Jesus seems quite clear that we cannot be righteous. “No-one is good but God alone“. “If you say ‘you fool’ you will be liable to the hell of fire“. Non-christians might agree that while we can imagine an ideal of right behaviour in all situations, we might not live up to it.
Yet most of us are sort-of OK. We fall below the standard of perfection, we acknowledge it, we try to be and do better. We encourage each other or we point to each other’s sins in a futile game of one-upmanship, seeking an illusory moral high ground. To “I’m OK: You’re OK” Anthony diMello responded, “I’m an ass, you’re an ass”.
Some conservative Evangelical churches welcome divorced and remarried couples. I think Jesus would too. However, Jesus, who tells it like it is, says that “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her,” though when I searched I found that even Google preferred Matthew, with the exception for victims of adultery.
Ideally, people would marry, become one flesh, and live together in mutual supportive love until death parted them. And- some marry unwisely, and some couples grow apart, and sometimes divorce. Finding a partner is a good thing: “It is better to marry than burn” says Paul. Churches now welcome such couples, though they might not have done in the past. Roman Catholics deny them communion, but even some bishops want to change this policy.
Where does this leave gay marriage? Brent White wants to permit remarried divorcees in church, while still telling gay couples to begone. He cites Robert Gagnon, though in that passage Gagnon does not go so far: Gagnon permits divorcees, but not specifically remarried people in church. Two commenters delight in his arguments. They too would permit remarried couples, while excluding gay couples. He is a hypocrite.
If remarried sex is adultery, as Jesus says, nothing can stop it being adultery. Ideally, if the couple repent of their adultery the only course is for them to separate, as their lovemaking will always be adulterous against the wronged first spouse. That is the traditional view of Catholics and Evangelicals alike. However, as I am as much of an “ass” as the remarried couple, I welcome them in church. Remarriage is not Perfect, but is sort-of OK. Gay marriage is perhaps not perfect, but again sort-of OK.
We can imagine an ideal target- the mother who is never flustered, always loving, always tidy, never a hair out of place- which we fail to reach. One response to my imperfection is to see how often I fall short, and keep trying. Another is to pick on a group of sinners- married gay people, perhaps- and exclude them from church as the Worst Sinners Possible.
Before I sin, that sin is monstrous. After, it is what happened: deal with it and move on. “Be perfect as your father in heaven is perfect”- perhaps we are perfect, just as we are.