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With the legalization of gay marriage, Christians more often find themselves invited to same-sex wedding ceremonies.  This poses a dilemma for believers of whether to attend an event that celebrates a life-union that God nowhere approves of in Scripture.

Declining to attend seems like an easy solution.  But because it involves friendships or family connections, the matter can be quite complex. The issue is more difficult if the wedding involves a child or other close family member (for additional insights, read our mini book:  Your Gay Child Says “I Do”).

Reaching a decision will involve careful theological reflection, an understanding of your relationship with the one(s) getting married, and earnest prayer. Here are some things to think about that we hope can help you make a wise decision.

The space for this article is not sufficient to adequately examine the scope of Scripture on this matter, but here are three Scriptural principles that should guide you.


Reaching a decision will involve careful theological reflection, an understanding of your relationship with the one(s) getting married, and earnest prayer

 

  1. Be in the world but not of it. Knowing how to engage with the world is important for Christians.  Being set apart from the world (who we are and how our lives reflect who we live for) is demonstrated by our living in the world. Loving and investing (time) in our neighbor is the means by which the world comes to know God.
  2. Freedom in Christ. 1 Corinthians 8 and 10, and Romans 14, are key passages where Paul argues for the freedom of the believer to engage with others in society, centered around the contentious issue of that day: eating meat from an idol’s temple. For Paul, (Christian) freedom involves examining issues of motivation, concern for the impact on other believers, and the context of the situation (see 1 Cor. 10: 23-33 and Romans 14:20-23).  Freedom in Christ enables us to think through how our actions affect others.
  3. Faith/conscience. Paul’s conclusion in Romans 14 is that we decide on issues such as these based on conscience, and that if one remains unsettled, then it is wiser to not participate, because it “is not from faith.” Christians can stand on both sides of difficult issues, so the freedom we have in Christ to discern how to live strategically in the world should move us to extend grace to those who decide differently.

After examining Scripture (which must be the basis for all decisions), here are some relationship issues that can guide you in making a decision.

  1. What is your current relationship to the person getting married?

Are they a casual co-worker, friend or distant relative, or someone you have a closer relationship with (like a family member)?  Has the invitation been given to everyone in your office, department or family?  Or, has it been given to you because you have a closer relationship?  These factors can help you determine how best to respond.  For example, if the person is someone you have a good friendship with, then you are in a position to speak directly to him or her about the issue of attending.  If your friend knows you are a Christian, then this becomes another opportunity (or maybe the first!) to discuss your faith and how that influences your decision.

  1. What would you be trying to convey by your attendance?

Some people make the distinction between supporting the person, whom they love and care about, and supporting the event, of which they don’t approve. In making this distinction, it can communicate that attendance is not an implicit approval of their marriage. This is a meaningful distinction.  We do this constantly in our other relationships, communicating our differences but remaining involved in each other’s lives.

This distinction may depend on how vocal you have been about your faith.  What kinds of conversations have you had?  Do they know you are a Christian?  Do they know your views about homosexuality?  If so, your presence could actually “stun” them or really mess up the categories they may have about “Christians” like you.  Christians, living intentionally by the gospel, can sometimes be confusing to people, causing them to rethink their positions and perhaps see new and bigger realities.  That’s a good thing.

If you feel that attending would lend weight to your Christian witness, then you might go. Your attendance would be in line with your desire to pursue a relationship because you care for them, and you want to keep the relationship open to have further opportunities to share the gospel with them.

  1. What are you concerned about if you decide to attend?

Are you afraid that your attendance would communicate your approval?  Or, are you afraid of explaining why you feel you cannot attend?  Are you afraid you would not know how to act or how to talk with other guests, most who would support the marriage? There can be lots of fear involved in making this decision.  Ask the Lord to guide you regarding all these issues.  Fear or anxiety about disappointing someone is never a good motivator to make a decision.  A better question is this:  What response might cause further openness to the gospel?

  1. If you decide you cannot attend, could you substitute something else?

If you reach the conclusion that you cannot attend, you might consider an alternative response.  For instance, giving a card or gift would still show your care for them and acknowledge that this was an important day for them (it was, but you don’t necessarily have to join in on the celebration).

If you are close to the person or couple, but still conclude that you cannot attend, then consider taking them out to lunch or dinner.  Of course, this may be an uncomfortable get-together, especially if the person will feel hurt by your absence.  But a quick follow-up may go a long way toward bringing understanding and another opportunity for you to share your faith. Another decision some people make is to not attend the wedding (because of the nature of wedding vows) but to attend the reception (if this is, of course, agreed upon by the wedding couple).

