Questions and Answers About Marriage, Part 4

Title: Questions and Answers About Marriage, Part 4

Text: Mark 10:2-5, 6-9, Romans 13:1

Time: May 31st, 2013

I’m in a series raising questions about marriage and then answering them as best I can from the Bible. Why a series on answering questions about marriage? Because there is such a complete lack of understanding on the subject in our culture today — from a Christian biblical standpoint. Sure, everyone thinks they know all about marriage; but in reality, few people understand what God’s Word says about it.  What else can explain why our society seems to be rushing to embrace so-called same sex marriage? We’ve got “In God We Trust” engraved on our money, so it’s clear that our self-identity as a culture includes a relationship with God Almighty. We say, “One Nation Under God,” in the Pledge of Allegiance, so again, it’s obvious that our population claims some kind of covenant with God. Yet you wouldn’t know that by looking at the response of our population towards the immorality of homosexuality in the last few years. Gay marriage? It’s such a clear case of perverse immorality. It’s a no-brainer. Of course it would be wrong for society to approve of such an immoral act, not only because it’s wrong in itself, but it also debases the importance of real marriage, the relationship of a man and a woman. You’d think a semi-Christian culture would know this. But as I’ve said, in the last few years it seems our population has forgotten nearly everything it learned in Sunday School and church. So then it’s important to go back over and over again the basics of moral right and wrong, and also cover the basic truths of marriage from a Christian standpoint. We need to re-educate our population on what it means to be “One Nation Under God.” We’re in a “teachable moment” in our culture today. Christians have an opportunity to teach what God has to say about morality and marriage. But will Christians teach it? The professional clergy seem reluctant to teach Christian morality and marriage today because it might step on somebody’s toes or ruffles some feathers, and so forth. They seem afraid to be controversial, or say something offensive today. It’s sad that simply teaching about standard, traditional Christian marriage is controversial, but that’s where we’re at today. And we’ve got to be willing to be controversial in order to teach God’s truth. So with that in the way of an introduction, let me wade into the controversy of marriage today. I do so because it’s so important. If we don’t teach about Christian marriage then in all likelihood people won’t learn about it – the culture certainly won’t help the church teach about Christian marriage, not today. So it’s up to us to teach it. So let’s start by asking a few questions, and then answering them from the Bible.

First, if divorce is so bad in God’s eyes, why does he allow for it in his law? Mark 10:2-5, “Some Pharisees came and tested him by asking, ‘Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?’ ‘What did Moses command you?’ he replied. They said, ‘Moses permitted a man to write a certificate of divorce and send her away.’ ‘It was because your hearts were hard that Moses wrote you this law,’ Jesus replied.” Earlier in this series on marriage I mentioned the passage in Malachi where it says God hates divorce. Yet God also allows for divorce in certain circumstances. Is that a contradiction? Is there some kind of inconsistency or incompatibility here? No, it’s just that God made a concession because of the sinfulness of the human heart. People are supposed to marry, and marriage is supposed to last a lifetime. But obviously, because of human sinfulness, that isn’t always the case. So what’s to be done because of the hardness of sinful human hearts? God’s response is to allow for divorce, while not encouraging it. Through the prophet Moses, God gave instructions for divorce because it was a reality that had to be faced. It was a divine concession to the reality of sin. Jesus explains all this in his response to the Pharisees. If God hadn’t given instructions as to what to do in the case of a broken-beyond-repair marriage relationship then people would have made up their own way – and that would have made things even worse. So at least with God permitting divorce in certain strict circumstances, there was an orderly way to deal with a bad situation. Again, it isn’t God’s will, divorce isn’t God’s will. God hates divorce, as Malachi 2:16 states clearly. But in order to respond to the reality of human sinfulness and selfishness in a broken marriage, God permits divorce in some instances. It’s a concession to human sinfulness. But what happens today, especially among Christians, is that because of the sinful and selfish human heart, people quickly jump to the false conclusion that because God permits divorce it must be ok. We’re also taught in Christianity to love and forgive, so many people figure that although divorce is wrong, they can always be forgiven anyway. But this is the wrong attitude to take. Yes, sin can always be forgiven, but that’s not an excuse to sin! God is calling people to obey his will, not disobey it and/or then count on his mercy afterwards. Divorce is bad, it’s wrong, it’s a sin, it shouldn’t ever be encouraged. Just because God has made provisions for divorce as a concession to human sinfulness doesn’t mean anyone should take advantage of it. With the divorce rate at over fifty percent of marriages, clearly something is wrong. What’s wrong is our loose and careless attitudes towards divorce. God doesn’t have a careless attitude about divorce, and neither should we.

