My older brother invited me to attend his homosexual wedding ceremony. He claims to be a Christian, though for obvious reasons I doubt he is. Would it be wrong for me to attend anyway?
We understand the difficulty of your decision. Many Christians have elected to forgo participation in homosexual weddings, including caterers, photographers, venue owners, dressmakers, caterers, pastors, and even guests and family members. We certainly understand and respect these decisions.
The question we must answer is does the Bible set down specific guidelines for this decision or is it merely a question of personal conviction? Before we answer this question, we recommend you read the following articles on attending weddings of atheists and on the biblical view of homosexuality.
Turning to your question directly, the Bible teaches that if a man or woman professes to be a Christian while engaging in immoral behavior, the Church must refrain from associating with such a person:
1Cor. 5:9 I wrote you in my letter not to associate with immoral people;
1Cor. 5:10 I did not at all mean with the immoral people of this world, or with the covetous and swindlers, or with idolaters, for then you would have to go out of the world.
1Cor. 5:11 But actually, I wrote to you not to associate with any so-called brother if he is an immoral person, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or a swindler — not even to eat with such a one.
1Cor. 5:12 For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Do you not judge those who are within the church?
1Cor. 5:13 But those who are outside, God judges. REMOVE THE WICKED MAN FROM AMONG YOURSELVES.
Paul commands that any immoral person who calls themselves a Christian must be put outside fellowship from the body of Christ. Therefore, if practicing homosexual claims to be a Christian, then the Bible commands us not to associate with such a person nor even eat a meal with him. The purpose of this strict treatment is to encourage the believer to repent and cease the immoral behavior, and in the meantime, to protect the flock from their immoral influence.
It doesn’t matter if we doubt the person's profession of faith (i.e., whether they are truly born again or merely pretending to be a Christian). Even Paul himself acknowledged that an immoral person may be a false confessor (i.e., a “so-called” brother). Nevertheless, Paul says in this situation we must take any claim of faith in Christ at face-value and respond by distancing ourselves from such a person.
Obviously, the vast majority of practicing homosexuals do not profess faith in Christ, so our guidelines for associating with them are more flexible. In fact, Paul specifically stated he did not say don’t associate with immoral unbelievers. Therefore, association with unbelievers – no matter how immoral – is possible, and in most cases necessary to accomplishing the mission of the Church. Remember, even Christ elected to enter the homes of prostitutes and eat with “sinners and tax collectors,” who were the immoral people of His day.
Consequently, a Christian may accept an invitation to eat in the home of an unbelieving homosexual couple, or attend their birthday party or even study scripture together with them, etc. All of these encounters hold the possibility of witnessing to them regarding Christ and the salvation He offers by His grace. Unless we are willing to associate with the lostness of the world, we can never hope to influence it for Christ.
On the other hand, there are some situations where our participation holds little possibility of producing fruit for Christ but yet holds great potential for personal corruption or an erosion of our Christian witness. For example, Paul chastised the Corinthian church for abusing their liberty when they joined in pagan rituals at pagan temples:
1Cor. 8:9 But take care that this liberty of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak.
1Cor. 8:10 For if someone sees you, who have knowledge, dining in an idol’s temple, will not his conscience, if he is weak, be strengthened to eat things sacrificed to idols?
1Cor. 8:11 For through your knowledge he who is weak is ruined, the brother for whose sake Christ died.
1Cor. 8:12 And so, by sinning against the brethren and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ.
Paul acknowledged that idols were merely stone and wood, therefore they held no power over the believer. Nevertheless, he instructed believers to steer clear of these ceremonies because they hold potential to confuse and mislead less mature Christians.
Furthermore, Paul told the church not to get comfortable spending time around immorality or idolatry, since even Christians can be tempted into sin by such things.
1Cor. 10:7 Do not be idolaters, as some of them were; as it is written, “THE PEOPLE SAT DOWN TO EAT AND DRINK, AND STOOD UP TO PLAY.”
1Cor. 10:8 Nor let us act immorally, as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in one day.
1Cor. 10:9 Nor let us try the Lord, as some of them did, and were destroyed by the serpents.
1Cor. 10:10 Nor grumble, as some of them did, and were destroyed by the destroyer.
1Cor. 10:11 Now these things happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come.
1Cor. 10:12 Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall.
1Cor. 10:13 No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.
1Cor. 10:14 Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry.
1Cor. 10:15 I speak as to wise men; you judge what I say.
Finally, scripture makes clear we can sin by approving the sin of others:
Rom. 14:21 It is good not to eat meat or to drink wine, or to do anything by which your brother stumbles.