  1. Do one or both parties claim to be Christians?

Someone once said, “We shouldn’t expect Christian behavior from non-Christian people.”  If the person or persons getting married are unbelievers, this doesn’t mean you have an unhindered green light to attend—but if someone claims to be a Christian and yet is in rebellion to God’s design and intention for how his people should live, and is celebrating it and inviting others to join in, then that is another matter.

Many would argue that even if one of the parties is a confessing Christian, attending would be entering into their delusion that the marriage union is fine with God and is sanctioned by him.  But some will make the distinction that attending is not the same as approving.

 

As you can see, these are hard issues!  Your decision must come from wrestling with Scripture, drenched in prayer, and talked through with close friends or family members.  But know this:  that your wrestling with this is itself evidence of your heart wanting to do the right thing to honor Christ and to open doors for the gospel.  Realize that there is no ONE answer to this, but there is one thing you can count on:  like Jesus, you’ll probably be misunderstood regarding the implications of any choice you make.  So, when you make your decision, know that you have made it on the basis of what will honor God, and be at peace on that basis.

“Dr. Clair Davis, retired church history professor from Westminster Theological Seminary, writes on lots of church and gospel issues. When he writes on sex and sexuality, he has a lot of good things to say, so we thought you’d like to read it, also.”

The Supreme Court’s decision enabling same-sex marriage in all states has gotten much attention, positively and negatively. It will facilitate unbiblical marriages everywhere, and God and his law will be massively mocked. Of course that is very serious. Going ahead, will those opposing this decision be convicted of hate-crime? It is very possible.

But how is this anything new? Some of us can remember when states followed biblical norms, permitting divorce only in cases of adultery. That was when people went to Reno, Nevada to live for six weeks until they could obtain a “no-fault” divorce there. Those finding that inconvenient were able to enlist private detectives to help them set up a phony adultery in raids on hotel rooms. I can’t remember how believers responded to Reno, but wasn’t that just as serious then as the Court’s decision today?

No doubt there are legal and social advantages to “marriage,” but in a hook-up culture, that has little to do with sexual activity. Puberty comes earlier and marriage much later; do the math yourself. No one says “common-law marriage” any more, but what could be more common? Has the evangelical Christian church, along with Catholics and Orthodox, been consistently clear?

This has nothing to do with our welcoming people. Jesus welcomed all us sinners and we are so glad. But along with our trusting Jesus Christ comes repentance for our sin, and that is what we know ourselves and seek to tell others. I tell this story, one that I actually experienced, about getting drainage pipe for a plot of ground and asking for a much bigger pipe than the clerk suggested, prompting his response as he sold me the really big one, “you do have a drainage problem.” That the Beloved Son of the Father should give up his life for us sinners, crying out “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me”—that wasn’t to show off, that was because of our sin.

We are called to welcome all to Jesus, but clearly. Turning to him means turning away from whatever idol you worship, including “same-sex” relations. We need to show and tell that this means us too. We are not called to be Pharisees, to look down on those not as holy as we are. In no way are we worthy.

Were we sloppy about Reno? Hook-ups? It is time for us to repent of that and our own respectable sins too. The Court has gotten everyone’s attention right now, why should we delay our own repentance? And along with that, calling the world around us to Jesus the Savior? Not just same-sex people—that suggests their sin is greater than ours, and it isn’t. That suggests cultural narrowness, and our calling is to the whole world. The Court has people awake, now is the time to talk, more clearly and consistently than ever before.

This is the third of a multi-part blog that chronicles Allan Edward’s journey from discovering his same-sex attraction to how he responded, and what his faith in Christ meant for him all along the way. Check out Allan’s interview on NPR, which was a catalyst for this series of blog posts: http://www.npr.org/2015/01/04/374857829/a-pastor-moves-past-his-attraction-to-men-and-so-does-his-wife)

When I’ve talked to older guys about their struggles with pornography, they often tell me that it was different, harder, in the old days to get a hold of pornography. I came of age in the late 1990s and early 2000s, and the Internet was brand new. Getting online meant surfing through chat rooms within AOL. But it wasn’t long before I was able to start finding pictures of guys in bathing suits, wrestlers, and the like. But it was the early days of the Internet, and covering my tracks hadn’t occurred to me.

