Getting Marriage Back

Getting Marriage Back

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It might be time for something dramatically different.

I don’t think we will lose God’s ideals of marriage when the nation eventually accepts same-sex unions.  In many ways we’ve already lost those.  With no fault divorce, marriage became disposable.  With sexual permissiveness, the marriage bed has lost its sanctity.  With the new norm of single-parenting, marriage is just another option for parenting.  In short, culturally, marriage has lost its uniqueness as a covenant before God.

And now, we do see another onslaught.  Marriage is being redefined further.  It is basically a contract between two people.  For now, in most states, it is between one man and one woman.  But, is there any doubt that this will not last?  Some of our leaders, Christian and non-Christian, are trying hard to weave their way through this minefield.  They look for solutions by talking about Civil Unions, Gay-Parent Adoptions, and emphasize that this is an issue to be handled state by state.  The truth is, this is a national issue and will be more so.  States will have different laws, people will move across state lines and eventually, for the sake of the courts, there is going to have to be one standard.  And I am confident that Christians won’t like that standard.

We have another issue.  It is the issue of ministry.  How do we keep from being labeled as hate-mongers and bigots?  We try to say that we love the sinner and hate the sin.  But when it comes to homosexuality, unlike other sins, they equate their identity with their sexual preferences.  So anytime we speak against it, they don’t hear it as a criticism of what they do, but of who they are.  This is a real communication challenge for the church who wants to offer a message of hope and freedom.  How do we communicate this when we are “up in arms” trying to fight society through the ballot box and the courts instead of trying to sway the human heart?

It might be time for a different approach.

It may be time for Christians to push for a clear distinction between a civil marriage and a Christian marriage.  Under this kind of scenario, couples would have to be joined “civilly” by the court.  At that point they would be civilly married.  And then if this is a religious couple, they would seek a religious ceremony in their house of worship, by an officiant of their choosing.  This is what would communicate the kind of marriage this couple would like to live in.

Why would we consider this kind of approach?  How could it aid the church in doing its mission?

1. It allows us to stand solidly for the distinct nature of Christian marriage.  The church’s definition of marriage won’t be muddied by the cultural definitions of marriage.  We will truly be able to say, “The contract you enter into for the state is not the covenant you enter into before God.”  Marriage in a Christian context is different.

2. This will remove cultural pressure from churches to do any marriages which aren’t God-honoring.  Right now because clergy have the authority, given by the state, people expect pastors and churches to do weddings.  And most of us pastors are worried about the day when the state may try to require us to do weddings that violate our doctrine or conscience.  This would eliminate that pressure.  Christian weddings would have no “legal” implications.  People, all people would be joined civilly.  Only those who desire a distinctly Christian celebration would have reason to ask the church to be involved.

3. It helps the church teach the distinctive nature of Christian marriage.  When young people grow up in the church, we would have a compelling reason to teach them clearly the nature of Christian marriage.  When people come to the church to get married it isn’t to “get married.”  It will be to enter into covenant love, which is Christian in nature.  And this will be a time for the church to explain, demonstrate and celebrate the uniqueness of covenant love.

4. It also provides a path for those who become Christians to be joined in a covenant commitment after their conversion.  Right now, if people become believers, it takes time for them to address the nature of their marriage.  This would give us opportunity to say, “now that you are both changed by Christ, why shouldn’t your marriage be different?”  And we can use this to call them to a decidedly Christian marriage.

5. This may also aid our influence in our culture.  Right now we are in a “rights” vs. “what’s right” argument.  And people are pointing out that marriage is a failed institution no matter who gets married, straight or gay.  This would keep us out of the “rights” argument while providing us the opportunity for personal example and influence.    By clearly living out our convictions as something distinct from culture, we present an even clearer picture of God’s love for the church, which is one of the great roles of Christian marriage.

Let me say clearly, I am not for same-sex marriage.  And if given the opportunity I would turn back the clocks of time in this area.  But it is my view that it is coming.  And we need to find options which present a different message.

It is my argument that in our fight for a biblical understanding of marriage, we are fighting for something we may have already lost.  Instead of fighting to maintain the last vestiges of cultural Christianity, I propose we turn our attention to living out our convictions about marriage and provide a witness that invites others to join in on what God is doing.  How do we make Christian marriage different again? It can happen if we separate it from the civil debate.

