Debating Marriage: Sacred or Sham?

Last month while on vacation at the beach, we saw three ocean-side wedding ceremonies and heard about several others scheduled for the following week. How ironic, now that many heterosexual couples are forsaking the church for wedding ceremonies in diverse locations—on water skis, in fire trucks, and equally weird locales—same-sex couples are fighting to “marry” and they want all the attendant pomp and ceremony in a church.  

Among those most prominent in supporting the “right” to same-sex “marriage” are the liberal churches—who emphasize individual freedoms rather than the “boundaries” of Biblical Christianity.  Their faith is based on personal and corporate interpretations rather than on Scriptural tenets—no matter how historically authenticated or theologically authoritative.

As the Senate votes today about protecting marriage as a union between a man and a woman, I can’t help but reflect on the sacred aspects of marriage.  After all, one of the last statements generally made by the minister at a Protestant wedding ceremony is based on Mark 10 in the Bible: “What God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.” This is a very solemn warning about marriage; it is a sacred covenant that the couple makes before God and the assembled guests.  It is a clear admonition that wedding vows are not merely made between the man and woman, but those vows also constitute a promise made by them to God in the presence of witnesses and in a church setting to emphasize their relationship with fellow believers in their congregation.

This distinction is significant as we observe gays seeking marriage status for their unions.  With democracy’s freedom, same-sex couples can already have any type of secular or religious ceremony they want in informal recognition of their relationships.  But what they really want is divine sanction as well as legalization for their behavioral choices—even though the supposed benefits of legal status are secondary to their desire for religious approval. They want the church and community to convey legitimacy to their relationship. 

The covenant of marriage, though, implies a life-long commitment. Yet, same-sex relationships are notoriously short-lived—such “marriages” would be a sham.  Witness the fact that few same-sex couples are taking advantage of the opportunity for “marriage” when it is available.  Witness, too, the divorces already taking place among those recently “married.”

Nevertheless, critics laugh at the idea of “holy matrimony” and poke fun at those who venerate marriage as a sacred covenant or a sacrament. Critics also say that opposing same-sex “marriage” conflates private beliefs with public values or confuses the church altar with the public square.  Yet, those who seek the status of “marriage” for same-sex unions are the ones who want a stamp of “value” on their status and want their union “sanctified” at the church altar rather than keep it a private matter of nonsanctioned behavior. 

No, the whole purpose of the same-sex “marriage” initiative is to move the private behavior of homosexuals into the public square.  Further, they want to give it a stamp of approval by sanctioning that behavior before the church altars.  Again, it is ironic that those who are so opposed to the “establishment of religion”—calling it the province of the clerics, not the government—are the very ones who are seeking the clerics’ stamp of approval for their unions. It is not enough that their government does not restrict private behavior.

While the same-sex “marriage” activists are fighting an uphill battle for approval from the church (six in 10 Americans in the general public—59%—oppose same-sex marriage and among those who have a high level of religious commitment, opposition is nearly seven to one—80% to 12%—according to a poll by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life).  More than a quarter of those who object to same-sex “marriages” believe that homosexuality is immoral and another nearly 20% say that such relationships conflict with their religious beliefs. Oddly, those who oppose same-sex relationships because of their faith are not convinced that marriage as an institution is threatened by same-sex “marriages”; instead, they believe that the relationship itself is inherently sinful.

For the gays who are in the fight for same-sex “marriages,” though, marriage is the Holy Grail.  For them, there is no “consolation prize”; it is “marriage” or nothing.  They ask, “Who gets to define marriage?” 

That question truly is the bottom line: “Who gets to define marriage?”  The answer is simple:  Marriage is God’s design; He defines marriage.

Ultimately, all the data, all the secular arguments and all the polls are beside the point.  Though these things—data, rationality and polls—are relevant and important, the central fact is that marriage is a sacred covenant made before God.  In the New Testament, Paul the Apostle refers to marriage as a reflection of the “mystical union between Christ and His church.”  Such a union is not to be entered into lightly, nor should that designation be granted to relationships that violate the tenets of Scripture.