I’m Invited to a Same-Sex Wedding. Yes or No?

Same-Sex WeddingLet each be fully persuaded in his own mind. —Romans 13:5

There’s an ongoing buzz in the Christian community over whether or not believers should attend same-sex weddings. As buzz goes, this one’s awfully relevant, as more of us are facing this dilemma. Do I accept the invitation, even though I don’t believe in same sex marriage, or decline and risk alienating someone I deeply love?

As the old song goes, “Everybody’s talkin’.” Stephen Arterburn of New Life Ministries blogged at the Huffington Post that Jesus would definitely say yes to such an event, so we should go and do likewise. John Shore over at Crosswalk.com seems to agree, comparing refusal to attend a gay wedding to the sin of having a Pharisee’s attitude. Free Bible Study Lessons.com likewise says that we should accept the invitation, unless one or both of the partners getting married claims to be a Christian, in which case we should decline, while Candice Watters at Boundless.org gives the whole thing a thumbs down, claiming it’s unloving to condone what God condemns. Got Questions.org takes the same position as Watters: yes on loving gay friends and family; no on going to their weddings.

To cut to the chase, let me say that’s my position as well. A few years ago I wrote an article for The Christian Research Journal titled “Should Christians Attend Same-Sex Weddings?” (Click here to order the issue.) In this two-part piece, Rev. Michael F. Ross, an ordained minister with the Presbyterian Church of America, took the “pro” position, arguing that he would attend a gay wedding provided both parties knew where he stood Biblically on homosexuality, as a show of love and respect. For my part, I voted “con,” contending that attendance at a wedding is a conscious and intentional act of celebration, not just a show of support, and therefore not a legitimate option unless you believe the wedding itself is a good thing. The article showed, along with those mentioned above, that even conservative believers are divided on this question. So I’d like to take some space today to better explain where I stand, and why.

Let’s do so by looking at the issue through the eyes of those getting married, then through the eyes of the believer, then the eyes of God, whose perspective trumps all else.

TRY TO SEE IT THEIR WAY

One of my favorite lines from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet is “He jests at scars that never felt a wound.” In other words, a person can joke about something he’s never experienced, showing a huge lack of respect or empathy. I don’t want to be that person. I don’t want to make light of someone else’s feelings, whether I agree with them or not, and that’s doubly true if I have to make decisions they might find to be hurtful. And clearly, the decision not to attend a loved one’s wedding qualifies as one of those tough ones.

Try looking at it from the couple’s perspective. They’re no doubt in a relationship that’s very serious, very committed. Before deciding on marriage, they’ve thought the issue through, considered the way they feel about each other, weighed the nature and value of their relationship, and decided to form a union they hope will last a lifetime.

Yes, by Biblical standards, they’re wrong; the wedding itself is a ceremony solemnizing something that in God’s sight cannot be called a marriage. But to the couple involved (and to your loved one in particular, be that loved one a child, sibling, cousin or even parent) it’s dead serious, a joyful milestone they’re anticipating and wanting to share with the people they love the most.

They probably know you are a Bible-believing Christian who doesn’t condone homosexuality. But they’re also hoping you’ll put that aside for the sake of sharing their joy, supporting them in love, and being there for them because of who they are to you, despite what you believe. For them, this is a life changing event, one of their most significant moments, and having you there would mean so much.

A “Sorry, Cannot Attend” RSVP will almost certainly be hurtful, possibly devastating, and may in fact sound a death knell to your relationship with this person. Don’t underestimate that when considering how you’re going to respond.

SO WHY NOT ‘YES’?

Let’s look first at the believer’s relationship to either non-believers or to believers involved in ongoing, deliberate, significant sin.

Regarding non-believers, there’s nothing in Scripture indicating we shouldn’t have relationships with them. Jesus associated freely and notoriously with people of all sorts—notorious sinners like prostitutes and tax collectors included—showing no compunction about enjoying their company and being among them. (See for example Matthew 9:9-12; Matthew 11:19; Mark 2:16-17; Luke 15: 1-2; Luke 19:7.)

