At some point, it is likely that many of us will be invited to the wedding of a gay friend or relative and it’s good to think about how we will respond.
This is clearly a personal issue involving deep feelings and the need to be pastorally sensitive. It’s important to say right from the start that there are different points of view on the question amongst Christians and there is no hard-and-fast answer that fits all circumstances. God calls us to exercise wisdom and discretion and look to him when facing difficult decisions. So how can we apply some biblical principles when thinking through our response to this question?
God calls us to exercise wisdom and discretion and look to him when facing difficult decisions.
Firstly, we need to make sure that we’re not treating our gay friends and family as special cases. We shouldn’t behave as though homosexuality is the only sin (or the worst sin) in our own lives or the lives of our loved ones. It’s clear that we have all fallen short of God’s ideal in a whole host of ways (Romans 3:23). It’s helpful to think of other similar situations where God is not being honoured to gauge how we should respond. I have attended completely non-Christian weddings between a man and a woman where secular values have been promoted and God has been completely pushed out. Whilst this isn’t what I want for the couple, I have felt that it is important to show love to my family and friends and be there as a Christian witness.
The question of whether the couple are Christians or not is important. 1 Corinthians 5:1-11 makes a helpful distinction between those inside and outside the church. I would be more inclined to go to a non-Christian gay wedding simply because it’s unrealistic to expect people to live in a Christ-like way if they’re not following Christ. If I boycotted everything that non-Christians did because I didn’t approve, I wouldn’t get out much (or have many friends)! With Christians, it is more problematic. I would find it incredibly hard to go to a ceremony that was asking for God’s blessing on a relationship that sits outside of his design for human flourishing. I suspect that I would turn down most gay weddings between professing Christians, unless perhaps they were family. I once declined an invitation to a wedding between a Christian man and woman because it was the result of a very recent extra-marital affair that the couple weren’t repentant about. I hope that I handled this sensitively and I sought to preserve the friendship in spite of our differences.
Another consideration is whether we’ve been asked to participate in the ceremony. Going along as an observer to support our friends is very different from playing an active role in the ceremony. I would personally decline the latter, whatever the circumstances. It might be helpful to flip the situation and think about our non-Christian friends and family coming to a service at our church. They may not share our beliefs, and we wouldn’t expect them to actively participate if that felt uncomfortable for them. But we would be honoured that they care enough about us to enter our world and join in something important to us. Of course, ultimately, we want our friends to recognise the reality of the Christian worldview, but we create the best opportunities for this when we are prepared to be involved in our friends’ lives in a meaningful way.
It would seem unwise to use the invitation to a wedding as the first opportunity to make our views on the partnership known.
The question of whether or not the couple already know our views is important. With closer friends or family, this is highly likely, and the fact that we’ve been invited in spite of differing views is a big deal. It would seem unwise to use the invitation to a wedding as the first opportunity to make our views on the partnership known.
How we accept or decline the invitation is really important. The nature of our relationship with our friends is key and we must always act with grace, love and truth. Hopefully, as we have been invited to their special day, we will have the kind of relationship where we can be open about our own thoughts and beliefs. Whatever our decision, we need to remember that this is a very significant day for our friends and it’s good to acknowledge that it’s lovely of them to have invited us. Ideally, we will have been able to talk about our faith and sexuality before the wedding invitation arrives, and it’s good to try and keep the communication channels open for on-going conversations. Most importantly, we can share our lives with our gay friends and model what Christ-centred living and godly hope looks like.
When making this decision, it is really important that we examine our motivations. Certainly, we shouldn’t be driven by fear or awkwardness or reluctance to address big issues with our friends. The gospel is great news for gay people and it’s wonderful that we have gay family and friends with whom we can share Christ’s love. We need to examine our own hearts and work out whether our desire is to lovingly point our friends to Christ, or whether we’re more concerned with passing moral judgement and protecting our own reputation and signalling to others that we are ‘sound’ Christians. Of course, we must avoid the parallel danger of protecting our reputation as loving and tolerant people by rejecting biblical teaching on sexuality.
We need to examine our own hearts and work out whether our desire is to lovingly point our friends to Christ, or whether we’re more concerned with passing moral judgement and protecting our own reputation.
As with many difficult decisions that contemporary Christian living presents us with, we would do well to pray continually and seek counsel from wise and godly friends. We must resist individualism and work out together, as the body of Christ, how we can love our gay friends and family and hold out the good news of the gospel to them.
It is likely that we will need to make decisions on a case-by-case basis, thinking about some of the considerations above. This is a matter of exercising godly wisdom rather than following proscribed rules. The decision is a matter of conscience and we need to make sure that we’re not guilty of judging other Christians for their actions, but allow them to consider how to respond with integrity before the Lord. We are called to love everyone, regardless of their lifestyles, and we’re also called to expose sin and present a life-giving, godly alternative. Most importantly, we need to make decisions prayerfully, compassionately and with a view to what best serves the honour of the Lord Jesus, and the spread of the gospel.