May 11, 2012

Holy Marriage, Batman!

I guess the time has come. I wasn’t even going to go here, partly because with everything going on I didn’t want to think about blogging this week, but also because I don’t think any of us are going to change each other’s minds (although wonders never cease). However, I do feel like there are people who claim to be presenting or representing my point of view – like the President – and getting it totally wrong. So, this is just me trying to clear some things up.

And just so you know, I did try my darndest, but this is probably 5 pages long.

So you should probably get your coffee now.

I’m a Christian. That means that my worldview is necessarily shaped by the Bible. The entire Bible (All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness. 2 Timothy 3:16). A person cannot logically call themselves a Christian otherwise. Therefore, logically, if the Bible says it, I’m obliged to agree. “God said it, I believe it, that settles it,” as they say. If I didn’t agree with what the entire Bible teaches, I wouldn’t be a Christian. It just wouldn’t make sense.

I say that first because it’s the foundation for what I’m about to say. It’s my worldview, the lens through which I make all my value choices. Because I’m a Christian. And this is a value choice, not just a legal question. I’ll get into that part later.

The Bible talks a lot about marriage. I read an article somewhere that claimed Jesus never talked about marriage, but that’s not true. (Matthew 19:1-12) Marriage is talked about frequently throughout the Bible. In fact, the book of Hosea is, essentially, about marriage. The part about marriage that I want to focus on today is in Ephesians 5.

Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands. Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. "Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh." This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.

There is a whole series of posts on marriage counseling contained in that passage, but we’re not going to talk about that today. Throughout the Bible, God describes His relationship with us in terms of marriage. The concept of marriage was created and reaffirmed throughout Scripture as intended to be a picture, a visual aid, a representation, a teaching tool to show the world what the nature of our relationship with God is like.

Why does this matter? Well, primarily it matters because it shows us that God isn’t like the mythical gods of ancient times, that were removed from humans, almost indifferent unless it suited their purposes.

Yahweh God isn’t like that. He doesn’t just have power over the weather or our health, He doesn’t sit on a distant mountain stirring up wars for His amusement. God loves us, wants us to know Him as a person and to be in a relationship with Him that grows and changes and makes us better people, more like Him. In the Old Testament, we see this most explicitly in the book of Hosea, where God uses a prophet’s marriage to illustrate the condition of Israel’s relationship with Yahweh.

In the New Testament, we see this explained even further, primarily in the passage I posted above. Marriage is designed to be a picture of how Jesus, the Messiah, relates to us, His Church. That’s why that “s” word is used so much. Because the Church falls under the Messiah’s protection and authority, the wife is also supposed to fall under her husband’s protection and authority. And because the Messiah sacrificed Himself to save the Church, the husband is to love his wife in a completely self-sacrificial way, putting her needs above his on a daily basis.

The husband takes the place of the Redeemer. The wife takes the place of the redeemed.
That is what gives marriage “sanctity,” meaning, purpose. Not tax benefits, inheritance rights, divorce rates or census classifications.

That is why, no matter how someone else treats their marriage, marriage itself is still sacred, sanctified, holy.
Not because of who we are or what we do, but because of who God is and what He has done for us.

That is also why any deviation from that equation
(husband = Redeemer, wife = redeemed)
is sinful.

Divorce isn’t (only) a sin because it destroys lives. That would only make it horrible. Divorce is a sin because the Redeemer will never abandon the redeemed. The Messiah will never cease to be the Messiah and leave His Church. That’s why God says He hates divorce. (Malachi 2:16. verbatim) It’s because it destroys the picture of marriage that God created to represent His relationship with us. Divorce, in the spiritual sense, gives us a false representation the character and nature of Yahweh God. That’s called Idolatry, creating a false god. One of the Big 10.

Adultery is a sin because, to put it bluntly, Jesus won’t cheat on us. God won’t deceive us and abuse our emotions. Yahweh God will never stop loving us and start loving someone else more. He will never lose self-control and make a one-time mistake that wounds His bride, the Church. Adultery gives us a false representation of the character and nature of God. Idolatry.

Polygamy is sin because there is only one Redeemer Messiah, Jesus, and there is only one redeemed, His Church. Jesus said, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6) Yes, polygamy is recorded in the Bible, along with theft, lying and murder. It was part of history. But it wasn’t part of God’s intention for marriage. And if you really want to get into the whole “polygamy was in the Bible” discussion, let’s look at what polygamy got us – Osama bin Laden. (Genesis 16) No matter how you slice it, polygamy is not a good thing according to the Bible.

