Same-Sex Marriage—What Should We Do?

By Ben Cachiaras

Editor’s note: As the Maryland state legislature considered a bill to legalize same-sex marriage, earlier this year, Ben Cachiaras encouraged his congregation, Mountain Christian Church, Joppa, Maryland, to respond in a way that honors Christ. (The bill ultimately died without being passed.) Below is an excerpt from what Ben wrote in March.

Christians need to think carefully about this issue. Here are a few incomplete thoughts and observations, offered humbly into the discussion:

• The landscape in America has changed. Recent polls confirm what we already know—that a growing number of Americans are prepared to recognize gay couples as couples. It is a growing reality in this culture, so in one sense, this discussion was inevitable.

• Some seem to see this as merely a “pro” or “con” issue: Are we in favor of or opposed to homosexuality? It’s not that simple. One aspect at the heart of this issue is whether gay couples should be granted the same civil privileges or legal protections as heterosexual couples.

Christians are feeling the responsibility to defend traditional marriage and argue against same-sex unions being recognized—only to realize that arguing against recognition of gay marriages by the state can result in their children being denied protection and civil measures. There is a tricky side to this for people like us who have clear moral boundaries that speak to the practice of homosexual behavior on the one hand, but who are also guided by the law of love that suggests we don’t act spitefully to harm gay couples or their dependents, even if we disagree on moral grounds with their lifestyle. We may not want to acknowledge gay marriage, but there are gay couples. Unfortunately, in the current debate, about the only way to stand for traditional marriage puts us in a position of voting for measures that many will construe as being harmful to others.

To me, this means we must be extra careful about how we discuss this so we don’t give any reasons for Christians to be misunderstood as uncaring or hate-mongers. Our position and actions should not be motivated by a desire to harm anyone. And if our position or actions do harm others, it doesn’t seem Christlike to pump our fists triumphantly in the air. Rather, we can humbly recognize that politics in a pluralistic society is messy business.

• My friend Ethan Magness shared these important thoughts: “As citizens of a democracy, it is our right and responsibility to support laws that work for the good of all. As Christian citizens this especially means that as we make political choices, we make those choices to support the most good for the most people. We cannot be selfless in our personal lives but somehow let ourselves be selfish in our public policy. This puts a special burden on Christians who seek to participate wisely in public life. We seek to educate ourselves, weigh the issues, and act in humility and with special care toward those whose needs and views are very different than our own.”

Be the Church

• The most important thing the church can do is to be the church. We will teach the truth, proclaim the good news, and live out a special kingdom-of-God-type community, knowing our real citizenship is in Heaven.

We are called to release God’s people into the world to be salt and light in whatever ways they are called to be. Some will pray courageously. Some will serve quietly but consistently. Some will enter into the fray of politics or the public square. But as a church, our primary contribution will not be to bring about God’s kingdom via a political regime or legal mandates.

This is not to say we should ignore those things; it’s just to remember that our best investment is in the gospel—that’s the real power of God for salvation. We may never get the entire world to “act like” Christians and observe the morality that Christians uphold. But that is not our commission. Our commission is to make more and better disciples, and the way we do that is by being the church.

My personal beef about this issue is this: it ticks me off that the government thinks it has any business redefining marriage. It’s not really about the homosexual issue for me. It’s about government stepping in and arrogantly presuming it could “redefine” something that doesn’t belong to it.

Abraham Lincoln asked, “If I call a tail a leg, how many legs does a dog have?”

Someone answered, “Five?”

Lincoln replied, “No, the dog still has only four legs. Calling a tail a leg doesn’t make it so.”

• Marriage is, by definition, the union between one man and one woman. If I say I want to have four people join in some kind of special relationship, or otherwise change the nature of the definition, I am free to do that. But I would also be required to come up with a different name for those unions. Marriage is bigger than government. It is a God-ordained social institution that government stepped in to regulate.

Regulation is one thing; redefinition is another. Suppose the commissioner of Major League Baseball announces, “We need to change some details about the game of pro baseball next season. We’re going to make it against the rules for a player to lead off when attempting to steal a base. And from now on players can’t catch a ball that’s over the boundary wall. It’s got to be in the park or it’s no catch.” That’s regulation. Some folks won’t like the changes, but it’s still baseball.

But imagine if the commissioner says, “From now on baseball is a game played with a birdie and a net on grass.” Even if he voted it into “law,” many would rightfully resist it. It is simply not the commissioner’s place to redefine baseball.

Nor is it the government’s place to pretend it can redefine marriage. In fact, it never will. Whatever laws are passed or enacted in Maryland or elsewhere will, at most, change only what the state recognizes as “marriage.” But marriage will remain what it is, much like baseball will always be a game played with a bat and a ball. The fact that there are other games gaining in popularity doesn’t mean you change the definition of baseball to include them.

I just wish there were a way to be against redefining marriage without being perceived as being hateful to those who desire same-sex unions.