The question, then, is not whether we should have good relations with gay or lesbian family members. We can, should, and probably will. What’s at issue here is attendance at a wedding ceremony, ostensibly approved of and rejoiced over by those who come to it. Attendance means, to my thinking, more than loving support for the person(s) involved. It also means an offer of approval and blessing.

There’s the catch, and it’s not minor. Celebrating a loved one’s sin is a serious matter, no matter how deep the love or how important the loved one. To attend a wedding is to offer explicit support for the event itself, and that would constitute violation of Paul’s clear instructions to the Ephesians to “have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them” (Ephesians 5:11), and his advice to Timothy to “neither be partakers of other men’s sins.” (1 Timothy 5:22)

Paul’s choice of wording here is not accidental. A “partaker,” according to the Strong’s translation of the Greek term involved, is “one who shares, partners, or comes into association with another’s activities.” And that makes attending a wedding you don’t really believe in very problematic indeed.

The question, then, boils down to this: Can I attend a homosexual wedding without making a clear statement of support, not only for the people involved, but for their union itself? Does my attendance constitute friendship and love only, or does it not also testify to approval and outright celebration?

I’d say it expresses approval, not just love. That’s what I believe attendance at a wedding always does, making it impossible for me to in good conscience show up.

For most other events involving a homosexual family member, showing up is an option. If there’s a party my family member comes to, my attendance is a statement of my love for him and others, not one of approval for this one part of his life. If we get together under virtually any other circumstances, I see no conflict with scripture or conscience. But to attend his ceremony would be to say, by my very presence, “I bless and support not only these people, but this event.” And that’s just too much.

It would also be too much if a Christian friend of mine asked me to attend his wedding if he united with a non-believer, in clear violation of 2 Corinthians 6:14. To be there would be tantamount to saying “I bless this” when, in fact, I couldn’t. Nor could I show up for the wedding of a Christian friend who dumped his wife for totally unscriptural reasons, then latched onto a younger model. Because an event is involved at which attendance equals approval. I see no way around this. If a thing is wrong, no matter how deeply bonded I am to the person involved, then while I’m allowed to love and interact with him, I cannot participate in anything expressing approval or support of the wrongdoing itself.

Some have raised the question of attending a wedding for two people who lived together prior to marrying, but that’s not a good comparison to make, since the wedding would be a correction, not a continuation, of the problem.

Others have suggested that if we attend non-believer’s weddings we’re condoning something that’s not Christ-centered, so why not attend a gay wedding as well?

Because the thing itself—a marriage between man and woman—is still inherently good, and worth celebrating. After all, I would gladly attend the commencement ceremony of a non-Christian college graduate because, even if he’s not living a Christ-centered life, his achievement is a good thing in and of itself. The same cannot be said for a marriage which is, in form and practice, clearly outside God’s will. So as hard as it may be to refuse, I still believe it reasonable to simply say, “I would never ask you to do something you don’t believe in, nor would I make that a litmus test of your love for me. So please don’t make this a litmus test of my love for you, either. We have a relationship; let’s keep it and respect our differences.”

BUT WHERE’S THE LOVE?

Despite all this some Christians feel it’s better to attend and maintain the bond, than to refuse coming and jeopardize a family relationship. I’m sympathetic to that viewpoint. If there’s any way to avoid a breach in the family, without violating our own conscience, then I’m all for it.

But in this case I just don’t see any wiggle room. Jesus’ own reference to marriage was unequivocal: “Have you not read that He who made them from the beginning made them male and female? For this cause man shall leave his father and mother and cleave to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” (Matthew 19:4)

The standard is clear: He who made them from the beginning created the martial bond to be independent, permanent and heterosexual. Removing the complimentary nature of it makes it something else—a committed relationship, perhaps, and one in which both parties love each other deeply. But not, per Biblical standards, a marriage. I simply can’t shake the conviction that attendance at a ceremony attempting to revise this standard is complicity in the revision itself, qualifying for the warning God issued through Jeremiah: “Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!” (Isaiah 5:20)

That’s why I could not attend a same-sex wedding. If I were invited, I would probably say, feeling both sadness and conviction:

I would never ask you to do something which would violate your conscience. Please don’t ask me to violate mine. We have differences, but I hope and pray those differences won’t come between us as people, and that we can both respect each other enough to allow each other’s need to follow our conscience and principles.

