Recently, Dan Rodricks wrote an op-ed piece in The Baltimore Sun, entitled, “What would Jesus do on same-sex marriage?” He wrote this mainly as a response to remarks made by the Rev. Robert Anderson, pastor of Colonial Baptist Church in Randallstown, MD, regarding same-sex marriage. Rev. Anderson quoted from Leviticus 18:22 and Romans 1:32 to show that both the Old and New Testaments teach that homosexuality, among other sins and lifestyles, is “deserving of death”. This particular phrase has since caused a firestorm and has led Rodricks to question if it is particularly “Christian”. He clarified, “By Christian, of course, I mean people whose religious beliefs are rooted in the teachings of the prophet Jesus of Nazareth and the New Testament, including the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.” But he quickly notes that he does not recognize the other writings of Scripture as particularly relevant to a “Christian” understanding:
Being Catholic, I was deprived of full schooling in the Old Testament — Leviticus, et al — but I never felt a need to reach much beyond the teachings of Christ to have a foundation in Christianity.
And as much as I enjoy readings from the Gospel, I’m no scholar of the New Testament nor, with so much great literature still to read, do I intend to spend a lot of time with Paul’s epistles to the Romans. Frankly, I don’t need to.
Rodricks limits Jesus’ messages to three main teachings: 1) The Golden Rule (“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”); 2) The Sermon on the Mount, “with all it’s hopeful and humane teachings about the poor, the hungry, the meek, the merciful, the persecuted, and the peacemakers;” and 3) “Judge not, lest you be judged.” Actually, the first and third teachings are also found in the Sermon on the Mount.
It is also in the Sermon on the Mount, however, that Jesus himself affirmed the Old Testament as authoritative:
Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 5:17-19).
Jesus actually gave two commands to sum up all that he and that Law before him taught:
And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 22:37-40)
To love God, according to Deuteronomy 6, is to devote one’s entire being to following him and his commands, which define what it means to love him and others. Disobedience, then, exposes an area in life where one does not fully love God. Jesus did not ignore that; he reinforced it (John 14:15,21,23-24). To love others, according to Leviticus 19, is to care for one another in such a way that the holiness of God is seen through one’s life. Again, Jesus affirmed this (Matthew 5:14-16). Love for others, then, cannot be divorced from love for God; the latter produces the former.
Jesus was also the one who commissioned the apostles to teach (Matthew 28:18-20), including Paul (Acts 9:1-6,10-16). They recognized their authority as coming directly from Jesus. So it would not be right to limit the meaning of “Christian teaching” to the words that are in red.
Even if one would focus solely on the teachings of Jesus, however, he still would not find warrant for same-sex marriage. In Matthew 19 Jesus affirmed that marriage was heterosexual (v. 4: “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female”), monogamous (v. 5: “‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’”), and permanent (v. 6: “So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.”). His teaching was not contradictory to the Old Testament or to the apostles that followed him.
Jesus did not affirm same-sex marriage then, and he would not now. Contrary to popular opinion, the reason is not hatred or bigotry, but love. It is true that Jesus’ primary mission was not to condemn the world, but it is also true that the world is already condemned (John 3:17-21). The love of Christ was demonstrated in his substitutionary death for the salvation of sinners by taking their condemnation upon himself (John 3:16; 1 John 4:9-10) in order to bring a holy people to God (1 Peter 3:18). And he calls for Christians to join him in this love (1 John 4:11)– a love that does not turn a blind eye to sin or is discriminatory in selecting who will be loved. Rather, it is a love that truly frees us from our foolish sense of self-sufficiency, self-centeredness, self-righteousness, and self-conceit, so that we would offer our whole beings to him and give whatever we must of ourselves so that others would join us in true devotion to him.
Jesus is much more marvelous than the progressive caricature of him, for he does not divorce love for God from love of neighbor. He, like the prophets before him and the apostles after him, upheld marriage as a union of one man and one woman, in obedience to God’s created pattern. To say otherwise is not only unloving, but it would be the exact opposite of love. It would be, in reality, truly judgmental.