Strike the Right Balance

• On any issue like this we must strike that balance that comes from solid traction in both truth and love. An article on this subject in our local paper spoke about the “loving” thing to do on this issue—but it lacked biblical truth on the matter and was therefore misguided.

By contrast, I recently witnessed a horrifying TV interview with a woman who claimed to represent God and a church. She insisted her hate-filled speech and condemnations of others was grounded in the truth of the Bible. Even if her comments had a grain of truth, love was so lacking that she was not worth hearing.

Truth without love is not biblical truth. Love without truth is not biblical love. However you choose to speak and act, if you do not have the truth of God and the love of Christ, then your actions are not in step with the Spirit of God.

• Pray, act, love. There is a lot at stake and yet, we don’t need to wring our hands. By this I mean we should not ignore these important issues. You may want to encourage your delegate by letting him or her hear your voice on this. I encouraged mine to vote against redefining marriage to include same-sex relationships. There may be other actions God is prompting you to take. But mainly, I think, we need to pray and love.

Pray for God to be at work in this issue in our churches, our lives, our nation, and in our world. And then act as God directs. I suspect in the days ahead, we will have a tremendous opportunity to show uncommon love to people. Are you ready to do this?

It may be necessary for us to march, protest, and complain about this. But let’s remember that, as the body of Christ, we need to be more than the mouth. We need to be hands and feet that administer love as well.

The gay couples around you—and they ARE there—need to know that even though you vote against the legislation, and even if you abide by Scripture which identifies homosexual practice as against God’s will, you are also controlled by the impetus of Scripture in which Jesus assures us, “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:35).

As citizens of Heaven, let’s be the best citizens of our state we know how to be. And as people who love the truth and grace of Jesus, let’s hold firmly to both, so that “whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus” (Colossians 3:17).

Ben Cachiaras is senior pastor at Mountain Christian Church in Joppa, Maryland, and serves as a contributing editor for CHRISTIAN STANDARD and as a Publishing Committee member with Standard Publishing.

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7 Comments

  1. June 3, 2011 at 9:57 am

    In Illinois this issue has been on the front page. When presented in our own local paper I responded with the following article:

    Biblical marriage different than civil union

    In Thursday’s Lincoln Courier it was reported that the Senate approved civil unions in Illinois. This age-old issue continues to ring throughout our land and around the world really. In fact, this issue has likely been around for thousands of years. No matter how many states or nations proclaim the equality of unions between genders, either opposite or the same, there will always be one thing that the biblical union in marriage between a man and a woman will have over all other unions, that is God’s blessing.

    The state can pass laws that totally equalize the unions between genders, and in a secular, civil society that is well within their purview. Many obviously consider it a fair thing to do, equalizing all gender unions pertaining to rights and the sharing or disposition of property. After all, who decides that man/woman marriages deserve rights above and beyond those of man/man, or woman/woman relationships? It is all decided in civil, legislative or judicial venues.

    The difference of course becomes noticeable and apparent when a person moves his/her life from the secular life to the submission of the Christian life. For the Christian there is a significant difference between the God-ordained sanctity of marriage and the secular, civil laws that sanction same-gender civil unions. For the Christian that difference is the knowledge of living within the will of God or not living within the will of God.
    Each individual makes free choices regarding his/her lifestyle. After reading and studying the sacred Scriptures that Christians refer to as the Bible in such passages as Leviticus 18:22, 20:13 and Romans 1:25-27, 1 Corinthians 6:9 and 1 Timothy 1:10, each person decides what to believe. If a person decides these Scriptures are in error or have different meanings beyond what they say, then that person is free to practice any lifestyle that conforms to the secular, civil laws of the state or nation in which they live.

    The Christian person believes that God is unchanging. No matter how earnestly an individual, state or nation tries to create an exact replica of God’s holy marriage; it can never be done in same-sex unions in such a way as to make God change his formula. He established the parameters of marriage between a man and a woman as early as the Garden of Eden. It is recorded for us in Genesis 2 the foundation of marriage:

    “Then the Lord God made a woman from the part he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man. Then the man said, ‘This one at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; this one will be called ‘woman,’ for she was taken out of man.’”

    “That is why a man leaves his father and mother and unites with his wife, and they become a new family. The man and his wife were both naked, but they were not ashamed” (Genesis 2:22-25)

    The conclusion of the issue will always be the fact there is a great difference between a secular, civil union and a biblical marriage; the civil union disregards the biblical injunction from God, while the Christian marriage abides within the biblical injunction from God. Mankind can ascribe all the rights and status they want to a civil union, but it will never be a God-ordained marriage.

    Jim Killebrew
    Lincoln, Illinois 62656

  2. Dr. Cecil Todd
    July 11, 2011 at 2:01 pm

    This comment came into the Christian Standard office through the mail.

    The article is right on target! I was glad to see Christian Standard addressing this issue. It is obvious it is not going away! Thank you for the time and energy you expended to write this excellent article! Your dad, Dean Cachairas, was one on my favorite heroes in the faith! God’s best to you.

