An early draft of this paper was presented at the Orthodox Christian Association of Medicine, Psychology and Religion (OCAMPR) conference on "Sex, Intimacy and Love" at Hellenic College & Holy Cross School of Theology in Brookline Massachusetts, November 3-5, 2006.
For Orthodox Christians, no discussion of sex whether it is autoerotic, heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual, or the current polyamorous sex, can be divorced from an Orthodox theology of sexuality. All sexuality and sexual behavior is based on divine love; a love that is beyond any human feeling, empathy, or ethical standard, and even approaches the essence of God Himself. St John tells us "... for love is of God ... God is love" (1 John 4:7-8).
This love is also given to man to experience and apply in relationships with his fellow man. It is evident through the coming of God's Son Jesus Christ, and actualized in the life of the believer through the Holy Spirit. Nevertheless, because the love has its source and origin in God who is love, it can only be appropriated and applied in accordance with God's will, which is to say in accordance with the commandments of God. Archimandrite Sophrony (1999) quoted St. Silouan the Athonite on this necessary synergy: "Both Christ's commandments of love towards God and love toward neighbor make up a single life."
We get a glimpse of God's love in the writings of the Church Fathers when they spoke of the interrelationships of the Persons of the Holy Trinity. The Persons of the Holy Trinity commune among themselves in love. This love is the foundation of the creation; the cause by which creation came into being. Moreover, this love is extended to the creation as evidenced by the purpose for which Adam was created (to commune with God), as well as God's salvific activity that began as soon as Adam ruptured his communion through sin.
God's love is reflected in the anthropological ordering of creation. Genesis reveals that with the creation of Adam and Eve, man was created with two modes of being: male and female. "So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them" (Genesis 1:27). (Male and female were created for communion with each other, thereby reflecting the intercommunion within the Persons of the Holy Trinity.) "Then the Lord God said, "It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him" (Genesis 2:18).
Christian anthropology sees the male as the appropriate complement for the female, and the female for the male which includes moral boundaries of the sexual dimension of male and female intercommunion: " ... a man leaves his father and his mother and cleaves to his wife, and they become one flesh" (Genesis 2: 24). Here we have the first reference to biblically ordered sexuality. These limitations are further elaborated later on and include prohibitions against adultery and homosexuality.
It is important to note that sexual union is ordained by God and thus deemed as good. This includes all the constituents that make this union possible including sexual desire. However, like all human desire, sexual desire must be directed into appropriate channels and expressions. St. Maximus the Confessor told us: "Scripture does not forbid anything which God has given to us for our use; but condemns immoderation and thoughtless behavior. For instance is not forbidden to eat or beget children ... but it does forbid us to fornicate ... " (Philokalia II).
Further, for St. Maximus (and indeed the entire Christian moral tradition) marriage and sexual activity are united. The Holy Church Father continued:
... we are required by the commandments to love God and our neighbor, to love our enemies, not to commit adultery ... when we transgress these commandments we are condemned. But we are not commanded to live as virgins, to abstain from marriage ... These are of the nature of gifts, so that if through weakness we are unable to fulfill some of the commandments, we may by these gifts propitiate our blessed Master (Philokalia II).
St. Maximus' comments about virginity and abstention from marriage presuppose that marriage consists of male and female. Unmarried people are expected to remain chaste, to refrain from sexual activity. St. Maximus sees marriage as more than a concession to weakness, that is, marriage was not instituted because people are might be unable to restrain from sexual activity outside of marital union, but also for the procreation of the human race and thus a fulfillment of the commandment that mankind should create new life. In other words, both states of being - married or single - are ordained and thus blessed by God.
In our day effort is being made to create a moral parity between heterosexuality and homosexuality. Sanctioning homosexual marriage would go a long way in removing the moral prohibitions against homosexual behavior. Gay marriage advocate borrow the moral teachings and assert they apply equally to homosexual. In other words, just as heterosexual activity is to be relegated to heterosexual marriage, so too should homosexual activity be relegated to homosexual marriage.
How is the Christian to understand the appeal for homosexual marriage? Persons with a homosexual orientation are invited to use their struggle as a means of sanctification. In scripture homosexual behavior is not blessed by God and specifically prohibited: "You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination" (Leviticus 18: 22); and from St. Paul: "... because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed for ever! Amen. For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. Their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural, and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men ... " (Romans 1:25-27). This is not the same thing as saying that a person who struggles with same-sex desire has lower value in the eyes of God. The focus is on the behavior, not the person.
