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The Truth About Same-Sex Marriage

The Battle For Marriage – Part 1

Erwin W. Lutzer | April 18, 2004

Selected highlights from this sermon

A systematic plan to normalize homosexuality is coming to fruition and society will never be the same. The integrity of the family is in grave danger, and our religious freedom may perish with it. 

How should Christians respond to this? We must begin by admitting our own faults—we’re all sinners. Then we need to remind the world that sin of all sorts, including homosexuality, is forgivable through Jesus Christ.  

If you’re visiting today, I want you to know the subject I’m going to talk about is one I have never spoken about before at Moody Church, so I want you to know this is not some kind of a hobby horse. Secondly, I’d like you to know in the twenty-five years I’ve been here this will be, I think, the second time when I’m going to actually be reading my message, or at least partially reading it. I do that for the sake of precision so what I say is accurate. There are some quotations I want to be able to get accurate, and also, I encourage you to listen to this message to the end. Don’t make any judgment of it until you have heard it right to the end.

I need to tell you from my heart that we are witnesses to a social revolution which, if successful, will have ongoing repercussions for ourselves, our children, and our grandchildren. As we shall see, there is every reason to believe this revolution to remake the family has the potential to destroy the very concept of marriage along with freedom of religion.

The reason that decision in Massachusetts to legalize same-sex marriages was so widely accepted is because the judges spoke to a culture that had been conditioned to accept the possibility of same-sex marriages. To the surprise of many, Mayor Daley here in Chicago, a devout Catholic, said he would have no problem if gay marriages would be performed in City Hall. I think the fact that he could say this without any fear of repercussion is a commentary on our times. He knew the opposition, even though the majority of people oppose same-sex marriages, would be so weak it would not hurt him politically. He could count on the churches, both Catholic and Protestant, to roll over and play dead. I might say that I think the Catholics have done a better job than the Protestants of voicing their concerns.

Now, the story of how two percent of the people have been able to so control a culture is one that needs to be told. But before I do that, I need to say that my message today, first of all, is aimed at redemption, not rancor. I believe we must lower our voices in this debate, speaking with respect and dignity. No matter how strongly we oppose the homosexual agenda, we are first of all called to be Christians who have the privilege of representing Jesus Christ to all the communities of the world, most assuredly to the gay community.

Secondly, I want to speak with the same compassion as we should have for all people who share this planet. We must never speak of homosexuality as if it is the one sin worthy of the eternal flames. The Bible condemns homosexuality, but it also condemns a host of other sins that are rampant in the best of our churches. If we can only shout at homosexuals across a chasm, be assured we will hear only the echo of our own voice.

I might say also that we’ve known parents who have gay children. I think of one man, for example, who was so strongly anti-gay when his own son turned out to be gay the father disinherited him. Bad idea, non-Christian response. It was appropriate he disagree with his son’s lifestyle, but when he cut his son off from the family, it should not be a surprise to us that boy ended up as a leader in one of the radical gay movements.

So, let’s understand here when we speak about those who are gay, we are speaking also about people in this congregation today, many of whom suffer secretly. If you hang on, toward the end of the message I’ll comment on that in more detail.

So, I’m under no illusions that the radical gay community will listen to what we have to say for reasons, some of which may be our own making. They’ve turned a deaf ear, but I believe there are thousands of gays throughout this city and throughout the world who are waiting to hear from the church a word of understanding, of direction, and hope. So, this is no time for self-righteous finger pointing. As I hope to show, we all share responsibility for what many properly regard as a frightful social experiment that is taking place before our very eyes. How we respond, folks, is very important.

Very briefly, how did this all happen? Well, back in the sixties sexual love, as you know, was regarded as a right. And before that time the consensus was sex belonged only within marriage. Now, of course, there was always immorality, but people believed immorality should not occur. There was at least some shame connected with it. But with the onslaught of pornography, the Playboy philosophy steadily shifted the center of gravity from marital faithfulness to personal enjoyment. If your mate no longer fulfill your needs, then find somebody else who does, because personal enjoyment became king. It’s in this context that the gay movement arose.

