The marriage season is upon us. With 80% of weddings taking place between the months of May-October, you can expect to get an invitation in the near future. It's an exciting time for young adults to get invited to their peer's weddings and seeing their friends begin a new phase in life. However for a lot of young Millennials, they will be encountering something that older folks never had to face: Being invited to a same-sex wedding.
In previous generations, this was never a possibility since the majority of the country didn't recognize same-sex unions. However all that changed on June 26, 2015 when same-sex marriage became legal in throughout the country. There were many ramifications from that decision - and one of them is that now young Christians will be getting wedding invites from their same-sex friends.
What should Christians do? Should they accept or decline? It's a difficult question - especially when you're being invited by your peers that you went to college with and co-workers that you see everyday. I've had a few Christians ask me about this and, after thinking and reading about the question, I want to help Christians navigate through this issue.
Why This is a Good Problem
Before addressing whether a Christian should attend or not, I think it's worth noting that this is a good problem to have. The fact that you're even being invited to a same-sex wedding is a testimony to your public witness. You see there are many Christians who will never face this dilemma because they never spend time with people outside their churchy bubbles. The fact that a gay couple knows you well enough to invite you to something intimate like this shows you're different. You should feel affirmed by this invitation.
I also believe this is a good problem to have because now you're being forced to decide where you stand on this topic. The "gay debate" is no longer just an abstract political issue that you read about online or a sinful lifestyle that you hear preached about at church. The issue is now knocking on your front door and you can't stand on the sidelines anymore. Instead you must make a decision and figure out how that decision reconciles with your faith.
Lastly, I think this is a good problem to have because this will help you learn how to dialogue about this issue. You can no longer afford to ride the coattails of your pastor's opinion because the stakes are higher. Whether you decide to attend or not, you're going to have to explain your reasonings to your friends, pastors, and/or the couple that invited you. You will have to navigate through ideas and formulate words to express why you made your decision.
In other words, this invitation is not just an invitation to a controversial ceremony; it's potentially an invitation to sanctification. And that's always a good thing.
Reasons to Attend
Now if you're a Christian and believe same-sex marriage is fine, then the decision is easy. But let's say your'e a Christian who believes the Bible doesn't affirm such unions. Should you not attend the wedding? I can empathize why this question is difficult to answer. Despite going against your beliefs, there are a lot good reasons why you may want to attend. Here a the main ones I've heard.
1) Friendship. Perhaps the main reason Christians want to still attend a same-sex wedding is for the sake of the friendship. You've eaten with this same-sex individual and have gotten to know him on a personal level. You enjoy his company and genuinely care about him. He may have even attended your wedding. So what are you saying if you refuse to attend his? What kind of friend are you?
2) Mission. You may want to attend because you're the only genuine Christian this person knows. Being part of the LGBT community, he may think that most Christians are hateful bigots. Wouldn't your absence only affirm this image? You're supposed to be different, which is why he invited you. So wouldn't attending help him be more open to Christ? After all, Jesus dined with sinners and tax collectors (Mk 2:16). So wouldn't your participation be something similar?
3) Inconsistency. Is attending a same-sex wedding really that bad?I mean how is this any different than attending a non-Christian wedding where two atheists are getting married? Or how is this any different than attending a birthday party where you know "sinful things" like drunkenness will be taking place? It seems inconsistent and feels like Christians are singling out this issue above other "sins."
Reasons Not to Attend
Again, I empathize with the reasonings above and can see why some Christians would choose to attend the wedding. On the other hand, there are also some reasons to consider why it may not be a good idea to accept the invitation. Here are the main ones I can think of.
1) Celebration. When you go to a wedding, you're not just spectating - you're actually supporting the vows that are being made. You're raising your glass to toast the couple and you're taking congratulatory pictures with them. As one author writes, "It would be difficult, if not impossible, to attend a wedding without your presence communicating celebration and support for what is taking place."
This is why I think attending a same-sex wedding is quite different than attending say a birthday party filled with alcohol. At the birthday party, you're not celebrating the drunkenness - you're celebrating the birthday. The drunkenness is a negative byproduct of the environment. But at a wedding - you're there to celebrate the union itself. And if you believe it's a sinful union, should you really celebrate it?
2) Integrity. I think another issue at stake here is your integrity. Think about it. You're a Christian who deep down in your heart believes this wedding is wrong and you don't approve of it. However you decide to attend and celebrate with this couple. How could you do this without abandoning your integrity? If you're externally cheering while internally crossing your arms, how is this not hypocrisy? How is this being done with faith (Rom 14:23)? This is difficult for me to reconcile in my mind.
3) Witness. I think it's arguable that you're actually strengthening your friendship by attending their wedding. Perhaps in the short-run you're encouraging this friend. But if doing something contrary to God's command is ultimately harmful, then how are you helping your friendship by affirming their actions? This feels more like a desire for approval than genuine friendship.
But even if it's granted that your attendance will help the friendship, I think you're actually hurting your witness. Say you're the only respectable Christian this same-sex individual knows. What you're communicating is that respectable Christians (like you) are totally cool with same-sex unions. But if you agree the Bible speaks against this, then isn't your presence is bearing a false witness to the Christian faith?
So What Should Christians Do?
As you can probably tell, I lean on the side that believes a Christian probably shouldn't attend a same-sex wedding. I don't mean to be insulting, but I think Christians who are personally against same-sex marriage but still attend the weddings are being a bit wishy-washy. Again I empathize and understand the reasoning, but still - you're being wishy-washy.
However I'm less certain on how a person should decline the invitation. Some Christians may see this as an evangelistic moment where they'll write to the same-sex couple this long letter explaining, "I'm not coming because I'm a Christian, and we believe..." That's one way to go, but I'm not sure how well-received your message will be.
Personally, I would just decline the invite like I would any other wedding. Most couples don't really demand an explanation when a friend or acquaintance can't make it. Perhaps I'd look for a different date where I could eat dinner with them and affirm my friendship. And if they choose to ask why I didn't come to the wedding, perhaps that could be the time where I slowly begin to share my faith and begin a dialogue.
I think a trickier scenario would be if a family member or close friend was gay and invited you to their wedding. It's tricky because your absence will be duly noted and they will most certainly be hurt. To be honest, I'm not really sure what I'd do in this situation. I know at the very least, I couldn't be part of the wedding party. But would I attend? I think more dialogue and thought and prayer would be needed to address this specific situation.
This issue isn't going away and I believe young Christians need to dialogue about this more and more. That's because we need a combination of truth, wisdom and charity in dealing with topics like this so that we can bear witness faithfully in this ever-changing landscape. So if you receive an invitation to a friend's same-sex wedding: Pray about it. Talk to other Christians. And while it's tough, see this situation as an opportunity for personal growth and sanctification.