I remember sitting down with my parents on the good furniture, in the nice living room, one afternoon when I was in tenth grade or so. Apparently my little brother had found some awkward (read: inappropriate) pictures on the computer, and they wanted to ask me about it. I broke down right then and there. My attempt to hide my secret pleasure from my parents was over. After two years of keeping this secret, I’d been found out, and the image I’d worked to create and maintain collapsed. I’d lost my parents trust, which—more importantly, to me at the time—meant that I’d lost my free pass to pornography.

It wasn’t until years later that I began to synthesize the pain of this experience. At the time the crushing weight of shame seemed unbearable. But the more I reflect back on this experience, I’m so thankful for it. Living life in the shadows and constantly hiding how you feel is a psychological weight that I now realize I couldn’t have borne much longer. But at the time, having to sit there and talk with my parents about sexual attraction was possibly the worst experience my seventeen-year-old self could imagine.

Today, when I think about that moment, it makes me think of peroxide. I have no idea what parents do to treat kid’s wounds today, but whenever I fell off my bike and skinned my knee as a kid, the pain of the fall was a shadow of the pain I would feel later when my mom or dad would open up a bottle of peroxide and pour the disinfecting stream onto my bloody knee. While it certainly hurt, I knew the pain was for a purpose: the bubbling, stinging peroxide would keep my scrape from becoming an infected and festering wound.

That’s how honesty is, even when it comes to issues of sexuality. When the truth comes out, you might lose something, the way I lost some access to my secret pleasures. But you gain something too; you gain authenticity.

When I had this conversation with my parents, it felt like finally being known after living a long time in the shadows. Sadly, many youth who struggle with same-sex attraction come to believe that it means that they have a particular identity—that they are gay, bisexual, or queer. So, when they have this kind of “coming out” conversation with family, they are declaring an identity. I think coming out conversations are really hard for Christian families. For me and my parents, I wasn’t coming out in the sense that I was declaring a new identity; I was coming out of hiding and asking for help.

If you or someone you know struggles with same-sex attraction, and believes that embracing a gay identity is not an option for their life, then know that it can be just as hard for them to talk about it as for someone who comes out and declares a gay identity. But, on the other hand, if your child or a friend comes out to you, declaring a gay identity, I’d urge you to react to that news with patience, grace, and understanding. Even and especially if you hold to orthodox Christian beliefs about sexuality.

My parents, as confused and probably hurt as they were, showed me kindness and patience. It was probably easier for them to do so, as I wasn’t taking on a new identity. But parents who have children who do declare themselves LGBT need to have even more grace and patience as they walk with their child through this, and, along the way, lovingly point them to the truth of God’s word.

This is the second of a multi-part blog that chronicles Allan Edward’s journey from discovering his same-sex attraction to how he responded, and what his faith in Christ meant for him all along the way.

“So, how do you identify yourself?” That’s the question I’ve tried to answer to friends, in-laws, and even a reporter from National Public Radio. (To listen to an interview with Allan and his wife, click here: http://www.npr.org/2015/01/04/374857829/a-pastor-moves-past-his-attraction-to-men-and-so-does-his-wife)

As a Christian kid, having erotic fantasies about other guys on an almost daily basis shocked and surprised me. I went from not completely understanding what was going on in my heart and mind, to understanding that what I was doing was wrong. And when the guilt and shame set in, the identity crisis began.

Let me be clear about the source of my guilt and shame. Although I was raised in an evangelical home, there weren’t thundering sermons in my church attacking the “gay agenda.” There weren’t a lot of jokes at our family gatherings about effeminate men. Honestly, there was very little talk about sexuality at all.

A lot of people who experience same-sex attraction and grow up in a Christian context do experience shame when their community is full of harsh language about homosexuals. Homosexual behavior is certainly sin, and homosexual attraction is not God’s design for human sexuality, but the fact that homosexuality has been lifted up as the ultimate sin by many in the Christian community has not helped Christians who struggle with same-sex attraction find grace and repentance. Making one sin the sin hasn’t represented the gospel well to the watching world.

Pointing to one sin pattern as the cause of all societal ills isn’t in line with the gospel of God’s grace. As Paul reminded the legalistic Christians in Rome, God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance (Rom. 2:4). Such kindness has been missing in the words and actions of the Church, however. Instead, hateful words and ignorant speech have enveloped many people who experience same-sex attraction in shame and have even contributed to destructive decisions.