In 1973 the homosexual activists persuaded the American Psychiatric Association to remove homosexuality from its lists of psychiatric illnesses and reclassify it as normal behavior. This change was made, not because of scientific data, but because the radicals planned a systematic effort to disrupt the annual meetings of the APA. A leading psychiatrist said it was the first time his organization made a decision based on political pressure rather than scientific study. But through this action, the radical gay movement let it be known that its agenda would march forward regardless of research, science, or dialog. Secondly that intimidation would now become one of its weapons to achieve its agenda, no matter what.

Consider the game plan put forward by two homosexual activists in an article entitled, “The Overhauling of Straight America,” and a 1989 book titled “After the Ball.” Let me give you two or three things they say will overhaul America and will change America. And it was a plan, believe me, that worked.

First of all, they say homosexuals should talk about gays and gayness as loudly and as often as possible. They write, quote, “Almost all behavior begins to look normal if you are exposed to it at close quarters and among your acquaintances.” And that certainly is true. The media, of course, has absolutely played into this.

I remember a few years ago one of the major networks came out with a very balanced view of homosexuality, but because it showed some negative aspects it, of course, was never shown because of the pressure of the gay movement. Everything in the media has to be positive, upbeat, normalcy, and the true story cannot be told in today’s media. I can assure you of that.

Second, they say, quote, “Portray gays as victims, not aggressive challengers, and this will play to America’s desire for fairness, et cetera.”

Third, they say it is important to make the gays look good and their victims look bad. This is done by convincing the public that many famous people in history were gay, and of course, gays must, of necessity, always be portrayed favorably in the media. The authors say, “We intend to make the anti-gays look so nasty that the average American will want to disassociate themselves from such types.”

Maybe I should pause here and say there are some anti-gays, not many, but there are some who aren’t nasty. I think, for example, of is it Fred Phillips who attends various functions and holds up those signs, “God hates homosexuals,” and “Homosexuals, go to hell”? That’s terrible because what it does is it gives the opportunity for the media to paint all of us with the very same brush.

Fourth, the author suggests a plan that has become wildly successful to solicit money from corporations to promote homosexuality and neutralize all opposition. And I could on and on and talk about all the organizations that have complied.

Well, what difference does it make? Why am I as a minister speaking about this issue? One man who was interviewed said, “What difference does it make to me?” He said, “It won’t affect the way I love my wife and my kids.” People think, “Well, let them do what they want, and we do what we want, and separate but equal will work.” I’m here to tell you today it will not work. You have to hang in. It will affect us all.

Imagine you were on a boat, and you are going across a lake. All right? And somebody on one end of the boat says, “I have a constitutional right to drill a hole through my side of the bottom of the boat.” And you say, “You know, it could affect—” “Oh no, you stay on your side of the boat with your friends, and I’m going to drill a hole on my side of the boat. What difference does it make to you what I do on my side of the boat?” But my dear friend, when water begins to seep into the boat you realize we’re all on the same boat, and we’re all affected, and we will all sink.

If we want to know why we must speak about this, understand the kind of society in which our children and grandchildren will grow up is at stake. Will it be a society in which there are no marriages, just agreements between any arrangement of people who want to live together?

Let me give you three reasons why I’m speaking about this today. The third happens to be the most important, but I’ll give you the other two first. First, the nature of the family itself. If we want to find out what would happen if same-sex marriages became law, we need only to take a look at what is happening in some countries of Europe who have those laws. The answer in brief is that the change in laws has in effect brought about the destruction of marriage. For example, France. France has civil solidarity pacts created for homosexuals so they can file joint income tax returns and receive welfare benefits and unemployment benefits. Obviously, such an arrangement had to be made available to everyone, to heterosexual couples, to widowed sisters, even to priests and to their housekeepers. Because these pacts are easier to enter and exit than marriage and impose fewer legal obligations, many heterosexual couples enter into these agreements rather than becoming married.

