Jesus on Marriage and Homosexuality

In light of the Brendan Eich firing, I’ve decided to edit and bump this post, originally published in 2009.

I’ve been thinking long and hard about Jesus on marriage and homosexuality. I think that critics have all been wrong that Jesus is silent on homosexuality and marriage. We Christians have all been wrong when we have argued—if we have—that Jesus is silent on it because the issue was settled law and He only raised points that had become twisted by Pharisaical logic. I have made this argument in the past. He is not. He is quite vocal. Let me explain. The Sermon on the Mount, Matt. 5:27-5:32. The discussion here embraces adultery and divorce. In getting into the thickets to restore God’s true teaching on marriage, adultery, and divorce, Jesus simultaneously condemns homosexuality and rules out marriage between people of the same sex.

Matthew says, you’ve heard it said adultery’s forbidden. I myself tell you that all who look on a woman to lust after her has already had illicit sex with her in his heart. (5.29 and 5.30 are expressions of the strictness of Jesus’ position on adultery. You’d have to go back to Leviticus to delve, dive, and wallow into the the holiness of God who hates all forms of sin and uncleanliness. That’s how serious this is. Lose a body part rather than lose yourself.) It’s been said that whoever divorces his wife will give her a divorce notice. I myself tell you that the man who divorces his wife, except for utterance (act) of sexual infidelity, makes her to be adulterous, and if she having been divorced ever marries she is committing adultery.

That’s pretty straightforward, isn’t it. The same one who said He came to fulfill the Law and the Prophets is setting us straight on the marriage issue, and He delineates that with “I myself tell you.”

I’m looking at the Greek text, quite purposefully, because the articles, participles and pronouns there are totally unambiguous. No hedging or whingeing. No room for twisting like some would try. Jesus addresses marriage as between HIM/MAN and HER/WOMAN. Greek is not Chinese in which the spoken word for her/him is the same, ta. (In speaking English, the Chinese have a hard time with he/she, him/her and often confuse the two.) Greek is pretty unambiguous.

Ho blepwn, the man seeing the woman to desire authn, her, has already screwed** authn, her, in his heart. (**I’m using this word to retain the direct object accusative usage of ‘her’.) Next, whoever divorces the wife/woman autou, of his, will give auth, to her, divorce notice. Then, Ho apoluwn, the man divorcing the woman autou, of his, except for utterance (act) of sexual infidelity makes authn, her, to be adulterous, and if apolelumenhn, she having been divorced ever marries moixatai, she is committing adultery.

It’s pretty hard to dodge those pronouns, articles, and such. When it comes to people, there is no ambiguity with the Greek pronouns. So, what does this prove about homosexuality and marriage? How does Jesus condemn homosexuality? How does He reject marriage between the people of the same sex? How can I say Jesus is very vocal about it?

In the first case, Jesus answers what is marriage and what is its nature. Jesus asserts God’s definition of marriage from Genesis 2:24: marriage is the union in God of a man and a woman. The Ho Blepwn and the autou limit one of the parties to a male; gynaika and authn limit the other to a female.

Furthermore, marriage is a spiritual and not a civil matter: it is ordained by God; the one flesh from two is not a physical but a spiritual union. Jesus says the violation of the marriage union is not merely one of deed but also of intent of the heart even if there is no physical deed. That places marriage firmly in the spiritual realm where only God sees the heart; no other judge can.

In divorce, as a civil matter, the state is concerned merely about the acts done and not the thoughts or intended acts of the parties involved. In fact, the state can do nothing unless action has occurred; this is the norm with regard to law. God, on the other hand, will condemn you to hell for the thoughts of the heart.

Thus, the marriage is, in a sense, protected by God in that He watches over and punishes thoughts which would violate it. Why? The marriage of a man and a woman is a type of the marriage between Christ and the Church, His Bride. He loves her and has no other lover but her. He died for her. Infidelity says not only can we no longer trust the marriage partner, but we also cannot trust that God will keep His word to us.

Marriage, therefore, is a sacred and spiritual thing that should not be entered into lightly, and the partners in it are not of the same sex but of different sexes: one man, one woman. Note from the singular number of the pronouns that polygamy is not an arrangement ordained by God.

