The United States is poised to turn marriage into a civil proposition empty of any religious significance. Never mind what the Supreme Court decides, marriage has been sliding into secularism for decades. The recent wins for gay marriage rights are just a final knockout blow. Marriage has been captured by the humanists and stripped of its holiness. It’s now time for the Christian church to abandon what cannot be kept, to let go of what’s already been lost, to divorce the toxic union of church and government at the wedding altar, and set the definition of marriage straight.
Let go. The civil cooperation with holy matrimony is over. From now on the governing authorities will sanction whatever unions the prevailing opinions allow. Right now it’s heterosexual and homosexual marriages. With the Bible out of the way, the push will come for many other flavors of civil unions. I don’t know how quickly they will be allowed, but I’m sure there will be movements for multiple spouse marriages and unions with minors. What else? Just use your imagination. The point is that this arena is no place for holy matrimony. Let it go. Return sacred marriage to it’s home in the church.
Define marriage. The civil unions granted by and regulated by the government have no spiritual significance. They are political creations. Biblical marriage was created by God and is sanctioned by the church. It begins with the design in Genesis (For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh). It culminates in the wedding between Jesus Christ and the church which is the pattern for, not a reflection of, God-ordained marriage. Because sacred marriage exists by God’s design, he endows it with spiritual blessings that civil unions can never convey. These include the grace of God which believing partners shower on each other, the cooperation of these partners in spiritual activities of eternal significance, the raising of children according to Biblical principles, and the formation of the Christian home with all the blessings it extends to those whom it touches.
Biblical marriage is defined as the union of one man and one woman, according to God’s design as described in the Bible, and overseen by the local church. Some of the key characteristics of sacred marriage include:
- It unites two believers.
- The union is permanent, until one of the partners dies or is proven to be unfaithful.
- The union conveys all of the spiritual blessings mentioned above, but is independent of any civil or governmental sanctions or benefits.
Since Biblical marriage is independent of civil marriage, married partners may need to pursue civil recognition of their union in order to obtain benefits that flow from the civil union. These include tax advantages, insurance benefits, inheritance matters, and rights pertaining to spouses and children.
Further discussion is needed on the problem of spousal abuse, both physical and emotional. My opinion is that this requires separation of the partners until the problem is resolved, but it may also require divorce if the offending party is unrepentant. Divorce is biblically approved, but not required, for adultery. Other than these reasons, divorce should not take place in Biblical marriages. The frequency of divorce among Christians has been said to be the same as non-Christians, about 50%, though more recent statistics say it is closer to 30%. Even that rate is a disgrace. It indicates rampant infidelity in Christian marriages or an abandonment of the Biblical charge that the two should remain one.
Much work will be needed to make sacred marriage a meaningful alternative to civil unions. Right now many Christian marriages suffer from the same failings as secular marriages. Christian marriages have moved away from the auspices of the church. Some, perhaps many, Christian couples will object to the church having any authority over their union, especially its termination. Some will object to the exclusion of non-believers. Some will not understand the distinction between civil and holy matrimony. What church leader or organization will champion these changes, especially in the light of many denominations abandoning the Biblical definition of marriage?
To do nothing, however, is to give in to the secularization of marriage with all its ungodly variations. The shock of the recent rapid abandonment of traditional marriage may be just the push we need to inspire us to act.
Image by Chris Hearn on Flickr, CC by-sa 2.0