Same-sex “marriage” is never directly discussed in the Bible (kind of surprised no one has brought that up yet), even though homosexuality is discussed thoroughly. I don’t think anyone is unaware of what the Bible says with regards to homosexuality, in multiple locations. Of course, I have no control over how someone else lives their life and I’m not going to waste any energy focusing on that. We’re all going to be held accountable for our own choices one day, not someone else’s. (Revelation 20:11-13) However, I do have control over what I believe, and whether or not I use specific words in a certain manner – such as using the word “marriage” to describe something other than marriage. As far as same-sex marriage, it doesn’t need to be addressed in the Bible directly. We already know what God’s design for marriage is, and same-sex marriage does not line up with God’s design for marriage. The Church needs the Messiah. The wife needs the husband. The same way a person cannot redeem themselves, the Church cannot be in a redeeming relationship without a Messiah. The Church doesn’t exist without the Messiah. A wife is not a wife without a husband. The Church cannot be redeemed by another Church. A wife cannot be in a marriage relationship with another wife. There is no marriage without both a wife and a husband. And Ephesians 5, as we see above, makes it clear that “wife” and “husband” are not gender-neutral terms. Not in God’s Word. Not in the Christian worldview.

In the book of Revelation, the Bible describes the end times, when the world as we know it ends. Part of what happens is that all those who are believers, who are saved, or Christ-followers, or whatever your terminology is, they go to Heaven to live forever with God. How does Revelation describe what happens?

Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the roar of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, crying out, "Hallelujah! For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready; it was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure"--for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints. And the angel said to me, "Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb." And he said to me, "These are the true words of God." (Revelation 19:6-9)

Marriage. The Word of God says that our saving relationship with God, our hope of Heaven, our eternal security, is a marriage. (The real eternal marriage.) That’s why Christians are so resistant to redefining marriage. Not because of tradition or history or what our grandparents thought. Redefining marriage isn’t a matter of legal benefits or cultural evolution. At its core, it redefines our perception of God, of Jesus, of us, of our future – it redefines the very basis of our faith:
salvation.

And, logically, if I arrive at the conclusion that what God says about marriage no longer applies, then
– according to the way God has laid out the relationship between marriage and salvation in the Bible –
logically, I must arrive at the conclusion that what God has said about salvation no longer applies, and I can go back to sleeping in on Sunday mornings and forget all about this whole “church” thing.

Aside from all of that, many of the legal arguments/concerns pertaining to gay marriage equally apply to heterosexual unmarried couples. There are multiple options to solve the legal concerns associated with both situations that have nothing to do with forcing the American population to redefine “marriage.” You can put however many names on a lease or mortgage. People are allowed to name anyone they want as inheritors in their wills. The tax code can be changed to give benefits to any cohabitating adults, regardless of their relationship status. Insurance is already so heavily mandated, it would be next to nothing to require insurance companies to mandate coverage of all members of the same household, regardless of how they are or are not related. Even child custody cases have already had to deal with parental rights where no legal marriage is present. And either through local policy or legislation, I’m pretty sure we can get something pushed through that allows anyone to visit you in the emergency room if they need to. These are not insurmountable obstacles that only redefining marriage can change.

Assuming the goal is to give legal rights and tax benefits to individuals in various kinds of relationships based on a live-and-let-live attitude, we don’t have to create same-sex marriage. There are ways to accomplish those goals without forcing people to call what is not marriage, “marriage,” in violation of their consciences.

Again, I don’t expect to change anyone’s mind, although I do hope this post gave you food for thought. And I’m not going to go to someone else’s post and write all of this in a comment. And I don’t expect anyone coming from non-Christian worldview, or any other worldview than mine, to understand or agree with me. I’m not going to lose any sleep over that.

I do ask, though, that if you do disagree with me, to understand that any attempt to try and persuade me otherwise will be given one response: “Show me in the Bible.” Because that’s really what it comes down to. For more exploration of this, I recommend Denny Burk’s piece.

And, please, don’t read what I haven’t written. I’ve done my best not to put words in someone else’s mouth or assume thoughts or motivations on someone else’s behalf. Please do the same for me.

EDIT: I realize now after reading some of the comments that I was too vague at the end of this post. I don’t have a problem changing tax codes or extending legal protection to different individuals. A civil union or legal certification is a completely different animal. The problem is with passing a law requiring that people who submit to the Bible’s very clear definition of marriage change and call a different type of relationship a “marriage,” which violates individual conscience and the personal free exercise of religion. That’s the point I was trying to make. Sorry if that was unclear.

FURTHER EDIT: I realize the President has since changed his stance. Wow, was that really less than a year ago?