Rom. 14:22 The faith which you have, have as your own conviction before God. Happy is he who does not condemn himself in what he approves.
Consequently, we have a mission as Christians to balance to commandments: associate with the unbelieving world so we may reach them for Christ while guarding ourselves from entering into sin or approving the sin of others. We are called to represent the truth to a world lost in darkness and deceived by the enemy’s lies, but we can't do that effectively if we compromise on the truth ourselves or agree with the lies through our behavior.
To sum up his point, Paul gives these basic guidelines:
1Cor. 10:23 All things are lawful, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful, but not all things edify.
1Cor. 10:24 Let no one seek his own good, but that of his neighbor.
1Cor. 10:31 Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.
1Cor. 10:32 Give no offense either to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God;
1Cor. 10:33 just as I also please all men in all things, not seeking my own profit but the profit of the many, so that they may be saved.
Paul says all things are lawful, in the sense that we have the liberty to make many different choices in matters that are not explicitly regulated by scripture. Nevertheless, our rule for how we act isn't merely whether something is permissible. Our decisions should be guided by whether a course of action is both lawful and spiritually profitable.
Attending or participating in the wedding of a homosexual couple is lawful in the sense that scripture doesn’t prohibit our involvement explicitly, but the question remains is doing do spiritually profitable for us and for our unbelieving friends? Paul says in answering that question we must seek the good of our neighbor without acting contrary to our conscience. Furthermore, Paul says don’t give offense to anyone, including to the church of God. Seek the profit of the “many” not merely your own profit.
Applying these standards, we conclude that in most circumstances, participating in or attending a homosexual marriage ceremony would be unprofitable for the Christian. Unlike other types of gatherings (e.g., meals, birthday parties, etc.), a wedding ceremony is a formal proceeding where those in attendance serve a role as witnesses gathered in support of the union.
In fact, many wedding ceremonies still incorporate an opportunity for wedding attendees to offer reasons why the couple should not wed. This tradition reflects the importance of attendees serving as witnesses at a wedding ceremony, therefore a person’s decision to attend any wedding could be understood to be an implicit statement of support for the proceedings.
Since the Bible teaches clearly that the only appropriate sexual union permitted by God is that of a man and a woman in marriage, any other sexual union is immoral and ungodly. Therefore, a Christian should not become a party to such sin. In most cases, a Christian attending a marriage ceremony for a homosexual couple serves as a witness affirming the union and thereby implicitly approves sin. In doing so, the believer acts contrary to scripture and to the believer's own convictions, for even if the believer silently disagrees with the proceedings in his or her heart, nevertheless attending the ceremony communicates public approval. As Paul said in Romans 14, believers will be judged by the Lord for the evil we approve.
Finally, in 1Corinthians 10 Paul says believers must not give offense “to the church of God.” The church of God is a reference to Christ Himself, His Gospel and all who are His disciples. When a believer acts in ungodly or immoral ways (or approves such things), he or she is giving offense by shaming the name of Christ, undermining the Gospel call to repent and believe in Christ, and dishonoring the sacrifices of past disciples who have given their lives standing for the truth.
According to these biblical guidelines, attending a homosexual union (or granting our approval otherwise) is an offense to the church of God. As Christians, we are ambassadors for Christ, so we must always stand for truth, including the truth of biblical marriage and the Gospel of Jesus Christ. While our decision not to attend homosexual weddings will likely offend some, we cannot make pleasing men our highest goal. Instead, our highest goal is pleasing the Lord.
Remember, the message and values of Christianity have always offended the unsaved world, so we should not be surprised when we face scorn and persecution for living according to biblical truth. Just as prior generations of martyrs were persecuted for the faith and as our Savior faced the cross for His testimony, so will we suffer at times. While we shouldn't invite persecution, neither can we run from it.
As Jesus said:
John 15:18 “If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you.
John 15:19 “If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you.
John 15:20 “Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A slave is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you; if they kept My word, they will keep yours also.
John 15:21 “But all these things they will do to you for My name’s sake, because they do not know the One who sent Me.
Finally, we qualified our answer earlier by saying "in most circumstances," because we must leave open the remote possibility that in some situations a believer might arrive at a legitimate, godly way to preserve their witness while attending a homosexual wedding, and if so, then the believer has the liberty to do so. Perhaps a believer could attend just the reception but not the formal ceremony, or perhaps the believer could share the Gospel with those in attendance without giving support to the union, but we find such possibilities implausible at best, and any potential benefits are unlikely to justify the serious compromises.
Therefore, in our opinion, if a Christian receives an invitation to such a gathering, he or she should politely decline.