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9 thoughts on “Getting Marriage Back

  1. You say “But when it comes to homosexuality, unlike other sins, they equate their identity with their sexual preferences. So anytime we speak against it, they don’t hear it as a criticism of what they do, but of who they are.” but I’m not sure that’s quite the case. It’s not the gay person that equates their identity with their orientation but rather the non-affirming churches in particular that always link the two. For example/comparison – if you preach that women should not be in ministry – are you defining them for being women or for wanting to minister, or are they defining themselves that way?

    When a person says they’re gay or lesbian they’re saying a small part of who/what they are. But if you preach that they are meant to pretend to be straight or else live a life alone that is what reduces them to an identity tied to orientation. Gay people have always gotten married and will continue to marry (true definition of marriage as a covenant between two people and God) regardless of whether a state recognizes it or a church performs a ceremony. Even in countries that execute anyone for being gay or lesbian, couples still fall in love and commit themselves to one another in the eyes of God.

    Regardless of your interpretation of Scripture – there are many many gay and lesbian people in the world – and many of them do want to be in monogamous relationships. The church can continue to tell them to be single – and watch as they leave the church or else fall into a life of promiscuity — or the church can counsel them and support them and encourage celibacy first but then monogamy as an alternative to the presumed stereotypical promiscuity. To ignore the committed married monogamous couples who do contribute to their churches, their families and to society seems a serious oversight, and not encouraging young gay and lesbian Christians to pursue monogamy if they’re unable to remain celibate seems like a missed opportunity. It seems too often today churches would rather their gay and lesbian members simply leave the church altogether or else remain silent rather than accepting them as they are among a (not sinless) congregation.

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    1. Thank you for your comments. I do know there is a big struggle in the minds and hearts of people and especially of Christians who have same-sex attraction. But I don’t believe encouraging monogamous relationships is a better option spiritually. It is kind of like the old condom argument, “I don’t want you to have sex, but if you’re going to, be safe.” Of course there may be some health benefits from that action, but there are deep relational and spiritual wounds that come from sex outside of God’s order. I think real freedom, from any sin, comes from making Christ your identity and then ordering our lives in a way that glorifies Him.

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      1. Paul said it would be better to be celibate. But then he went on to say that it is not good for man to burn with lust, and thus marriage is a concession. So even Paul recognized that not everyone could live a life of celibacy.

        What then for gay people? Certainly a heterosexual marriage would not help prevent a person from “burning with lust”. Therefore marriage is a concession.

        Whether you believe same gender monogamous relationships to be right or wrong, it seems apparent that not every gay person has the gift of celibacy. If the non-affirming churches continue to preach that the only option is celibacy or a mixed-orientation marriage then many if not most gay people will leave the churches. How can the church successfully minister to LGBT people while denying them the basic human need for a sompanion, a soul mate, a spouse with home to “become one” – “an helper fit for him”?

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    2. not having sex borfee marriage i guess sorta protects you from a lot of things like gttinghurt by jackass’s that totally don’t respect u, or even in the more biological sense of not catching STI’s.. cheers for this it was interesting.. i’m frantically tryin to write my essay (due tomorro!) on sex, religion and gender and i’m just focussing on sex borfee marriage and the Song of Songs in the Bible.. thanks again hope i finish this silly thing in time!

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  2. In short, culturally, marriage has lost its uniqueness as a covenant before God.

    I think this is true, but this is not a recent devleopement. Culturally, marriage has lost its meaning long before Moses. Thousands of years ago, the concept of marriage being a unique covenant before God was in jeopardy. So much so, that Moses allowed divorce. Divorce has been around for thousands of years. Remember Jesus saying that Moses permitted divorce ?

    But when it comes to homosexuality, unlike other sins, they equate their identity with their sexual preferences. So anytime we speak against it, they don’t hear it as a criticism of what they do, but of who they are.

    First, I take issue with him perceiving homosexuality as a sin. Contrary to his assessment, homosexuality is not a sin; it is an orientation. He is basing his view of it as sin on a misinterpretation of scripture. Second, as a gay man… I no more equate my identity with my sexual preference than he does his, as a straight man.

    This is a real communication challenge for the church who wants to offer a message of hope and freedom. How do we communicate this when we are “up in arms” trying to fight society through the ballot box and the courts instead of trying to sway the human heart?

    Perhaps we as gay Christians have a message of hope and freedom for straight Christians? Since reconciling your faith and orientation..have you been more liberated from judging others? Have you become more compassionate? More sympathetic to those who are different? Ostrasized? Outcasts?
    Perhaps we can sway the hearts of straight Christians. Perhaps we can live in forgiveness of their words and actions. Perhaps we can forgive their efforts to exclude us from the table of God. Perhaps we need to forgive their ignorance. Perhaps we need to forgive them for they know not what they do. Perhaps our kindness towards them will lead them to repentance.

