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Marriage, Sex, and Jesus

Updated: Feb 29



Sometimes I’m hesitant to post my wedding anniversary celebrations on social media, fearing I may be sending the unintentional message of “See? We did it right. You should be like us.”


Living in the evangelical world. you learn quickly there’s a focus on “traditional family” roles. It’s also called “living out God’s ideal,” “God’s plan,” or – my favorite – having a “Biblical marriage.” In other words, evangelicals believe there is a preordained designed ideal of marriage and family. I was taught the dangers of single parenting, stay at home dads, divorce, and of course, same-sex marriage.


If you’ve never read the Bible, and if you listen to many Christians, you’d think that Christianity centers on sexual and gender identities and behaviors linked to those identities. You would think that Jesus’s main concern is for you to have traditional relationships in the model of Adam and Eve.


But if you ask any of these Christians what it means to be a follower of Jesus, they would respond with a completely different answer.


They would reply that a Christian is someone who believes or trusts in Jesus Christ, or that Jesus died and rose from the dead for them.


Or they might talk about the greatest commandment to love God and to love others.


Or they may mention possessing the fruit of the spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. 


Or perhaps they’d point out the big three: faith, hope, and love — the greatest being love. 


In fact, the mention of marital status, sexuality, and gender are astonishingly infrequent in the Gospels and letters of the New Testament. 


But What Does Jesus Say?

When attempting to poke holes in the idea of life after death, a religious leader of a sect, which didn’t believe in the resurrection, asked Jesus about marriage after death. Jesus corrected him, “At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven.” With these words, Jesus was revealing that marriage was temporary, cultural, and of this world (Matthew 22:23-32).


One reason Christians focus so pointedly on traditional marriage is because of a statement Jesus makes in Matthew 19. He was asked about easy divorces (for men) which was instituted under Moses. This form of divorce, which benefited men and was oppressive to women in marriages that didn’t produce children, allowed the man to cast off the “barren” wife and get another with a simple written notice (Deut. 24:1). Jesus, always looking out for the weak and voiceless, condemned this practice. He explains they should follow the example of Adam and Eve — which precedes Moses — “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning. I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.” (Matthew 19:8-9).


In this passage, Jesus is not creating a prohibition against same sex marriage, as many Christians mistakenly believe. He’s promoting fidelity and commitment — foundational elements of love — to combat the selfishness of a husband’s desire for an easy divorce. Jesus was asked about a loophole in the law, and Jesus closed it, pointing to the responsibility of love.


Paul

Paul addresses some debauched behaviors in his letters, admonishing the people of God to abstain from things like lying, gossip, greed, gluttony, and sexual immorality. From these passages, many have tried to prove that same sex acts and attractions are sin. They are called the clobber passages by some. Again, it is the selfishness, distractedness, and baseness to which Paul is referring. It is not the fact that it’s same-sex sexual behavior. Paul here is concerned that many are following the cravings of their bodies over following Jesus’s way of self-denial. For Paul, it was not so much about specifics — although he pointed some out to various congregations. It was about following the way of love.


Today, there are many believers and people in general that live quiet lives of love and imperfection. Some are in your church, fix your car, work alongside you, teach your children. And some are part of your family, simply pursuing the way of love and fidelity that Jesus, Paul, and other New Testament writers taught.


Some follow Jesus. Some don’t. Either way, the Christian way is to focus on the law of love, which transcends gender, sexuality, and marriage, no matter what you might hear from Christians today.





*Photo by Peggy Marco on Pixabay


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Thank you so much, Jonathan, for the gift of your theological education, your loving wisdom, and your beautiful writing. I had been wondering about these Biblical passages, and I so appreciate your thoughts! Love you and your blog!

- Lara Fletcher

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Thank you, Lara. And thanks for reading!

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