Thursday, August 16, 2012
The Roasting of Chick-fil-A (Part 2): What do I stand for?
Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? (
Matt. 7:3, NIV)
I believe the Bible clearly defines marriage as one man uniting for life with one woman (
Matt. 19:4-5, Eph. 5:31). However, if I am honest,
I must recognize that our culture accepts, the Bible speaks of, and too many
Christians participate in practices in addition to “gay marriage” that don’t
line up with this definition. Practices like divorce, sex outside of marriage,
cohabitation, polygamy. I cannot “throw rocks” at one practice that doesn’t fit
the definition if I “wink” at others. What do we do with this stuff?
Before I try to answer the question (in 1,000 words or less), let me give two broad disclaimers. First, the Bible tells us to “speak the truth in love” and to love “in deed and truth.” This post focuses on “the truth” side of the equation, as did my earlier post on marriage. We often tend to fall on one side or the other of “truth in love.” Sometimes we focus so much on truth we forget about love; sometimes we focus so much on love we dilute (or ignore) truth. But, we must think right before we can act right (or, to sound really intellectual, orthodoxy precedes orthopraxy), thus my reason for focusing on “truth.” It bothers me when Christians use harsh tones and harsh words when defending their views; it equally bothers me when Christians say things like, “it’s not up to me to say if it is right or wrong”. As believers, we must understand what is biblically right, wrong, or “gray”.
That leads to the second disclaimer: What we believe the Bible teaches as right or wrong does not, in itself, define how we treat people. That’s the love side. Jesus did not start his conversation with the Samaritan woman at the well with the words “You are practicing sexual impurity. Therefore, you are going to hell.” He eventually got to the point of her lifestyle, but only after developing a relationship (
Truth in love. Grace and truth. He did not “hate” her because she lived
immorally. Similarly, in today’s world, it is bad logic to conclude that if I
hold the traditional view of marriage, I hate anyone whose lifestyle differs from that view, whether gay or otherwise. But how we treat such people is stuff
for a future post.
So, back to the question. Let me oh-so-briefly touch on the four practices that run counter to the one-man one-woman view of marriage. All four undermine traditional marriage, the Bible mentions all four, and the last three are widely practiced in our culture and among Christians.
Polygamy. Polygamy is not (yet) legal in this country, but people often use polygamy in the Bible as evidence that marriage need not be limited to one man united to one woman. The Bible records history – warts and all – without always commenting about the rightness of those events. That the Bible records occurrences of polygamy does not imply the rightness of polygamy; it simply records what happened. Second, with the exception of the (likely) rare case of Levirate Marriage (
Deut. 25:5-10), polygamy
never appears in a positive light in the Bible. Every record of polygamy paints
a picture of a messy family. Kings in particular were commanded not to take
many wives ( Deut. 17:17).
When they did, trouble ensued (e.g., 1 Kings 11:3). Third, the Bible mentions only a handful
of polygamous relationships (a dozen or so). Most marriages in biblical times united
one man with only one woman. Polygamy serves as an example that people did not
always honor the one-man, one-woman standard, but it does not serve as a positive
exception to that standard.
Divorce. Divorce is rampant in our culture. For every two new marriages granted, one divorce is granted (which isn’t quite the same things as “half of all marriages end in divorce”). “No-Fault” divorce made divorce easy. And divorce creates all kinds of fallout within families. Granted, divorce is not unique to our culture and our era; even in Jesus’ day, questions arose about when divorce was valid. What did Jesus say about? “Because of your hardness of heart Moses permitted you to divorce your wives; but from the beginning it has not been this way.” Time doesn’t permit addressing any biblical exceptions permitting divorce, but as a whole, the Bible frowns on it. The ease of divorce in our culture certainly hurts the case for marriage.
Sex, sex, and more sex. The so-called sexual revolution of the sixties changed the way our culture views sex outside of marriage. Now premarital sex is largely considered normal. In fact, one resource reports over 90% of dating men or women between the ages of 18 and 25 are sexually active. Multiple studies reveal a high percentage of men – married or not – access pornography regularly. Sex, designed by God as an act of intimacy between husband and wife (“and they shall become one flesh”) now serves only as something “we just do” in relationships. Too many no longer “flee” immorality; we “pursue” it. The prevalence of sex outside of marriage certainly hurts the case for marriage.
Couples living together (cohabitation). The woman Jesus encountered at the well lived with someone “not her husband.” Not widely practiced in biblical times, it is widely practiced today. Couples who live together do so for a variety of reasons. Some fear marriage because they have too few solid role models; some believe (in spite of contrary statistical evidence) living together provides a test of compatibility. Living together does require commitment, but of a different kind and a lesser degree than marriage. Cohabitation certainly undermines the case for marriage.
If by holding to the traditional view of marriage I only mean I am against gay marriage, I am missing much of the picture. To be consistent, I must also recognize these other aberrations against traditional marriage. But divorce, pre-marital sex, and cohabitation are largely accepted by our culture (and too-much accepted within our churches), so we don’t see a cultural backlash against them. We’ve knocked many pillars out from under traditional marriage; gay marriage is but one problem. It simply draws fire whereas the other issues do not. Perhaps they should.
I do not hate gays, any more that I hate divorcees, those who give in to sexual sin, or those who live together. What I stand for is God’s ideal, for marriage, for strong families, for purity.