; that our sin brings upon us the rightful wrath of God. The good news is the free grace of God, righteously satisfing his wrath for our sin by nailing it to the cross in Jesus Christ. It’s the forgiveness which was purchased by the blood of Jesus, which is rendered to those who are reconciled to Christ by faith and repentance.
In other words, the Gospel is only sweet to those who consider the taste of sin to be bitter. Jesus says, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.” (Luke 5:31-32) A sinner will never repent if he sees no sin to repent of. A sick man will never seek a physician if he thinks himself to be healthy. Paul says, “Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.” (2 Corinthians 5:20) When we beg people to be reconciled to God, we are presupposing that reconciliation is necessary.
So when we refuse to identify sin–with our words or with our actions–we’re not actually being “gospel centered.” No, we’re actually robbing the gospel of its potency. The crucifixion was not God’s way of ignoring sin. The very worst thing that could possibly be said about our sin was said there, “Your sin isso heinous,” the blood of Jesus cries out, “that the only thing that can atone for it is divine blood.” The notion that Jesus ignored the sin of those he interacted with, in the name of love, goes against the foundational Christian concept of the atonement. Love was demonstrated by not ignoring sin.
Grace is only for sinners. It’s actually quite unloving to encourage people in the very activity that will send them to hell, when we in fact herald the only message that can save them; a message that needs both halves (1 Corinthians 6:9-11).
The problem with cool-shaming
Now, all of this sounds difficult because what we want is to develop significant relationships with our non-believing friends, and we know that all of this would not go over well in a coffee-conversation with them. However, that’s not the determining factor for whether or not we are being effective witnesses to our gay friends. So often, we think that having a great witness is to be well thought of by non-believers; and in fact, that is something we should strive for, insofar as we are able. However, often I think that us Millennials justify our incredible lust for the approval of our non-believing peers by calling it “striving for a good witness.” Our worst nightmare is to be called an intolerant bigot; we’re terrified of being labeled a fundamentalist.
But listen, that’s where our strength is found. I’m not saying our strength is found in being a bigot; I’m saying that it’s found in saying the sort of thing that actually offends people. This is the beauty of God’s ironic process; he ordains to save sinners in the most counter-intuitive way: offending them. It pleased God through “the folly of what we preach to save sinners” (1 Corinthians 1:18-31).
We need to reconcile with the fact, right now, that we will never be “cool” in the eyes of this world. For Christian Millennials, this pill can be too hard to swallow; we want to have our cake and eat it too. But 2 Corinthians 2:14-17 makes it pretty clear that this will never happen. The fragrance we give off as Christians will always smell sweet to some, and horrible to others. The Holy Spirit is the only one who can possibly convict sinners of sin, and turn the repulsive, foolish message we preach into good newsfor them. But our job is simple; we are harolds. We are impartial. We proclaim that sinners need salvation from their sin, and that God has provided it in the person and work of His Son. We give off the aroma of Christ, and we let the chips fall where they may.
We will never experience the delight of being the sweet aroma of life to those who are being saved until we’re willing to be the stench of death to those who are perishing.
So please, don’t undermine the gospel you bring to your gay friends by being inconsistent with it. Lovingly decline, and may it serve as an opportunity to share with them the same good news that brought you from death to life.