Something Greater Than Marriage: A Response to the Supreme Court’s Same-Sex Marriage Decision
Written by Christopher Yuan and Rosaria Butterfield
The Supreme Court of the United States of America has made gay marriage legal in all 50 states and much of our country celebrates. The world with its rainbow flags waving proudly and plentifully was our world. We locked arms with our LGBT loved ones and friends and believed that they were truly and honestly our family of choice.
This is the world that we, Christopher and Rosaria, helped build—a world pursuing dignity and equality. The people you see celebrating the recent SCOTUS decision to redefine marriage (and with marriage, personhood) would have been us, not very long ago.
In 1999, when Jesus Christ revealed His saving grace and love to each of us, we learned that our unbelief, and the idolatrous sexual lusts that flowed from it, were no longer matters of personal choice. We accepted that following Jesus meant giving up everything. We understood that repentance meant fleeing from anything that embodied the temptations that we knew best and loved most. But even prior to our conversion to Christ, God provided the love and care of Christians, people who became for us a new family, new brothers and sisters and mothers and fathers in Christ—who knew and loved us before we were safe to love. Christians loved, accepted, included, and surrounded us with biblical truth while we were still sinners, thus modeling the Lord Himself. Therefore, when the Holy Spirit changed our hearts, we came to know this: the gospel is costly and worth it.
The days after the Supreme Court’s ruling are like the days before it: God is seated on His throne in power and majesty—and one day, every knee will bow and every tongue will confess Him.
We affirm that God has ordained marriage to be the union of a husband and a wife which Jesus himself restated in Mark 10:6-8 and Matthew 19:4-5. But even though some in our culture believe as Justice Kennedy wrote that marriage “embodies the highest ideals of love,” we disagree. Earthly marriage does not have a monopoly on love. God is love (1 John 4:7-19). The pinnacle of love is God’s love for us in Christ. Nothing is greater than that.
Mystery and Reflection
In actuality, marriage is a mystery and a reflection of a greater reality. Truly, the highest ideal of love is Christ’s love for his bride, the church. In Ephesians 5 and Revelation 21, marriage is analogous to Christ’s redemption: the marriage consummation between the bride (redeemed sinners) and the Groom (Christ) shows that all redeemed people are married to Christ. Only in Christ can anyone experience the full definition of love and acceptance. As important as earthly marriage and family are, they are both fleetingly temporary, while Christ and the family of God (the church) are wondrously eternal.
We have failed to show the LGBT community another option to marriage—which is singleness—lived out in the fruitful and full context of God’s community, the family of God. This does not mean as Justice Kennedy wrote that singles are “condemned to live in loneliness,” but that singles can have intimate and fulfilling relationships full of love. This is not a consolation prize. It can be just as rewarding and fulfilling as marriage.
Defining marriage as being between a husband and a wife appears unfair to the LGBT community, in part because a life of singleness is viewed to be crushingly lonely. Have we in the church inadvertently played into that lie with our idolatry of marriage while being pejorative and silent toward singleness? If singleness is unfair, then it is no wonder that marriage has become a right. Just as the LGBT community appealed to the rest of the world for dignity and respect, it is time for the church to fight for the dignity and respect of single women and single men.
Some are now comparing the Supreme Court’s decision on gay marriage with the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision on abortion. There is an important lesson for us to learn from the pro-life movement. Today, there are more pro-life millennials than others from previous generations who champion pro-life. When pro-life people, made up of more than just evangelical Christians, began fighting less and caring more for unborn babies and for women with unplanned pregnancies just as they were, a shift in focus brought about an important change. The question stands: will we begin caring for the LGBT community just as they are?
This is a defining moment in history. We have a faithful opportunity to shine for the gospel. Will we point people to marriage as the “highest ideal of love”? Or will we point people—whether married or single—to a life of costly discipleship pursuing the embodiment of love, Jesus Christ himself? The decision is ours to make.
Editor’s Note: This article was first written on 28 June 2015. It has been published on The Gospel
About Christopher Yuan
Dr. Christopher Yuan teaches the Bible at Moody Bible Institute and his speaking ministry on faith and sexuality has reached five continents. He speaks in conferences (such as The Gospel Coalition, Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, InterVarsity’s Urbana and the Moody Pastors’ Conferences and Men’s Conference), on college campuses and in churches (such as Saddleback Church and Willow Creek Community Church). He is featured in the award-winning documentary HOPE Positive: Surviving the Sentence of AIDS, and has co-authored with his mother their memoir, Out of a Far Country: A Gay Son’s Journey to God, A Broken Mother’s Search for Hope (image on the right). Christopher graduated from Moody Bible Institute in 2005, Wheaton College Graduate School in 2007 with a Master of Arts in Biblical Exegesis and received his doctorate of ministry in 2014 from Bethel Seminary.
About Rosaria Butterfield
Rosaria Butterfield was once a tenured professor of English who identified as a lesbian and worked to advance the cause of LGBT equality. After her conversion to Christ in 1999, she came to see the sinfulness of having any identity apart from Him. Rosaria is married to Kent Butterfield, pastor of the First Reformed Presbyterian Church of Durham, and is a home-school mother, pastor’s wife, author, and speaker. She is helping Christians to better understand their LGBT neighbors and loved ones so that we can lovingly look past labels of sexual identity and share the gospel effectively. In 2012 she published her conversion memoir, The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert: An English Professor’s Journey to Christian Faith. Her second book, Openness Unhindered: Further Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert on Sexual Identity and Union with Christ became available in July of 2015. She writes about sexuality, identity, Christian community, and seeks to encourage all in faithful Christian living and service.