Tag Archives: John Piper

“The Gospel and Same-Sex Marriage”

What is a Biblical response to same-sex marriage? How does the good news of Christ shape our thinking on this topic?

If you are asking these questions, then you will want to read The Gospel and Same-Sex Marriage. Edited by Russell Moore and Andrew Walker, it is the most recent book in “The Gospel for Life Series.”

same-sex marriage

The Gospel and Same-Sex Marriage is a short book (102 pages) with five chapters, each one written by a different author: Andrew Walker, John Piper, Jason Duesing, J. D. Greear, and Albert Mohler—all of whom are respected Christian thinkers.

Why is this topic important?

Although Russell Moore does not author one of the chapters, he does write the preface. In those few pages, Moore makes several excellent points, arguing “that the gospel isn’t just the start of the Christian life but rather the vehicle that carries it along” (xi). Salvation is far more than a moment of confession to God; it is a moment-by-moment conforming to Christ.

Theology doesn’t just think; it walks, weeps, and bleeds. … Our gospel is indeed miraculous, but … it’s also a gospel of the ordinary. (xii)

What is marriage?

In the first chapter, Andrew Walker clarifies key truths for the entire discussion by defining marriage and establishing its importance. He begins the book by explaining that marriage is “a gendered and complementary union” (9). Many of our churches have failed to understand how critical this is:

Once marriage is redefined as no longer complementary, the whole matrix of marriage’s function collapses. (11)

Not only is marriage designed to be complementary in nature, but it is also to be monogamous, exclusive, and permanent.

Why does the definition matter?

Walker also makes the important point that God-designed marriage brings blessings to both Christians and non-Christians.

It’s true [that] anyone can benefit from the good of marriage—whether they are a Christian or not. Society flourishes when marriage policies align with God’s design for marriage. … (20)

I have greatly appreciated the writings of John Piper on the subject of marriage, and his chapter in this book is no exception. Here are a couple excerpts from his essay:

God made man male and female with their distinctive feminine and masculine natures and their distinctive roles so that in marriage as husband and wife they could display Christ and the church. Marriage is designed to reflect the deepest truths of the gospel. (30-31)

The recognition of so-called same-sex marriage would be a clear social statement that motherhood or fatherhood or both are negligible in the public good of raising children. (38)

I agree with Piper that losing a mother or father is a tragedy. Do we want “to make that tragedy normal” through our laws? Is it right to willingly deprive a child of a mother or father?

How did we get here?

Dr. Mohler does a great job of evaluating the factors in the cultural landscape that activated this moral seismic shift. He identifies these four “massive developments: birth control and contraception, divorce, advanced reproductive technologies, and cohabitation” (89). I agree with Mohler’s assessment that the Church’s compromise on Biblical marriage created a profound weakness for both the Church and the surrounding culture:

[When] the culture lost its mind on marriage, far too many churches decided to join the irrationality. Thus, evangelical churches began to treat divorce as a non-issue, even as the Bible includes the strongest statements imaginable about the permanence of marriage and the sinfulness of divorce. … Ultimately the evangelical abdication of responsibility for divorce set the stage for a loss of evangelical credibility to speak to the larger issue of sexuality and marriage. (92)

Dr. Mohler also examines some of the pro-homosexual strategy that proved to be immensely effective in triggering the moral tsunami.

What should we do?

My favorite chapter, however, was written by J. D. Greear, pastor of The Summit Church in North Carolina. He urges believers to engage in the marriage discussion with grace and truth, as Jesus did.

And when we are full of grace and truth like Jesus, we can expect to see the response he did—to repel the proud and attract the broken. (64)

We must speak the truth if we are to love well. Greear reminds us that we are commanded in the Scriptures “to rebuke the works of darkness” (65). Isn’t that being judgmental?

Even though Jesus told many people that their works were evil, he still did not condemn that world. How could that be? Because after telling us the truth, Jesus brought us close. … You judge someone not when you assess their position, but when you dismiss them as a person. (66)

Greear emphasizes “our failure to grapple with our own inherent sinfulness.” He does a great job of retelling the parable of the man who was forgiven a huge debt but who then refused to forgive someone else’s very small debt. Greear says:

If you are characterized by disgust over someone else’s sin rather than being  overwhelmed at the forgiveness that God has given you, you are desperately out of touch with the gospel. (70)

After explaining God’s design for sex, Greear addresses the struggle that many people have to conform to God’s plan and “to change their sexual passions.” He points out that this is part of “the already-not-yet dimension of the Kingdom.” In others words, the atoning work of salvation is finished, but the transforming work of salvation is a process. Sometimes God heals immediately, “but sometimes we have to wait for the resurrection for ultimate healing” (73-74).

[Sometimes] God allows people to struggle so that they can be a testimony to God’s sustaining grace in struggle. It seems that the latter is actually God’s normal way. … [God allows this] to convince us—until our dying breath—of our desperate need for grace. (75)

In fact, I think that ongoing victories that spring from a continuing struggle can be just as great a miracle as a one-time removal of the struggle. This is what God did for Paul. God did not remove “the thorn” from Paul’s life. Instead, He gave him grace upon grace, day after day. God may not give complete deliverance from a struggle, but He always gives victory over temptation. Rather than giving us one dramatic victory, God may be giving us thousands of daily victories.

