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Why John Piper ‘Can’t Quite Make Sense’ of the Pope Approving Blessings for Same-Sex Couples

Piper was on board with neither the pope’s views nor with Ndayishimiye’s. “I think the New Testament directs us away from the kind of blessing that the pope is endorsing,” he said, “and directs us away from the mob rule or the official capital punishment that the president of Burundi is endorsing. In other words, the New Testament is pushing us away from both of those steps.”

Piper first addressed Ndayishimiye’s views, noting that the Old Testament commands capital punishment for certain sexual sins. For example, Leviticus 20 commands the death penalty for adultery, bestiality, incest, and a man having sex with a man.

The pastor was clear that the Old Testament retains its authority as the inspired Word of God. However, because Jesus instituted a new covenant, followers of God are now to handle such sins by excommunication rather than with execution, as explained in 1 Corinthians 5.

Regarding the pope’s approval of blessing same-sex unions, Piper does not believe Pope Francis is successful at avoiding an endorsement of such unions, despite the Vatican stating that marriage is to be between one man and one woman and that marriage is the only relationship in which sex is permissible. 

“We need to be very careful how we are understanding the nature of blessing,” Piper said.

Piper cited several New Testament passages that refer to blessing one’s enemies, such as Luke 6:28, which says, “Bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you,” and 1 Corinthians 4:12, which says, “When we are cursed, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure it.” 

The point of such passages is to wish for the good of people who are our enemies or with whom we disagree. “None of those uses of the word bless is intended to signify an official or unofficial gathering in which you bring people together who in their hearts are celebrating sin,” said Piper. “That’s not what blessing means.” 

He implied it would make a difference if the Catholic church’s “blessing” included “the warning of hell,” calling the sin an “abomination,” and conveying the “biblical truth of heartbreak and danger.” But then, if the church’s blessing included these elements, “the couple would not have the service.”

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“It’s not a blessing to give the impression of treating lightly something that God treats dreadfully,” Piper said. “It feels kind—it’s not kind. It feels tender, but tenderness is not love where clarity and firmness are needed to save life.”

As he wrapped up his thoughts, Piper expressed general concerns about Pope Francis, whom Piper believes “has espoused unbiblical thinking” in other areas as well. 

“By all means, let us bless those who curse us,” the pastor concluded, “but not extend a blessing over a same-sex union.”