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Note: This article presumes a shared understanding of Christian sexual ethics. If you are still learning about what constitutes a Christian view on these things, or you do not share the biblical view, then you're still welcome to read, but just be aware that many statements are not qualified and no attempt has been made to explain or convince you of these things. I am aware that even saying "the biblical view" or "Christian view" implies that there is only one viable view of sexuality in the Church, and that is intentional. The present proliferation of novel sexual ethics accepted in some parts of the wider Church should be rejected. Once again, this is not a defence of that view but for those who already receive it.


Recently there has been something of an online storm among reformed evangelicals around the question of attending weddings, in particular a "transgender wedding" or "gay wedding". Now I believe there is usually very little to be gained by publicly commenting on internet uproars, but every now and again it is appropriate, especially when it has real world implications for the practice of our faith here and now. In this case it provides an opportunity for us to get our ducks in a row so that when we're faced with the issue ourselves we're already equiped to deal with it.


Unfortunately this stir-up is a result of Alistair Begg recommending a Christian grandmother attend her grandson's (or granddaughter's) "transgender wedding" and even give a gift. Alistair has been a trusted and faithful Gospel preacher for many decades, so this recent advice has caught a lot of people off guard. Alistair has not shifted in his theology, yet the application of his theology has exposed a weakness that many of us as evangelical Christians didn't realise we have. More on this weakness in a moment.


I'm certainly not going to bore you with a rehashed history of who-said-what in this Alistair Begg stir-up, but only mention it to set the scene for this discussion. You can look it up on your own and I commend the advice of Piper, as well as direct you to responses provided by Wilson and Friel. We're not decrying Begg as a heretic, but we must certainly say he got this advice very wrong.


We're living in the midst of cultural upheaval in the west. Many Christians are grappling with how to walk faithfully in the midst of a society that seems hell-bent on turning itself into a dystopian-technoutopia that could out-sin Tyre & Sidon. The Christian trying to be faithful is often unsure who to listen to in the cacophony of voices. Some of the public Christian leaders who we have traditionally respected have become suspiciously quiet or soft, as a recent conference panel demonstrated. John Dickson, Sam Allberry and D.A. Carson all on the same panel ducked an opportunity to make clear statements on essentially this issue.



Exposing our Weakness

So what's the weakness I mentioned? As followers of Christ we follow our Lord's example of placing a high value on compassionate, gracious love as well as a high value on righteousness, holiness and truth. Sometimes we get into situations in life where we think these things are in opposition to one another and we must prioritise one over the other.  Look at this example, imagine someone says: "I received wedding invite to my friend's gay wedding. I don't approve of what they're doing because God doesn't approve. However, if I don't go, he is going to feel hurt by me." If your answer in this moment is to say "While not going would show you're separated from that sin (i.e. holy), you should go to show God's love," then you have got the weakness of which I was speaking.


Let's explore this for a second. God is Holy and God is Love. Yet when we suggest we must suspend holiness to pursue love the first issue here is making God's attributes, and by extension our calling, a house divided against itself. It makes love an enemy of holiness. Can anyone seriously argue that somehow in the nature of God there is internal strife? Is there a discontinuity in God where an aspect of His perfect nature is at odds with another aspect? Implying that it's more important for you to show love than to show holiness pits one against the other in a way that God does not.


The second issue here is disconnecting love from God, and making people the arbiter of what is loving. When we disconnect love from God then we end up in all sorts of bad places, like approving of sin in the name of love. We should not take our ideas of what is loving and call that godly love, instead we let God show us what true love is. God's love is one that does not approve or mingle with sin, but that absolutely always fits with true holiness.


It is because the LORD is both fully loving and fully holy that we have the Good News that Jesus came into the world to deal with sin through love and make humans holy. God loved us despite our sin, but then acted to save us from our sin.


Now I'm sure you have a bunch of follow up questions to this topic, so let me move away from talking in the abstract and answer some likley questions.



What weddings should Christians avoid?

We should stay away from not only bad weddings, but any celebration of sin. This includes weddings where the one or both have unrighteously ended a previous marriage, such as guy leaving his wife to marry a mistress because this would be endorsing adultery (Mt 5:32, Mk 10:11-12). It also includes incestuous marriage and marriages where a believer is willingly entering into a marriage with a non-believer (1 Co 5:1–2, 2 Co 6:14). It's all sin, so we can't turn up and celebrate it.


Gay marriage is not a real entity. Like the word "nothing" we can use it to describe an idea, but gay marriage does not really exist. It is not joined in heaven by God, and is only a sinful counterfeit of the real thing. God made marriage, uniting husband and wife (Mt 19:4–6). We cannot turn around and change the meaning of what God has established. Gay "weddings" are both an endorsement of homosexuality and a perversion of what marriage means, making it doubly an affront to God (1 Co 6:9–11, Leviticus 18:22, Ro 1:24–27). Steer clear.