God’s people are most loving when we respond to others with authentic mercy, which looks beneath surface issues to discover true core needs. Greear notes that when “Jesus dealt with someone in sexual sin, He never started with the sin. He always started with the root issues behind the sin.”

For example, when Christ speaks with the woman at the well, “He shows her that her addictive behavior is driven by a soul thirst.” And with the woman caught in the act of adultery, Jesus expressed acceptance of her in a profound way. It was this acceptance of her as a person which then gave her the power to turn from her sin.

As we dialogue with others about sexual choices and marriage, we want to be motivated always by grace, which says that people are valued and loved, regardless of their behavior. The Bible explains that sin is a problem, not because it violates an arbitrary rule, but because it robs us,  it deforms us, and it destroys us. God longs to make our spirits healthy and thriving—fully alive, full of joy, and fully satisfied. God is the generous, trustworthy Lover of our souls.

I certainly recommend this well-written, thought-provoking book. It is critical that Christians understand Biblical truth concerning “same-sex marriage” and then share God’s unfailing love and compassion as we live as salt and light in our communities.

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Painting by Henryk Siemiradzki, public domain.

The Emotion that Devours, continued

When we are wronged, how can we handle our anger? We answer that best when we look at what God does when He is wronged.  John Piper considers this in his book This Momentary Marriage: “But even though God has never done anything that legitimately pro­vokes our anger at him, what has he done about the breakdown in our relationship with him? He has taken initiatives to heal it—initiatives that were infinitely costly to him” (p. 151).

When we are wronged, we can reflect God by thinking like this: “In my spirit, I will walk towards this person in love. I will join Christ in this situation. I am willing to suffer so that this person can be healed.” Just as Christ was willing to suffer in order to love me well, so I can be willing to suffer in order to love others well.

Although the work of atonement was completed at the Cross, the work of redemption (turning ashes into beauty) and sanctification (turning self-centered, diseased people into Christ-centered, healthy people) is ongoing. It is an awesome privilege to be invited to partner with God in His work. Not only does He promise to reward us well, but He promises that He Himself will be our great reward. There is nothing greater than that!

This means that when I am tempted to be angry about what is happening to me, I can instead yield to the Spirit so that the situation belongs to Him and not to me. Not only does this allow His power and wisdom to replace my weakness and foolishness, but this also changes the suffering of that situation into His suffering, instead of mine.  Double-yoked with Christ, I delight in being drawn nearer to Him; sharing in His sufferings, I delight in bringing pleasure to Him as the desires of His heart are being fulfilled.

   In summary, here are the three things that help me to combat anger and gain richness instead:

1. Recognize that my enemy is my anger, not what someone else has said or is doing. It is my bitterness that devours my soul.

2. Choose to be an active giver, truly believing that the best blessings come through giving.

3. Choose to join Christ in His sufferings in order to love others well and to gain intimacy with Christ.

When we do these things through the Spirit, every bit of our lives can be infused with the beauty and joy of God.  That, I think, is awesome.

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The Emotion that Devours

In reading “my new favorite book on marriage,” I was interested to discover an entire chapter devoted to the topic of anger. Author John Piper bases much of his discussion in This Momentary Marriage on the Biblical directives given in Ephesians 5:21 through 6:4. When the apostle Paul speaks to fathers in this passage, he gives one strong warning: “do not provoke your children to anger.” Of all the things that Paul could tell fathers, why does he choose this one thing? Piper recognizes that anger is being highlighted here as a critical issue in the home.

As Piper points out, anger “devours almost all other good emotions. It deadens the soul. It numbs the heart to joy and gratitude and hope and tenderness and compassion and kindness.” When we work to conquer anger, not only are we freed of that misery, but we also “unlock” our hearts “to a dozen other precious emotions that make worship possible and make relationships sweet” (page 150).

There are three things that help me to combat anger and gain richness instead. Here are the first two:

1. Recognize that my anger is the enemy, not what someone else has said or done. It is my bitterness that devours my own soul, and it is my resentment that is bringing harm to me. Anger is  destructive when it is based on lies. We often choose to believe the lie that someone else is messing things up for us.  But the truth is that every single thing that comes  into my life, whether it is a trivial frustration or a horrible evil, can be used by God to advance His trustworthy purposes. Everything that God has allowed to enter my life has been charged by God to prosper me.

2. Choose to be an active giver, believing that choosing to give is a great gift to myself as well as to the other person. I can choose to give grace, forgiveness, patience, acceptance, and honor.  I can consciously choose to walk in love toward someone when my natural reaction would actually be to run away or to attack. When I choose to walk toward another in love, powerful things happen in the spiritual realm: the enemy is weakened, strongholds collapse, chains of bondage are broken, and captives are set free.

When we are mistreated or misunderstood or unappreciated, we gain an even greater opportunity to give and to create spiritual impact. That is why James says that we can “consider it pure joy” when we encounter problems or pain. Situations that tempt us to be angry are the very opportunities that allow us to give so that we are enriched. Our spirits are naturally ingrown—a condition which leads to decay and death. Giving is what heals the sickness of our spirits.

(We’ll look at a third way to combat anger next time.)

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