Ask Tom: Divorce & Gay Marriage In The Church

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Recently, my friend Dave wrote to me about divorce and gay marriage. He wanted to know why churches accept the divorced (though God hates divorce) but don’t accept gay marriage. Here is my response.

Dave:

Divorce was permitted, Jesus said, because of hardness of heart (Matthew 19:8). 

The Bible does not speak, specifically, about gay marriage. But we can make some deductions about it from what scripture says.

Divorce is a tricky issue for many Christians. Yes, God hates divorce, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t permit it or forgive it. God hates sin, but allows for it to happen and forgives it as well, no matter what that sin is. This is because God wants us to experience all of his character. If there were no sin, we could never know the sweetness of God’s forgiveness, or his mercy, or his grace, etc. 

Biblically speaking, there cannot be a divorce in a gay marriage because gay marriage is not recognized by the scripture as an institution that God established. Gay marriage is a man-made social construct that has no biblical legitimacy. 

In the Bible, the sinfulness of sex is conditional. All sex outside of the biblically mandated marriage covenant is sin. There is never a time when two people who are not married can engage is sexual activity without it being a sin (the only other time where it is not counted as sin is when someone is raped. The victim is not guilty).

In the Bible, God makes a broad, sweeping judgment on the sinfulness of homosexuality and a number of other sexual practices. Never in the Old Testament or New Testament does God pronounce these other practices as permissible if there is a marriage. IE, homosexuality, bestiality, incest, etc., are always sinful—no exceptions. This is unlike divorce where God may hate it, but divorce under certain conditions is permissible.

Churches should accept and love anyone, whether they are divorced, homosexuals, murderers, liars, adulterers, etc., as long as those people are unbelievers (I Corinthians 5:9-10). The unbeliever needs to see acceptance if he is going to consider the Gospel. 

However, Paul notes that those who commit persistent, unrepentant since and claim to be a Christian are to be put out of the church (I Corinthians 5:1-13). 

Dave, divorce is not a persistent lifestyle of rebellion. It is tragic, and make take a long time to work through, but most people who get a divorce aren’t in the habit of divorcing and remarrying over and over again. Homosexuality is different. It is a persistent lifestyle which God condemns just like he condemns adultery or any other sin which may be engaged in over and over again. Thus a divorced person should be welcome in the church, even a believer. It happened. It’s over. It’s done. The church should help the divorced person pursue a better future.

The homosexual should be accepted as well, but at some point the homosexual person needs to recognize God’s disagreement with his lifestyle and come to repentance to personally experience the love and forgiveness of God. This is true of any ongoing, persistent sin, not just homosexuality.

So, we see from these things that people must always be accepted in the church. But the sins we commit should always be condemned and repented of.

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