If, as some expect will happen, the Supreme Court of the United States rules that same-sex marriage is a civil right guaranteed by the American Constitution, this will create distress within the Christian community and beyond.
In Canada the decision has already been made in favor of revision. On July 20, 2005, the Federal Government passed Bill C-38 making same-sex marriage a legal right in all provinces.
Believers who feel uninformed or uncertain on the issue, might begin by reflecting on the question in the first two chapters of the Bible, where marriage is presented as “an order of creation.”
The first chapter of the Bible begins with the timeless affirmation, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1). Then this creation account unfolds to a climax with the creation of man as “male and female” (Genesis 1:27). And to male and female together God gives the mission to “be fruitful and increase.” (Genesis 1: 28).
Then, in the second chapter of the Bible the author in a sense reaches back to chapter one to further develop what is implied there. In doing so marriage is spoken of in a visible, concrete way and we meet Adam and Eve — one man and one woman.
You can see from this that marriage is presented even before the fall of man. That is why we say marriage is an order of creation and see it as a design of the Creator God.
So, we cannot see procreative marriage merely as a relationship prehistoric man gradually stumbled onto over a period of many centuries, and developed little by little. If that were so, a lack of procreational capabilities at the outset would have registered mankind as extinct.
As the Scriptures develop they report many deviations from the model set forth in Genesis 2 — one man and one woman exclusively. In Genesis 4 Lamech is the first bigamist, taking two wives (Genesis 4:19). Later it is implied that Pharaoh, an Egyptian pagan ruler, keeps a harem. But when he intrudes into the one-man-one-woman marriage of Abraham the Lord shows him his offense by sending serious disease on him and his household (Genesis 12:10–20).
When it comes to “male and female” relationships both Old and New Testaments report negatively on all sorts of deviations from the exclusive union of one man and one woman — fornication, adultery, polygamy, rape, even a deviation to sodomy (Genesis 19).
These deviations are sometimes cited to support the new and experimental situations being tried in our times and to diminish the sanctity of “one man and one woman” in the present.
It is important to note, in reply, that the Scriptures acknowledge all of the above and more in order to report them because the Bible is a very honest book. But they do not affirm any of them except “one man and one woman exclusively.”
So, what would Jesus say about this issue? First, consider his honest but compassionate treatment of the woman he met at Jacob’s well. She had already experienced five failed marriages and was at the time in a live-in relationship (John 4). He did not affirm her wretched career but he was kind without being sentimental. He spoke to the spiritual thirst beneath her marital confusion.
And what did he say to the woman who had been seized in an adulterous act? Again, without affirming her action he offered forgiveness, restoring to her her dignity. (John 8:3–11). No one could thus ever call him a hateful person.
Yet, in another situation some pharisees tried to draw him into conflict over the knotty problem of divorce. They asked him to declare on what grounds divorce would be considered allowable?
He went behind their debate to speak of the nature of marriage as set forth in Genesis: “God made them male and female” and said, “be fruitful and increase.” (Genesis 1:27). He added, “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife and they shall be one flesh” (Genesis 2:24). In his response he linked together the first and second chapters of Genesis as though they were one (Matthew 19:4-6).
Marriage is a covenant between one man and one woman.
If for Christians marriage is an order of creation, not negotiable and not amendable, then any move to revise it radically should be seen as reckless and hurtful to participants and to society. A nation that scorns the loving provision of God for heterosexual union and potential procreation will invite his judgment.
Photo credit: yeowatzup (via flickr.com)