I was recently invited to attend a gay wedding. Little did I know the depth of wrestling it would require of me. The relationship between the LGBTQ community and Christians can quickly become contentious and, sadly, has been mishandled by both sides in recent years. So it was important to me not to make a knee-jerk decision. The cultural “whitewater rapids” that Christians have to learn to navigate in our post-Christian society are no joke. I felt obligated to do my due diligence and prayerfully and carefully think through what is a nuanced issue to ensure that my decision was not adding to disunity or damaging my witness for Christ. I am sharing my thought process here in the hope it might help other Christians wrestling with the same question.
My Decision and Why
Let me start by sharing my final decision and the reasons behind it. Following that, I will unpack, for the interested reader, the thought process that led me to these conclusions.
- Attending the wedding is not a requirement for showing love to the couple—I can show them love as human beings in many other ways, and
- I don’t believe I would be loving God by endorsing and celebrating something He says is wrong, and
- I don’t see how it’s possible to attend this wedding without endorsing, supporting, and celebrating gay marriage, and
- I don’t believe I would be “loving my neighbor” by supporting this union, especially since children will be profoundly affected,
I decided to respectfully decline their invitation and simply tell them, “It was lovely to have been invited. I love you both!” In addition, I privately committed to pray for the couple daily up until the date of the wedding.
Why I Wanted to Participate in the Wedding
There were three reasons I wanted to attend the wedding: I like the couple as people, I wanted to make those around me (who wanted me to go) happy, and it would just feel good to be there, hug the couple, and celebrate with them on what is surely an exciting new chapter in their lives. That said, personal experience over the years has made me keenly aware that what feels right is not always right. Sometimes (oftentimes?) the right thing is the hard thing.
The Thought Process
My reasoning started with the fact that I don’t know either member of the couple well enough to feel a sense of obligation to accept their invitation, regardless of their sexual orientation. They are merely acquaintances, friends of a friend, who I have never engaged with outside of the occasional class at my local library. Therefore, I was in a position where I could graciously turn down their invitation without burning bridges or causing them to feel unloved.
Next was the ethical issue, which had nothing to do with my opinion of gay marriage or whether I consider homosexuality wrong. For me, the question was, “What does God say about it?” He is a loving Father who knows infinitely more than I do about what is best for His children. And of the many grey areas in Scripture, the teaching on sexuality is not one of them. God established the order of human life based on the union of one man and one woman: “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh” (Gen 2:24). This verse is of such foundational significance that it was cited by both Jesus (Matt 19:5; Mark 10:7) and the Apostle Paul (1 Cor 6:16; Eph 5:31) as a basis for what they were teaching at the moment. In addition, there are several other texts in both the Old and New Testaments that speak specifically against homosexual activity: Gen 19:1-11 (and Jude 1:7, which comments on the same event); Leviticus 18:22, 20:13; Romans 1:26–27, 1 Corinthians 6:9–10; and 1 Timothy 1:10.
The Bible affirms that our sexuality is sacred. It is a gift from God (He didn’t have to make procreation pleasurable, but He did anyway!), and God views homosexuality as a misuse of His gift. Marriage, too, is considered sacred. The Bible begins with a wedding (Adam & Eve) and ends with a wedding (Christ and His Church). The covenant relationship of marriage is important to God, and, like our sexuality, He has set boundaries for it. Whether we agree with it or not, God intended that both sex and marriage take place solely between one man and one woman.
But, of course, the question in view was not whether I should marry another man. It was whether I should attend this gay couple’s wedding. There is no question that loving and doing life with gay people is the right thing for a Christian to do. If a gay friend invites you to their birthday party, Sunday brunch, a concert, or any other morally neutral life event, go! Homosexuality is not worse than any other sin (James 2:10). We all sin (Rom 3:10, 3:23), and yet God is loving and patient toward us (2 Pet 3:9). My decision had nothing to do with trying to avoid the company of sinners. (If that were the case, I would have to avoid myself!) It was about what it means to attend a wedding. Aside from familial obligations, the primary reason I (and I presume anyone else) chooses to attend a wedding is to celebrate the new union and support the couple as they join together in marriage. We are witnesses “before God and man” to the union. Our endorsement of the marriage is explicitly indicated by our presence at the ceremony. That’s why we buy the couple cards and gifts, congratulate them, wish them many years of happiness together, and cheer and throw rice when the ceremony is over. It’s a celebration!