Second, since God permits divorce as a concession to human sin, wouldn’t he permit the same for gay marriage? Mark 10:6-9, “But at the beginning of creation God made them male and female. For this reason a; man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.” God makes provisions for human sinfulness when a marriage breaks up and permits divorce under certain strict circumstances. Well, some people ask, wouldn’t God make similar provisions for homosexuals by allowing for gay marriage as a concession to sin, just like he does in respect to divorce as a concession to sin? This argument has some kind of appeal to nominal Christians because it basically says, “God hates divorce and sees it as sin, yet he allows for divorce. Well, if God does that with heterosexual sin, why wouldn’t he allow for gay marriage as a concession to homosexual sin?” The reason this kind of thinking is wrong is that there is a categorical difference between conceding some kind of solution for individuals and society by permitting divorce in the case of a broken marriage, and changing the entire nature of marriage in allowing for so-called gay marriage. Same sex marriage changes the whole nature of the marriage relationship because it changes the very basic and most elemental definition of what constitutes marriage. As Jesus teaches in the verse we just looked at, “At the beginning of creation God made them male and female.” These are the only categories for marriage. A marriage, biblically defined, is a covenant relationship between a man and a woman. That’s at the core of God’s definition of marriage. Now to change this fundamental definition of marriage to include members of the same sex is to so change it that it’s no longer marriage any more – it’s something else. God has already revealed that homosexuality is wrong. He made that abundantly clear in his judgment of Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 19). So he would never permit or allow anything like same sex marriage because it goes far beyond merely a concession to human sinfulness and disobedience. In permitting divorce God provides a means by which individuals and society might salvage the aftermath of a broken marriage relationship. Of course, it’s God’s will that a broken marital relationship could eventually be repaired – and the marriage restored. But if that’s not possible, due to human sinfulness, then he permits divorce. That’s different than permitting something like gay marriage, which is in a totally different category of sin altogether. No, there’s nothing in the Bible that indicates God would ever permit same sex marriage.

Third, since God permits divorce as a concession to human sin, might he permit society to allow for gay civil unions or partnerships? Romans 13:1, “Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.” The Apostle Paul writing under divine inspiration teaches that governments are established by God for the ordering of society. It is against the will of God that chaos or anarchy prevails in society. Some form of order or government must exist. The Bible allows for a lot of flexibility in forms of government. We in the West favor democracy, but there are other forms, according to the Bible, that are acceptable to God. In fact, the Bible was written and recorded during times when democracy wasn’t in widespread use, and we don’t see any particular urgency in God’s Word to find a better form of government. That just shows that God is flexible in accepting many different forms of human government. Now we face today particularly modern problems that relate to how different and diverse humanity can live together without conflict. One of the problems facing society today is the growing political power of homosexuals. How far should society go in accommodating homosexuals? Many today feel that we should grant them the right to marry, as in gay marriage. A few states have actually made same sex marriage legal. There’s a push to make gay marriage legal at the federal level. But as we’ve already seen, homosexuality is a sin in the eyes of God, and to bring it into marriage is to compound the sin of homosexuality even more. Gay marriage is not the solution for the problem of what to do about the growing political power of homosexuals. What then is the solution? Possibly gay civil unions or partnerships are an answer. The problem with this solution on a policy level is that it can be seen as an encouragement of the sinful homosexual lifestyle, and society doesn’t want to do that, unless it wants to abandon completely its Judeo-Christian moral values. But what a civil union or partnership means is that society would grant same sex couples – or any two people – a legal status for the purposes of inheritance or taxation or legality. It wouldn’t call this legal status “marriage,” but it would allow for many or most of the same legal rights. Now this is clearly a concession to the growing political power of homosexuals, but is it acceptable in the eyes of God? Could it be seen, somewhat like, the concession for divorce after a marital breakup? It’s different than gay marriage because it doesn’t debase holy matrimony directly, although its consequences, if enacted, are unknown.

Personally, I don’t like encouraging human sinfulness in any way, and I see gay civil partnerships or unions as doing that a little, because it elevates a sinful relationship to a legal statues. However, if homosexuals must have something, if they feel they must be recognized in society at some level, then I guess this would be a step that might be permissible that wouldn’t undermine holy matrimony. I’m totally against so-called gay marriage because it brings into marriage a sinful relationship from the beginning and perpetuates that sinful relationship and calls it by the honorable name “marriage.” That’s wrong, according to the Bible. But because a gay civil partnership or union wouldn’t debase marriage directly, and because it is the job of government to organize society so as to prevent chaos and anarchy, I suppose it might be in some sense acceptable from a social policy standpoint. The biggest problem in granting a right to civil partnership or union is that it probably won’t end there. Homosexuals have already got their eyes on the bigger prize of redefining marriage itself. If they are given the right to form legal civil partnerships or unions, they’ll probably simply use it as a stepping-stone towards full gay marriage. If they would accept the legal status of a union or partnership that would grant them nearly the same rights as standard married couples, then this might be an acceptable concession. What would God think of it? He might see it as he sees divorce, as a concession to human sinfulness, as a way of salvaging the wreckage of human disobedience. Or he might see it as another step on the road to divine judgment for the human race. But if it’s done in a purely legal way, in terms of legal status before the law, in the way, say, one would form a corporation or legal entity, then that removes a lot of the moral and ethical baggage from it – and that might make it acceptable before the Lord. Again, God approves of government that orders society so as to prevent chaos and anarchy, while holding to basic moral and ethical standards. If civil unions or partnerships permitted people, not just gays but anybody, to form a legal entity for tax or inheritance purposes, for example, that might be acceptable. If gays wanted to use that legal entity as their form of “marriage” I guess nobody could stop them, just as long as society doesn’t call it “marriage.” This might be a morally acceptable path forward for our nation. But if we go the way of so-called gay marriage, we debase holy matrimony – and we might as well then go ahead and remove any references to “In God We Trust” or “One Nation Under God” because we would clearly be moving away from any attempt to please God.

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