In the beginning, God created the human beings male and female. In both creation
accounts (Genesis 1:1–2:3; 2:4–25), the unique and mutually responsible relationships between the male and female are emphasized and celebrated. God called this created design “very good” (1:31) and brought the especially created female to the male to become one flesh in order to correct what was “not good” (2:18).
The union of male and female is the plan of God for human life and families, according to our Scriptures. Moreover, Jesus’ positive affirmations and teachings (Matthew 19:4–6), as well as the teachings of the earliest communities of Jesus’ followers (Ephesians 5:31–33), bear the same witness. This “very good” creation-design for male and female becoming one flesh becomes a primary image used by Israel’s prophets to describe God’s relationship with Israel (Hosea; Isaiah 54:4–8; Jeremiah 3 and 31; Ezekiel 16).
The early church embraced this imagery to describe the relationship between God and God’s people in Christ, the church. Throughout the story, how a transcendent God, who is not like humanity or anything else created, may still be one with the people, one in love and communion, finds illustration in God’s creation-
design of the male and female becoming one flesh (Ephesians 5). This same imagery inspires Revelation’s finale when two (God and humankind) become one as celebrated at the wedding feast of the Lamb and His bride (Revelation 19:1–9).
We begin by naming what is “right,” indeed “very good,” throughout the entire scriptural story. God intends marriage as the union of one male and one female in a bond that endures throughout their lives. Human sin has damaged and destroyed the good God intended in creation, yet, in response to human sin, God has committed through covenant to restore, redeem, renew and bring creation-design to its fullest expression. With respect to sexual being and behavior then, we begin with the very good creation of humanity in the divine image as male and female. In response to the damage and destruction sin brings, we seek the redemption and renewal of God’s plan for human sexuality.
We affirm that same-sex relationships are outside the creation design of God, and for that reason, we cannot support them, including same-sex marriage, as an acceptable alternate plan for human relationships. Given what God intended, all diversions from God’s intention are named as contrary to God’s plan. In responding to any one of them, we must not name one sin as the only or worst one when Scripture indicates a full range of sexual sin that God names as wrong (sexual relationships outside of marriage and with family members, children and animals).
The church’s response to the challenges of same-sex relationships and marriage flows from the message of the gospel — that we are saved by grace through faith, that we will be judged finally on the basis of how we have responded to Jesus, not according to the particular forms of sin we have chosen compared with others.
The message of the gospel is that Jesus saves, that he does so in His own time, by the convicting work and transforming power of the Spirit, and most often in the community of others who are also being saved from their sins and the impact of sin upon their lives.
We will proclaim the good news in Jesus as the remedy God offers us, whatever particular sin grips us most firmly — all in the spirit of Jesus’ person and ministry. We can be “correct” but then corrupt or counter the impact of the truth by a spirit contrary to Jesus’ spirit.
We will trust the Holy Spirit to convict people of their sin, to enliven hope of transforming possibilities, and then to lead people to God’s best for their lives.
We will be a people who offer ourselves as agents of Jesus’ grace and the Holy Spirit’s work of grace within people. We must reach out and welcome people in the spirit of Jesus, in faith that Jesus knows how to deal with His children and to bring them to His best. In reaching out, we must follow Jesus to the margins and boundaries where people often find themselves alienated, sometimes through words and actions of those who profess to follow Jesus.
This is a condensed excerpt from an article that Bishop Kendall wrote for the Study Commission on Doctrine. Go to fmchr.ch/dkssr for the full article.
BISHOP DAVID KENDALL is an ordained elder in the Great Plains Conference who was first elected to the office of Free Methodist bishop in 2005. He is the author of “God’s Call to Be Like Jesus” (fmchr.ch/dkcall).