So for what it’s worth, that’s where I’ve landed and, as Paul recommended in the verse from Romans quoted above, I’m fully persuaded, so that’s where I’ll stay.

This article was originally posted at joedallas.com and was reposted by permission. Copyright by Joe Dallas.

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Gender, Confusion, and Conversation, Part 2

confusionYOU are an image-bearer. Have you ever paused to consider this weighty theological truth?  Men and women have been given the most profound honor in all of creation: we are created to bear the image of God. We bear God’s image—who He is and how He interacts with the world—in our spirits, souls, and in our bodies as male and female. The enemy is working hard to remove God’s image from the earth by bringing about much confusion regarding gender and sexuality. As image-bearers, we have the privilege of speaking truth into this confusion. We can also take life-giving steps to bless and affirm the God-given gender identity of the children and teenagers in our spheres of influence.

Message #1: Gender is a Social Construct

In order to have life-giving conversations, it is helpful to understand a little of the world’s thinking. We interact with it every day. Overall, the world is communicating three messages. First, gender is a social construct. In other words, gender is a concept created and constructed by people. This philosophy is nothing new. It has been taught in women’s studies courses for decades, but it is now emphasized among mainstream educators and taught as early as kindergarten.

Message #2: Gender is Based on Feelings

Second, the world says that gender is based on feelings, interests, and passions and is defined by each individual. Thus, we have people who identify as “transgender.” Their thoughts, feelings, and interests are classified according to what has historically been assigned to the “other” gender, not the one associated with their physical bodies.  It’s also a perfect confluence of self-determination and post-modern thinking. There is no objective truth—my truth is my truth, and your truth is your truth. Each of us creates that truth on our own, including the truth about our own gender. As a result, there are now 57 genders to choose from on Facebook in the United States.

Disconnected

Much of our culture is working with the misguided idea that gender identity, gender expression, biological sex, and sexual attraction are all independent parts of a person’s makeup. These different areas of a person’s life are all considered to be completely separate from one another. They are based on feelings and completely changeable from day to day. This means that every day, people are choosing whether they feel feminine or masculine. They are deciding how much cultural femininity or masculinity they want to express through clothes, hairstyle, etc. They are selecting how much of their physical female-ness or male-ness they want to exhibit, and whether they sense attraction to men or women.

Message #3: Gender Doesn’t Matter

Third, the world says gender ultimately doesn’t matter. In the end, men and women are interchangeable. There is no difference between the two. The ultimate goal of this line of thinking is androgyny, a world where humans are indistinguishable from one another. Distinction is removed, and the two meld into one. Thus, we have people identifying as “gender fluid” or “queer,” believing that they don’t belong to either gender.

The Truth of God’s Design

The truth, in contrast, is that gender is created by God, gender is defined by God, and distinction between men and women-and unity within marriage-are an intentional act of God.  We believe that God reveals and imparts our complete identity to us at the moment of creation through our embodiment as man or woman. The creation and definition of our identity rests in God’s design, not ours. When a man and woman are united in marriage, the ultimate goal of unity with distinction is shown to the world: two become one, while still remaining two.

Navigating the Chaos

Bottom line, the world’s thinking is rooted in contradiction and chaos. The world is trying to make sense of feelings and experiences while rejecting the truth of God’s design and revelation. Our children and teenagers are encountering this contradiction and chaos daily. Now as a parent of teenagers myself, the topic of gender comes up nearly every day. I am often corrected on the particular pronouns of choice by my daughter’s friends. “Mom, that person is a ‘they’.” Another friend chooses the pronoun “he” when “his” body is definitely a she. While God imparts our gender identity at creation, we also must embrace and grow into that given identity. As parents and mature adults, we can help children and teenagers in our sphere of influence do the same.

Connect Children with Their Bodies

The following tools can help build a solid foundation of blessing and affirming their God-given gender identity. First, within the context of family, we can connect children with their bodies. We can connect children with their male-ness or female-ness. Intentionally call them “son” or “daughter” and “boy” or “girl.” Teach children about their bodies and help them see how their bodies are called good by God. Teach the correct names for body parts and how to protect their bodies from misuse and abuse. This first may require overcoming our own shame about our bodies.

