Christians disagree with each other all the time. Sometimes these disagreements are over small things. Sometimes they’re over significant issues. Recently, five bishops in the Church of England have approved the blessing of same-sex marriage in their dioceses against the Church’s traditional position and the teaching of scripture. Given that many people hold strong opinions about sexuality and marriage, isn’t it easier to just agree to disagree and get on with life? Why does it matter?
To be clear, there are times when disagreement between Christians is allowed. In Romans 14, Paul speaks about ‘disputable matters’ and asks Christians to be convinced in their own mind about what they think. But Paul also says elsewhere that some matters are not open for dispute because the gospel is at stake. So, into what category do same-sex practice and marriage fit?
Two passages tell us that these are gospel issues.
First, in 1 Corinthians 6, Paul is explicit in saying that certain practices exclude people from the kingdom of God. He includes homosexual practice (as opposed to same-sex attraction) in these prohibitions. The gospel is good news to all, as forgiveness is offered to all who repent, regardless of what we’ve done. But we should note, church leaders who teach that such practices are permissible, are not only teaching something which is contrary to the scriptures, they’re also encouraging people into destruction.
Second, in Revelation 2, Jesus is blunt to the church in Thyatira, saying, “I have this against you, that you tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess and is teaching and seducing my servants to practise sexual immorality and to eat food sacrificed to idols. I gave her time to repent, but she refuses to repent of her sexual immorality” (Rev. 2:20-21). The word Jesus uses here for “sexual immorality” is commonly used in the New Testament to refer to any sexual activity outside of marriage between a man and a woman. Notice two things. First, Jesus warns that he will judge those whose teaching leads others into sexual sin. Second, he warns the church in Thyatira for tolerating this false teaching.
According to Jesus, issues of sexuality are not a case of acceptable disagreement between Christians. We are to seek to understand the Bible’s teachings in this area, and then to follow them. Very often, our inclination is to page through the Bible and say, “I like this, but I don’t like that. I’ll follow this, but I won’t follow that”. But if God is sovereign and his Word is our authority, then God’s Word should be paging through our lives saying, “I like this, I don’t like that. That needs to change”.
In the Bible, marriage between a man and a woman is a wonderful gift, designed to point us to the gospel and Jesus’ relationship with his church. Sex is a beautiful part of that gift. Homosexual practice is an area where we stray from God’s created intentions for us. But it isn’t the only area. None of us are free from sin. We’re all broken and equally reliant on the grace of Jesus.
This is an adapted extract from an article by Sam Allberry that can be found at livingout.org