Is Marriage a State or Religious Issue? And other Questions1
- It seems to me that Marriage is a religious institution given by God for his own purposes. What is the source of your belief that marriage is a "state issue"?
I don’t think I made myself clear. I do believe God created, instituted and blessed marriage, which is why I preside over wedding ceremonies.
However, in our country the government has historically governed who is married and who is not. You have to apply to the state for a marriage license, and you must have your divorces ratified in public courts.
In America, you can legally marry someone even if your church tells you it would be sinful. For instance, your church would tell you not to marry an unbeliever or someone who practices another religion. Yet, you could still marry that person legally. In the same way, your church may tell you that you have no biblical grounds for a divorce, but the courts would still legally grant that divorce.
Therefore, the question of who can or cannot be “lawfully” married is in fact a state issue. Unless the couple is requesting to be married by a minister of the church, it is not a church issue.
2. How do I love my Gay brother?
I encourage you to love the same way you would love your straight brother. Talk to him, text him, eat lunch together and do the things siblings do. Involve him in your life. Fellowship over the things you share in common, your family, home, history etc. Ask him about his life, ask how you can pray for him. Etc.
If he asks what you think of his lifestyle, then you can speak clearly and lovingly telling him you do not believe he is on a path that leads to life. If he believes you love him, he will be more apt to listen to you. But don’t condition your love on his taking your advice. Don’t make your love a way of manipulating him to make him live the way you want. No one wants to be controlled or manipulated.
Of course you will stumble from time to time. Whenever we try to minister to someone we say things we shouldn’t and make a mess of things. That is okay. I think the biggest mistake you can make is to shun him. That shunning will only force him to groups where he will be openly accepted, and often those groups are unhealthy.
3. How do you love those in sin and clearly uphold God's creation of a man and woman's relationship?
I am not sure I see the contradiction. In my life, I seek to uphold God’s creation of marriage. I love my wife, forsake all others and seek to be as good a husband as I can be.
Jesus also commands me to love my neighbor and to live at peace with all men (Romans 14:19, Hebrews 12:13). It makes me sad whenever I see anyone taking a path that the Bible says leads to destruction. But before I can have a meaningful input into that person’s life, they must know that I love them.
In the words of Donald Miller, “Nobody will listen to you unless they sense that you like them.”
I love them and I hope to steer them in a direction where they will thrive by living under God’s creation mandates.
4. Should we treat homosexuality different from someone living with their girlfriend, addicted to porn, etc. Are we looking at their sin too much?
On one level we should not act like the sin of homosexuality is worse or unforgivable. But I would not encourage you to say all sinners are alike.
There is at least one way that homosexuality is dramatically different from other sexual sins: Gay men and women do not view homosexuality as something they do, they see homosexuality as who they are. When we address a heterosexual’s sin, we are asking them to stop committing an act. When we address a homosexual’s sin, they feel like we are telling them to forsake their identity.
Therefore, we need to address them with grace and hope for change in a much different manner than we would someone looking at porn.
5. How apocryphal is John 8? How much does it matter?
It is very apocryphal. If you look at your notes, you will see that it is not in the earliest manuscripts of John, and most conservative scholars that I have read say it does not appear to be authored by John.
However, every point that we draw from this text can easily be drawn from the other stories where Jesus addresses adulteress women (Luke 7:36-50, John 4). This text brought them all together, so I chose it.
6. For the Christian, struggling with sexual sin, beyond the initial confession and repentance, what other resources would you recommend?
You need to consistently feast yourself of the gospel (at least daily), cut off all access to the sins (Matthew 5:29-30), and find a faithful community where you can confess your sin.
I suggest Setting Captives Free, Way of Purity internet course and the book Samson and the Pirate Monks.
7. Can homosexuals take communion? If it is like all other sexual sins then maybe I shouldn't take communion because I think I may be addicted to pornography.
This question is best answered by your local church, and elders who know and love you. If a homosexual is struggling with same sex attraction but not giving in to the temptation to be sexually immoral, then I would offer him communion. Communion is a means of grace for sinners. It is one of the ways God has given us to fight against sin.
However, when someone stops fighting against their sin and decides to simply give in or hardens his heart and decides that he will freely practice what God clearly calls sin, at that point we take communion away as a warning. (1 Corinthians 5:1 – 13)
If you think you are addicted to pornography, I urge you to talk one of the elders or me soon. It may be in your best interest to be withheld from the Lord’s Table for a time, but that decision should not be made by you individually. It should be made with the joint wisdom of the elders.