Rather, same-sex desire is likened to a handicap, a condition that necessarily closes off some choices that might otherwise be available, such as the paralytic who can't walk, or the deaf man who cannot hear. This is a hard saying and may strike the ear as fundamentally unfair, even harsh. But we are called to live according to God's commandments, and the struggle the homosexual might have in conforming himself to God's commands can become a pathway to holiness.
Instruments of Creation
Because the sexual dimension of male and female intercommunion has a physical component, the male and female sexual organs are also part of God's creativity and thus subject to a higher understanding of the nature and purpose of man outlined in Genesis. The sexual organs of the male and female function complementarily, although the term "function" here means more than an anatomical symmetry. From the Orthodox Christian perspective, the term has a moral dimension that elevates the anatomical function to the higher purposes of God. Pleasure is certainly an important and blessed part of sexual union. Yet, sexual union exists for more than pleasure. Other aspects exist including the procreation of the human race, greater knowledge of and commitment towards the spouse, and others.
Indeed, the body is the vessel through which salvation is appropriated and experienced. Take for example the "overshadowing of the Holy Spirit" on Mary that made possible the conception and birth of Christ. Jesus was nurtured in the womb of Mary and entered the world through the birth canal just as most people do. Here we see the anatomical dimension - a human body created of matter - functioning in a holy way, i.e.: the birth of the Son of God into the world.
Properly understood, the sexual dimension of life replicates the creative work of God in the world. In our day, this awareness is dim. Man is defined by his sexual desires, rather than his aspirations to channel and regulate those desires into the moral structures by which stable and enduring human relationships are created and nurtured, and through which the purposes of God can be accomplished.
How, then, are we to understand sexual relations in the proper moral terms? It starts with the example of Christ's love for mankind. Jesus Christ is the full and complete expression of the love of the Father for His creation. Christ came in order to restore the ruptured communion for which man was created to share with God; a restoration that required that the death caused by Adam's sin to be overthrown. It was a sacrifice of the first order since Christ was not under the same penalty of death as Adam and all mankind because he never sinned. The sentence of death was not upon Him, thus his entry into death was completely voluntary.
Christ's love was selfless. St. Paul taught that such selflessness must also exist in marriage. Spousal love is a self-emptying love that models the exhortation of Christ: "For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it" (Matthew 16:25). He refined this exhortation to conclude that marriage replicates the relationship between Christ and the Church: "Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her..." (Ephesians 5:25).
For Orthodox Christians heterosexual marriage then, is the only proper social context for sexual relationships because: 1) marriage is the only place where the self-emptying love necessary for creative communion between male and female can take place; and 2) marriage is the only union capable of creating new life. Marriage in this context is more than a sociological arrangement. Rather, it is sacramental in context, and thereby partakes in some measure of God Himself.
Any type of sexual activity that is not based on self-giving, self-emptying, committed, and creative love is impure and will inevitably become self-centered (and often manipulative and degrading) and thus impure. Love always has as its center the good and welfare of the other.
In this context St. Paul wrote: "The body is not meant for immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body". As God's love is not casual, crude, rude and self-centered; so too, sexual love should not be this way. As God's love is giving, emptying and creative, so too, should sexual love be. Each person has to live a spiritual life in love and devotion (Hopko, 1976). This leads to a sexual life whole and pure and pleasing to God. If sexual union is to be Godlike, it is to be blessed and sanctified in marriage.
The Orthodox Church views marriage as a process with stages. The spiritual direction of couples that are planning to marry takes into account these stages with the goal of improving the marital relationship. Orthodox thinker Oliver Clement states that details as to when the creative act of procreation will take place are the responsibility of the couple but the scriptures, moral tradition, and teachings of the Father are clear that sexual union is a creative act in which the biblical mandate that the "two shall become one flesh" is fulfilled (Clement, 1985).
Further, being open to having a child is essential in Orthodox marriage. For Clement it is even more necessary in modern times "to emphasize the importance and mystery of the child, the conscious act of faith that now constitutes the bringing to birth, biologically and spiritually, of this strange guest of the couple." Fr. Thomas Hopko wrote: "True love in marriage supposes the bearing of children" (Hopko, 1976). Children are the natural fruit of the love of a blessed conjugal union. This end is impossible in autoeroticism, casual heterosexual unions, and homosexual unions.
