In the days ahead, this will be very good news for many who repent.
In the years to come, God will be merciful on thousands of those who have been damaged by the present moral madness of our culture. He will exalt Christ in the conversion of many who have lived in same-sex relationships. More complexities than we can imagine will be presented to us in the church.
One of the more difficult scenarios will be what the church should do when, say, two women, who have lived in a so-called married state for some years, are converted to Christ, repent of their sin, and want to join the church. And what if they have children?
In this uncharted territory, here is a map with some of the biblical guideposts I foresee. It is not exhaustive. I invite every pastor to pray that God would grant him the great privilege of leading new believers through this process.
1. Rejoice. We should join all heaven in the joy that our Father and the angels feel over this repentance.
‘There will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over 99 righteous persons who need no repentance’ (Luke 15.7).
2. Pray. This is going to be complex and difficult. We need humble wisdom beyond the merely human.
‘The wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere’ (James 3.17).
3. Listen. We must not assume we know all we need to know about the situation. Disentangling the relational threads (both sinful and natural) will require significant knowledge of the situation present and past.
‘If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame’ (Proverbs 18.13).
‘Does our law judge a man without first giving him a hearing and learning what he does?’ (John 7.51).
4. Instruct. Based on what we have learned from listening, we will share what the Bible says first about the gospel, and second about the sin of sexual relations outside biblical marriage.
‘Christ died for our sins’ (1 Corinthians 15.3).
‘All sins will be forgiven the children of man’ (Mark 3.28).
‘If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins’ (1 John 1.9).
‘If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation’ (2 Corinthians 5.17).
‘Put off your old self [and] be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and . . . put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness’ (Ephesians 4.22–24).
‘Flee from sexual immorality’ (1 Corinthians 6.18).
5. Clarify that same-sex attraction is a brokenness that is part of humanity’s fallen condition, along with other emotional/psychological/physical desires, dispositions and infirmities. Explain that willful expressions of this brokenness through prohibited behaviours is what the Bible has in mind when it says: ‘Neither those who practise homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy … will inherit the kingdom of God’ (1 Corinthians 6.10).
6. Help them see, therefore, that what the state has called a ‘marriage’ between them is not marriage. There is no such thing as ‘same-sex marriage’ in God’s eyes. Therefore, they are not married in the sight of God, regardless of how the state defines their relationship. Do not embrace the state’s prostitution of language by calling the former state ‘marriage’ or the ending of it ‘divorce’.
‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh’ (Genesis 2.24).
‘From the beginning of creation, God made them male and female. Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife’ (Mark 10.6-7).
7. Make plain that, therefore, since there is no such thing as ‘same-sex marriage’, there is no such thing as ‘same-sex divorce’ in the sight of God. The biblical condemnations of divorce do not apply to non-existent ‘marriages’. What God has not joined together, man cannot separate.
‘Everyone who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery, and he who marries a woman divorced from her husband commits adultery’ (Luke 16.18).
‘What God has joined together, let not man separate’ (Mark 10.9).
8. Patiently help them think and pray through the many painful and complex issues involved in ending this romantic, sexual relationship.
‘Encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all’ (1 Thessalonians 5.14).
‘Love is patient and kind’ (1 Corinthians 13.4).
‘Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom’ (Colossians 3.16).
9. Be ready to surround them with loving and generous brothers and sisters who can help provide for all the practical necessities that will be involved: from housing to childcare to counselling to legal assistance to transportation to financial counsel. Fold them into a nurturing web of new caring relationships.
‘Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality’ (Romans 12.13).
‘If one of you says to a brother or a sister, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled”, without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that?’ (James 2.16).
‘Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth’ (1 John 3.18).
‘There is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands’ (Mark 10.29-30).
10. Assist them in the legal processes and expenses of undoing what the state called ‘marriage’. That the state will call this process ‘divorce’ is not decisive in what it really is: the removal of a sinful fiction.
‘Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s’ (Matthew 22.21).
‘Let us decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother’ (Romans 14.13).
11. Help them see that in all likelihood an ongoing cohabitation without romantic or sexual involvement will be unrealistic relationally, and misleading as a witness to the world. A new way of living in community will be needed. And perhaps, painful as it may be, some distance between them may be necessary for a significant season.
‘Abstain from every form (or appearance) of evil’ (1 Thessalonians 5.22).
‘Be wise as serpents and innocent as doves’ (Matthew 10.16).
‘I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you’ (Psalm 32.8).
12. Help them pray and think through what may be the most painful issue of all, the custody of the children. If the children are old enough to have some sense of what is happening, provide the most sensitive counsel and instruction so that they can understand that God is doing something really good, even if at the time it may feel painfully disruptive. Pray that God would create in all the adults involved a heart of sacrifice and love that puts the good of the children above immediate desires. And hold out the possibility with pressure that God is able to work the wonder of providing a father for these children.
‘Children are not obligated to save up for their parents, but parents for their children’ (2 Corinthians 12.14).
‘Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction’ (James 1.27).
‘Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. Honour your father and mother. … Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord’ (Ephesians 6.1-4).
‘With God all things are possible’ (Matthew 19.26).
13. Don’t leave these women and children on their own once a new life has been established. There will be many ongoing temptations and challenges for years to come. Seek to fold them into gospel-rich churches with seriously supportive relationships.
‘If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honoured, all rejoice together. Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it (1 Corinthians 12.26-27).
‘We, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. … Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection’ (Romans 12.4-10).
Copyright 2013 John Piper.
Used with permission
This article was first published in the July 2013 issue of Evangelicals Now. For more news, artciles or reviews, subscribe to EN or contact us for more information. http://www.e-n.org.uk 0845 225 0057