Encourage children to understand how their particular body works, what it does well, what it needs more help doing. Remind boys that their body is distinctive and different from a girl’s and how to take care of all the parts of their body. Remind girls that their body is distinctive and different from a boy’s and how to care for their unique body. Most of all, make your family the place children learn about their bodies. Then when they have questions, they know they can come to moms and dads to ask those questions.

Connect Children with Biblical Gender

Second, we connect children with biblical gender, with special focus on the gender that gives them identity. That is, we help all children do masculine things and express feminine traits. We also make sure boys find connection and identity in the true masculine while helping girls find connection and identity in the true feminine. Families are the first place this type of connection is formed. However, the church family and friends also participate in this connection-building.

Affirming Boys

Help boys find connection to the true masculine. Encourage and affirm them in their strength of character, their willingness to stand up for the truth of God’s Word, and their reaching out to others in relationship. Remind them they are “men of God” and name them as “sons of God.”  Make sure to build up this connection without diminishing their capacity to express the true feminine.

For example, when a young man plays a beautiful piano piece for the offering at church, thank him afterward for the strength of his playing. When a sensitive young man in youth group expresses grief over injustice at his school, commend him for calling out the truth of the situation and his desire to protect those who are vulnerable.

Affirming Girls

Help girls find connection to the true feminine. Encourage and affirm their ability to be at peace in the midst of tough times, their willingness to receive the truth of God’s Word into their hearts, and their capacity to live without anxiety about relationships. Name them “daughters of God” and remind them they are “women of God.” Build the connection without diminishing their ability to express the true masculine.

For example, when a young woman comes to church dressed in an androgynous style, compliment the beauty of her spirit and the tenderness of her dealings with others. When you notice a young woman speaking up regularly in Bible Study, commend her for her willingness to receive the truth of God’s Word in her heart. In all these situations, we build up people’s connection to their gender identity, while still allowing them to express characteristics of the other as they grow into full image-bearers.

Connect Children with Distinctions

Third, we encourage and affirm distinctions that arise from the differences between men and women. Take notice and talk about the different ways men and women think, feel, and behave because of their embodiments as male and female. Be aware of our cultural biases here, however. It can be helpful for children to find connection to things that fall into a cultural norm to encourage a sense of belonging, but we must avoid extremism. Toys, activities, clothes, hairstyles, and interests don’t inherently have gender, even though our culture often associates these things with a particular gender. Girls can like sports, and boys can like music without it meaning anything about their gender or sexual identity. Still, girls will do sports differently than boys; boys will do music differently than girls.

Continuing the Conversation

These tools can provide an environment that affirms children in identity and reduces the risk of confusion. They are, unfortunately, not a guarantee. As parents, we strive to fill our children’s hearts with the truth of God. We help them learn to nurture that truth, protecting it from interference from the world until it can bear fruit. We connect to a church body that helps continue this process, helping us teach and train our children in the truth of God’s Word. However, at some point, we all have to let our children move out from under our protection to protect and nurture the truth themselves. As our children mature, they are ultimately responsible for their own relationship with God and their own understanding of God’s Word. We continue to have ongoing, life-giving conversations with our children even after this point. We encourage a biblical understanding of gender and identity, directing them always to God’s design for their lives.

Our world is slipping further and further into gender and sexual confusion. It is now even more important that we have a grasp on what the world is thinking and understand God’s design for us as men and women. Within our families and churches, we must bless and affirm biblical gender and have ongoing, life-giving conversations about gender and sexuality. We need to have discussions about what it means to be God’s image-bearers in the world. These conversations will equip us and our children to have life-giving conversations with those in our communities. Our children are image-bearers of God. Let us as parents and the Body of Christ strive to impart this understanding into their hearts. May fully live as God has designed them, each one.

This article is the second in a three-part series. Part 1 covers biblical gender; Part 2 addresses gender confusion and ways to have life-giving conversations within families and churches. Part 3 covers how to have life-giving conversations with friends and individuals in your communities.