  3. Dan M.
    July 13, 2011 at 10:24 am

    Might I suggest, from an outsiders view, that instead of working to deprive a group of civil rights, you work to reclaim the word Marriage for the church?

    If you believe Marriage is a holy sacrament, then the government has absolutely no business recognizing it, or providing special benefits to those who have entered into Matrimony.

    So, instead of working on denying the rights of the LGBT population, why don’t you concentrate your efforts on getting the government to switch to Civil Unions for EVERYONE, and leave marriage up to the individual churches.

  4. Al Hamon
    June 11, 2012 at 10:44 am

    Apparently…. Dan M. (a.k.a. the “outsider” ) didn’t read much of this article before responding to it. Not to bring up a possibility that he may possibly have a hidden agenda, I believe that Mr. C. Addressed those concerns in the same manner that he had proposed…. That is in “leaving government out of it.” As far as the latter, rather emotionally charged suggestion concerning letting churches decide the fate… Mr. Dan, even your arms are too short to box with God. Re-read the article. Maybe then, re-read what God may have to say about marriage… It doesn’t really matter what my opinion is or your’s or anyone’s for that matter. God hasn’t provided a text of good suggestions to ponder and decide arbitrarily which may benefit this or that “special interest” group. As to the heart and soul of this article (and the spirit in which it was written)… Bravo Professor. And thank you Mark for passing it on. Very direct and concise.

  5. October 17, 2012 at 8:40 am

    […] In the Spring of 2011 the legislature in Maryland was considering a law to affirm same-sex marriage.  Christians had to make a choice, whether they would support or speak against this move.  My friend, Ben Cachiaras, sr. pastor of Mountain Christian Church in Joppa MD wrote a letter to his congregation:  Same-Sex Marriage – What Should We Do? […]

  6. derek mcmahon
    October 19, 2012 at 9:26 am

    I really loved this article, until I got to the piece where you begin to compare baseball (and badminton) to marriage.

    First, that is QUITE a stretch for an analogy, and all analogies break down at some point.
    A better analogy would be that WOMEN start playing baseball professionally, or that you switch from metal to wooden bats (as they did in college recently). I mean, it really is almost the same thing — two adults caring for one another “in sickness and in health”, etc., NOT an adult caring for a rhinoceros.

    Another note, when you talk about the ‘biblical definition of marriage’ you must point out (or be subject to significant pushback) that throughout Scripture God endorsed and ordained several different types of marriage.
    Without going in to all 7, a Levarite marriage was endorsed by God in Genesis 38 and one man was killed, by God, for not following God’s order to marry & birth a child with his sister-in-law.

    I’m not writing that to endorse Levarite marriage today, but to simply say that if you are going to state “biblical marriage” you must recognize there have been different forms that God has endorsed, ordained, and killed people for not abiding by, or you will lose influence very, very quickly. (this also begs the question: If God endorsed it THEN, why wouldn’t God endorse something else NOW? Or, simply wrestle with a God that WOULD endorse this at any point in human history)

    One final thing, you say that Christians may need to complain, while the apostle Paul writes in Philippians that we are to do ‘everything without arguing or complaining’. How do you respond to a man, called by God, writing a book inspired by God (infallible, you say) who says you shouldn’t do what you just told hundreds of people to do?

    Again, the first 2/3 of your article was really well done, but fell apart the last 1/3 (once it got practical). It IS possible to disagree while continuing to love, but it is NOT possible to love someone while misunderstanding them, and sir, you clearly misunderstand the needs of gay men and women.

  7. Nina Carley
    October 19, 2012 at 12:28 pm

    In some ways, the interpretation or definition of marriage has ALREADY been changed in recent years, in SOME evangelical (including Christian Church/Church of Christ churches) congregations, based on the viewpoints, or understanding of Scripture, of the leadership. Divorced and/or remarried individuals are now allowed to serve as elders or deacons, deaconnesses, or pastors in some congregations. Should strict adherents of the ideal marriage, ONE man, ONE woman — i.e. no second marriages, PERIOD — be up in arms about that too? Dan M makes a good point, from the view of how the government should proceed to handle the definition of marriage. Churches should be allowed to define marriage according to their beliefs — holy matrimony, the sacrement of marriage, blessed union — freedom of religion to believe what they want. Al Hamon, fear not— if government (more states’ or at the federal level) eventually allows gays to legally marry and secure the same benefits that God’s ideal married couples have, I don’t think you will be required to marry someone of the same sex,

    For those wishing to read where in the U.S. Constitution marriage is officially defined, see:
    http://www.usconstitution.net/consttop_marr.html There are several articles relating to the topic on this website.

    Thoughtful article, Mr. Cachiaras, and less hateful than many articles I read written by “grace-and-mercy-filled” (?) Christians. I am grateful that you are willing to broach the subject that’s not in a “help, help, the sky is falling” manner.

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