Now, if you say, “Well, these pacts really do provide some stability for children,” well, keep in mind that the average cohabitational relationship lasts about five years. David Frum writes, “Apologist for cohabitation (that is, these pacts) praise it as a less burdensome alternative to marriage; the truth is that it is a near-certain prelude to fatherlessness.” He went on to say, “The argument over gay marriage is only incidentally and secondarily an argument over gays. What is first and fundamentally [important is it’s a battle] over marriage,… gay marriage will turn out in practice to mean the creation of an alternative form of legal coupling that will be available to homosexual and heterosexuals alike. Gay marriage, as the French are vividly demonstrating, does not extend marital rights; it abolishes marriage and puts a new, flimsier institution in its place.”

Now, hang on for a moment. If marriage is no longer the union of one man and one woman, but rather two persons who want to cohabit, who is to say that it must be limited to two people? After all, we have to extend equal rights to everyone who lives under this constitution. The end result is the destruction of marriage as we know it, and the children are the losers.

Yes, there’s little doubt that same-sex marriage, as one homosexual writer says, will bring much more along the way. George Dent, writing in The Journal of Law and Politics says that once same-sex marriage is affirmed, then other forms of marriage will quickly be affirmed as well, such as polygamy, the marriage of blood relatives, child marriages, etc. In fact, the policy guide at the American Civil Liberties Union calls for the legalization of polygamy, saying, quote, “The ACLU believes that criminal and civil laws prohibiting or penalizing the practices of plural marriage violate constitutional protections for freedom of expression and association, freedom of religion, and privacy for personal relationships among consenting adults.” After all, who is to tell adults how many partners they should have if equal rights are theirs under the Constitution.

Homosexual author, Andrew Sullivan, says that most homosexuals understand sexual commitment in marriage is “much broader than what nearly all heterosexual couples will tolerate.” Homosexuals, he says, have a “need for extramarital outlets,” and therefore, same sex marriage will make adultery more acceptable for married couples.

And so, I think it is not too much to say that if same-sex marriages become legal, that we’ll accelerate our moral free fall, and the basic building block of society, the family, will not longer have a viable meaning. So, if you care about marriage, if you care about children, you can’t be neutral on this debate. It is not true that we can live in our protective worlds separated from what is happening in our culture. It will shape the kind of future we give to our children.

There’s a second reason, and that is freedom of religion. As you know, there are many ways the gay movement has silenced the church. I won’t go into all the ways, but we’ve heard much about hate speech legislation, which is intended to force us to keep our convictions to ourselves. An assistant state’s attorney told me that until now the church has had a niche where freedom of religion can be exercised, but if and when we have same-sex marriages, churches refuse to perform such unions will find their tax-exempt status will be revoked. He predicts endless lawsuits will bankrupt many churches.

Do you recall back in the eighties when Bob Jones University lost its tax-exempt status because of its racial policy? And even though that policy was held on religious grounds, they lost their tax-exempt status because it was contrary to public policy. Now, you and I strongly disagree with Bob Jones University and their racial policy, but the point is we see that even religious beliefs are held on the basis of religion can become a means by which tax exemption can be taken away. If it is deemed unconstitutional or contrary to public policy.

Hate speech legislation, intended to silence the church, is already law in Canada. I heard on a national news broadcast—I can’t verify it, but I have to assume the person would speak the truth—that in a television station in Canada, if you say homosexuality is a sin, the TV station can be fined up to a quarter of a million dollars. Focus on the Family has had its programs taken from Canadian stations because they were deemed anti-gay, therefore hate speech. Be assured America is on its way.

I spoke to someone in Canada yesterday and I have been following this. There’s a bill called C-250, and they were trying to push it through the Canadian government under the radar without a whole lot of to-do. Now finally it’s getting some publicity. If that bill goes through, freedom of religion in Canada is finished. A leading lesbian attorney in Canada said the real battle is between gay-rights and freedom of religion. And basically, what she said is, “If gay rights are to proceed, freedom of religion must be destroyed.”

