February 15, 2024

Should Christians Attend a Same-Sex Wedding?

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Every generation of the church faces unique challenges in applying scriptural principles to modern questions that the Bible doesn’t directly address. Perhaps one of the most difficult issues of our day is how to respond to an invitation to a same-sex wedding.

More and more Christians are facing this dilemma in their family, workplace, or neighborhood. On the one hand, we want to guard against any miscommunication that we are endorsing what God clearly says is sin. But we are also concerned about a different kind of miscommunication—that we hate the people involved and want nothing to do with them. We want to maintain relationships for gospel influence, but not at the expense of condoning sin.

The Same-Sex Wedding Dilemma

I want to say at the outset where Harvest USA has landed on this issue. We believe Christians should not attend a same-sex wedding or legal ceremony. This was not an easy conclusion for us. Historically, we have never encouraged people to attend a same-sex wedding, but we also didn’t want to speak definitively into an issue that may fall into the category of wisdom or conscience.

Relationships and communication are complex. Consider a parents’ relationship with their son. Perhaps they have a checkered history. They now realize ways in which they were legalistic in their parenting, lacking grace and warmth in their home. They’re thankful that their son invited them to the wedding because it shows he still wants a relationship with them and fear that, if they say no, it will only reinforce his belief that they’re legalistic, cold parents who don’t want to know or care for their son. So they consider the possibility of going, while clearly telling him that they do not approve. This way, they can continue to build on their relationship with their son without compromising truth.

We want to acknowledge the good things happening in the hearts of those parents. They are repenting of ways they lacked gospel grace with their son. They’re also standing firm on the clear biblical teaching that marriage, which begins with a wedding, is between one man and one woman. They care about truth and honoring God while also caring deeply for their son’s heart—and they’re willing to wrestle with the tension of how to attend without compromise. This type of wrestling honors God.

Why, then, are we saying that these parents should not attend their son’s same-sex wedding? We humbly submit four reasons.

1. It Is Not a Wedding or a Marriage

Many wedding ceremonies today have little or no acknowledgement of God. They are completely secular, focused entirely on the couples’ desire for happiness and companionship while neglecting the reality that every marriage is a union that God himself binds together.

Whether attendees acknowledge it or not, every wedding ceremony is a declaration of God’s being, his creation, and his purposes in salvation. Christian, Hindu, Muslim, and secular weddings all speak of God, because marriage between one man and one woman is a creation ordinance, a principle that God gives to all humanity. Ligon Duncan defines creation ordinances as “mandates, or commands or principles that God gave to us in our original, our pre-fallen, our unfallen state. They are designed to promote God’s glory and to practically express what it means for us to be made in God’s image.”

This means that God acknowledges and even blesses the marriages of unbelievers. Even if they don’t realize it, every married couple’s union is intended to symbolize Christ and the Church.

“If we realize that marriage is a creation ordinance, then the very nature of the same-sex ceremony itself is a bold declaration of rebellion against our Creator’s design and intent for marriage.”

This is important to recognize. We may think we have greater freedom to attend a wedding ceremony that doesn’t directly invoke God’s blessing because we wouldn’t be accepting explicitly Christian virtues being applied to a sinful act. But if we realize that marriage is a creation ordinance, then the very nature of the same-sex ceremony itself is a bold declaration of rebellion against our Creator’s design and intent for marriage. To be present in such a tragic moment, and silent, is not an option for God’s people. Paul tells us in Ephesians 5:11 to “take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them.” Attending a same-sex wedding is failing to observe both the negative and positive commands in this verse. 

Two men or two women making promises to each other and coming together for an exclusive, sexual union is not a wedding ceremony or a marriage. Those words are God’s to define because he created them. 

2. Attendance without Approval Is Not Practically Possible

You may be thinking, “I agree with your first point, but I can attend without approving of the sin.” We believe the first point necessarily precludes attendance. But let’s say, for the sake of argument, that it doesn’t. What would you need to do to ensure that you are not tacitly giving approval in your attendance? Would you leave that up to a person’s interpretation of your silence, or would you need to be more vocal and proactive in your disapproval? 

While some people think clear communication before the wedding would be sufficient, consider why the parties participating want you there at all. Is it so you can appear grieving and disapproving? No, they want to see you happy for them. Maybe they believe your attendance would keep a small window of opportunity open for you to eventually change your mind and approve of their relationship. And you should be aware that your heart may be tempted in such ways through attending. We sadly know many stories of parents who eventually change their beliefs about sexuality, gender, and marriage because of their child’s decisions. 

But even if your child has zero misunderstandings of your position, what about everyone else in attendance? This is particularly true for parents, as you will most likely be given much attention. Do you have a responsibility to communicate your disapproval to all other attendees? Could your silence and perceived approval be doing spiritual harm to others at the ceremony? 

If you were to be faithful in your communication at the ceremony, people would most likely prefer that you not attend, because you’d be throwing cold water on what they desire to be a happy occasion. 

