From evolving societal perceptions of gender and sexuality and from newly adjusted legal definitions of marriage emanating from SCOTUS emerge significant complications for churches and other faith-based organizations. As a result, there has recently been a wave of attention given to addressing issues of gender, sexuality, and marriage. Largely motivated by self-preservation (understandably so) many are now devoting effort to the necessary details of precision and transparency regarding these issues. Precision and transparency are always good things, so it is unfortunate that it sometimes takes external challenges to get us to think in those terms. Nonetheless, an hour has arrived where precision and transparency are exactly what is needed.
To effectively meet the needs of the hour, a Biblical statement on gender, sexuality, and marriage should address the interrelatedness of gender, sexuality, and marriage, and it should – of course – be Biblical. It is also best, for broadest application, to positively assert these things, rather than to focus on the negative aspects of what doesn’t fit the Biblical model. By positively and comprehensively asserting a Biblical model, there is little – if any – doubt left as to what does and what does not fall within Biblical norm.
Above all, in the spirit of speaking the truth in love (Eph 4:15), a statement on gender, sexuality, and marriage should be gracious and explanatory. It should not be a device intended to control behavior, but rather should help to explain what is God’s design for whole and healthy gender and sexuality expression. In so doing, such a statement should also identify God’s prescription for life and wholeness – we can make the most of a remarkable opportunity that is before us to communicate the good news of Jesus Christ to a world that is seeking identity and fulfillment.
The following is a brief statement that attempts to accomplish each of these things, and which may be useful for churches and other ministries to clarify their positions in a loving, precise, and Biblical way:
A Biblical Statement on Gender, Sexuality, and Marriage
God created human beings distinctly as male and female (Gen 1:27). The distinctness, complementarity, and relational nature of the human race as “male and female” is based on the created order given by God when He created humanity “in His image” (Gen 1:26-27; 5:1-3; 9:6; 1 Cor 11:7; Jam 3:9; 2 Cor 3:18; Eph 4:23-24; Col 3:10), and these establish a normative connection between biological sex and gender. The created distinctness, complementarity, and relational nature also establish the basis for the marital relationship as being between one man and one woman (Gen 2:23-24; Eph 5:21-33).
The Bible affirms two options or giftings for sexual expression: monogamous marital relations between one man and one woman (Gen 1:27-28; 2:18, 21-24; Mt 19:4-6; Mk 10:5-8; 1 Cor 7:7; Heb 13:4; Eph 5:22), or sexual celibacy, if one is not in a monogamous marital relationship between one man and one woman (1 Cor 7:7; Mt 19:12). Within these two Biblical designs there can be found sexual fulfillment, whereas outside these two designs sexual expression is improper.
The Bible affirms that human sexuality is a gift to be treasured and enjoyed (Gen 2:24; Prov 5:19, 31:10; 1 Cor 7:4), as is sexual celibacy (1 Cor 7:7). The fall of humanity (Gen 3) corrupted human sexuality in both spiritual and physical ways (Rom 1:18-32, Eph 2:1-10), and one result is confusion and pain in the lives of those who struggle with brokenness regarding gender, and who struggle with the guilt of desiring sinful expressions of sexuality (Gen 3:1-7; Rom 3:9-18; 5:12-17). The Bible prescribes faith in Jesus Christ (1 Cor 15:2-3) as the remedy for guilt and as the provision for life (Rom 3:23, 6:23; Jn 3:16), and the Bible prescribes an ongoing relationship with Him as the means for a whole and fulfilling life (Jn 15:1-11, 17:3; Col 3:16; Gal 5:16-25; Rom 8:28-38).