    It may be time for Christians to push for a clear distinction between a civil marriage and a Christian marriage. Under this kind of scenario, couples would have to be joined “civilly” by the court. At that point they would be civilly married. And then if this is a religious couple, they would seek a religious ceremony in their house of worship, by an officiant of their choosing. This is what would communicate the kind of marriage this couple would like to live in.

    Hmm…. It seems to me that this is simply what gay people have been seeking all along; legal recognition of their marriages. We are not asking for the right to be marry…. Gay marriage is not illegal. You can not be arrested for being married to someone of the same sex nor can clergy be arrested for marrying same sex couples. We are simply saying we want our spiritual marriages recognized by our church to be recognized by the government , just like straight marriages are.

    His points:

    (My revisions in parantheses)

    1. It allows us( Gay and straight Christians alike) to stand solidly for the distinct nature of Christian marriage. The church’s definition of marriage won’t be muddied by the cultural definitions of marriage. We will truly be able to say, “The contract you enter into for the state is not the covenant you enter into before God.” Marriage in a Christian context is different.

    2. This will remove cultural pressure from churches to do any marriages which aren’t God-honoring. Right now because clergy have the authority, given by the state, people expect pastors and churches to do weddings. And most of us pastors are worried about the day when the state may try to require us to do weddings that violate our doctrine or conscience. This would eliminate that pressure. Christian weddings would have no “legal” implications. People, all people would be joined civilly. Only those who desire a distinctly Christian celebration would have reason to ask the church to be involved.( Complete and utter fear mongering. When is the last time you heard of a church organization being forced to marry someone they didn’t want to? When is the last time you heard of someone wanting to be married by someone who didn’t want to marry them? King Henry the 8th comes to mind… and even the King didn’t get his way and that was the last straw for the Church of England in becoming its own governance)

    3. It helps the church teach the distinctive nature of Christian marriage. When young people grow up in the church, we would have a compelling reason to teach them clearly the nature of Christian marriage. When people come to the church to get married it isn’t to “get married.” It will be to enter into covenant love, which is Christian in nature. And this will be a time for the church to explain, demonstrate and celebrate the uniqueness of covenant love. ( this is why gay Christians get married by Christian clergy that will marry them )

    4. It also provides a path for those who become Christians to be joined in a covenant commitment after their conversion. Right now, if people become believers, it takes time for them to address the nature of their marriage. This would give us opportunity to say, “now that you are both changed by Christ, why shouldn’t your marriage be different?” And we can use this to call them to a decidedly Christian marriage.( Can this apply to straight Christians too? )

    5. This may also aid our influence in our culture. Right now we are in a “rights” vs. “what’s right” argument. And people are pointing out that marriage is a failed institution no matter who gets married, straight or gay. This would keep us out of the “rights” argument while providing us the opportunity for personal example and influence. By clearly living out our convictions as something distinct from culture, we present an even clearer picture of God’s love for the church, which is one of the great roles of Christian marriage. ( again, can this apply to straight Christians too?)

    It is my argument that in our fight for a biblical understanding of marriage, we are fighting for something we may have already lost. Instead of fighting to maintain the last vestiges of cultural Christianity, I propose we turn our attention to living out our convictions about marriage and provide a witness that invites others to join in on what God is doing. How do we make Christian marriage different again? It can happen if we separate it from the civil debate.

    The problem with this mindset it is limited to a still frame of Christianity. What we know of Christianity today looks nothing like the Christianity of the 1st century church. What Christianity looks like in 100 years will look nothing like it does today. Christianity is not an institution; it is a living and breathing organism that continues to evolve as Christ continues to reveal truth. We know more about the nature of God as revealed through Christ than Christians of the 1st century.

    Marriage, like Christianity has evolved as well. What we know of Christian marriage today looks nothing like biblical marriage.

    In conclusion, even though the writer of the article meant well, like most conservatives , he continues to invalidate the gay Christian by not including them at the table of Christ. Thanks be to God though, because the walls are coming down. Christ is moving across the church, liberating it from bad religion.