10 comments:

  1. While I understand what you are saying, I cannot help but think of all the couples (myself included) who are married, but that have a marriage that has nothing to do with God. I was married in a court house, with not a touch of religion in our ceremony, and while I uphold a lot of the same moral beliefs that you do, they have no religious connection for me, they're just my moral beliefs. Yes, perhaps somewhere down the line the idea stemmed from a religion, but that's not what we're discussing here. What I'm getting at is that there are millions of marriages around the world who use that word- marriage, and it does not mean that their union has anything to do with the Bible. It is simply two people in union, living their marriage as they see fit. Now I ask you, what is the difference between all those couples and same sex couples who wish to be married? None of them, male and female, male and male, or female and female are looking to have a relationship as defined by ANY religion. I think it's already gotten past the point of worrying about keeping marriage to how the Bible dictates, that ship sailed long ago when couples like my husband and I started using the words marriage to define our relationship. Now, do I believe that any church should be forced to marry anyone who's beliefs they do not agree with? NO. Absolutely not. Just as I believe I should not be forced to think one way, I don't think you or anyone else should either. But forcing people to not be allowed to live together as a married couple because of what a word means to a specific group of people? That's wrong. Because it is just that, it's a word. It is not the word that you attach so many ideas onto, not in today's society. Like I said before, if that were the case, then it should have been fixed long ago before couples who didn't believe in that specific version of marriage, were using the word to define their own.
    I hope you know I say all of this with no anger. While this is what I firmly believe, I think those who wish to carry on a discussion can do so without making it into an argument. :)

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  2. Very well put. I enjoyed reading your view - which is my view - in a way I hadn't completely thought through before. Thank you for 'going there' ;o)

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  3. I have always said that the best way to handle this whole thing - allow Christians to maintain the sanctity of marriage as they see fit and still allow same-sex couples to "marry" in the legal sense - is through civil unions. Let me expand...all couples who wish to have "legal marriage" (one recognized by the state alone) would get a civil union. Then, people who wish to be married (in the spiritual sense) would follow the rules of their church to do so. As far as the state/law is concerned, marriage should be a strictly personal and religious matter. That way, the marriage that Christians hold dear remains in tact, the state can stay involved in the "marriage business," and same-sex couples can receive the rights the seek.

    What are your thoughts on that?

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  4. I entirely agree with your view on same-sex marriage as a Christian.
    But I also believe in separation of Church and State. The government should not be able to tell anyone whom they can or can't marry. They shouldn't have that power, especially not using religion as the reason why they can't. Many people, straight people, get married with no religious affiliation whatsoever. Is theirs not a marriage? It's obviously not a Christian marriage, but it is a legal marriage. Just don't allow same sex couples to get married in a church. Problem solved.

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  5. This is one of the most well thought out arguments I have read from a Biblical perspective about the topic. While you know I disagree, I very much enjoyed reading this so I can see it from another viewpoint. I have a big problem with the people that focus on the sin of same sex marriage, while I see them drinking, cheating, engaging in premarital sex, adultery, etc. I know numerous people that are divorced/remarried yet they dwell on the evils of same-sex marriage and insist on attempting to preserve the "sanctity" of marriage. It just seems like hypocrisy to me. Also, while citizens can jump through all of those legal hoops to do some things guaranteed by marriage, it is not always that easy. Quick example. I asked our landlord if B-man had to PCS and we were not married, but both on the lease, would we be penalized? The answer was yes, I would be penalized but not him. If same-sex or live-in couples work these loopholes, I am sure it won't be easy even though there are ways around it. Our legal definition of marriage guarantees us these rights without issues. The government is in involved in marriage now and for the government, it isn't about religion. Honestly, I know marriage is a religious idea, but the problem is the rights of committed American citizens are guaranteed by the government, not the church. It wouldn't even matter to me if it was a civil union by the state and marriage by the church, but the same rights were guaranteed to each couple. I know I won't be changing your mind on any of this, but I am just throwing it out there.

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  6. As a Catholic, I do not believe in same-sex marriage. It's not what The Bible says, not God's intent. That being said, I also believe that America is home of the free for Everyone. I also believe in separation of Church and State - which our founding fathers wanted so I have no issue with a same-sex couple getting "married" (call it a union, whatever) in the eyes of the State but not the Church. I would seriously have to question the Church if they started allowing it but I don't think the government has any ground in denying anyone equal rights.

    Also, great article. I really appreciate when you find exact verses to prove God's word.

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  7. Hi I just started following you again, I was following you under a different blog as Mrs. B at My life as a U.S. Army Wife, that blog has been deleted for quiet some time now and I am no longer married.

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  8. Thank you. This is the article I've been wanting write but haven't had the words to the thoughts to put it together this eloquently (I blame the baby!)

    So again, thank you!

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  9. I think it goes without saying that I completely agree with you. I've been trying to broach the subject on my blog for forever now, but couldn't say it nearly the way you did. I think you did a fantastic job and hit the nail on the head. =)

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  10. You did an amazing job writing this!! I'm also glad that you 'went there' :)

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