Former President Jimmy Carter has just celebrated his 90th birthday. In an interview with the Huffington Post, he was asked about the subject of same-sex marriage. Carter, a long-time Sunday School teacher, has always held a pretty liberal theology, which comes through in his response on this issue.
“I think Jesus would encourage any love affair if it was honest and sincere and was not damaging to anyone else, and I don’t see that gay marriage damages anyone else.”
Mr. Carter gives his clear opinion of what Jesus would and wouldn’t approve of. He rationalizes how same sex marriage may or may not affect others, and based on his own rationalization, he comes to a conclusion. One that feels good. One that makes other people feel good.
Isn’t this always our mistake? We make moral judgements based on how we think, or how we feel. The thing about morality is that it simply cannot be based on our feelings and thoughts in the moment. Morality must remain constant. It can’t be blown around by the winds of culture or circumstances. Morality is grounded in the character of God. Without something absolute to ground it to, it ceases to be morality.. It becomes simple permissibility. Without this absolute grounding, then we can only grade on a vague, ambiguous sliding scale. Right and wrong then get mixed based on our momentary circumstances.
Morality comes from the character of God.
So, when it comes to questions like this one, we can’t point back to our feelings or our thought processes… We must point back to the Giver of morality to begin with.
As a Sunday School teacher, Carter should know exactly how Jesus feels about same sex marriage. Yep, Jesus himself was questioned about redefining marriage, and He did exactly what Mr. Carter should have done. Rather than give his opinion, Jesus pointed right back to the character of God.
Here’s how the story goes… A group of religious people approached Jesus to see if they could redefine marriage. It turns out that in the 1st century, marriage could be difficult! Who would have thought?? And on top of that, these poor guys were stuck with old, seemingly outdated laws and views about the sacredness of marriage. They wanted to redefine it to make it easier for them to get in and out of it at their convenience. They wanted to bring marriage into the 1st century!
Jesus could have easily pointed back to the laws governing marriage in Deuteronomy. He could have started a marriage counseling ministry. He could have gotten bogged down in the weeds of people’s feelings and how their marriages effected others. Instead, he showed amazing clarity when he bypassed all that, and pointed straight back to the marriage plan of God, found in Genesis 1, at the very moment of their creation.
“Haven’t you read the Scriptures?” Jesus replied. “They record that from the beginning ‘God made them male and female.’ And he said, ‘This explains why a man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.’ Since they are no longer two but one, let no one split apart what God has joined together.”
-Jesus, Matthew 19:4-6
There simply is no other argument in this national dialogue. God created marriage to be the way He wanted it to be. Jesus clearly affirmed that definition. He tied it back to God Himself, and he did not leave it open to interpretation. Who are we to redefine what God has created based on our feelings, Mr. Carter? Haven’t you read the Scriptures?
It turns out that God had a clear purpose in creating marriage the way he created it. You can listen to my recent message, “Why We Stand Where We Stand” to discover God’s purpose for marriage.