In a previous article I noted that individuals are different in regard to a number of characteristics associated with sexuality (Morelli, 2005). These include:
- Sex: What a person is biologically.
- Sexual Orientation: The sex of the individual the person is sexually attracted to whether same sex or opposite sex attraction.
- Sexual Desire or Strength: The degree of attraction, from weak to strong.
- Sex Partner Differences in Arousal
Males: Multiple partners.
Females: A single bonded individual.
- Gender Identity: The sexual characteristics a person perceives himself as having that are socially defined, irrespective of their biological sex.
It should be made clear immediately that homosexual orientation is not a mental disorder and is not in of itself sinful. Homosexuality is also probably not a unitary state. Like alcoholism we should be speaking of alcoholisms, which can be differentiated on the basis of biological as well as complex cultural and social factors (American Psychiatric Association, Diagnostic and Statistical Manuel of Mental Disorders Fourth Edition-Test Revision [DSM-IV-TR], 2000). We should probably speak of homosexuality as homosexualities.
Further, there is probably a subset of those who practice homosexuality by choice. For these individuals there may have been some social learning and/or other factors that led them into this practice. However, there is scientific evidence that there are biological factors involved in some other subsets of those who have a homosexual orientation as well (Camperio-Ciani, Corna, Capiluppi, 2004; Savic, Berglund & Lindstrom, 2005). Camperio-Ciani estimates at this time 20% of the variance in sexual orientation can be attributed to genetic factors, while the other 80% await further specification and probably include other biological factors as well as social and emotional elements.
Heterosexual studies show there is in the current scientific literature strong support that there are male/female differences in strength of attraction between the sexes. Males are more strongly and quickly aroused by multiple females; females are more strongly and deeply aroused by a male to whom they are bonded and who protects them (Buss, 1994; Rasa, Vogel & Voland, 1989).
The Church Fathers, not knowing the terminology of modern psychology, used the term "passions" to describe our bodily dispostions, and include both the object of the attraction as well as the strength of the attraction itself in their definition. Is it not possible to consider that the biology we possess is the material substrate of these passions? This is not to say that the passions are not also in the mind (cognitive content) and influence the nous (spiritual mind). We are, after all, created as composite creatures of mind and body and in leaving our natural state of interior harmony after the fall of Adam, both our minds and bodies are affected.
That the passions may have a biological component is indicated by the Church Fathers in their teachings on how the passions work. St Macarius the Great wrote: "We can cultivate the ability to discern right and wrong if we understand the three movements which lead to passion: The first is a natural movement, inherent in the body, which does not produce anything sinful or burdening to the conscience, but merely lets it be known that it exists in the body — such as hunger." St. Macarius' teaching can be interpreted in light of St. Mark the Ascetic: "Natural body appetites 'innocently' expresses themselves: 'feeling the pangs of hunger, we prepare food and eat to fullness'" (The Teachings of the Holy Fathers on the Passions, 1986).
In simple terms this means that thoughts may come to us involuntarily, often suddenly. However, until we engage these thoughts with our will, they constitute neither virtue or vice but merely disclose the inclination of our will. Sexual orientation and desire easily fit this model. This is another reason why the term biological substrate may be appropriate in discussing sexual orientation and the passions may be appropriate. Orthodox anthropology suggests "natural movements" and "inclinations" that, when willfully engaged, lead to more passions and more sin. (I believe what are called "natural movements" are not the same as the "original nature" of man, but arises as a result of our fallen state. I have found however, these concepts of the Holy Fathers to be pastorally and clinically useful in dealing with both homosexual and heterosexual individuals attempting to live a life in Christ.)
Christian standards of conduct exist irrespective of sexual orientation. A heterosexual male for example, despite inclinations and predisposition to multiple females is called by God to be bonded with one woman in marriage (Morelli 2004). In pastoral or clinical counseling of heterosexuals I point out that we have these passions or inclinations toward sexual activity outside of marriage with multiple females (fornication), but as Christians we are called to overcome them — to be cured of them as a spiritual affliction — and live a life in Christ. To the homosexual I give the same answer. A homosexual has the inclination, the passion, toward same sex activity but his vocation is to overcome such a passion. It is a difficult struggle, but with God's grace all things are possible.
