Fruitful and flourishing?
Perhaps you’ve thought something like, “That couple seem so happy” or “I wish I had what they have.” You may have more than a hint of jealousy in your heart when you look at the lives of those in committed same-sex relationships. Whatever the reasons, it looks like their relationships produce good fruit and you’re missing out. With that in mind, a question we are often asked is, “why does God seem to bless same-sex relationships?”
A shared grace
In answering this question, we should recognise that God has extended many good things to the whole of mankind. One’s faithfulness to God, or lack of it, is therefore not linked to the experience of what theologians call common grace. Take Matthew 5:45 as an example, “…For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” No one needs to reach an ethical standard to enjoy common grace. The fact is, whatever our moral standing before God, we all receive blessings from Him. This is not only because of common grace, however, but also because of our shared image.
A shared image
We should recognise that every aspect of our nature is impacted to one degree or another by the Fall. This means that we are totally dependent on God for salvation. Although God’s image on every individual is effaced and suppressed, the light of God’s image will still, however dimly, shine through.
God’s manifold gifts, whether intelligence, artistic ability, friendship, empathy, kindness or heroism amongst numerous others, are sovereignly distributed. These blessings are obviously not just limited to those who worship God. So sadly, I’ve heard Christians question the Bible’s teaching on sexual ethics because they have befriended people in same-sex relationships, people who they say “are just so nice.” In response, I always wonder what were they were expecting? Did they used to think that Christians had a monopoly on “being nice?!”
There are many ways that those of all faiths or none will manifest the Imago Dei (the image of God). For example, I have heard people talk movingly about the ways that many gay people cared for their partners during the Aids crisis. Who wouldn’t affirm the flickers of light that were seen during that dark time? You see, we are not called to deny that those in relationships that fall outside the blueprint Christ gave us (Matthew 19:4-6) will cease being image bearers of God. It’s worth asking ourselves, however, are the “blessings/ fruits” that you think may flow from those relationships potentially common and accessible to all?
That question will help us not to make false correlations. For example, a couple may experience mutual support through their same-sex relationship. This mutual support could have many outcomes; one might be a decrease in loneliness for example. Obviously, however, a same-sex sexual relationship is not the only way to experience mutual support or a reduction in loneliness! Therefore, someone could experience those things through better avenues which are open to believers such as committed Christian friendships and the church family.
Now, Christians may not experience support or increased inclusion for different reasons. For example, we might not invest in the loving friendships that are available, or the investment may not be reciprocated, or the Bible’s teaching on the nature of the Christian family may not be taken as seriously as it should be. Our missteps, however, should not lead to our affirming of sinful behaviours.
Having seen that God’s image is upon all and common grace is extended to all, we move onto ask ourselves the question: What type of fruit are we seeking? That of holiness, or that of an easy, enjoyable life here and now?
The term “fruit” in Matthew 7:16, “By their fruit you will recognise them”, is often taken out of context. Sadly, so often people speak of the positive experiences of those in same-sex relationships, like the enjoyment of mutual support and the lessening of loneliness mentioned above, and claim those experiences are examples of “good fruit.” In a debate with popular revisionist Matthew Vines, Sean McDowell shows how this kind of interpretation has erred. The “fruit” spoken of in that passage, for example, is not linked to the experience of the individual, but to holiness. That is obedience to the teaching of Christ. To think that a Christian living in opposition to Scripture is in anyway fruitful, misunderstands this clear link between holiness and “good fruit.”
The fruit we seek as Christians should, therefore, be conformity to Christ. And like Christ, we are called to carry a cross and walk a narrow path. Someone may seem to be “blessed”, or “bearing fruit” precisely because they are not carrying a cross and are walking on the broad road which leads to destruction. Surely one of the worst things to happen to someone would be to enjoy a supposedly “blessed” life which numbs them to their need of Christ.
So, whenever we long for the lives of unbelievers, let’s remember that God’s Word is not undone by the supposed “blessing” that we might wrongly assume certain relationships have. The good that others may manifest is probably linked to their experience of common grace and their bearing of God’s image. It should not lead to us changing the Scripture’s teaching on sin. Let’s also remember that sin always, ultimately leads to destruction. Jesus alone offers us life to the full. Jesus alone is the bread of life who can satisfy our deepest hunger. Whatever the cost here and now, let’s follow Him and take the advice of this proverb: “Do not let your heart envy sinners, but live in the fear of the LORD always” (Proverbs 23:17).