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Turning Hearts

Elijah CompanyElijah Company is Outpost’s prayer and support group for parents, family and friends of loved ones who are overcoming unwanted same-sex attractions, struggling with gender confusion or who identify as LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer/Questioning).

A former staff member began the group in 2013 when he noticed a great area of need remaining unmet. Parents were taking our introductory Foundations of Healing class, but they were left with no other ongoing support and encouragement for the unique and painful challenges they were facing within their families. More often than not, they did not experience church as a safe place to open up.

Turning Hearts

The name Elijah Company is based upon Malachi 4:5-6, “See, I will send the prophet Elijah to you before that great and dreadful day of the Lord comes. He will turn the hearts of the parents to their children, and the hearts of the children to their parents . . .” (NIV). Part of God’s strategy in preparing his Bride before His return is bringing restoration to the family, and we believe it begins by turning the hearts of the parents.

Loving Wisely, Standing Firmly

Elijah Company (affectionately referred to as EC) seeks to equip participants to love wisely and stand firmly on God’s Word. EC weekly meetings focus on praying for one another, with the goal of family restoration, healing and reconciliation. The group is designed to build an authentic community of intercessors and create a place of refuge, support and encouragement. One EC participant wrote, “The support from Elijah Company leadership and families has sustained us. Our family covets the weekly prayers over us and for all of us battling this worldview.”

Elijah Company South

Four years later, Elijah Company is still going strong here at our main location in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area with another group running at our Outpost North location in Brainerd, Minnesota. This October, we will begin an additional Elijah Company South in the Southwest Metro Area! A church with a heart for the ministry of Outpost and to be a safe place is partnering with us to host the group. It will be led by EC participants Al and Susan who have remained closely connected to the ministry.

A Mother’s Heartache

Susan shares some of her first thoughts after her son came out as gay: “’Who will really understand how I feel? Who will hand me the Kleenex when I just can’t hold the tears back any longer? Who will totally support my decision to not agree with the lifestyle my son has chosen to live? Who will pray for me by my name? Who will pray for my son by name, that his heart would turn solely to the Lord and away from his homosexual activities? There’s got to be some individuals who have not bought into the lie that God says this lifestyle is acceptable. There’s got to be others who are experiencing the heartache I feel.’”

She continues, “I did find such a place. I found it at Outpost Ministries. I found it in their Elijah Company group that meets weekly. It’s a group of moms, dads, grandparents, aunts, uncles, brothers, sisters, and neighbors of individuals who are burden by loved ones dealing with homosexual thoughts or actions.

“I have to admit that, at first, going to Elijah Company was painful. I dreaded each week, actually. By attending, I had to admit and face what was happening within my family. I listened to the heartache of others who came and felt their sorrow week after week. I was mentally wiped by the time I reached home.

“However, I was in the midst of great people within the group. I was surrounded by prayer warriors. These people knew how to ‘bring it to the Lord in prayer.’ I could feel God’s presence within the group. There was no doubt to me of His loving presence. I faithfully attended week after week. Then God touched me and assured me that I would find hope, joy, and peace in this group and also within my heart. That indeed has happened. Elijah Company is no longer an activity that I dread to attend. The group is powerful. We share our burdens and our joys, we listen, we teach, we read the Bible, we sing, we pray.”

The Light of Fellowship

Susan’s authenticity is an invitation to others to come out of their painful isolation into the light of fellowship with one another. Join others in passionate intercession for a sister or neighbor to encounter Christ. Anyone interested in attending Elijah Company South must first complete an intake meeting with Outpost ministry staff and complete the Foundations course before joining the group. Contact us through our website or by giving us a call, 763-592-4700, to schedule a meeting. Current Elijah Company participants wanting to meet at the new location can attend the new group once it begins. Contact your EC group leader for details.

We are blessed at how God is growing the reach of Outpost Ministries. Indeed, with the explosion of gender and sexual confusion in our society, especially among young people, there is an increase in the number of parents, families and individuals having to navigate through these issues. Please pray for protection for the leaders, new participants and even for the hosting church as we work to get this additional group off the ground.

