The Plank… or Marriage Mayhem.. or ARRRGGGHHHH!!

As I write this, I’m not sure if I’ve ever been more burdened by a cultural conversation than I am right now. I received a text from a friend this morning asking my opinion on the swirling marriage controversy and I, though I am really not sure why, found myself feeling a definitive weight… So please walk with me through the journey of my mind as I weigh in on what seems to be the defining issue of my generation for the church.

First… I think it’s by scheming design that it’s Holy Week and this topic has grabbed everyone’s attention. The enemy wants no more than to distract from the awe that is the resurrection of Jesus, the complete substitutionary atoning work of the death and resurrection of our Risen Savior. I mean after all, who wants to be reminded of the greatest butt whooping they’ve received to date? So he wants to distract believers with the one social thing that divides, frustrates, consumes, and embitters more quickly than soft butter melts in a hot skillet. So let’s push back… because true equality is found only only at the feet of the Savior, in the redemptive work of His gospel (at least that’s what I get from Col 3:11)

So that brings me to the rest of it, and truly let me say this is an honest and open struggle, not with the biblical definition of marriage, or sin, or love. Those who know me, know that I am a rather huge fan of the Word of God. The struggle is the collision of culture and church, government and faith, hypocrisy and sanctification. So let me start with the asking of a couple of different questions I struggle with. Some of this stems from the wave of facebook profile picture shifting that I have witnessed over the last few days seeing the red = sign pop up everywhere. So to my Christian friends I have questions, a few for each side of the fence. These questions are meant to cause thought, whether introspective, or outwardly processed through discussions and comments, either way as long as we are talking honestly and openly.

To my Christian friends that are changing their profile pictures to red = signs, and declaring to stand in the camp of marriage equality:

What is the reasoning behind your stance?

Where do you stand with regards to the Bible, sin, and the rather direct way in which marriage and homosexuality are defined?

What is the church’s role in your thoughts? (for example, if the government mandates marriage for all, will it then be o.k. for the govt. to mandate that the orthodox/evangelical/Christian church perform gay weddings?)

To my Christian friends who are opposed or have changed their profile pics to something else in response:

Same first question as above (and feel free to expand on your thoughts…or in other words… don’t just say “because the bible says”)

Where does the role of church and government balance out? In other words, are we in a right place as the Christian church to say that the government should mandate a one woman-one man definition of marriage?

To anyone who is reading this that is not a believer, or perhaps is LGBT… and honest question (and in thinking about it maybe everyone should consider this):

What is it about the word “marriage”? Let’s face it, at this point the argument is over a label and certainly not an institutional definition of what it is, because the reality is those camps will forever be differentiated by a host of inputs. Basically I see a bunch of people at the center of this argument with both sides trying to scream louder than the other “IT’S THE PRINCIPLE!!!”, without anyone willing to lay down their hatchet to see what’s really going on.

I know I’m at risk here, I know that I’m at risk of hard core conservative believers saying I’ve gone liberal, and at risk of those on the other side of the argument saying I’m judgmental and un-loving (which is kind of an odd place to be considering the argument itself) but I’m willing to be at risk as I’m in process.

These words have been floating around facebook as well, a quote from Rick Warren, pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest Ca:

“Our culture has accepted two huge lies. The first is that if you disagree with someone’s lifestyle you must fear or hate them. The second is that to love someone means you agree with everything they believe or do. Both are nonsense. You don’t have to compromise convictions to be compassionate.”

