No, Jimmy Carter, Jesus Wouldn't 'Approve of Gay Marriage'
In an interview with HuffPost Live, former president Jimmy Carter suggested that Jesus would approve of same-sex marriage. This is false, and Christians can know it is false by reading Jesus Christ's own words in the Bible.
"I believe Jesus would approve of gay marriage, but that's just my own personal belief," Carter, a self-identified evangelical Christian who teaches Bible studies at a Baptist church, told HuffPost Live. "I think Jesus would encourage any sort of love if it was honest and sincere and was not damaging to anyone else, and I don't see that gay marriage damages anyone else."
The Hill, The Washington Times, Reason, Breitbart, and others erroneously reported that Carter made these remarks this past Sunday, but the video dates back to 2015. The issue remains a salient one in evangelical Christian circles, however, so it is important to address.
To his credit, Carter did say, "I wouldn’t be in favor of the government being able to force a local church congregation to perform gay marriages if they didn’t want to." All the same, he argued that Jesus would approve of gay marriage.
In the interview, Carter admitted that while he believes Jesus would approve of same-sex marriage, "I don't have any verse in scripture."
That's because there isn't one. Jesus was very clear in His teaching about marriage, in His teaching about sexuality, and in His condemnation of sin. "Love" did not mean a vague feeling of attraction or a sexual desire to Jesus. What Jimmy Carter calls "love," Jesus would call abominable sin.
It is true that Jesus does not always condemn sinners. In the story of the woman caught in adultery in John 8 (disputed among scholars but in keeping with Jesus' teaching in the other Gospels), Jesus encourages the religious leaders to reconsider whether they would stone a woman caught in sexual sin. He famously says, "Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her." Even after this, however, Jesus does not excuse her sin — He tells her to "go, and from now on sin no more" (John 8:3-11).
This passage illustrates Jesus' approach to sin — He condemns it. Even when He forgives someone of their sin, He encourages them to repent and to sin no more.
Importantly, Jesus' idea of sin is taken from the Old Testament law. It is true that Jesus reinterprets the law to some degree — He makes it harsher and more difficult to follow. In the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7), widely revered as one of the greatest moral teachings of all time, Jesus takes the standards of the Mosaic law and dials them up to eleven.