The goal of preaching a biblical view of marriage is to change how people think, not just how they act or vote. We preach to help people learn and think “Christianly” about all issues, including marriage.
Unbelievers who oppose traditional marriage must be converted before they can truly develop a biblical viewpoint on this issue. Many Christians are regenerated, but have never been taught well on issues like sexuality and marriage.
In both cases preachers must preach to change worldview, not just behavior. So, how are worldviews about marriage changed?
First, we must empathize with people who do not share our perspective, not disrespect them. Many preachers are right in their stand on marriage, but sinful in their attitude toward those who disagree with them. This is morally unacceptable and undercuts credibility, causing lost future opportunities to influence outsiders.
It takes a long time for some people to “get it” when considering life-changing patterns to long-held beliefs. Be patient. Do not run them off by being a jerk in the pulpit!
People may stumble over the gospel and reject biblical truth, but do not let it be because of your personality or attitude.
Second, we can affirm something about the worldview of those who do not share all our convictions. We can find common ground to begin the dialogue. Often those who have competing worldviews believe something that can be affirmed.
For example, even same-sex marriage advocates value “marriage” as a concept, just not its right definition. By affirming some common ground, we show respect and are more likely to gain a hearing.
Paul modeled this approach when he affirmed some of the philosopher’s thought in Athens, before he blew up their inadequacies with truth.
Third, show how their worldview falls flat and how the gospel offers them something infinitely better. In short, establish a point of contact with people (by sympathizing and affirming), and then have a point of conflict with them (as you unpack the gospel).
Tony Merida is author of Ordinary: How to Turn the World Upside Down and is a contributor to Ministry in the New Marriage Culture from which this article is adapted. Used with permission from B&H Publishing, 2015.