Congratulating gay people is not a sin. Following the Supreme Court's decision in a landmark same-sex marriage case, I released a statement on Facebook, on a radio show, and appeared on Poppy Harlow's CNN show on June 27, 2015. Subsequently there has been some controversy around my statement.
My initial statement began with the sentence "Congratulations to all those in the LGBTQ community who are celebrating the marriage equality decision by the Supreme Court today." I went on to acknowledge secular marriage as a right given by the state while contending that holy matrimony is designed by God as a sacred institution. The term "congratulations" seems to have been the word that has tripped up many Christians.
To me, there's a difference between empathy and advocacy. Similarly, there is a vast chasm between secular marriage and holy matrimony, in my opinion. One is a legal state granted by a governing authority, allowing legal rights and privileges. The other is a covenant designed to mirror Christ and his Church.
The State can tell us what our "rights" are, but only God can tell us what is "right." The State can decide that polygamy or any other configuration of contractual marriage is legal, should it choose to do so, and would be within its right to do so. However, legality and morality don't often walk hand in hand. What is legal is not always what is moral. In my interview with Poppy Harlow, I made it clear, respectfully, that I would not perform a same-sex marriage, as I believe it goes against my understanding and convictions of the scriptures. That said, Gracism demands that we, as followers of Jesus, reach out and engage the gay community, building bridges to one another as God has built bridges to us.
Look at it another way. If I were to encounter a co-habitating heterosexual couple who were celebrating moving into a new home together in my neighborhood, I would not be discourteous or unkind by raining on the couple's parade to discuss my moral discomfort with their living arrangement; one that is not in line with God's word. Were they to inquire as to my opinion about their lifestyle choice, or if a relationship developed that afforded me the opportunity to speak the truth in love, then it is my responsibility to share Jesus' design for their souls. Otherwise, I would greet them and say "Congratulations. Welcome to the neighborhood."
While there are distinct differences in the understanding of marriage among various groups, and while we are indeed called to speak the truth in love, we are not called to use that truth as a blunt instrument. Love is indeed the highest Christian value.
Just as I do not want to be forced to perform same-sex wedding ceremonies, the LGBTQ community does not want me or any follower of Jesus to force our view of scripture on them, regardless of how doctrinally sound it may be, absent a relationship that allows those kinds of conversations to happen in a safe environment free of hostility.
As followers of Jesus, Christians must not get so bent out of shape about these matters that we lose our testimony of love as we are so focused on behavior modification rather than edification. Besides, congratulating gay people for their day of legal equality, whether one agrees with the decision or not, is not a sin, but being mean is.
The number of emails I received from members of the LGBTQ community thanking me for being respectful while standing on what I believe as a Christian pastor who would not marry them has been overwhelmingly positive. In like manner, some Christian leaders have thanked me for creating a positive bridge-building path for them.
The most negative comments I have received have come from Christians who disagree with me using the word "Congratulations." When one thinks about this critically we must ask, "Why would my sentiment of congratulations be such a big deal when that was not the heart of my comments? What's so evil about saying "Congratulations"? If it triggers such volatility within oneself, shouldn't that be at all concerning to the one who is so easily offended? I believe such anger, and even the loss of a few church members, demonstrates how woefully divided the church is from the culture of love and compassion demonstrated by Jesus.
If we, as believers in Jesus, choose to be bitter we will never get better in the way we love others. And that, my friends, would be the biggest sin of all!
Dr. David Anderson