Back in 1994 a gay activist group proposed a change in the Policy of the American Psychiatric Association that would make it a violation of professional conduct for psychiatrists to help a homosexual come out of the lifestyle, catch this, even at the patient’s request. This in spite of the fact that one of the association’s own professional standards holds psychiatrists need to accept a patient’s own goals in treatment. Now there was a way that was stopped, but here’s what’s of interest to us. This gay task force made it clear that it not only wanted to prevent psychiatrists from those therapies that would lead homosexuals out of their lifestyles, but they also had in mind social workers, counselors, and pastors.

Listen to me, congregation, if same-sex marriages were legal, and hence homosexuality were in all respects given the same status as heterosexuality. The argument can be made that it is both prejudicial and contrary to existing laws of equality to help someone change from one’s sexual orientation to another. Such help implies that one orientation is better than another, and we can hear it already. That’s all based on hate and bigotry.

There’s a third reason, and I must summarize here, and the third reason is because God (chuckles) is not neutral on this topic. He has an opinion on this topic. Many within the radical homosexual movement do not pretend their lifestyle is consistent with the Bible. But you know there is a growing trend of people to say it is consistent, and so forth, and we can’t get into that. But, as you know, the Episcopal Church, contrary to its own rules, has ordained an openly gay bishop.

Could I comment on that for just a moment? And say he was divorced from a woman, lived with a man, unmarried to that man, and yet was sanctioned by the church. Now, if a man divorced his wife, and then lived with another woman unmarried, I think even liberal churches would demur. But we’ve noticed there are often exceptions made in these things.

The Bible does not speak about homosexuality with a muffled voice. The strong condemnation of sexual sin in the Bible, whether homosexual or heterosexual, is further proof we as fallen creatures are prone to deception in matters of sexuality. Here I’m not speaking about the gay community, though I am, I’m also speaking about the heterosexual community. Who of us hasn’t known a man who has fallen in love with another woman and has said, “Well, you know, I’m going to leave my wife and marry this other woman, and I’m doing it, and God is sanctioning it?” We hear it all the time. That’s why when the Bible talks about sexual sin almost always it says, “Do not be deceived,” and then it goes into it. Do not be deceived. Why? It is in the matter of sexuality that we long to be deceived. We desire to be deceived. We tell ourselves so many lies until we believe them because here deception has its most fertile soil. So, we long to be deceived. In today’s world where you have the the exaltation of the self and the exaltation of the heart— “My heart tells me,” and then you can fill in the blank. “And because my heart tells me, everyone in general, and God in particular had better get on board with what my heart tells me.”

A teacher said he often asks children if a man were drowning, and a puppy were drowning and you have the option to save one or the other who would you save? And almost all the kids say the puppy. [laughter] Their heart tells them that that’s right, and if their heart tells them, then it’s right. That’s our society in all respects. It is the deification of the self, and that’s what we are fighting against. Not just in the issue I’m talking about this morning but all throughout our culture, and all throughout our churches, and all throughout our hearts.

Calvin, the great theologian, said the human heart is an idol factory, constantly manufacturing idols to worship. Let those churches committed to the Scriptures ask themselves, ‘What should our stance be towards same-sex marriages? Can we afford to remain silent?’ I say since God has not been silent on the subject, it is difficult for us to justify our own penchant for looking the other way, pretending we don’t see what is happening. I believe the church has to speak, but what does it have to say?

What would we say to the gay community if we were actually granted a hearing? Let’s admit there are many radicals who won’t listen, but I’m talking to those of you who may be part of the gay community, those who worship with us who struggle with homosexuality. As a pastor I need to say I have listened to stories of brokenness and heartache. I’ve heard stories of molestation, of the emptiness of sex without commitment, without love, and without caring. And no matter what we see on television, the gay community is hurting, compulsively acting out behavior often to cover pain. These are people to whom we must have understanding compassion and grace.

