“Same-sex marriage legalised across US” headlined The Straits Times on 27 June 2015.
My two older Primary school-going children have started to read the newspapers. Minutes later, out popped a question: “So, why is it not okay, Mum?” I was surprised at how the question was worded.
A survey by the Institute of Policy Studies (IPS) in 2014 found that 78.2 per cent of respondents said that sexual relations between two adults of the same sex was wrong. And 72.9 per cent did not agree with gay marriage. So, Singapore remains a largely conservative society. However, the younger cohort polled lower percentages of disapproval. This reflects the generational divide and the more liberal views of younger Singaporeans. So, what do we do now?
Andrew Koppelman writes, “… same-sex marriage… has succeeded largely because so many of its opponents have been so inarticulate, and – this is crucial – have failed to pass on their views to their children.”
For a start, we must teach the biblical view of marriage as a divinely-instituted covenant; a sacred bond between one man and one woman (Gen. 1:27-28; 2:22-24).
From sociological and secular standpoints, marriage has always been the union of a man and a woman that is inherently oriented towards bearing and rearing children together for the common good. Marriage is an institution that serves both public and procreative purposes. This is the conjugal view of marriage.
I had presumed that my children were unwavering about what marriage was, since they observed healthy and happy heterosexual marriages modeled in our and other families. I was wrong. Here, we can learn from federal agents who are trained to spot counterfeit money not by studying counterfeits but by studying genuine notes. They become so familiar with the real thing that they can quickly recognise the fraudulent. We must, likewise, be more intentional in teaching the truth about marriage.
Second, we need to be educated in and converse thoughtfully and productively about lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) issues.
There are Christian LGBTs in our churches, classrooms, workplaces and homes. Since LGBT issues have gained traction in mainstream society, the church risks being a divisive rather than redemptive community if we are ignorant about LGBT issues. For example, we must distinguish between a person struggling with same-sex attraction and same-sex action. The former is amoral while the latter is immoral and thus sinful.
Third, we should cultivate friendships with LGBTs. They are created in the image of God and are persons of worth who deserve love and respect. They are tempted as we are, sin as we do, and are broken as we are.
Admittedly, these are not always easy friendships. My earlier conversations with LGBTs felt like tentative stumbles through a minefield which sometimes triggered unexpected and explosive outbursts. But earnest listening and seeking the heart of Christ and the wisdom of the Holy Spirit in every conversation helped me love them more steadfastly.
Finally, we need to offer compassion without compromise. Surveys show that people who have LGBT friends are more likely to approve of same-sex marriage and same-sex relationships than those who do not.
So, while we empathise with our LGBT friends, we must not compromise the timeless and unchanging truths about marriage in Scripture. We must “be ready to speak up and tell anyone who asks why you’re living the way you are, and always with the utmost courtesy”. (1 Pet. 3:15, MSG)
Recently, after conversations with my son, he said, “Mum, now I know why same-sex marriage is not okay.” Knowing the truth is the first defense against error.
Lorinne Kon worships at Paya Lebar Methodist Church with her husband, Siow Aik, and three school-going children. Previously a banker, she has a Master of Arts in Theology from Fuller Theological Seminary. She is active in prison-related ministries and is passionate about helping restore and integrate the marginalised back into society.