John Piper’s Thoughts on Gay Marriage and Pastoral Ministry

Recently, John Piper preached the following sermon: Let Marriage Be Held in Honor” — Thinking Biblically About So-Called Same-Sex Marriage. The Minneapolis Star-Tribune picked up on his sermon and claimed he was “opting out” of the marriage fight, referring to the proposed marriage amendment to the MN state constitution that is on the ballot this Fall (which defines marriage as between one man and one woman). Piper clarified his remarks, explaining he wasn’t opting out but rather helping his congregation think through the matter biblically. Still the fact remains that Piper has held back from overtly supporting the amendment, preferring not to politicize the church or give explicit weight to one legislative approach to dealing with homosexuality.

Here are some excerpts from that sermon which provide possible reasons for his coming up short of a full endorsement of the marriage amendment.

How should Christian citizens decide which of their views they should seek to put into law? Which moral convictions should Christians seek to pass as legal requirements? Christians believe it is immoral to covet and to steal. But we seek to pass laws against stealing, not against coveting. One of the principles at work here seems to be: the line connecting coveting with damage to the public good is not clear enough. No doubt there is such a connection. God can see it and the public good would, we believe, be greatly enhanced if covetousness were overcome. But finite humans can’t see it clearly enough to regulate coveting with laws and penalties. This is why we have to leave hundreds of immoral acts for Jesus to sort out when he comes.

Laws exist to preserve and enhance the public good. Which means that all laws are based on some conception of what is good for us. Which means that all legislation and all voting is a moral activity. It is based on choices about what is good for the public. And those choices are always informed by a world view. And in that worldview — whether conscious or not — there are views of ultimate reality that determine what a person thinks the public good is.

Which means that all legislation is the legislation of morality. Someone’s view of what is good — what is moral — wins the minds of the majority and carries the day. The question is: Which actions hurt the common good or enhance the common good so much that the one should be prohibited by law and the other should be required by law?

8. Don’t press the organization of the church or her pastors into political activism. Pray that the church and her ministers would feed the flock of God with the word of God centered on the gospel of Christ crucified and risen. Expect from your shepherds not that they would rally you behind political candidates or legislative initiatives, but they would point you over and over again to God and to his word, and to the cross.

Please try to understand this: When I warn against the politicizing of the church, I do so not to diminish her power but to increase it. The impact of the church for the glory of Christ and the good of the world does not increase when she shifts her priorities from the worship of God and the winning of souls and the nurturing of faith and raising up of new generations of disciples.

If the whole counsel of God is preached with power week in and week out, Christians who are citizens of heaven and citizens of this democratic order will be energized as they ought to speak and act for the common good.

[quoted from the online transcript of Piper's sermon dated June 16/17, 2012]

The Desiring God blog later posted a fuller transcript of Piper’s words surrounding point 8 from his sermon. Piper also went on to give a series of brief blog posts addressing the topic of homosexuality which I found very helpful. I provide links to these articles below.

I appreciate Piper’s resolve to not allow the church to become too politicized. We need to stand for God’s truth, but in matters of social policy and interacting with the fallen world in which we live, there are valid points to be made for competing visions of legislative strategy. I support marriage as being defined as between one man and one woman. But I also recognize the political reality of the fallen world we live in. There are legal and economic benefits of marriage that could be bestowed on civil unions, and if they want to call that “marriage”, why should I be surprised? Will legislating a definition of marriage fix the problem of the heart? Will it not only add fuel to the fire when it comes to the continuing the fight for “true equality” from our homosexual neighbors? Will it really solve anything?

~ Originally posted at Fundamentally Reformed

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