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Still Shining, Still Growing!

growingOver 40 years ago, God had a plan for Outpost Ministries. Knowing the trajectory of culture, He made a way for those struggling with unwanted same-sex attractions. He established this ministry to stand for the truth of God’s Word in the wave of delusion that would soon wash over this great nation.

Forty one years later, we are still a beacon of hope to the sexually and relationally broken and their families. And we are growing!

A few months ago, I wrote about Outpost North, our branch office in Brainerd, MN. Now I’m excited to tell you about two other expanding programs.

Living Waters

Living Waters is a 20-week, closed group for men and women seeking healing in their lives. It includes worship, teaching and small-group prayer ministry. Ultimately, we learn how to press into Jesus more deeply, allowing Him to meet our needs and transform us for His Kingdom purposes. We have been running Living Waters as a regular part of our programming for many years. This year we will not only run a group in the North Metro area of the Twin Cities but also one in the South.

Elijah Company South

As you may have read, Elijah Company is a group for parents, family and friends of those impacted by homosexuality. The group provides prayer and support for its participants. This fall, this group will be held in both the North and South Metro areas as well.

I am so blessed to see the Lord continuing to expand this much needed ministry in this hour. Jesus Christ has life-changing power for ALL who will turn from their sinful ways and make Him the Lord of their life.

Once again, I thank you for all your prayers and financial support. We cannot do this without you. Let’s us continue to stand in the gap for those who so desperately need the transforming love of our Savior Jesus. He is able to do more than we can ask or imagine.

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Introducing Outpost North!

Outpost NorthWe have been waiting for the right moment to announce our new branch Outpost North in Brainerd, MN! Outpost North offers our Foundations course to anyone struggling with unwanted same-sex attractions, family members, and pastors and ministry leaders who want to learn more about Outpost and the healing journey. They have also started an Elijah Company group for parents, family and friends of gay-identified loved ones.

Our Outpost North Coordinator, Angie, has a beautiful testimony of the Lord pursuing her, even in the midst of her sin and brokenness. She now has a husband and a little girl—a little girl who would not exist had the enemy succeeded in his plans to keep Angie from her true identity and destiny in God.

Angie understands by experience that it is the Father’s desire to restore the broken-hearted and restore the family. Malachi 4:5-6 says, “’Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord. And he will turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the earth with a curse” (NKJV). Seeing the restoration of the family is our vision at Outpost Ministries and TCJHOP because we believe that it is the Lord’s end-time strategy to bring healing to families, to the family of God and to our society. Thank you for partnering with us in this mighty work the Lord is doing among us!

Parents Empowered

Elijah ComanyAt Outpost we have an amazing group called Elijah Company for parents with sons and daughters dealing with same-sex attractions. In Elijah Company, these parents have the opportunity to pray for one another and support each other in what can often be a very difficult and confusing time.

We want parents to feel empowered to fight for their children. We want them to be refreshed by the Holy Spirit. We want to encourage them that to fight for the truth of their child’s identity is a good fight. And we want to exhort them to keep fighting even when the journey is long and discouraging. We want to equip them with practical tools and insights so they ca be effective examples of the love of Jesus to their gay-identified sons or daughters.

We do not want them to leave feeling shamed or judged. I always tell parents, Adam and Eve had the perfect parent, and they still chose to sin.

One of the first assignments I often give the parents I work with is to seek the Lord for a higher vision of their child. Often times the enemy will prey on young people with a profound calling on their lives. I encourage parents to ask the Lord,  “What is our child’s destiny in You?” God has a higher vision for their child that includes spiritual aspects (evangelist, leader, healer), marriage and family, vocation, to name a few.

Parents must know the truth of who their child is in order to effectively fight. I have them journal the vision and keep it in a place that is easily accessible so that it can be a touchstone in those moments of struggle.

This journal then becomes a “prayer manual” of sorts. It provides language from heaven to pray and declare God’s truth over their child. This vision will fuel passion to continue to fight the good fight.

Elijah Company is just one of the many resources that Outpost has to offer the sexually and relationally broken. Your prayerful and financial partnership helps to make it all happen. Thank you!

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