    This website lists biblical concepts of marriage:

    http://www.upworthy.com/the-top-8-ways-to-be-traditionally-married-according-to-the-bible?c=la2

    Here is additional info on marriage:

    The History of Marriage

    It is very hard to be able to establish a true date on the first marriages although the Old Testament in the Bible does mention a little about marriage as it was considered a family and household affair. The oldest male relative was the caretaker of the girls and the prospective husband would ask the father for the girl after first bringing him gifts to win his approval. The mother was dominated by the father and had no choice in the matter. The father would transfer the daughter to the prospective husband in public as this showed that he approved this transfer and that the groom had the father’s approval. After this transfer the bride and groom ate a meal together with the families and then the groom took the bride home. In the Old Testament of the Bible there is no mention of a formal exchange of vows or of a preacher or priest being present at this union.
    In the time of the Roman Empire (17 B.C.- A.D. 476) the lower classes who became Christians later had common law or free marriages. The father would deliver the bride and the agreement of the two was called a consensus to wed. Then eventually as Christianity spread the church interpreted a “free” marriage as a conscience marriage. This agreement meant that each partner was to keep the marriage vows and the marriage intact.

    There were Romans who were very wealthy who would sign documents consisting of listing property rights and letting all know that they wanted this union to be legalized and not to be thought of as a common law marriage. Thus this began the official recording of marriages as we do today. Roman men could dissolve the marriage any time as it was a male privilege, not one accorded to females.
    In A.D. 527-565 during the rein of Justinian lawyers drew up laws called the Justinian Code and this was a regulation of their daily life including marriage. Up until the time of the Justinian Code just saying you were married was enough.
    Until the ninth century marriages were not church involved. Up until the twelfth century there were blessings and prayers during the ceremony and the couple would offer their own prayers. Then priests asked that an agreement be made in their presence. Then religion was added to the ceremony.
    English weddings in the thirteenth century among the upper class became religious events but the church only blessed the marriage and did not want a legal commitment. In 1563 the Council of Trent required that Catholic marriages be celebrated at a Catholic church by a priest and before two witnesses. By the eighteenth century the wedding was a religious event in all countries of Europe.
    In Colonial times in North America the customs of the old countries were followed. There were some who only wanted a civil ceremony and not a religious ceremony. The Colonists who wanted civil marriages passed laws to this effect.
    Civil magistrates would perform marriage ceremonies and they would even include prayers in the ceremony.
    Viriginia was a colony that stayed with the customs of the church and did not permit anyone to have a civil marriage ceremony as they followed the Church of England. By the end of the eighteenth century both religious and civil marriage ceremonies were legal in American.
    In European countries today, civil marriage ceremonies are legal as in America. Even in England, the couple can choose to have either a religious or civil ceremony.

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    1. I do appreciate all the time and effort you put into commenting. Thanks for the historical background. I know we will always disagree on the nature of same sex attraction. One push I think will come, if there is not a clear distinction of civil and religious unions, is that there will be pressure on religious groups to allow or perform these ceremonies. We don’t have to look far to see the the current Administration is already imposing their code of conduct on religious institutions (ie. making them provide for birth control against their own doctrine).

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  3. But is there a precedent? Can a Baptist church be required to perform a wedding ceremony for a Muslim couple? Can a Catholic church be required to perform a wedding ceremony for a Jewish couple? I also suspect that same gender couples would not want their wedding ceremony to be conducted at a non-affirming church by a judging and condemning pastor.

    I think as Christians we have to look at whether we want to err on the side of extending “too much” grace or too little. We are saved through grace. We accept that grace given freely – yet we often turn around and deny that same grace to others. I would rather stand at judgment day and have to explain why I poured out too much grace to others than to explain why I tried to make other of His children’s lives more difficult than necessary because I didn’t approve of their weddings.

    Even if we really believe that legal marriage must reflect our religious beliefs, we’re still faced with how we handle divorce, how we handle mixed-faith marriages, marriages of people of other faiths or of no faith at all. Singling out same gender couples and preventing them getting married but still condoning marriages by others which go against one’s religious beliefs seems hypocritical. And it also ignores the fact that same gender couples “marry” (in the real sense of the word) everyday and many churches do perform those ceremonies and are being unfairly discriminated against when those marriages are not recognized.

    But at the end of the day – the main point is that marriage is a very beneficial institution that strengthens society – creates strong families – discourages promiscuity – etc. To deny that to gay people has the effect of encouraging them to be promiscuous and fall away from God. The non-affirming church’s stance on this is pushing good Christian LGBT people away from the church and sometimes even away from God.

    I’m reminded of 1 Timothy 4:
    The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron. They forbid people to marry and order them to abstain from certain foods, which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and who know the truth. For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, because it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer.

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