FamilyLife, Redefining Marriage, and the Most Loving Thing We Can Do
After the Supreme Court declared DOMA to be unconstitutional this past June, Dennis Rainey shared a letter about FamilyLife’s controversial radio broadcast on this issue. He wrote, “In more than four decades of ministry I’ve never seen the overwhelming amount of feedback, both positive and negative, to our special radio program two weeks ago concerning the DOMA decision.” (DOMA is the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, which defined legal marriage in federal law as being only between one man and one woman. Section 3 of the act was ruled unconstitutional in 2013.) After sending out an email advertising their upcoming broadcast, FamilyLife received numerous responses taking issue with their stance:
“…I strongly disagree with this email that you sent out. What about love and acceptance and equality for everyone? I hope one day that people will stop being judged for who they love."
“I celebrated the Supreme Court rulings yesterday with my amazing gay Christian friends. I felt tears well up in my eyes because this represents justice to me. The assumption that because I am a Christian, I must be upset about today, took me by surprise. These emails do not represent my heart and my convictions, so I have unsubscribed.”
“There appears to be passionate and growing support for so-called ‘same-sex marriage’ among those who profess faith in Christ,” Dennis wrote. Still, there were others who appreciated the email and broadcast:
"I pray every day for this country and our president. Things sure have changed in a short time in our country. Though I am saddened, I know God is in control and I ask God to be a lamp unto my feet each day. I pray for a grass root change. Thank you for being strong and courageous in times like this."
Here are some quotes from Dennis’s letter, followed by my thoughts.
Who would have thought that a ministry that teaches God’s design for marriage and family could be labeled, “bigoted”? That the idea that God created marriage as a lifelong covenant relationship between a man and a woman would now be decried as “hate speech”? Human speculation now trumps divine decree.
The Bible makes clear that God’s very best for all of our lives involves our purity and obedience to Him. This includes forsaking all sexual sins, heterosexual and homosexual, outside of the marriage covenant between a man and a woman. If this message is “hate speech,” as it is called by some responders, then the Bible is hate speech, and no one can preach the whole Bible without being guilty of hate speech.
As I feel sorry for someone who will never walk again, I feel very sorry for those who want to be married, but have no desire to be married to the only ones God permits them to marry, those of the opposite gender. But my sorrow and empathy do not negate the objective teaching of Scripture. It is never loving to mislead people into thinking that God permits what He does not, or that it is in our best interests to try to be happy by doing whatever we desire to do.
The Supreme Court may be the highest court in the land, but it is asserting itself above the ultimate authority of all creation. The Supreme Court is tampering with the divine DNA of the most basic units of civilization—marriage and family. Like every civilization that has gone before us, I’m afraid our country is on a path to learning that when we ignore God and His word, we invite His displeasure.
It concerns me when those who profess to be Christians simply redefine what it means to be a Christian to accommodate whatever the culture currently believes. The Bible is no longer their authority, but the current and ever-changing wind of social preference. Teaching that the commandments of God are written in pencil, they buy their social popularity by passing out erasers.
Even where society legalizes homosexual marriage, this does not mean God recognizes it as a marriage. If society legalized marriage between an adult male and a six-year-old girl, God would not recognize it as marriage, or change His judgment that it’s perverse. If society legalized marriage between a man and his sister, this would not thereby change God's revealed will concerning the sin of incest. Hebrews 13:4 tells us, “Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous.”
To give special status or rights to those choosing the homosexual lifestyle is to approve and endorse that behavior, and inevitably to spread it. To do so is morally wrong. It is also the worst possible thing we can do for homosexuals, who need to hear that in Christ there is the way out of bondage to sin. They do not need to be encouraged to plunge deeper into it.
We have apparently lost some friends because we continue to uphold the definition of marriage found in Genesis. No one likes to lose a friend. It’s even harder when the friend is angry with you. But there are times when your convictions may collide with the views of a friend. And in those moments, you have to decide where you stand.
As for me and my house, we’re standing with what we believe the Bible clearly teaches.
I appreciate Dennis Rainey’s words here. Many people have been angry at me because I don’t believe I have the wisdom or power to revise the nature and commands of God. I do not trust the current beliefs of my culture more than I trust God.
It may appear to be judgmental and unloving for a Christian to believe that only a man and a woman can enjoy a true marriage as defined by God. But like Dennis and the rest of the FamilyLife staff, I really do believe the Bible, and therefore I can't hold to these positions no matter how passionately people may make a case for them.
The truth is that Jesus condemned lust, both heterosexual and homosexual (Matthew 5:28). In Matthew 19:9 Jesus condemned “porneia,” a broad word that covers all sexual sins condemned in the Old Testament, and others not addressed there. Greek scholars say this includes prostitution, bestiality, incest, child molesting, homosexual relations, and all heterosexual relations outside of marriage. So Jesus really did speak against homosexual relations without using that exact term.
Likewise, Jesus’ apostles, who wrote the God-breathed New Testament Scriptures, consistently spoke against homosexual behavior right along with other sins (Romans 1:26-27; 1 Corinthians 6:9; 1 Timothy 1:9-10; Jude 7).
When it comes to the issue of being “judgmental”, people commonly cite Matthew 7:1-2:
“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”
Yes, Jesus is saying, “Don’t judge.” But the context is king when we’re interpreting Scripture—and in verses 3-5 He goes right on to say:
“How can you say to your brother, “Let me take the speck out of your eye,” when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”
It’s clear that “Judge not” does not mean you can’t see a speck in your brother’s eye or that in seeing it you have no responsibility to help your brother remove it. On the contrary, He’s saying yes, see that speck in your brother’s eye, but take the log out of your eye first so you can help him.
We are not to go around condemning people and making ourselves seem superior to them. But at the same time, we’re to recognize what God says in His Word. If God’s Word says that adultery is a sin, and He clearly does, I am not being judgmental if I say, “If I committed adultery I would be sinning.” Likewise, without a judgmental or self-righteous spirit, I can look at a person committing adultery and conclude that they are sinning. I’m simply believing what Scripture says.
If I have a relationship with that person, I need to go to them and say, “Because I love you, for your own sake I urge you to repent and turn to Christ.” You might say, “Now that’s condemning them and judging them.” No—that’s believing what God says is true and then trying to help the person because sin is not in their best interest. It can't be. It never has been and never will be.
The truth isn’t something we should protect people from—it’s something God gives for our protection. We owe it to each other to do what Scripture commands: "Speak the truth in love" (Ephesians 4:15).
I’d encourage you to read Dennis’s full letter, which includes four ways FamilyLife is working and reaching out in the days ahead.