This is the first section of the Page ‘Listening to Jesus.’ For the whole presentation, click on ‘Listening to Jesus’ on the right side of the title of this blog.
One of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. `Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?’ He said to him, ` “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: “You shall love your neighbour as yourself.” On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.’
Matthew 22:35-40 NRSV
These two Great Commandments must be borne in mind as we begin. All the Law and Prophets derive from them. They are the Primary words of our Primary authority. How do they help us with the two questions: Is gay marriage a development into which the Holy Spirit is leading us? Is gay marriage a primary issue?
Loving God means that we are devoted to him to all that he is, and does and says. Loving God is often contrasted with loving the world. We love God more than we love popularity. We love God, the God and Father of Jesus, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, even if this means derision and ostracism from people who do not share this love. We love everything that God has said, firstly in His Son, His Word made flesh, and also in all the other communications which have been agreed to come authentically from him. We love the Holy Spirit and what the Holy Spirit communicates to us in his own distinct and complex ways, not as an afterthought, but as part of the foundation of our lives as God’s people.
It is clear from much debate, not least as summarised with great erudition and sympathy in Some Issues in Human Sexuality, that the weight of Scripture, especially from the 6 texts, points to the unacceptability for gay marriage for Christians. It could be that our love for God means that we hold to this truth even and especially when it goes against the culture in which we live, and against our own preferences for accommodation.
At the same time, as already mentioned, we must not place ‘love of what God has said in the past’ over love for God himself – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. There are people among us who are saying that the Holy Spirit is leading us into a truth which we have not been able to bear before now. Our love for God means that we must make every effort to weigh this claim. If this is indeed God leading us into a new aspect of ‘all truth’ we will grieve him severely if we do not listen very carefully to what he might be saying to us. We must be very clear that this he is not in this development. Otherwise we may be ignoring him, far from loving Him.
Our love of our neighbour, similarly, does not give us a clear answer to our first question. Godly love for the neighbour, as expressed in the commendation of the true friend in Proverbs, is a love that sometimes speaks the hard truth. We would like others gently but clearly to point out to us a dangerous path on which we are set. We must therefore do the same for others. It could be that gay people will, in the end, suffer because of the restrictions and oppression they place on themselves through entering a gay marriage. If this is true, it is not, ultimately, loving to give a different message.
Godly love for neighbour can also be argued to support gay marriage, removing an unjust and unequal distinction between neighbours. Some of us are predominantly attracted to the opposite sex. Some of us are predominately attracted to the same sex. Loving our neighbour as ourselves entails all of us helping each other to enjoy the benefits that we enjoy, including helping gay people to enjoy all the benefits of marriage. This is a very simple argument which has been used in support of gay marriage and which has been criticised by some Christians as ‘unbiblical.’ By placing Jesus’ Great Commands in the proper, primary, place, we see that this is, rather, a very Biblical, simple, argument.
The Great Commands do not give an answer to our first question but they do give a first pointer to our second question. Gay marriage is an issue in which we can conceivably love God and love our neighbour in different ways. It is hard to see, therefore, that gay marriage can be a primary issue. People on both sides of the debate can authentically obey the Great Commands. There are no grounds here for rejecting either position, and, therefore, we may find ourselves, at least for now, honouring both.