Transgender marriage is also off the table. If there is a man marrying a "transgender woman" or vice-versa, it is actually a homosexual marriage (see paragraph above). If it is a woman marrying a "transgender woman" while it is technically a man-woman marriage, it is still cosplaying as a homosexual marriage, which is not something Christians can get on board with (Deu 22:5, 1 Ti 2:9-10).



you wouldn't go to a launch party for a brothel,

you wouldn't witness the signing of paperwork so your friend could start a pornography business,

you wouldn't attend a swingers convention, why would you go to a wedding based on sexual immorality? It's essentially a launch party for a legal relationship that does not please God.


I've had to decline a wedding invitation on the basis that the couple had an unrighteous relationship. We knew one of the couple, we loved this person, and still do! It was hard, and it felt bad, but it was loving to demonstrate to the person we knew that we would not, implicitly or otherwise, endorse their sin. They knew God's word, and we were not going to pretend that didn't matter by turning up with fake smiles on our faces and a guilty conscience before God. That person has not spoken to us since that day, not because we have pulled away from them, but most likley because we reminded them of God's holy word which would not sanction their actions. This was not "judgemental" on our part, but a loving reminder that this person was in rebellion toward God.


"Abstain from every form of evil." (1 Th 5:22).


"Blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude you and revile you and spurn your name as evil, on account of the Son of Man!"  (Lk 6:22).


"Pay attention to yourselves! If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him" (Lk 17:3).



What about non-Christian heterosexual weddings?

When two atheists marry, or two Muslims or Hindus or Jews marry, they are actually entering into a real marriage. Marriage itself is a creational reality that God made, and you don't have to be a Christian to enter a true marriage. We as Christians can endorse and celebrate non-Christians entering into this good relationship that is a shared blessing for all humanity (Ge 2:24, Mt 5:44–45, Ac 14:17).


So for this kind of wedding the question isn't about sexual immorality, it is "Is attending this ceremony going to put me in a position where I am worshiping another god?" Your average Aussie wedding with a wedding celebrant is not going to invite you to worship another god, so it will ordinarily be ok to be in attendance to celebrate the God-given marital union.


You may have to do a bit more legwork/research before you participate in other religious weddings. I'm not overly familiar with other traditional ceremonies, but I can imagine scenarios that invite witnesses to participate in ways that Christians could not join in.


Once I was asked to pray the Lord's Prayer at a wedding ceremony flavoured by an eastern religion. Even though I was going to be saying and praying true things to the true God, it was going to be in a context where there was confusion about who that true God was. Their faith is built on false premises about who God is, and without an opportunity to proclaim the truth, I could not participate. That said, I still attended the wedding and the couple have entered a real marriage, but I couldn't be involved in the confused religion at the ceremony.


"Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry." (1 Co 10:14).


"I imply that what pagans sacrifice they offer to demons and not to God. I do not want you to be participants with demons. You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons." (1 Co 10:20–21).



What if I'm just going to observe not celebrate?

This is hard to do. If you were walking along the beach and you saw a wedding taking place, then you stopped to watch, you are "observing." If you received an invitation, RSVP'd and turned up with a gift then you are not merely "observing" you have turned up to celebrate and participate. After all, that's what weddings are for; witnessing and celebrating the union.


Traditionally the congregation in a wedding is the supporting witnesses. They are there to see this public event take place and, in theory, provide a kind of assurance of the validity of the legal proceedings. That is why they traditionally asked "if anyone knows why these two should not be joined, speak now or forever hold your peace" and they also say "Before God and in the presence of these witnesses...". It's also why there are official witnesses who sign the paperwork. To be there seated in the congregation, to give the bride/groom a hug and congratulate them, to say "amen" to any prayers offered, to clap your hands, is all to celebrate and participate in what is happening.


Think about it; if your absence is likley to upset because it is perceived as rejection, then isn't the opposite true too? Your presence is perceived by the couple and others as support (I stole this idea from here).


If you did go to "observe" you would be morally obligated to object if the opportunity arose. Would you be willing to do that?


Unless you're a journalist at a celebrity wedding or similar situation, I think there's no way to get around the fact that your presence at a wedding is perceived as support and celebration. In the same way you go to a graduation, a citizenship ceremony or a baptism, you're there in celebratory support. Christians cannot celebrate sin, so ordinarily Christians should not go to ungodly weddings.


"Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them." (Eph 5:11).


"Do not enter the path of the wicked,

      and do not walk in the way of the evil.

 Avoid it; do not go on it;

      turn away from it and pass on." (Pr 4:14–15).