I know of no good research that indicates sexual orientation can be changed. Clinically and pastorally I do not and would not attempt to treat homosexuality by changing the object of sexual desire unless the designated patient (or spiritual disciple) were clearly motivated to do so. The only successes I have seen in such cases are individuals who have some measure of bisexual orientation. Please note however that none of my clinical or pastoral work in this area meets the standards of scientific research. At best my experience is anecdotal. It does not even rise to the status of a case study which itself would be merely a hypothesis demanding further scientific research (Morelli, 2006).
One of the subsets of homosexual behavior includes situation specific activity. For example, there are well documented reports of prisoners who engaged in extensive homosexual acts while incarcerated yet switch back to total heterosexual activity upon release. From a clinical viewpoint, such individuals would not be considered to have a homosexual orientation. In these cases, psychological and pastoral intervention would focus on adjustment and spiritual reconciliation and growth.
Homosexual behavior, especially oral sex, is becoming increasingly common among pre-teens and teens as indicated in a recent study sponsored by the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, (http://www.afajournal.org/2006/january/106noi.asp#study). The majority of these behaviors could be considered experimentation common among the individuals in the age group. As with situational homosexual experiences, any psychological and pastoral intervention would deal with the cognitive, emotional and spiritual consequences of these behaviors.
The Church Fathers are clear on the dangers of exposing oneself to the object of one's passionate desire. Some well meaning, but misguided clinical and pastoral approaches to adjusting to a homosexual orientation are to establish same-sex friendships. This flies in the face of the wisdom of the Church Fathers and scientific research psychology. Returning to the heterosexual example, St. John Cassian stated that:
The way to keep guard over our heart is immediately to expel from the mind every demon-inspired recollection of woman — even of mother or sister or any other devout woman — lest by dwelling on it for too long the mind is thrown headlong by the deceiver into debased and pernicious thoughts. The commandments given by God to the first man, Adam, told him to keep watch over the head of the serpent (cf. Genesis 3:15), that is, over the first inkling of the pernicious thoughts by means of which the serpent tries to creep into our souls. If we do not admit the serpent's head, which is the provocation of the thought, we will not admit the rest of its body, that is, the assent to the sensual pleasure which the thought suggests-and so debase the mind towards the illicit act itself" (Philokalia I).
The monastic rule of St. Joseph Volotsky warned against homosexual temptation as well as outlined in the ordinances that guided the governing of monasteries. For example, one rule stated: "...it is not proper for beardless boys to live in the monastery and concerning other necessary causes," clearly a recognition that some monks struggled with same-sex desire, and by prohibiting young boys from monastic life, tempation would be easier to manage. Other counsels include: "In wanting to be saved, therefore, let us move far away from them as from a flame. Let us not turn towards them in a house or in a place where no one sees us. Let us sit far away from them on benches ... lest in some way looking in their faces, we get the seed of lust from the Adversary ... Let us not believe the deceitful thought, which suggests to us that this is not tempting" St. Ephraim wrote: "It is a great calamity for boys to be in a coenobium. Even if we converse with them about chastity, we are stabbed in the heart" (Volotsky, Ninth Discourse).
In the 1950's, behavioral psychologists formulated the "Approach Curve" which measured the strength of attraction within arousal. This techniques replicates the knowledge of earlier Church Fathers discussed above. This basic formulation posits that the closer a person is to a desired stimulus, the stronger his level of attraction. Furthermore, drive (the intensity of the arousal) levels increase the strength of attraction (Dollard and Miller, 1950). Not only do sexual cues elicit arousal, but also the arousal level increases the subsequent attraction of the cues. This becomes a pernicious vicious cycle.
Justifying a Homosexual Lifestyle: Secularism
Secularization is a direct attack on what has been passed down by Christ to His Church. According to St. Paul, Christians are to put on the mind of Christ (Philippians 2:6). St. Paul's exhortation is fundamental to Christian moral awareness, codified in the Great Commandment to love God and neighbor, which draws from the uniquely apostolic proclamation that God is love.