3. Loving Jesus and Loving Your Neighbor Are Not Mutually Exclusive

The question we are wrestling with has varying degrees of significance depending on the relationship you have with the couple. Declining an invitation from your neighbor or colleague may cost you greatly, but it is incomparable to the cost of your relationship with your son or daughter.

I can think of no greater pain for a parent than not only losing a relationship with their child, but also losing the opportunity to be a loving gospel witness. The love of a parent for their child is more profound than words can express, which God designed to show both parent and child the love of our heavenly Father. We all know parents who, at the first look at their newborn, instinctively know that they would die for this little one with no hesitation.

But Jesus unapologetically demands that there be no rivals in our heart. He repeatedly forces his disciples to consider the most extreme circumstances, pinpointing our greatest allegiances and loves, and saying that he must be greater:

Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household. Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. (Matt. 10:34–39)

We minister to many parents who, having prayed unceasingly, have come to the place where they realize that loving Jesus and remaining steadfast in faith demands that they not attend the ceremony. They recognize that they risk losing their relationship with their child, with no guarantee of future repair. But Jesus is more important than this relationship. And they realize that Jesus is not calling them to hate or abandon their child. Precisely the opposite! As one parent told her son, “I love you too much to attend.” 

Loving Jesus is always perfectly aligned with loving your child. You cannot have one without the other. Resist the temptation to believe that you are the one ending the relationship by not attending. Relationships are a two-way street. You can’t force your child to stay in relationship with you, and you must entrust to the Lord any future opportunities to open their heart again to you and to God.

“Loving Jesus is always perfectly aligned with loving your child.”

Jesus ate with tax collectors, prostitutes, and sinners and many religious zealots assumed him guilty by association. He was quick to draw near to the untouchables. The Pharisees accused him of being a drunkard and a glutton. Some people have argued that attending a same-sex wedding is following in the steps of Jesus to associate with sinners in love and compassion.

But sharing a meal is quite different from participating in a ceremony. You will never find Jesus participating in idol worship or pagan sacrifices. Jesus was able to care for, minister to, and love people who were walking in darkness without participating in or tacitly approving of their sin. He has given you his Spirit, which means you too have the power, wisdom, and love to move toward the lost in all purity, holiness, and honor.

4. Salvation Belongs to the Lord

We hope that your relationship with your child or this couple won’t end from refusing to attend their same-sex wedding ceremony. We encourage you to invite them over for dinner and find opportunities to show that you care about them and want them in your lives. Give them every reason to doubt any conclusions they’ve made that are untrue or uncharitable towards you.

If you’re doing this, then pray for peace from God who affirms that you are doing everything in your power to foster the right type of progress in your relationship. But ultimately, especially for parents, you must surrender your child into God’s good hands. He is sovereign over their heart and their life, and you are not. There is nothing you can do to change their heart and turn them back to the Lord in repentance and faith. God alone has that power, and he does not need you to do this great work. God never calls us to compromise his will in order to accomplish his will. 

“God never calls us to compromise his will in order to accomplish his will.”

Consider the faith of Abraham. He deeply loved his only son Isaac. He also believed God that Isaac was the promised offspring whom God would use to build Abraham into a nation. How troubling it must have been to hear God tell him to sacrifice Isaac on an altar. Not only is it humanly unthinkable to drive a knife into your own son’s heart, but it also seemingly contradicts everything God told him about Isaac’s future. How could Isaac pass on the covenantal blessings if he’s dead? God seemingly put Abraham in an impossible predicament. Humanly speaking, Abraham had no good option. But this is exactly the type of faith that God was testing. God didn’t want Abraham to exercise human reasoning. Abraham needed Spirit-empowered faith. And this is exactly what God gave him:

By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was in the act of offering up his only son, of whom it was said, “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” He considered that God was able even to raise him from the dead, from which, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back. (Heb. 11:17–19)

My concern, brothers and sisters, is that when we consider the negative impact of not attending a ceremony, we too often use human reason alone. But the Spirit can give us supernatural faith that says, “With God, all things are possible” (Matt. 19:26). He can make the deaf hear, give sight to the blind, make the mute speak, and raise the dead. Entrust your loved one into the arms of the Judge of all the earth who will only do what is right (Gen. 18:25).

You may still be deeply wrestling with the possibility that there may be some way to attend and honor God. We’ve sought to humbly present our case for why we believe this is not an option. But we encourage you to bring your heart before the Lord. He knows our frame, and he graciously wants to minister to you so you can make a decision and entrust your heart and deepest desires to him. He knows how painful this decision is and how hard it is to walk by faith. Ask him to give what only he can supply. Remember the promise and exhortation that is yours in Christ:

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind.” (James 1:5–6)

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Mark Sanders


Mark has been President of Harvest USA since October 2022. Mark holds an M.A. in Counseling from Westminster Theological Seminary, Glenside, PA, and a B.A. in Communications & Integrated Media from Geneva College,

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