By Chad Napier, Crosswalk.com
Pastors are commanded to only preach “thus saith the Lord.” Preacher Matt Hagee told a story about preparing for his first sermon at the age of 17. He accumulated 38 pages of notes for that one sermon, which was quickly and painfully reduced to two pages. His father John Hagee informed him what remained was from the Bible, and the rest came from Matt Hagee.
If you’re a pastor or teacher, it’s easy to personalize deeply sensitive and divisive subjects. Understandably, pastors and other spiritual leaders often have difficulty addressing the subject of gay marriage.
If you speak too hard on the matter, you can alienate or dishearten a portion of the congregation.
If the sermon is too soft on gay marriage or fails to take a stance, you can be considered ambivalent or agreeable.
The pulpit is a place for instruction, reproof, and discernment of the Holy Scriptures. It is not a place for a political platform or a call to organize the troops to go out and demean a particular group.
The odds are great someone within the congregation has a gay friend or family member who they love dearly and will continue to do so after the sermon is over.
It is helpful as a pastor to ask yourself: when was the last time I preached about the traditional Biblical marriage? There may be greater odds that the congregation contains an unmarried heterosexual couple living together than a homosexual contemplating gay marriage. The traditional marriage and its impact on couples within the perimeters of the Bible is likely a more relevant topic in most congregations.
When the legality of “gay marriage” was being pushed through the legislatures and courtrooms, churches all across the nations changed their bylaws and constitutions to address their stance and prohibition. This practice was likely done out of fear that the gay community would be rushing to the local Baptist church demanding to be married by its pastor. I was hesitant in our church’s rushed efforts.
I cannot picture our Savior teaching, or Paul preaching to the church at Ephesus, instructing the congregation to ban a service clearly already prohibited by the scripture.
I can’t imagine Jesus going around Jerusalem proclaiming, “Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve.”
However, it does not mean a pastor or religious leader should be silent on the topic. Any sexual behavior outside of the institution of marriage is fornication and thus a sin in the eyes of God. The only marriage God recognizes is the union of a man and a woman.
Here are 6 things preachers should bear in mind when preaching about gay marriage:
1. There’s a difference between Bible legal and state legal.
There is a difference between a legal marriage that is codified by a state’s legislature and the marriage contemplated and recognized by God. My understanding of what the Bible says on this matter is that a marriage between two people of the same sex is not a recognized biblical marriage.
A nation’s laws are not always in agreement with God’s laws. We must abide by and follow the laws of our nation. However, it does not mean we have to participate in, or condone the participation of, the legal behavior.
In Genesis 2:24, God commanded a man shall “leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.” Similarly, a few states still recognize a “common law” marriage for the purpose of benefits and inheritance. If the couple has lived together long enough and hold themselves out as “husband and wife,” the state will recognize their relationship as a “common law” marriage. Similarly, God does not recognize a “common law” marriage of a heterosexual couple.
2. There is a biblical purpose for marriage.
Does the marriage of two persons of the same sex promote the purpose of marriage? In Genesis 1:27-28, God created Adam and Eve for the purpose to be fruitful and to populate the earth. God does not agree with any relationship which is not able to accomplish this original purpose.
3. We are to show love to one another.
The preaching of love from the pulpit should never be forsaken. The believer should have an urge to love the adulterer, be led to love the drunkard, and is directed to love the homosexual. Salvation is the most extraordinary miracle.
God’s love of all of mankind is one thing, but His love for all of sinful mankind is quite another. In Ephesians 3:17-19, we are told to practice a love which is unimaginable and incapable by one who does not have the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.
It was prayed, “that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth.”
4. Acceptance means welcoming.
It is easier to say, “we don’t accept the sin, just the sinner” than actually invite and welcome the sinner into our churches. Our community churches should be welcoming to the adulterer, the drug abuser, the fornicator, as well as the homosexual. Where else will the sinner hear about the unsearchable truths of our Lord and Savior?
Social media and Internet message boards are often full of hate, including towards the gay community. Keyboard Christians feel the need to quote Leviticus and tell the story of Sodom and Gomorrah.
They fail in the key aspect of the gospel of Christ, which is exhibiting love. Christ welcomed the crowds in Luke 9:11. He then “welcomed them and spoke to them of the kingdom of God and cured those who had need of healing.”
5. Social creation is ongoing.
The advent of gay marriage is a creation of society. In Genesis 4:19, Lamech was found to have taken two wives. His action does not amount to an acquiescence of polygamy by the Bible. The Bible used the story as a teaching; as a reflection of “a progressive hardening in sin.” (Waltke, Genesis, p. 100).
Sometimes our sinful actions are permitted or allowed to teach this hardening or sensitivity toward the sinful behavior. As this behavior increases, man is convicted and hopefully brought to a realization of the sinful nature of the behavior.
6. Jesus call us all to repentance.
The preaching of the word of God will not be returned void. The pastor can only preach the word of love and forgiveness. A pastor full of hate will not have the chance to reach the homosexual or the drug abuser.
The Holy Spirit’s office work is to convict hearts of sinful behavior. It is the Holy Spirit that renews and replenishes the heart of a sinner.
The words of a pastor cannot change hearts, but it can harden hearts. Jesus did “not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.” (Luke 5:32)
Additionally, Paul taught in Ephesians 4:31, to “let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice” while being “kind to one another tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”
Chad Napier is a believer in Christ, attorney at law, wannabe golfer, runner, dog lover, and writer. He enjoys serving his church as a deacon and Sunday School teacher. You can find him on Facebook, Twitter, and at his golf devotion par3sixteen.com. He and his wife Brandi reside in Tennessee with their canine son Alistair.
Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/sakkmesterke