Disclaimer: This article focuses on how Christians can talk about same-sex marriage with their own teens and youth. If you are a same-sex marriage proponent, you have every right to promoting your opinion, and we would ask the space to promote our view as well. In this attitude of mutual respect, I present this primer, designed for teens and youth.
In the years leading up to the Supreme Court’s sanctioning of same-sex marriage, there were plenty of opportunities or cultural moments that parents could have seized to talk about homosexuality, same-sex marriage in light of the Bible, with their kids.
Many chose to ignore the issue. Today, the idea is now here and it can no longer be ignored. Russell Moore of the SBC’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission has a very helpful article on how to address this issue with children.
But what about youth, those who are more likely to know a gay friend at school? Teens are in that logic phase of life, trying to figure out the world around them (which explains why they can be so argumentative, just as I was), so they are a big key to this public conversation.
Here’s what I think we can say to some of the popular statements they hear or may even use.
- “Love Wins! It’s just that simple.”
What kind of love won? In English, we use the word love to mean many things. I love chocolate. I love this TV show. I love my wife. In the biblical language, however, there are four loves. The first love is “affection” or affinity (Think of when you like a breakfast cereal or song on iTunes). The next of the natural loves is friendship, and the third is romantic love (in Greek “Eros”). The fourth love is the love of God (in Greek “Agape”). If any love won here, it was “eros.” But even then, we believe that it was not the proper form of romantic love that “won.”
“All gay people wanted was to have the right to marry, too!”
For years, there has been an organized group of people—activists—who through cultural, financial and other ways, worked to bring same-sex marriage to this country. Most people who are pursuing same-sex marriages do not fall into this category. They are often regular people just trying to find happiness, in its various forms, and live life. They want what their parents or grandparents had.
One problem with that: Prior to this ruling, everyone in America already had the right to marry anyone they wanted; as long as that person was of the opposite sex, was not a minor and was not a relative. What has been granted here is not marriage equality; we already had that. What was granted is a special right to marry someone of the same sex.
- “What harm can gay marriage do?”
Relationships matter and not just to the people involved. We do not yet know what effect gay marriage will have on any children brought up in homes. What we do know is that every person alive has a mother and a father. Even if that person did not ever know their father or even their mother, they have one (biologically speaking and relationally speaking). In God’s creation, every child has a mother and a father and every child deserves a mother and a father. By pursing same-sex relationships, we are harming children by denying them one or both of these.
- “But they love each other!”
If the main reason to get married is because you are in love, it would be easier to see why people may approve same-sex marriage. In Christianity, however, marriage is for more than feelings. Marriage is primarily (but not exclusively) for having and raising children and to depict the Gospel. Marriage has to be, first and foremost, about these grand purposes and not our emotions. Just like eating food is primarily nutrition and survival, but God gives us good taste too, marriage is primarily for procreation and God gives us love too. Same-sex marriage fails to fulfill these higher purposes, no longer how strong the love people feel.
- “Why does it have to be one man and one woman anyway?”
We don’t believe same-sex marriage is just immoral. We believe, as Russell Moore points out, that it is impossible. Why one man and one woman? Because that’s where babies—that’s where all people—come from. Furthermore, this is what the Bible teaches. In the beginning, God made a man and a woman, and the “two became one flesh” in marriage (Gen. 1:27). Jesus, in the New Testament, explicitly affirmed this marriage design (Matt. 19:1-10). The Apostle Paul also affirmed the Christian meaning of marriage in his epistles (1 Cor. 7) and even made monogamy a requirement of church leadership (1 Tim. 3).
- “You’re just being closed-minded, like people who were against interracial marriage before.”
A person’s race or skin color is different than their behavior or even desires. People who oppose interracial marriage go against the Bible (remember that Moses married a woman of another race). While many professing Christians have wrongly stood against interracial marriage, they were wrong to do so. Their wrong attitude on that should not be equated with biblical convictions about same-sex marriage.
- Why won’t you just go along with this? Why stop it?
Biblical Christians are not stopping anyone from pursuing these relationships. We are warning them against homosexual behavior, believe it is contrary to God’s plan (Rom. 1, 1 Cor. 6) and is self-destructive. More than that, we are simply promoting our viewpoint, that Christian marriage is God’s best. As Russell Moore said, it is not that we won’t approve of gay marriage. It’s that we cannot, because our consciences are captive to the Word of Christ.
- “Marriages in the church are bad. Who are you to judge other’s marriages?”
Pastor Rick Warren once said that divorce and cohabitation threaten the future of marriage even more than same-sex marriage. We agree with that, and we know that Christians have done more damage to marriage by casual divorce within the church than non-believers have done to it outside the church. It’s high time to live like we mean it when we say, “til death do us part.” At the same time we recognize that the only way not to be a hypocrite is to lower your standards. We should not lower our standards, we should raise our behavior.
These are just a few conversation points I have heard, in person and online. What do you hear?