“Ultimately, for me, it came down to the Bible’s overarching themes of love and compassion and my belief that we are all children of God.” Ohio Senator Rob Portman (here)
In the debate over gay marriage, the beliefs espoused by Rob Portman will continue to gain traction among those who, like the Ohio Senator, have heretofore opposed so-called same-sex marriage. In the end, all we need — and all that matters — is love. Love will trump truth and it will not even be close. Of course, Biblical love and Biblical truth are not incompatible, but in a culture which has embraced a life lived on how one feels — not how one thinks — then truth will be expendable.
One can hardly blame Senator Portman for his change of heart on gay marriage. As a Congressman, he voted in favor of the Defense of Marriage Act in 1996. But, that was 15 years before his son, a freshman at Yale University in 2011, would announce to the Senator and his wife that he was gay:
He said it (his son’s announcement) prompted him to reconsider gay marriage from a different perspective, that of a father who wants all three of his children to have happy lives with people they love.” (here)
As the father of three sons myself, I can certainly relate to Senator Portman’s desire that all of his children “have happy lives with people they love.” After all, who among us wouldn’t want their own children to find happiness and love with significant others? But, how can one find true happiness — much less true love — when that happiness and love is rooted in what the Bible calls sin? Quite simply, one can’t. The truth of the matter is that there can be no happiness or love — at least as the Creator has defined them — outside of the bounds of Biblical marriage. Of course, sometimes happiness and love are absent from marriages between one man and one woman, but that does not change the truth that God has designed marriage from the very beginning to be a picture of Christ and His bride, the Church:
Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband. (Ephesians 5:25-33, ESV)
For those who don’t want to accept what the Apostle Paul wrote as truth, none other than Jesus Himself spoke of God’s design for marriage:
And Pharisees came up to him and tested him by asking, “Is it lawful to divorce one’s wife for any cause?” He answered, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said,‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” (Gospel of Matthew 19:3-6)
If Jesus, who is “full of grace and truth” (John 1:14), did not change the definition of marriage, the truth is that we are not at liberty to change the definition of marriage either, no matter how loving or compassionate we might want to seem. In our culture — even among Christian leaders — there is often confusion as to how love (grace) and truth co-exist together in perfect harmony. And, if there is confusion among pastors, it should not surprise us when folks in the pew, like Rob Portman, choose love/grace over truth when it comes to same-sex marriage:
“I have come to believe that if two people are prepared to make a lifetime commitment to love and care for each other in good times and in bad, the government shouldn’t deny them the opportunity to get married.”
In the coming days, it will not just be the Bill Clintons of the world who change their minds on gay marriage. There will be more conservative Republicans who will have a change of heart and mind on the issue of same-sex marriage. In America, love will always trump truth. That doesn’t make it right. That’s why the Church must continue to proclaim the truth in love, even when others won’t. After all, it is only the Truth which will set people free to be able to find true happiness and love.