While many Scripture-loving Christians are opposed to the Supreme Court’s recognition of gay marriage rights, we aren’t all. For instance, I celebrate it. But I do understand how that could be confusing to some people. Let’s talk about some of these issues.
For me, Scripture holds very high authority and ought to be treated with the respect it deserves. We recognize that in Scripture, the Old Testament laws aren’t binding for Christians (Gal 2:19) (thus while Leviticus calls gay intimacy an abomination (Lev 20:13), we have to remember that the same book says that about pork [Lev 11:7], shrimp [Lev 11:2], and polyester too [Lev 19:19]).
In fact, most of what we end up talking about in the gay marriage debate comes down to how to interpret Paul and some other writers of the New Testament letters. But one of the things Paul hated most was when people would divide themselves against each other over something he or one of the other early church leaders had said (1 Cor 1:10-17).
So we need to go back to Jesus (this is always a good idea). It’s true that Jesus did not say anything to us in the Gospels about gay orientation. But He did have plenty to say about the religious law. After all, he was frequently in hot water over his breaking of that law, particularly the Sabbath law (Mark 3:1-6 and many others), the traditional handwashing (Matthew 15:1-9), and fellowshipping with those labeled sinners (Matthew 9:9-13).
So what does Jesus, our ultimate example of righteousness as the Word made flesh (John 1:14) say to us about the law? When he was asked about the greatest commandment, Jesus said that there were two: love the Lord your God with everything you have, and love your neighbor as yourself.
He then goes on to say that these two are the commandments that the whole law and all the prophets hang from. He then defines neighbor so widely that it includes even Samaritans, whom religious Judeans thought of as the lowest of the low (Matthew 22:34-40; Luke 10:25-37).
So if we take our cue from Jesus, we can see whether anything under the sun is sin. If it does keep you from loving God or your neighbor, then that’s sin, even if it looks like religious righteousness.
And if anything doesn’t keep you from loving God and your neighbor, then it’s not sin, even if it looks like religious unrighteousness (note that Jesus also said nothing about pork, shrimp, polyester, or tattoos, all of which are mentioned in the law of Moses).
We find that this is also affirmed later in the Scriptures. Paul tells us that love does no harm to a neighbor, and thus love alone fulfils the law (Romans 13:10; Galatians 5:14). Paul also tells us that the letter of the law kills, but the Spirit makes alive (2 Corinthians 3:6). By this he does not mean the spirit of the law, but the Holy Spirit of God, whom He sends. He tells us that this Spirit will be with us until the end of the age (Matthew 28:20) and will lead us into all the truth (John 16:12-15).
My church, The United Methodist Church, has since the 1970s taught that homosexuality is not compatible with Christian teaching, and this has been true for some time. But it is not “Christian teaching” that Christ sent us to follow, but the Holy Spirit who leads us into all the truth, the same Spirit who said to Peter, do not call unclean anything that I have made clean (Acts 10:15).
The word for Spirit in both Hebrew (ruach) and Greek (pneuma) is the same as the word for wind. The Spirit of God moves and leads us forever. If we find ourselves holing up in a fortress to resist the moving of the Spirit, we’ll never get where we are meant to.
In the final analysis: gay marriage does no harm to its neighbor, nor impinges on love.
I celebrate the Spirit’s movement!
Dr. Ryan “Bruno” Rush holds a doctorate in ministry from the Perkins School at SMU and is a circuit elder with the United Methodist Church of Arkansas. He has spent the past 10 years pastoring churches throughout Arkansas.