You’ve asked one of the most divisive and sensitive questions anyone could possibly raise at this particular moment in the history of western culture. But the cultural implications, as important as they are, pale somewhat in comparison to the personal pain and confusion this scenario entails for you and your extended family. We want you to know that our hearts go out to you in the midst of your agony. You have a difficult decision to make, and one that will require a great deal of love, wisdom, and discernment. We’d consider it a privilege to offer a few thoughts as you walk through that process.
Before attempting to do this, we’d like to make one thing perfectly clear: Focus on the Family cannot advise you to attend this event. Our position on homosexual behavior and same-sex marriage is well known to everyone who is familiar with our ministry. We believe that homosexual unions are inconsistent with God’s design for human sexuality as set forth in the opening pages of the Bible and in the words of Jesus Himself: “From the beginning of creation, God made them male and female. For this cause a man shall leave his father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh…” (Mark 10:6-8; quoting Genesis 1:27 and 2:24). For obvious reasons, we have natural sympathies with your concerns about “celebrating a sinful event.” We understand what you’re saying because we share your point of view.
It’s important to keep in mind that your decision will have ramifications at many levels. For instance, attendance at a wedding ceremony is generally understood to signify one’s support of and commitment to the union that is being established. It makes that statement to the couple, to others attending, and to society at large. And while what will occur in this case will not be an actual “marriage” – that is, the joining together of the two unique expressions of humanity, male and female – nevertheless, it is an effort to formalize a relationship that both contravenes Scripture and will ultimately be detrimental to the two individuals involved.
Even so, we recognize that there are other considerations at play, foremost among them your desire to maintain an ongoing relationship with this family member. We’ll offer a few additional thoughts below, but given these and various other complex factors, we would strongly urge you to discuss this matter with your pastor, assuming you attend a Bible-believing church. He will likely be in the best position to offer wise, scripturally sound guidance to you in this situation.
From a certain perspective, we can see this as a “Romans 14 issue:” one of those thorny questions that aren’t covered by a clear scriptural “thou shalt” or “thou shalt not,” and about which every believer needs to be “fully convinced in his own mind” (Romans 14:5). Dilemmas of this type can only be resolved by an appeal to conscience and careful consideration of the basic moral and spiritual principles involved. It’s at this point that we think we may be able to provide you with some helpful counsel.
Let’s begin by examining your assumptions. Based on what you’ve told us, we get the impression that you take the following propositions for granted:
- If you want to protect your relationship with this family member, you will have to attend the wedding.
- If you don’t attend the wedding, the relationship will be destroyed.
Viewed in these terms, your dilemma does appear to be practically insoluble. But we’d like to suggest that neither of these assumptions is necessarily accurate or valid. There may be other ways of looking at the situation. Modern society often confuses love with approval. To a certain extent, the language in which you’ve framed your question indicates that you may have fallen prey to this confusion. You won’t be able to overcome your crisis of indecision until you recognize the mix-up for what it is and find a way to move beyond it.
There is no doubt that you, as a Christian, ought to place a high priority on preserving and maintaining a positive relationship with the family member in question. To do this, you need to find consistent ways of expressing and demonstrating your love for him or her. But you must realize that love and approval are not always the same thing.
Here, as in so many other cases, Jesus is our example. In John Chapter 4 we find an account of His remarkable conversation with the woman at the well. According to the mores and values of Jewish society at the time, Christ had at least three good reasons to steer clear of this individual: 1) she was a woman; 2) she was a Samaritan; and 3) she was sexually confused and promiscuous. Under the circumstances, Jesus had to be aware that His decision to speak with this woman would invite questions and criticism. In spite of this, He scandalously overleapt all of the social barriers in order to show His love and concern for her. But in doing so, He never once expressed approval for her lifestyle or behavior. On the contrary, He guided the discussion in such a way that she eventually came to see her illegitimate liaisons with men for what they were – sinful errors that needed to be acknowledged, confessed, and repented.
Christ’s actions on this occasion teach us something about the difference between comfort and conscience. For Jesus, as a first-century Jewish man, it may not have been entirely convenient or comfortable to engage this woman in conversation. In a very real sense, He had to step outside of His comfort zone in order to communicate God’s love to her. But in the process He never violated His conscience or the divine standard of righteousness, nor did He say or do anything that could be construed as an “endorsement” of sin.
Whatever decision you make, we think it would be a good idea to express your feelings openly and honestly to this family member. Be candid, and use straightforward “I-based” language. Say something like, “I care about you, and I sincerely want to continue my relationship with you in the future. At the same time, I have sincere, faith-based concerns about same-sex relationships. In light of these concerns, I feel strongly inclined to __________. I don’t know how you’ll respond to my decision, but I wanted to let you know what I’m thinking and where I’m coming from before we move ahead.” No matter what, make sure you do what you can do to keep this relationship alive and on a positive footing. For instance, perhaps you can meet for coffee or lunch on an ongoing basis.
Ultimately, you must stay true to your convictions and leave the outcome in God’s hands. Relationships are a two-way street, so while you are responsible for your words, attitudes and actions, you really have no control over your family member’s reaction. Keep in mind, too, that this could well be the first of many potentially thorny issues as you have contact with this couple down the road, such as how you’ll respond if they ask to share a room in your home during a visit. Furthermore, it could also well be an initial building block to an authentic, honest, and positively influential relationship despite these differences – one that genuinely embodies Christ to these individuals. The tone and precedent you set on this occasion will help lay the groundwork for your subsequent interactions.
If you’d like to discuss this question at greater length with a member of our staff, contact our Counseling department for a free phone consultation. They’ll be happy to assist you in any way they can.
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