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Topics: Homosexuality, LGBT

Should Christians attend “gay weddings”?

February 1, 2024

I have been writing and speaking about gender and sexuality for over decade and a half. Whenever I talk about transgenderism, one of the first practical questions I hear concerns the use of pronouns. Whenever I talk about homosexuality, one of the first questions is about attending “gay weddings.” The answer to both questions is always “no.” While some Christians may have found difficulty arriving at those answers ten years ago, I have noticed that many Christians are far more prepared to give the right answer today. Bible-believing evangelicals seem to have moved toward a settled position against attending a gay wedding.

Or at least that is what I thought. Over the last couple weeks, controversy has erupted online about whether it is right for Christians to attend a so-called “gay wedding.” Two events in particular have precipitated this conversation. The first are some remarks by a prominent evangelical pastor advising a grandmother to attend what appears to be a gay wedding (and then the pastor’s subsequent doubling-down on his position). The second are some reported remarks to the same effect at the recent Mere Anglicanism conference.

I have no questions about what these teachers believe about marriage. Both of them affirm what the Bible teaches about marriage as the covenanted union of one man and one woman. Both of them also affirm that homosexuality is sinful and that “gay marriage” is therefore always wrong.

Nevertheless, both of them also seem to think that attending a “gay wedding” need not imply affirmation of homosexual immorality. They don’t offer a universal permission slip to attend “gay weddings.” Rather, they say that under certain circumstances it may be okay to attend. So long as the couple knows that you don’t approve of the “gay wedding” and so long as the wedding is not masquerading as a Christian ceremony, it could be okay to attend. Under those circumstances, attending the “wedding” could be a way to signal your love for a sinner who needs to be saved.

What are we to make of these arguments? The arguments fail because they misconstrue the public meaning of a wedding ceremony. Attending a wedding is not like attending a concert or a graduation where attendance suggests nothing about your own views on the proceedings. A wedding is a public recognition of a union at which the attendees are assembled as witnesses in order to solemnize the union. Those who attend are there to help celebrate and add their assent and witness to the union. That is the public meaning of attending a wedding ceremony no matter the intention of the one attending.

In this way, it is much like eating food sacrificed to idols and doing so in the context of a religious ritual dedicated to an idol. Yes, there may be a context in which it would be okay to eat the meat (1 Cor. 10:25-26), but Paul warns Christians that they must never eat that meat as a part of a feast dedicated to an idol (1 Cor. 8:10). It doesn’t matter what the private intention is of the one attending the feast. The idol’s feast has a public meaning that is at odds with following Christ.

In the same way, a “gay wedding” ceremony has a public meaning that is at odds with following Christ. In a traditional marriage ceremony, the officiant addresses the congregation with, “If any man can show just cause why they may not lawfully be wedded, let him now declare it, or else hereafter forever hold his peace.” Even when those words aren’t uttered explicitly in the ceremony, they nevertheless indicate what attending a wedding means. That is why when you receive a wedding invitation, they are almost invariably an invitation to a “celebration” of some sort.

Whether they realize it or not, the witnesses are not merely spectating. Unless they raise a verbal protest, the presence of witnesses implies their support of the union. Because our Lord has told us not to celebrate or approve sin, Christians must not attend “gay weddings” (Isa. 5:20; Rom. 1:32). This would apply to any “gay wedding” ceremony—secular or religious—because those attending are there to witness the solemnization of the union.

It is also worth noting that a Christian wedding is a service of worship. As Kevin DeYoung has written,

A wedding ceremony, in the Christian tradition, is first of all a worship service. So if the union being celebrated in the service cannot be biblically sanctioned as an act of worship, we believe the service lends credence to a lie. We cannot in good conscience participate in a service of false worship. I understand that does not sound very nice, but the conclusion follows from the premise, namely, that the “marriage” being celebrated is not in fact a marriage and should not be celebrated.

Some have argued that attending a wedding does not necessarily imply affirmation and that it might be best to attend the ceremony in order to build an evangelistic bridge to the “gay” friend getting “married.” But this objection also fails.

First, it fails to deal with the public meaning of attending a wedding, which entails affirmation. If it didn’t entail affirmation, then in what way would not attending be an offense? The only way that attending would “build a bridge” is if the one getting married somehow felt affirmed in what they were doing by your presence. And we must never affirm what God forbids or do evil so that good may come (Rom. 3:8).

Second, what if your evangelism is successful? What if your “gay” friend eventually comes to faith in Christ, repents of their sin, and is saved? A part of their repentance will be repenting of the very wedding that you attended. Will your presence help or hinder that necessary repentance? If you really wish to pursue them evangelistically, you cannot place a stumbling block before them that might hinder their repentance from sin. If you do hinder them, you would fall under the warning that Paul gives the Corinthians:

For through your knowledge he who is weak is ruined, the brother for whose sake Christ died. And thus, by sinning against the brethren and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ (1 Cor. 8:11-12).

None of this means that Christians must stand apart and completely separate themselves from unrepentant sinners—”gay” or otherwise (John 17:15). Our Lord modelled eating with tax-gatherers and sinners and even being slandered for doing so (Matt. 11:19). We should be eager to do the same. And yet, Jesus never participated in an idol’s feast in order to win over those very same tax-gatherers and sinners. Instead, he showed us how to love our neighbors without approving their sin.

Should Christians attend a so-called “gay wedding”? No, they should not. Indeed they must not. Unless they attend in order to raise a protest to the proceedings, there can be no justification for attending. No matter what good intentions a disciple may have, he must not attend a “gay wedding.” There will be other ways to show love and hospitality to “gay” sinners who need Christ, but attending a so-called “gay wedding” is not one of them.

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