Therein lies the rub. Is it right for me to celebrate something that God considers harmful and sinful? Would God approve of this gay wedding? Would He celebrate the couple’s union? Without a doubt, accepting the invitation would have been the path of least resistance for me. Homosexuality is roundly accepted in our culture today and I understand why it’s easy to look at it as no big deal: It’s two people that love each other, they’re not hurting anyone, they are making a commitment to one another, they are good people just trying to find some happiness in life. It’s no surprise that these days, we are likely to get as many (or more) dirty looks for declining to attend a gay wedding than for attending. Yet, an important question remained: Do I really believe what God says about sex and marriage? Much of what the Bible teaches is lovely and feels good: peace, forgiveness, grace, love, joy. But there are hard teachings, too. Difficult truths about things like having to deny ourselves (Matt 16:24-25), avoiding greed and impurity (Col 3:5), and refraining from sexual immorality (Gal 5:19-21). Am I going to turn a blind eye to the teachings that make me uncomfortable? Will I ignore the parts of Scripture that rub me the wrong way or might offend my friends?
The Bible does not teach a love that is merely kindness and a desire to make others happy. The love that Jesus modeled for us is exceedingly more excellent and more selfless than that. Biblical love is desiring the other person’s eternal joy over their temporary happiness. Yes, love includes kindness and compassion,—in spades!—but not at the expense of truth. Real Christian love is the comforting hug and the tough conversation. It is the radical acceptance of broken people and the moral boundaries. It is Jesus telling the woman caught in adultery “neither do I condemn you” and “go and sin no more” (John 8:11). The goal of God’s love is not to make ungodliness comfortable or keep a fallen world happy. It is to call each of us out of our sin into a loving, saving relationship with Him.
So the questions I was wrestling with were: Am I showing my love for God by celebrating and endorsing something He says is sinful? Am I showing love for the couple by supporting their decision to do something God says will, in the end, bring them more pain than peace? The answer I arrived at was the same for both questions: no. In the abstract world of ethical thinking, that answer is pretty straightforward. But when it comes to living it out in the real world, things get a whole lot trickier. Thus, I had one last question to grapple with: Would I be doing more harm than good by declining their invitation? It’s a legitimate concern. In my effort to do the right thing I did not want to inadvertently or unnecessarily sow seeds of discord or cause pain. In the end, based on my circumstances surrounding this particular wedding, the right thing for me to do was to graciously decline the invitation.
I did not make my decision in order to make a public stand or draw attention to myself. That’s the last thing I want. It is not my job to convict anyone of their sin. That is the job of the Holy Spirit. I have enough of my own sin to deal with. My job is to love this couple as fellow human beings, which I can do without attending their wedding. My decision wasn’t about fearing punishment from God or what other people might think. It was a decision based on trying to rightly love God and my neighbor.
That said, I am not so naïve as to suppose that this is a simple black-and-white issue. I recognize that there are many factors at play, and each person’s circumstances will be different. Does it change anything if the gay couple are not Christians? What if one of the people getting married is your child? Or a close friend? In those scenarios, refusing to attend could generate significant consequences, including the damage or even loss of a valuable relationship. This is where things get even more difficult, and we need to grapple with what ethicists call the hierarchy of values. We all know it’s wrong to lie. But what if the Nazis are asking you if there are any Jews hiding in your house? If we were forced to choose between being untruthful and causing the deaths of innocent people, the moral choice would be clear. In the same way, though not to the same degree, there may be legitimate scenarios in which attending a gay wedding as a Christian could be the right thing to do. The only way to know is to bring it to the Lord in prayer, asking Him to guide us and keep our motives pure. And then, whatever we decide, we need to do our best to walk it out in both grace and truth.