Pastors, Homosexuality, and Same-Sex Marriage


Pastor, I understand your reluctance to talk about homosexuality and same-sex marriage. I really do. It’s a topic that can make enemies instead of friends—certainly enemies outside the church, but possibly inside, too. And who wants enemies?

Yet here are several reasons why I would challenge you, not to make this a major topic of your ministry, but to teach on it nonetheless.
1) Unlike a number of ethical issues, this is an embattled one, around which an evangelical consensus is still forming. Most evangelicals have pretty clear lines on matters like abortion, fornication, or unbiblical divorce. Even if we act inconsistently in these areas, we mostly agree on how we should act. But many evangelicals are still trying to figure out what they think about homosexuality, and certainly what they think about same-sex marriage. That’s become clear to me both through personal conversations and through the responses to my article “Love and the Inhumanity of Same-Sex Marriage.” Christians don’t know how to think well on this topic because their minds are so clouded by other worldviews, as well as by fear.
2) If you don’t teach your people on this matter, who will? It is not fundamentally Al Mohler or Kevin DeYoung’s job to teach your people from the Scriptures on these controversial issues. It is your job. You will give an account for it. God has given you the job of teaching them everything that Christ has commanded (Matt. 28:19). So the culture is pulling your members hard in one direction on these issues. They need you to offer a counter force now–in the very midst of our present circumstances. If you don’t, where do you expect your church members to be in five years?
3) If your congregation does not see you stand clearly upon God’s Word, how do you expect them to stand? Think of Paul’s words: “For I think that God has exhibited us apostles as last of all, like men sentenced to death, because we have become a spectacle to the world, to angels, and to men” (1 Cor. 4:9). Brothers, we need to be willing to put ourselves first in line to be called fools by the world. If we won’t, they won’t.
4) You want the church to grow in holiness both for God’s sake and for the nations’ sake. The witness and mission of the church depend upon its holiness. Salt that looses its saltiness might as well be thrown out and trampled upon, and light hidden under a bowl is good for nothing. I know a counter-cultural stance in this area feels like it could hurt our evangelistic potential in the short-term, but we have to trust that our counter-culture stance in such areas which, in the long-run, give credibility and evangelistic power (see 1 Peter 2:9-12 and Matt. 5:13-16).
I recently heard Tim Keller say that he’s looking forward to getting to the other side of this cultural moment, because we’ll discover that life goes on, and that we should not respond in paranoia in the meantime. I completely agree. That said, we are in a unique moment right now that pastors need to capitalize on, while some of the cement is still wet.
I’m not encouraging you to be a cultural warrior, or to raise up a church of cultural warriors. But I am saying it’s our responsibility to teach the church to be the church. Teach them that true love is inseparable from holiness. Teach them that God will judge unrighteousness. Teach them that God laid down his life for the unrighteous, and so should we. Teach them to love their enemies.
For discussion on the topic themselves, see
Jonathan Leeman

Jonathan (@JonathanLeeman) edits the 9Marks series of books as well as the 9Marks Journal. He is also the author of several books on the church. Since his call to ministry, Jonathan has earned a master of divinity from Southern Seminary and a Ph.D. in Ecclesiology from the University of Wales. He lives with his wife and four daughters in Cheverly, Maryland, where he is an elder at Cheverly Baptist Church.

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