The Supreme Court has declared that marriage is a fundamental right that must be extended to all regardless of their sexual orientation. Opinion polls indicate that the majority of Americans agree with the decision. How should Christians respond?
If we consider the current state of marriage in America it would seem that the Supreme Court might have got it right. For the vast majority of Americans marriage is little more than a social contract between two consenting adults. It is an agreement to share resources, divide assets and assign legal rights such as survivorship, inheritance and power-of-attorney. That it is no more than a legal construct is supported by people’s utilization of pre-nuptial agreements, which are a contract specifically delineating the limitations of the subsequent marriage contract.
A key aspect of contracts is the manner in which they can be broken or resolved. We have an entire segment of our civil code dedicated to governing the termination of marital contracts. Everything from homes, pets and even children are treated as assets to be divided. The rise of “shared custody” agreements, where time with children is parceled out by a judge, is the natural consequence of viewing marriage as little more than a contract.
If marriage is just a contract between two consenting adults, why shouldn’t same sex couples be allowed to enter into such an arrangement? What rational argument can be made to the contrary?
The Christian teaching is that marriage is more than a contract. It is a covenant. It is founded not in a commitment to share resources for mutual benefit but in submission to God’s divine plan for humanity. It was ordained and created by God as a declaration of His provision and love, an expression of His plan for creation. Scripture teaches that He created Male and Female and that in so doing He created them different and complementary, designed to achieve full expression in the oneness that comes from marriage. The marriage covenant is intended to last and to reflect God's unbreakable commitment to His people.
This understanding of marriage as covenant was abandoned by our nation, including many who profess to be Christian, long ago. When essential components of the marriage covenant such as fidelity, sexual purity, and an unbreakable life-long commitment were set aside, when the church turned a blind eye to pre-marital and extramarital sex, pornography, and divorce, the definition of marriage was beginning to change. When the authority to define marriage was delegated to the government further change became inevitable. In a representative government state policies evolve and adapt to changes in the attitudes and beliefs of the governed. As societal values change over time so will laws and statutes, so a departure from a traditional definition of marriage was inevitable.
It is for this reason that those who look to constitutional amendments, judicial appointments or presidential elections to return marriage to its traditional definition are wasting their time and energy. The best defense of traditional marriage will never arise from the eloquent arguments of an attorney or the blistering dissent of a judge. It will be found in the powerful testimony of Christians living in covenantal marriage in full view of a critical public.
While our nation and our courts may proclaim that marriage is defined as a commitment made by any two consenting adults, Christians who adhere to Biblical teaching are compelled to say it is much more. It is a covenant established by our Creator, intended to be symbolic of His love for His people. While we must say this with our words, we will say it best when we say it with our actions. If we do not fight for covenantal marriage in our own homes, families and churches, we cannot expect to be heard when we take the fight into the secular world.
My prayer for the church is not that the Supreme Court decision will lead to greater political action. My prayer is that the decision will result in personal action. May Christians be motivated to a renewed commitment to purity, fidelity and faithfulness, may divorce become a rarity in our churches, and may true love and commitment between husbands and wives become defining characteristics of our families. This is the greatest argument for marriage that we can make. If we fail to make this argument no other argument will matter.
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