Should same sex marriages be regulated by civil government?

Questions about God, the Bible and the Christian culture 

Question: Do you agree that if two males or females are to be joined together, that there should be more regulations or laws to govern that knot? I am from Asia, and we see that you use the word marriage (as well as its rules) for any union. If your government came up with another word for same-sex unions, wouldn’t that solve a lot of problems? Your legal system seems to be using the embedded rules to make this unholy knot look normal. What do you say?

Answer: Greetings friend. I live in the USA, and I am not convinced that the translation into English did your question justice. Since I only have one shot at this, let me invoke the Holy Spirit’s help to fill in the gaps, and I pray that the translation goes better on the way back.

I agree that any same-sex union is an unholy knot. However, I do not agree that more government is the answer. When it comes to God and family, why would anyone want more of something that continually fails — something that meddles with families and then calls the resultant mayhem progress?

First of all, civil government has no natural province over families. Families came first! God had already established the rules for the family in nature and in his word, and humans simply cannot improve upon that. They can only corrupt it by touching it…and they have. There is not one instance where government regulation has improved a person’s life as compared to the lives under God’s pure governance. I do understand, however, that earth-bound governance is now necessary. But this is because of sin. And for this reason, government is neither intrinsically wise or desirable. It is only to be preferred over lawlessness. What then is our response to a government that has itself become lawless against God? My friend, I cannot imagine a question that is more on the hearts of American Christians as we watch our government insult God, and as we watch it replace good with evil. But let us be clear at the outset. The Bible states emphatically that we should respect and obey the government.

“Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience. For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.” (Romans 13:1–7, ESV)

“Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good.”
(1 Peter 2:13–14, ESV).

“Servants, be subject to your masters with all respect, not only to the good and gentle but also to the unjust. For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly.”
(1 Peter 2:18–19, ESV)

Although these are broad and abiding statements — ones that should control our majority response — they do not always apply. The great reformer Martin Luther said, “If the civil magistrate interferes with spiritual matters of conscience in which God alone must rule, we ought not to obey at all…” and I trust Luther to differentiate man’s ideas from God’s ideas. Additionally, this same man Peter who penned some of the above verses found their exception when the rulers of the Jews tried to keep them from speaking of Jesus.

“But Peter and John answered them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge, for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.” (Acts 4:19–20, ESV)

“But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men.” (Acts 5:29, ESV)

As sin progressed east of Eden, God’s natural laws concerning marriage, property and inheritance came under assault. Moses eventually codified the rules for divorce — not because it was a desirable change for the culture — but because sin stole the reasonableness from humanity. In this, we have our model. We only need to legislate in the absence of reasonable behavior! Legislation is never a victory. It is always a reminder that humans will not behave honorably one to another. It is a sign that humanity has hardened itself in sin.

“And Pharisees came up to[Jesus]and tested him by asking, “Is it lawful to divorce one’s wife for any cause?” He answered, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” They said to him, “Why then did Moses command one to give a certificate of divorce and to send her away?” He said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery.” (Matthew 19:3–9, ESV)

Therefore, you shall rarely hear me advocating government involvement in any of God’s business, but especially in family and marriage. Every piece of legislation is a sign that we are drifting even further from God’s direct governance — and every such movement is downhill. Do I think that our renaming or re-categorizing the various combinations of marriage (and you forgot animals, cars, etc., which are also in play as potential marriage partners here in America) will either help God, help humanity or help marriage? No, no and no.

Remember, I live in the USA, so be alert to our cultural differences. As a general model our individual states, and not the federal government, legislate marriage. This is not to say that the federal government has no voice. On the contrary. Our federal courts might as well be legislators for their many activist rulings. Our congress limits the topics of our national discussion, as well as who and how to tax. This is no small influence. Our executive, the president, has power with executive orders, vetoes and the like. But if a state can keep its independent voice in spite of political party, and in spite of restricted access to the public largess, they get to decide on the legal definition of marriage. This is better than having the federal government do it… but it is horrible that it is being done at all! (Come soon, Lord Jesus!)

At this point let me reaffirm that our civil government has a legal right to define marriage, to assign the resultant categories of peoples certain advantages, and to punish those who violate these rules. However, nations cannot legislate a wrong thing into becoming a right thing. They can only make it legal. Same-sex marriage will never be right… and it will never be non-sin.

Culturally speaking, since more and more of our states are recognizing same-sex marriages (and I predict that nearly every state will do the same) it will soon become, at least in a de facto way, the law of the land — and my hat is off to their lobby. This is an amazing political accomplishment! In just a few decades, activists have turned our country on its head. And this is not something that we shall correct ourselves—sin being, on a national scale, practicably intractable. Would they even accept one of your proposed new designations? No. The real victory for these groups (and for Satan himself) is when people commonly understand that there is no difference between homosexual and heterosexual marriage, so accepting a unique designation would be a step backward for them, especially since they already have the apparent victory. And what is the sign of this victory? Our people have begun calling that which is abhorrent, normal. This is a formula for national woe.

“Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!” (Isaiah 5:20, ESV)

Christ will soon return as the Righteous Judge, and he shall rule and reign forever. On that day, civil legislation as we know it shall cease since Jesus will not tolerate sin and there shall be nothing left to legislate! In the meantime, we are stuck with civil government — but we are not without recourse. Government grows only by usurpation, and we need not feed it.  For this reason, I must reject your proposal to increase the role of government in the affairs of family.

(For comments, or to join the Monday Musings mailing list, contact us at To submit a question about God, the Bible or the Christian culture, click here.)