September 22, 2012

Why Christians don't understand the same-sex marriage debate-and thus are losing it.

I want to make a few brief comments on marriage, and the debate over whether or not homosexual marriage should be created by our government. I use the word "created" very intentionally.

Note: none of my thoughts or ideas here are original, and most are being expressed by some in this ongoing national debate. However, they are certainly the minority, and so I have decided to add my small voice to the choir.

It seems to me that, while not universally, the general slogan of those opposed to same-sex marriage (from here on "SSM") is that they "support traditional marriage and traditional values." Less frequently I hear of a support for "Judeo-Christian" values. Here is my rub with both of these terms, especially the former-they utterly miss the root of this entire issue. The question is not whether marriage should conform to what is traditional. If it were, of course marriage could change into whatever we would like it to. This is because traditions and values change with time, geographical location, and culture. Simply because something, in this case monogamous heterosexual marriage, was embraced for the first 200 or so years of the American experience does not make it worth preserving. Sorry to burst your flag waving bubble. Even the fact that such an institution is embraced across many cultures, throughout much of human history, does not make it worth preserving. Slavery has been embraced, to varying degrees, by many cultures spanning nearly all of human history, on every continent (sans Antarctica, I don't know of much slavery happening there). Do we cry out for it's preservation? No.

So what makes marriage different? Is there a legitimate case to be made against SSM and for "traditional" marriage? Yes, there is. While the argument I will present is certainly not exhaustive, I do believe it to be far more compelling than most anything being presented to us in most attempts to save marriage. I want to briefly address both what marriage is foundationally, and what it is ultimately.

First, marriage is foundationally a creation of God. Human beings are created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27). Part of that image is the capacity and desire for loving, communicative, relationship. And the first relationship God gives man is marriage. God says that it is not good for man to be alone, the first thing in all of creation that God deems to be anything other than "good" or "very good." And so he creates a helper suitable for Him. We see this all in Genesis chapter two. Every other form of human relationship is built upon this framework. Churches, clans, and communities are built on families. Governments, being built upon the culture created by churches, clans, and communities, are thus ultimately are at their foundation built upon families. And the human family begins with a husband and wife. This one man plus one woman for life relationship, as instituted by God in the garden of Eden, is the cornerstone of human civilization. So at marriages foundation it is instituted by God, and as such we are not at liberty to define it. He already has. And He has designed the rest of human existence in relation to this relationship. This being the case, it not only is not our place to define it, but it would seem to be to our disadvantage. I'm not much for analogies, but if I'm building a house and decide to take a bale of straw, call it my "cornerstone", and proceed to build-the results will be, shall we say, less than satisfactory. Call a bale of straw a cornerstone does not make it a cornerstone.

This is an important part of the discussion, and it's probably a necessary place to begin. But it is not the biggest reason for keeping marriage defined the way God defines it. For that we need to look at Ephesians 5:28-32,

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.

Here the apostle Paul gives us marriage's ultimate meaning-it is meant to picture Christ and His church. As Christians we have to know this. Certainly, marriage is the building block for healthy churches, cultures, and nations. It absolutely is the best environment for raising children. One man plus one woman for a lifetime is "simply the way it's supposed to be." Marriage as defined in the Bible just plain works. But this is not enough. Again, if our appeal is merely to "traditional" values, pragmatism, and the created order, we have a solid argument, but I'm not so sure that it is compelling. Paul's argument in Ephesians five is over-arching. He says in essence, "yes, God built this into the creation order-but for a higher purpose. To show us Himself. To show us His love." This is why defining marriage in agreement with God is a matter of utmost importance-because anything different does not display who Christ is and how he loves His church. Distortions of marriage lie about God. A man who radically and self-givingly loves his wife as his own body images Christ. A wife who in joyful love submits to and respects her husband displays a beautiful picture of the church. Anything outside that is a lie about the very nature of God. This is why divorce is a dreadfully wrong, why polygamy is a dreadfully wrong, why adultery is a dreadfully wrong, why fornication is dreadfully wrong, why pornography is dreadfully wrong, and why homosexuality (and by extension, SSM) is dreadfully wrong. Because marriage speaks to the very nature of Christ's covenantal, loving relationship with His bride, the church.

Let me end on two practical notes.

1- The reason it is imperative for us to see this is simple-there are people fighting tooth and nail to push this through, and a lot of people sitting on their hands either because they don't want to offend anyone, or because of some stupid political position saying it doesn't matter what the government does with marriage anyway (ala, Ron Paul). This is absolutely wrong. The issue does matter because of marriage's design to reflect the relationship of Christ and His church. Ad the government's position on it does matter, because in our country marriage is a legally recognized institution, and if something besides real, biblical marriage is allowed to be called "marriage" because Christians simply sat on their hands and said "it doesn't matter what the government says" we lie to the millions of non-Christians in our country, and the billions in our world who watch and see that the issue of marriage obviously isn't a big deal to us. And if something designed to tell us about our God doesn't matter, then how much does our God really matter?

2- The battle is not against flesh and blood. Homosexuals who think they should be able to be "married" are not the problem. Democrats and liberals in congress and White House are not the problem. The ACLU is not the problem. The problem is sin. Sin blinds people to spiritual reality, and until Jesus comes in and lifts that veil so that they can see, they won't get it. And so for Christians, we have to quit playing defense. Quit acting like a bunch of babies crying because someone is trying to "take your traditions away" and make the world different than the comfy one you were used to. You ought to be broken for someone whose view of marriage has been so skewed by experience, by culture, and by their own sin that they cannot see how beautifully God has designed it to function both as a picture of His own love, and as the most intimate of human relationships. Quit being afraid of sinners. Be broken for them. Quit treating them like the bad guys. Realize that we're all the bad guys, and that God loved us enough to kill His Son in our place despite that.

You see, if this is a character of God issue, then it ultimately is a Gospel issue. And any efforts we make to keep marriage defined as one man and one woman, need to be made with that in view. We don't fight for marriage for the sake of marriage. We fight for marriage because Jesus radically loves His bride, and we want everyone to know that love.

4 comments:

  1. Good points. Particularly neutralizing "traditional" lingo and rooting it in what matters. I do wonder how being "broken for them" plays out practically - can you describe the narrow territory of politically opposing SSM while being broken towards the sponsors of it?

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  2. I believe that by keeping gay people from getting married, we are not keeping them from sinning, and to do so would just be legalism, anyhow. I believe we are to love people, regardless of how they identify themselves. This country was founded upon religious freedom. Who are we to force religion down people's throats? And, speaking of Ron Paul, that is EXACTLY what he is doing; definitely not very "Christian-like." We, as people, have the right to make a choice, whether to live for ourselves or for Christ. Let people make that choice.

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  3. Well, I was really excited about this because my mom and I were just having this discussion today. I have been so curious about this topic lately because it's such a huge thing now! I wonder why that is. Like, I was reading about it in Romans, and then my mom said that it was a genetic condition (being homosexual that is). I'm still confused about it, but then again it isn't really any of my business... so this was quite helpful.

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  4. Just so you folks kniw, I appeciate the comments, don't have room in a comment to reply, working on another post to answer some questions. Thanks for reading!

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I love Jesus, my wife, and my kids. Writing and teaching are two things I have a passion for. Gardening and fishing are cool, too. I blog @ willdole.com, you can reach me @ contact@willdole.com