Throughout the centuries, these apostolic teachings were believed and lived. A Tradition emerged centered around and drew from this apostolic message that has come to be known as "the mind of the Church." This phrase implicitly asserts the authoritative character of Tradition in questions of faith and morals. Secularism on the other hand, subjects the Tradition to foreign criteria drawn from and inextricably bound to the assumptions that shape modern culture, thereby undermining the authority of Tradition. Secularism, in other words, is a break with the past.
A way of concealing this attack on the church is to base it on human rights principles that are fundamental to modern society. A good example is the Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted by the United Nations General Assembly resolution 217 A (III) of 10 December 1948. The first sentence of Article 2 states: "Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, color, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status." On the surface these principles seem unassailable. However, what happens when moral license is defined as a right? What happens when appetites rather than reason reign? Sentimental love and fairness now replace the self-emptying, sacrificial and creative love revealed to us by the Holy Trinity.
I will briefly review two programs in society that have dealt with homosexuality and spirituality. I have chosen them because they both claim to have members from churches considered apostolic and sacramental (versus non-sacramental Protestantism).
In 1980, a Roman Catholic priest, Fr. John Harvey along with Franciscan friar Fr. Benedict Groeschel, C.F.R, formed the "Courage Apostolate" for people who wanted to live a Catholic spiritual chaste life in "fellowship truth and love" but had same sex attractions. The Courage website reports that over 1500 persons are involved in 110 chapters around the world. The chapters are self-supporting and exist with the permission of the diocesan Bishop. The salutary aim of the apostolate is to help individuals gain a greater understanding and appreciation of the Church's teachings, especially in the area of chastity.
The website lists five goals that were created by the founding members that are read at the start of each meeting which each member is called to practice in daily life (http://couragerc.net/TheFiveGoals.html):
- Chastity. Live chaste lives in accordance with the Roman Catholic Church's teaching on homosexuality.
- Prayer and dedication. Dedicate one's life to Christ through service to others, spiritual reading, prayer, meditation, individual spiritual direction, frequent attendance at Mass, and the frequent reception of the sacraments of Reconciliation and Holy Eucharist.
- Fellowship. Foster a spirit of fellowship in which all may share thoughts and experiences, and so ensure that no one will have to face the problems of homosexuality alone.
- Support. Be mindful of the truth that chaste friendships are not only possible but necessary in a chaste Christian life and in doing so provide encouragement to one another in forming and sustaining them.
- Good example. Live lives that may serve as good examples to others.
I was forbidden entry to the Axios website. However an internet search indicated the following: "Axios is an association for Eastern Orthodox, Byzantine Rite, and Eastern-rite Catholic Christians who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender." Contrary to the traditional teachings of these churches, Axios believes that members' "sexuality and love is God given and healthy. Axios states that the organization was created (http://www.answers.com/Axios?gwp=11&ver=184.108.40.2068&method=3):
- In order to affirm that gay men and women can live an active life of prayer and witness.
- For our mutual spiritual strength, stability, and well-being.
- For our desire to bridge the gulf between the church community and the gay community with love and through dialogue, prayer, service, and education.
- For the comfort, help, and support of our brothers and sisters and their families in realizing the joys and responsibilities of God's wondrous gift of sexuality.
- For the protection against stigmatization, repression and acts of intolerance.
- For opportunity to serve others in acts of charity and love as individuals and as a group.
- For the study of our rich and varied heritages and traditions.
- For a true sense of appreciation for each other and to achieve a spirit of fun and enjoyment in our development.
I have never knowingly had any contact with any Courage or Axios member. My reflections are based solely on the publicly accessible material. If the information on the Axios website is accurate, Axios acknowledges that its goals are contrary to the moral teachings of Orthodox Christianity. I cannot pass judgment on the state of anyone's soul. Like the Publican, I can only cry out "God have mercy on me a sinner!" Nevertheless, Axios' goals are contrary to Christ's teaching. If a person wants to live their life in Christ, he must conform to Christ's will in all things.
The first three Courage goals are laudable both psychologically and spiritually. The readings from the Church Fathers on temptation as well as the psychological findings however, warn of the dangers of being in the company of the object of a one's passion already discussed above. Again, the warning does not discriminate. It applies to persons of all sexual orientations as well as those who struggle with non-sexual temptation. A person battling with alcoholism cannot work as a bartender. I would make a very poor chaplain in a brothel.