Several years ago, I was invited to speak to an Exodus conference. Now you have to understand 700 people were there, all coming out of homosexuality, and various levels of struggle and various levels of deliverance. I was with these people for several days. What an eye-opener. It changed my whole opinion. Sitting at a breakfast table with young women as they told me their stories of molestation I discovered eighty percent of all lesbians were molested by a father, by an uncle, by a baby-sitter, by someone, and so developing, of course, a hatred toward men, therefore going into the gay lifestyle.

And what we must do is to speak with a great deal of understanding and compassion. To quote the words of one woman who came out of the lifestyle, “If you’d ask me a year ago if I could have come out of the gay movement it would have been equivalent to asking me to move this building. Impossible!” So, whatever we say has to be said with understanding, compassion, love, and hope, and because we care, therefore we speak.

First of all, what would we say? We must begin speaking about our own sins, the sins we tolerate in our own lives and in the lives of our churches. We must repent of the double standard that sees the sin of homosexual behavior in a different category than adultery, premarital sex, and pornography. We must plead guilty to the charge of bigotry. For we have acted as if our sins are minor in comparison to those of the homosexual community. Whose sins we think are of a different nature. This attitude of condemnation has caused us to lose our voice in a wider culture.

We have an obligation to maintain the biblical standards without wavering, but also to speak with a healing and a redemptive voice. I have to say I believe we’ve often failed to do that. We must confess we have failed to make a distinction between the agenda of the radical gay community and the young people in our churches who might be confused about their gender, or the son or daughter who has adopted the gay lifestyle, but is looking for a way out.

We forget the fact that there are many people in our churches who wish they could be different but have been indoctrinated by a culture that insists no one can change, and therefore a homosexual lifestyle is inevitable. As one homosexual said to me, “This is the card I have been dealt.” These are hurting people whom we have too often alienated, and we have not helped.

I’ve had the experiences, as I’m sure you have, of having a high-profile religious leader making some outlandish statement, and then we as evangelicals are all painted with the same brush. You know, it’s as if he’s speaking for all of us. Well, this is true too. We have to be fair to those in the gay community. We read some things the radicals have said and so we impose those on everyone when, in point of fact, those radicals might not be speaking for the gay community at all, maybe just a radical fringe of them.

For example, because I’ve done a bit of study in this, I’ve done a little bit of reading in a book that advocates sex with children. It turns your stomach and you’re surprised at the number of people endorsing it. It’s awful, but let’s remember this author, I’m sure, does not speak for the majority of gays. So we can’t fall into the error of painting them with the same brush just like oftentimes the media does with us. In our own ministry I’ve always tried to distinguish between the advocates of the radical gay community and the gays who attend our services who are seeking help and hope. Our sensitivity must be more finely tuned.

There are many young people in our churches who fear they might be gay, and yet cannot talk to anyone about it, expecting rejection and ridicule. Thus, they suffer alone, managing their sexuality as best they can. Secrecy forces them to become preoccupied with their sexuality, and so they begin experimentation, which is the most awful thing you can begin to do.

I’m going to pause here and say this. I heard this past week about twenty percent of all boys at some time wonder whether or not they might be gay. And there are some who are born with effeminate characteristics. They may cry more easily. They may not want— They’re not interested in sports. They’re more artistic. And the world looks at this— Our contemporary culture says, “Oh, you’re gay.” They say, “You’re gay.” Then they begin to experiment, and of course—I can’t get into this here—but of course then they are led in that direction. They are not gay. For one thing this may be a passing phase, but even if it’s not they might be committed to a life of singleness. There is evidence in the Scripture that we can’t go into today about the blessings that come to those who are single, who see their calling from God in a different light. And I think we have failed young people, and we’ve failed the Christian community by refusing to talk about these things in a very realistic, open way to help people, and help young people.

Andy Lindquist, wherever you are by the way, thank you for reading Scripture so well this morning. But Andy, we should be praying for him and his wife because they have the awesome responsibility of shepherding young people through the thicket this world has presented for people.