This particular quote gives me great hope that there are those who are looking to have an honest perspective, and hopefully honest dialogue. I want to, I am longing to be involved with an open and honest dialogue that involves an actual agreeable disagreement that is founded in love, respect, and dignity (kind of like the model seen in John 8)

I’m going to speak from an honest point of view, maybe it helps maybe it doesn’t, maybe it clarifies, or maybe it’s just rambling, it’s in keeping with the “Mayem/ARRRGGHHH” part of the title. I’m in agreement with the idea that we should in no way as believers feel that we are to compromise our convictions in the center of this issue… but let’s be honest.. the sanctity of marriage issue, should really start at home.  How is it that we as the church aren’t putting forth a better model of marriage for the world to see? Why is it that the church is wrought with divorce, abuse, and other marital dysfunction? We aren’t offering a better image of marriage! It seems to me that most times the argument being made that the world is defiling the institution of marriage is the epitome of the plank in the eye. I mean we live in a world that does little to honor the actual covenant bond of marriage, where people get married on a whim, in drunken stupors, out of desperation, in complete selfishness, men and women sacrifice marriage on the altar of “ministry”, fail to serve one another, fail to cultivate dependence on Jesus rather than spouse, and so much more, all this and we have the audacity to try and tell the world it’s corrupting the institution of marriage? Ouch.  Perhaps it’s high time we realize the greatest thing the church could do for the institution of marriage, is change the face of marriage in the church! I mean, I have a tough time justifying my preaching at an unbelieving world about the “morality” they should espouse when I need to spend more effort encouraging Christians to actually adopt and practice a biblical model of gospel centered marriage.

Does this mean I deny God’s Word and condone gay marriage as cool in God’s eyes? Nope, sorry, I’m not swinging that way either. In my eyes the biblical institution of marriage is by far the best model, in fact when the biblical model of marriage is put in place and grounded in the Gospel it’s one of the most powerful cultural tools for redemption man has ever seen. The problem is, most Christians can agree with that, but then fail to realize that the government never mandated that, nor is it by any government institution that that occurs. So maybe it’s my opinion that the government can’t change the institution of marriage, any more than they can re-write the bible. Perhaps, I wonder at what point to we simply render unto Caesar and let them do what they will do. People get married without the church all the time, whether it’s Vegas or the courthouse and millions upon millions of people are legally married and don’t hold the Christian value of marriage as esteemed, other than they are “one man and one woman” and let’s face it… that alone is not the biblical definition of marriage. People are longing for something more though, something to give them them value, meaning, and really to give them a sense of satisfaction in life, and that is where we can enter the discussion in love and in truth.

When we get to the point that we can understand that one of the main roots of sin is the heart of man/woman seeking deep satisfaction, then maybe we realize the battlefield isn’t one of espousing morality, but elevating Jesus as the true means to satisfying our hearts deepest thirsts. Perhaps that’s where we get back to the real crux of the matter, That 2000 years ago God came, at just the right moment, in the flesh, lived the life I should, died a death that I deserved, and walked out of a tomb, all that I could have that satisfaction. Maybe the priority should be getting beyond the “marriage” issue and pointing out the Jesus is the better Groom and has come to redeem for Himself an undeserving bride, who is broken, imperfect, and flawed, but in whom He places beauty, perfection, and flawlessness. That’s the only solution I can see as lasting, as meaningful, or as viable for the believer… I guess I’m not sure how demanding a biblical standard be endorsed by the government helps that mission, or how the government endorsing the other side of the argument, changes or hinders that mission. AT the same time… I KNOW that walking away from, watering down, or abandoning God’s design for ourselves as believers, our marriages especially… that does hinder the mission. Anyway… there are other good reads on this matter, the guys over at The Gospel Coalition have THIS to say and it’s hard hitting and thought provoking for believers (and Biblically accurate).

The bottom line… I’m sure that this is not the end of the process for me, because, like all of us, I am continually being sanctified by the grace of God and grown in maturity, but I just want an honest, grace-filled, open discussion about a really difficult issue, I think we could all use a little more of that.

Please pray and consider your words and hearts before leaving comments or questions.

Indebted to Grace,

j-

P.S. – This is the actual bottom line.

5 thoughts on “The Plank… or Marriage Mayhem.. or ARRRGGGHHHH!!