Holiness depends on doing the will of God. The psalmist tells us, "Offer right sacrifices, and put your trust in the Lord" (Psalm 4:5). St. Paul wrote, "We know that in everything God works for good with those who love him, who are called according to his purpose" (Romans 8:28). Often it is difficult to understand why we have the trials and temptations that we do. Think of Abraham. Even though the command to kill his son Isaac seemed incomprehensible, yet he obeyed (and was stopped by God before Isacc was killed):
And Isaac said to his father Abraham, "My father!" And he said, "Here am I, my son." He said, "Behold, the fire and the wood; but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?" Abraham said, "God will provide himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son." So they went both of them together. When they came to the place of which God had told him, Abraham built an altar there, and laid the wood in order, and bound Isaac his son, and laid him on the altar, upon the wood. Then Abraham put forth his hand, and took the knife to slay his son" (Genesis 22:7-10).
The same obedience is reflected in the words of the Theotokos (Mary) when she responded to the angel Gabriel's request to bear the Son of God: "Let it be done to me according to your word" (Luke 1:38). From this submission to the will of God came Emanuel (God with us). The supreme example is the struggle of our Lord before His passion and death on the cross. Speaking to the disciples accompanying Christ in Gethsemane, Jesus said:
My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch.' And going a little farther, he fell on the ground and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him. And he said, 'Abba, Father, all things are possible to thee; remove this cup from me; yet not what I will, but what thou wilt. (Mark 14: 34-36).
Often the cross we must carry is the struggle to overcome passions. This struggle becomes a vocation because through it salvation is appropriated as Christ is born those who struggle for purity. This is the live chosen for them by God. And what a heavy cross this can be! St. Symeon the New Theologian taught:
Whoever strives to mortify his own will should follow the will of God; and in the place of his own will he should put God's will ... he should carefully observe whether what he has grafted has healed over so as to make a single tree, and whether it has grown and flowered and borne good, sweet fruit in such a way that he no longer recognizes the earth into which the seed was sown ... If through fear of God you cut off your own will — inexplicably, for you do not know how this happens — God will give you His will ... and you will be given the strength to fulfill it. The grace of the Holy Spirit operates these things: without it, nothing is accomplished" (Philokalia IV).
St. Symeon drew the connection between same-sex struggle and vocation:
If after we have committed ourselves to some form of ministry within the Church ... .. and the Spirit should then direct us to some other ministry or work or activity we should not resist ... He [God] wants us to advance, moving always toward the realization of something better, acting in accordance with His will and not our own.
A Pastoral Reflection
It is important for persons to strive for self-understanding in spiritual, psychological, and biological terms, and have the faith and commitment in God to do all they can to fight the good fight through asceticism, prayer, counseling, the holy mysteries (sacraments) of the Church and all other available means the Church gives us. Again, my answer to those who say fulfilling sexual desire is no more than acting "according to nature" is to reaffirm that all God's children are called to conform their sexual behavior to the commandments of Christ. A heterosexual man has to overcome his inclination toward multiple females. A homosexual has to overcome his/her inclination towards others of the same sex. All people are called to conform their lives to the will of God and thereby partake of the way of salvation.
"Hate the sin but love the sinner" is a common phrase first attributed to Gandhi and reveals how Christians should approach their neighbor. Who is our neighbor? All mankind! To love the neighbor however, means to walk in truth towards them, to do what is right for them, to affirm what is good and holy on their behalf. This includes not countenancing sin by naming it as something else. No one who follows Christ can sanction the secular sellout to sin in adultery, fornication, gay-lesbian marriage or sexual relationships, polyamourous marriage, and so forth. Gay marriage and any other unblessed sexual activity in thought word or deed is not the love that Christ extolled. For the Christian, God has revealed His will to us concerning sexual behavior and anyone who champions a rule other than the one revealed to us is not living a life in Christ.
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 The question of childlessness brought on by natural causes may arise. For example a couple may be biologically impaired to procreate, or were a victims of an accident. In such cases the fruit of self emptying love can still exist by adoption or Diakonia to others in Christ's name. Fr. Stanley Harakas (1992) summarizes the purposes of marriage according to scriptural and patristic evidence in four points: 1) the birth and care of children, 2) the mutual aid of the couple, 3) the satisfaction of the sexual drive, 4) growth in mutuality and oneness. In a blessed marriage the intent to procreate children would be present. Such an intent between two persons of the same sex would be impossible