So, the first thing we have to talk about is the sins of the church. I’m talking about our sins, our sins of self-righteousness, our sins of sensuality. We may not be gay, but God has a long catalog of sins that He says He hates. And it’s not just homosexuality.

Secondly, love and the church. We have to emphasize to the gay community that opposition to same-sex marriage is not about hate it is about debate. Opposition to what some of us see as a devastating move that will further weaken the family and harm children. Such opposition is not hateful.

Could I use the illustration from a book I read, and now I have to begin to summarize real fast. The book said this. It’s an excellent book entitled, “The Homosexual Agenda” by Alan Sears and Craig Osten. But they tell the story— Suppose you were at the bottom of a cliff, and up there was somebody whom you could see was walking backwards, and they were about to go right over the cliff, and you shouted to them, and you said, “Stop! Go the other direction.” And suddenly you were surrounded by all kinds of people taking your picture and accusing you of hate speech. “Who are you to say where people can and can’t walk? I have a constitutional right, and if I want to walk backwards or forwards, that’s up to me, and who are you to tell me that I can’t do that?” That’s the predicament we’re in. We’re causing concern, we’re raising the issue, and we’re being accused of hate speech.

To the skeptic who might be listening today, just suppose for a moment the Bible is God’s Word, hence God’s condemnation of homosexuality. Furthermore, suppose God created children to need both a father and a mother to model gender diversity? And by the way, do you honestly believe two men can take the place of a mother’s love? Do you really believe that? Or two women can take the place of a father?

So let us suppose children do need a mother and a father to model gender diversity. Suppose homosexuality in the end is destructive, not just to society but often to individuals. Would it be hateful to oppose same-sex marriages if you understood that? We believe we are derelict if we allow the pro-gay culture to dictate what we can and can’t say. We’re shirking our duty if we are silenced because we’ll be called names or called hateful. Actually, Christianity is often seen best in the light of focused hatred, and how we respond, not in a hateful way, but in a rational loving way.

Finally, the church and forgiveness. We must send the message that neither adultery, incest, or homosexuality is an unpardonable sin. This is why the Bible frequently lists a host of other sins right along with sexual ones. “The acts of the sinful nature are these (says Paul): sexuality immorality, impurity, debauchery, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions, envies, drunkenness, orgies, and the like.” (Galatians 5:19-21) That’s a pretty good description of our culture I’d say. Now look at all those sins. There isn’t just one sin in the Bible. Our sins are listed there too.

To those who are still listening we have to say that at issue is not the greatness of our sin, but the wonder of the righteousness which God credits to those who believe in Jesus. It has been correctly said that the ground at the foot of the cross is equal. We all come as needy sinners. We come with the same need for pardon God alone can give us.

Visualize two roads. One is messy. The other is well travelled. Their differences are apparent to all who pass by, but when a blanket of snow comes—let’s suppose twelve inches—the roads look the same. So, regardless of our past, or our particular sin, we urge all to come to Christ. “Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord. Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow, and though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.”

Whether you are here today as a heterosexual or perhaps a homosexual, I urge you to come to Christ as you are. Come to Jesus as a homosexual. Come as a heterosexual, as a thief, as an alcoholic, as an addict of whatever sort, but come. We come to Jesus as we are, but as someone has said, “He loves us too much to leave us that way.” [applause]

“Yet to all who receive him, to those that believe in his name, he gives the right to become the children of God.” (John 1:12) I’m fond of saying there is more grace in God’s heart than there is sin in your past. A friend of mine, quoting a puritan, said this— Catch this. Remember it. Write it down. I love it. Are you going to remember this, folks? Are you going to remember it? Promise?

Write it down. “God is a better Savior than you are a sinner.” [applause] God bless you. And that’s my message today. Thank you for hearing me to the end.

Thank you. Thank you so much. You’ll never know how much that meant to me. Your support and your understanding, your love, your prayers, and your help at a very critical moment, a very critical moment in our history.

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