In the second case, Jesus excludes from His definition of marriage any bond except that between a man and a woman. How do I figure that? Again, I construe it from the language of the text. The verb gamhsh, marries, lacks an accusative/object in 5.32. Yet, the context is clear that Jesus is speaking of men and women marrying each other and not of two women or of two men. However, the sex of the second marriage partner, some might argue if they ever chose to try to defend their position from Scripture, is up for grabs. The door to same-sex marriage is open right here in the grammar of the absent accusative of gamhsh, they might argue, because Jesus does not specify the sex of the marriage partner as being male or female.

The Gospels are called Synoptic for a reason: the same incident is seen through different eyes. In Mark 10.11, Jesus, in the Sermon, in speaking of adultery from the man’s perspective uses allhn, female other, as the accusative of gamhsh; in Mark 10.12, from the woman’s perspective, He says allon, male other, as the accusative.

Why is this acceptable? Mark 10.11 and 10.12 explain Matthew 5.32. The hermeneutical standard is that Scripture interprets Scripture, and the intended sense is one.

Therefore, the idea that marriage is/should be an open field that would include two women/men united in God does not stand up to Scripture’s scrutiny. There is no marriage but that between a man and a woman. Moreover, since marriage is a spiritual and not a civil matter, the state lacks the power to alter its definition and nature. That does not mean that the state will not over-extend its reach and try to change the definition of marriage.

In the third case, Jesus excludes any other kind of sexual relationship except that which occurs in a marriage between a man and a woman. The key words are thn gynaika autou, his wife, and authi, to her. Again, the grammar limits the Scripture’s sense to one man and one woman.

A right sexual relationship, Jesus states, is a marital one between a man and a woman. Outside of marriage, sexual desiring will lead you to damnation, and you’d be better off losing the eye than being damned for following where it leads. From the heart flows an astonishing number of bad deeds, all of which will condemn you and set you at enmity with God.

If marriage is limited to man and woman, and the intent and expression of sexual desire is limited to within the marriage, then homosexual desire and sexual relations are also condemned for that is definitely outside of God’s order for human sexual relationships. (Contrary to the popular cotton candy view of God, He’s not a Santa Claus, and He’s terrifyingly strict.)

In the fourth case, having defined marriage and its nature, Jesus has also spoken on what it is not. That is the nature of definitions. They are both positive and negative. When we assert what a thing is, by extension we utterly and vocally claim that everything else is not it. Jesus’ positive definition of marriage and human sexual relations asserts its obverse: marriage is not for two men/women.

Absent His definition, we would have been free to mount the argument that Jesus’ silence betokens consent, but consent of what? Unambiguously, consent to the Old Testament dictum on marriage: one man, one woman***, and on the homosexual sex act that it is sin meriting death, like all sin. (Romans 6:23)

It is noteworthy that that is the position of the New Testament’s Book of Revelation in which the Lamb speaks as frowning Judge, and in which the sexually immoral of every stripe are excluded from God’s presence (Rev 22.10). Homosexuality is included in that ‘sexually immoral’ descriptor because in action it is neither celibate (the requirement for singles) nor is it a faithful man-woman relationship. (That doesn’t mean that we are to be in the business of killing homosexuals; judgment is of God, and until a man dies, God gives him every chance to repent of his sin.)

So that leaves us where we began with some angry at the Church and demanding but unable to obtain support from orthodox Christians. The anger with the Church and Christians is misplaced; not us, but Christ. Look past us to Christ. Cry out to Him and ask Him why. We cannot change what He has said or written because the vessel cannot tell the potter what to do. Moreover, we will not let the world influence our belief in the timeless truths of Scripture.

What is written concerning marriage and homosexuality is true for all time. It was true in the days of Moses; it was true in the time of Christ; it is true in our time; and, it will still be true when He comes again. That the state bends to the outrageous demands of homosexuals does not mean that Christians must do likewise. Indeed not. We must stand firm knowing full well that persecution will come. Let us suffer it to be so and hold fast because we know how things end.

Marriage is what it is; God’s Word is what it is. He is not Santa Claus and His Word is not cotton candy. Many of us say “I can’t live with that standard” and try to invent a God we can live with. Repentance is better than idolatry, obedience than sacrifice. God offers forgiveness; He extends His hands to us all day long and the conversation we have with Him is between us and Him. For His lovingkindness and tender mercies towards us and our failings, let us repent of our sin, turn to Him, and give thanks.

***For those who wish to assert, contrary to fact, that the OT condones polygamy, that is not the case. In Genesis, God clearly established marriage as between A man and A woman. In fact, the divine view of polygamy is that it is the source of much trouble. Polygamy is a human invention, one that God worked on our hearts to eradicate.)