God&Sexuality Q&A: If the church can accept divorce, why can’t the church accept same-sex marriage?

If the church can accept divorce/ remarriage (distorting of God's original purpose for marriage) why can’t the church accept marriage of same-sex couples?


Questions around divorce are personal and painful for those for whom divorce has been part of their own story, and this is impossible to deal with adequately in a written ‘answer’ like this. The fullest and clearest teaching of Jesus on the topic comes in Matthew 19:1-12. He refers his questioners back to God’s original purpose for marriage in creation, pointing especially to God’s design for its permanence: “therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”


The reality of divorce in ancient Israel was a sad concession and a result our hard human hearts (v8). Jesus himself gives just one legitimate ground for divorce: the trust-shattering event of sexual unfaithfulness (v9). In other teaching on marriage in 1 Corinthians 7, there is also an indication that where an unbeliever is determined to leave their believing spouse, the believer should not fight that, but trust God, live in peace, and accept the divorce (1 Cor. 7:12-15).


These Biblical concessions aside, the basic teaching of the Bible is clear: marriage is a permanent arrangement, and believers should do everything they can to nurture and protect their marriages. In a fallen world, this will often seem like hard work, but God is with us and for us in it. The church community should be a place of grace and love where those struggling in marriage can find support, encouragement and refuge. There are a variety of Christian perspectives on the legitimacy of remarriage in those situations where there is a concession allowing divorce. If these are real or personal questions for you, I would be very happy to chat this through in more detail.


A strong case can be made that the church has been too quick to follow the world’s lead on normalising divorce in a way that goes far beyond the Biblical concessions we’ve considered. This is regrettable, and we should always examine and reform church practice against God’s teaching in the Bible, whilst being full of compassion and concern for those personally involved.


For those who struggle to honour God with their sexuality, it will seem like hopeless double standards for the church to speak out about sexuality but remain quiet about marriage/divorce. We must speak God’s will with equal weighting in every area.


It is also important to note that shaping by the world in the area of marriage/divorce should not thereby legitimise a similar shaping by the world in the area of sex/sexuality. As we’ve seen, there are also differences between the two: whilst there are some Biblical concessions for divorce, there are no such concessions for same-sex practice or marriage.


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