My own experience with shame wasn’t birthed from such an environment. I was the son of two loving parents, and an older brother to two awesome younger brothers. I grew up in a church that preached God’s grace as the only hope for all people, not just one kind of sinner or another. My home, my family, and my church didn’t teach me to hate or fear homosexuality. I believe I felt guilt and shame because I was keeping a secret. I was a performance-oriented kid who loved to please my teachers and parents. But now, I was harboring a secret, and I was convinced that if I told anyone, I would have to stop.

Honestly, I liked how it felt to fantasize and please myself. It wasn’t long before I knew that what I was doing was morally wrong. But more important to me than doing what was right was feeling good.

You see, I’d always been a sneaky kid. I’d sneak cookies and candy. I’d sneak downstairs to watch television. And now, I was sneakily making myself feel good by objectifying my classmates.

The thing about a sneak is this: If he’s good at it, he’ll still look good to everyone around him. I was a sneaky kid, and I felt guilt and shame because I knew I was living a lie. On the outside I was a good kid, but on the inside I was nurturing a habit that turned people into objects for my pleasure.

Lies tend to be found out—and mine was no exception. Soon my fantasy life turned to a secret obsession with pornography, and that obsession would be discovered by my parents, forcing me to have a frank conversation with them. You’d think they’d naturally become a new source of shame for me. While they were certainly confused, my parents showed love, not hate; care, not condemnation. Sin brings shame, but a loving parent can turn shame into hopeful resolve.

This is the first of a multi-part blog that chronicles Allan Edward’s journey from discovering his same-sex attraction to how he responded, and what his faith in Christ meant for him all along the way.

“So, how do you identify yourself?” That’s the question I’ve tried to answer to friends, in-laws, and even a reporter from National Public Radio. (To listen to an interview with Allan and his wife, click here: http://www.npr.org/2015/01/04/374857829/a-pastor-moves-past-his-attraction-to-men-and-so-does-his-wife)

The problem with talking about identity is that we seem to want simple phrases. “I’m gay.” “I’m straight.” “I’m a celibate gay Christian.” “I’m ex-gay.” I guess my story begins with this central issue:

Allan & Leeanne Edwards

Allan and Leeanne

as a Christian who began experiencing same-sex attraction in adolescence, I didn’t understand my identity. I still struggle to talk about my identity in relatable terms today. Here’s what is most clear to me: my identity is in Christ. Like Paul says in Galatians 2, I’ve been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.

I grew up in a “becoming” Christian family, by which I mean that my parents came to really believe and understand the gospel when I was between the ages of four and six. From that time on, I was raised in Bible-believing evangelical churches that emphasized the grace of God in saving sinners and bringing them into a personal relationship with Him through Jesus.

I came to believe this message at a pretty young age. I was six or seven when the old Randy Travis song, “Have a Little Talk with Jesus,” played on the radio, and I remember telling my mom I needed a relationship with Jesus. My faith matured as I did and I remember in my early adolescent years praying to “give all of my life” to Jesus at summer camp.

But it was about this time, around 13 years old, that I began to see I was really different from other boys my age. I’d always been picked on for my weight or for not liking the right sports or music, but as I went through junior high a new taunt popped off the lips of school bullies: “gay.” To be honest, I didn’t understand what the word really meant. The kid who sat behind me in chorus said I was gay because I paid attention and sang in chorus class. If I’d remembered the fact that he, too, was in chorus class maybe I wouldn’t have taken the taunt so seriously.

Having not sat in the back of the bus, I suppose I came late to the world of understanding sexual activities, jokes, and lingo. But it didn’t take long for me to realize that my interest in arts and academics and my lack of typical alpha male characteristics meant I was “gay.”

It wasn’t long after those junior high years that I started to have my own sexual awakening. As a straight-laced “good” kid, I was ashamed and kind of shocked at my first experiences with masturbation. It was a short leap from fantasies about girls to fantasies about guys. I knew it was wrong, but honestly I don’t think I really knew what it was yet.

It took almost a year for me to put words to the experience: I was having “gay fantasies.” I was a youth group kid, a follower of Jesus, a Christian. I was the kid who brought his pastor in for career day, who never saw a Christian T-shirt he didn’t like… and I was having gay fantasies. The language of “identity” hadn’t yet entered my vocabulary, but I began having an identity crisis, and I knew there was no one I could talk to about it.

I mentioned in my last post that one of the most devastating things that impacted your wife when your porn usage finally came out in the open was this fact:  You were living a double life.  You lived one way in front of her, and you lived another way behind her back.  That type of secrecy in a marriage causes great damage.

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