A major aim of the Christian life is to cultivate the heart, to put aside those previous desires that so easily cling to us and to point on the heavenly attributes, the Christ shaped patterns of life.
It’s become increasingly hard to speak well about gay marriage as more and more progressive evangelicals decide to fully embrace gay marriage, I say increasingly hard because the orthodox community is being robbed of compassionate voices who could have become some of the most winsome for those who are in process but are still very much hoping to adhere to traditional understandings of the scriptures. What frustrates me about this is that the starting point for compassion becomes full acceptance and while full acceptance is true when it comes to one’s humanity, the approach of some progressive evangelicals is functionally to obscure real teaching and approaches to wholeness for those adhering to traditionalist marriage views.
Here’s a starting point that I think binds people together. As far as I can tell people are complex sexually speaking. Our natural tendencies likely fall on a spectrum. A spectrum that has end posts or ranges for each person, and that can very much vary and adjust in life as we live and enter into various commitments.
One thing that happens when Christians write about marriage is that they often conflate sex and marriage. Apart from sex it is good for two people to love, care, and be in life long and committed relationship together. In some ways it’s understandable that there is some overlap between marriage and sex, because Christians believe that marriage is the one place where sex ought to happen. Yet, it’s as important to remember that a full life is not dependent on sex.
Christianity itself doesn’t emphasize sex. In fact much of the scriptures talk openly about the need to leave the sexual life and desires you once had in order to acquire a more peaceful, holy, modest, sober-minded, and loving way of life. Christianity is concerned with cultivating the heart for the sake of Christlikeness. That applies to everyone who is a Christian! Scriptures say that the Lord tests the heart and that a humble a contrite heart is necessary to follow him. Jesus loves the meek and lowly. Approaching Christ in this way can only lead to Life.
There is an idea/undertone in Christian culture that portrays sex even in marriage with language and ideas that are closer to lust. Dan Boone, President of Trevecca Nazerene has a post that describes this dynamic far better than I can.
Christianity is striking for how little emphasis is placed on sex and how much emphasis is placed on love, commitment, generational dynamics, and the pursuit of Christ.
Christianity commends celibacy or opposite gendered marriage as an anchor to life. Why is that? In part for our good and in essence I think you would need to say it’s a bit of a beautiful and holy mystery. I say for our good because the Lord commends ways of life that are hard to understand yet ultimately bring Life whatever our starting point. Consistently, love between any two people is encouraged and yet marriage and child raising is reserved for opposite gendered marriage.
Jesus commands each of us to take up our most complex questions, pains, and wounds and follow him. We are called to love each other, to stop quarreling, and to pursue the heavenly fruits, the heavenly vision. We are to cultivate our hearts and lives to these ends.