Doesn't Jesus teach us to eat with sinners, celebrate the prodigal son's return, and be compassionate to the woman caught in adultery?

Yes, yes and yes! Like Jesus himself we are called to show surprising compassion and undeserved mercy, yet in each of these examples the Lord does not ever teach us to support or participate in the sin in order to show love. We can happily eat with adulterers, homosexuals and tax evaders. We can celebrate the return of the prodigal son, but not accept an invitation to go with him to fritter away his inheritance. We can forgive and welcome the ashamed and repenting sinner, but not willingly observe their celebrations of sin.


We can participate with all people in good creational blessings. I would happily go to the birthday party of a relative in sin, sell a car to a friend in sin, go to a high school graduation of a relative in sin, invite a friend living in sin to come to church, but I will not go to my friend's celebration of rebellion against God.


"Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive." (Col 3:12–13).


"And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all. See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone." (1 Th 5:14–15).


"And have mercy on those who doubt; save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh." (Jud 22–23).



What about being judgmental?

Christians are famously cautioned against judgment: "judge not that ye be not judged" (Mt 7:1). Yet as you read beyond that single verse you see in context that Christians are not prohibited from all judgment in all cases, but instead we are to avoid hypocritical and prideful judgement. In fact it becomes very clear that we must do lots of judging between right and wrong and judging of the behaviour of others (Jn 7:24, 1 Co 6:2–3).


Lets look at the "log in your own eye" passage for a moment, it clearly demands us to take account of our own big problems before trying to help others with their small issues. But that's the thing, there is an expectation in that passage that once we have dealt with our own big issues we are able to see clearly the need of others and help them with that in an non-hypocritical way. We need to judge ourselves with true judgment (Ro 2:1, Mt 7:2), and when things are set right in our own hearts we are freed to help others in humility.


So for our friends and relatives who are deceived and given over to sin, whether it be homosexuality, transgender stuff or other forms of sin, we do not pridefully "look down" on them in judgment as if we are somehow better than them. Apart from the saving work of Christ we are all in the same boat, and so we compassionately seek their good by showing them their need and the answer to that need in Jesus. We come to them with the bad news that their sin will be their destruction, but also with the good news that Jesus will take away that sin. All people are in this same boat, all of us have sinned and all of us need Jesus.


"Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye." (Mt 7:4–5).


Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven" (Lk 6:37).


"Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment.” (Jn 7:24).



I've made bad choices on this before. What do I do now?

Come before the Lord in repentance, acknowledging that you have done wrong in supporting evil even if it was unintentional. Contact the relevant people you may have misled with your public witness and tell them you were wrong. Share why your love for Jesus and your neighbour means you reject ungodly weddings.


Remember there is no more condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Ro 8:1). Though we have sinned grievously whether it be by participating in a so-called "big" sin, or by celebrating sin, the guilt in all cases is taken away in Christ. Your sin is atoned by the blood of Christ, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! (Jn 1:29) His grace has overcome your failures.


"In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace" (Eph 1:7).


"If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." (1 Jn 1:9).




The deceitfulness of sin is tricky. We innately know our wickedness is wrong (Ro 2:14–15), and one of the ways that we try and placate our feelings of guilt is to find external approval for our sin. We look for loopholes that suggest there is really nothing wrong with what we're doing. If others say our sin is good, or support us in our sin, then we will comfort ourselves with this to try and push aside the feelings of failure and shame. Gay weddings, trans weddings, adulterous weddings, along with other celebrations and sanctions of sin, are all attempts at legitimising what God rejects.


The worst thing you can do for your neighbour who is deceived and caught in soul-destroying sin is to pacify them or even imply that their headlong plunge into hell is not such a bad thing. If they know you don't approve of their sin, but you turn up to the celebration anyway, you're communicating that your true conviction is to be "nice" over and above loyalty to Jesus. It says "what you think about me is more important than what God thinks about this," and it also says "offending others is a worse sin than the wedding itself."


It's easy to talk about all this stuff in principle, and much harder to have the boldness to put it into practice. It will be hard to tell relatives and close friends that you can't be involved in their "special day." You may end up with broken relationships. You will be tempted to compromise. You may be falsely accused of being unloving, judgmental, and other slanders. Yet it is because of our love for them and our Lord that we must abstain from this evil. We are prioritising preparation for that final Day, both for those we love who are now living in sin, and for we who have been saved from it already (Mt 24:36–44).



"Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it." (Mt 10:37–39).


"Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever." (1 Jn 2:15–17).


"Blessed is the man

      who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,

nor stands in the way of sinners,

      nor sits in the seat of scoffers;

 but his delight is in the law of the LORD,

      and on his law he meditates day and night." Ps 1:1–2.