  1. It seems like we Christians and de facto members of the religious right by association are actually helping the gay community reach there goal of wanting to be accepted as a social norm by resisting this issue. The more we talk the more they frame us as “bigots and hateful” by comparing us to the 70s civil rights protesters when really we are trying to stand on the principles of God’s word. I don’t think we can debate them with this imbalance in the public sphere because it is doing more harm than good. How can we try to keep Hebrews 13:4 where marriage is held in honor among all but not continue to polarize the issue?

    What is it about this label called marriage? Is it a religious institution or a state institution? Is it a religious institution recognized by the state? The Separation of Church and State people go crazy over this.

    Do we try to frame this issue as a religious freedom right at which point the most logical position should be to remove the institution of marriage from the state and the state only deals with legal civil union issues.

    I agree the most effective response would be to bolster Christian marriages so they look like Christ. This would show the unbelieving world the model God setup for us in a tangible way and would surely draw many to Christ.

    It just seems like a loose-loose situation, a sign of the times maybe. I know this is more ARGGGG than anything but its the few things that have processed through my head about this issue.

  2. I was truly happy to see this topic addressed in this way & to read your thoughts as you are in process. I feel the same, like I am in process with this. I know as a Christian I desire to stand by God’s word regardless of how unpopular it may be, and biblical view of GLBT relationships sort of tops the charts of unpopularity right now. I can’t support GLBT marriage because I do not stand by the relationships in the first place. And I guess that’s where it starts & stops for me. If it was up to me, if it was up to our Lord, there would be no GLBT marriage. Jesus would not support this so neither will I. I also don’t think Jesus would fight over this either, so I won’t do that either. How do I say this…this World, this Country, it’s not currently “ours”. God himself has given it over to Satan for the time being. So it’s not surprising that things are going to go down that are not of God. As those things happen, I will (I pray I will) stand by the word of God in the loving way that Jesus himself exemplified while here on Earth.

  3. Justin,

    All I can say is wow! Very well written. You amaze me with your words. “Words”, so powerful, they can condemn, judge, love, satisfy, be encouraging, and be destructive. As you well know, we have friends and family that certainly have different viewpoints. I like the words you usef here in your blog. A very respectfully encouraging reminder.

  4. Thank you brother!! Finally a new blog post!

    The best line was: “That 2000 years ago God came, at just the right moment, in the flesh, lived the life I should, died a death that I deserved, and walked out of a tomb, all that I could have that satisfaction [of our heart’s deepest desires].”

    Another… “People get married without the church all the time, whether it’s Vegas or the courthouse and millions upon millions of people are legally married and don’t hold the Christian value of marriage as esteemed, other than they are “one man and one woman” and let’s face it… that alone is not the biblical definition of marriage.”

    I think that line is especially hard-hitting to the crux of the issue. If we, as Christians, define marriage as just “one man and one woman” (and rally to get the government to define it as such too), we are missing the true Biblical definition of marriage, which goes beyond just the gender and number of the participants. And even further, as you mentioned in the blog post, that marriage is just secondary to the true marriage, between the his people, the bride, and Jesus. How absolutely dysfunctional, in all of our sin and brokenness, is our marriage to Jesus, and yet he loves us all of the same. His love is what makes our marriage perfect, nothing else, especially our own morality (and obvious lack thereof).

    God defines marriage… giving that power to define marriage to the United States government, even if it’s for them to define it in a way that is a “win” for Christians, is not what the goal of the Christian should be. That same power we give to the government, even if it’s for our own God & Bible-based agenda, is the same power that can (and probably will) be the power that will be used to truly persecute Christians if Jesus doesn’t come back before them. And I don’t mean taking “God” out of the Pledge of Allegiance, I mean true persecution. The US government does not deserve the power reserved for God.

    On the issue of homosexuality, no law, even if it is Biblically-based, will deliver the love and sin-covering grace that can bring one who defines themselves as homosexual to the foot of the cross. Only the love of Jesus can do that.

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