Traditional marriage is dead in America. It has gone the way of religious liberty and unborn babies. State after state will legalize so-called same-sex marriage, followed by polygamy, incest, and so on, like falling dominoes. It is simply a matter of time. The toothpaste is flowing out of the tube, it cannot be put back and it won’t stop. Soon the traditional view will be the only one not tolerated by the general public.
So what’s a Christian to do? How do we interject our opinion into such a mess? The first thing to get clear is that it’s not about our opinion, it’s about God’s. He created marriage, He gets to define it. The second thing is to argue from what marriage truly is. If you get that right, the genders of the participants can only work one way. If it’s light you want, you won’t try to put two bulbs or two sockets together because everyone knows that won’t help you see in the dark. But if you don’t care about seeing, and only care about your right to do whatever you want, you can put any two things together and call it “light.” Of course, calling it light doesn’t make it light, it just shows that you are free to be a fool if you want to.
Marriage has a specific and unchangeable purpose that drives its definition and its participants. It cannot be changed. Sure, people can hookup with anyone they want and call it “marriage,” but that doesn’t make it marriage. Christians need to tell them that. We need to argue from a truly Christian perspective. It won’t stop the dominoes, but at least we will be true to our King. Here is what I mean by “truly Christian perspective.”
There are two ways for Christians to oppose murder. We can condemn it as a needless destruction of another living being. Or we can oppose it because God tells us to, because humans are created in His image. Which is the uniquely Christian response?
There are two ways for Christians to oppose drunkenness. We can argue that getting sloshed on a regular basis is self-destructive behavior that leads to brokenness, strained relationships, ineffectiveness, and liver disease. Or we can argue that God prohibits intoxication, requiring us instead to be controlled by His Spirit. Which is the uniquely Christian response?
There are two ways for Christians to oppose same-sex marriage. We can sound the alarm about the coming doom to civilization as we know it, mourn the breakdown of the family, and bemoan its negative impact on children. Or we can proclaim that marriage is intended by God to be a picture of Christ and the Church, a picture that cannot be pictured without a man and a woman. Again, which is the uniquely Christian response?
“Same-sex marriage” is a meaningless concept. It’s like two people holding gloves with no ball and saying they’re playing a game of catch. Or putting two nuts on a piece of metal and claiming to have bolted it down. Or holding two halves of a bun and calling it a hamburger. Same-sex marriage is like that. You cannot make a marriage with just one gender.
Now I’m not talking about how both genders are needed for the genitals to fit together (though that is certainly true), I’m talking about the essence of what makes marriage marriage. Same-sex people are capable of having orgasmic experiences and committed affection, but they cannot have marriage because marriage is more than sex and vows. Ultimately, it is not a civil union or a state issue. It’s a Christ union, a Jesus issue. God established it at the beginning of human existence not merely to lay the foundation for the family and society, but (far more importantly) to foreshadow the marriage between Jesus and His wife (Eph. 5:31-32).
This is why there will be no marriage in the next age. The shadow will give way to the substance. Marriage will serve its intended purpose and then pass away. Therefore, the rationale for defining marriage as a relationship between a man and a woman is only secondarily about preserving civilization or the family. The primary reason is because marriage pictures Christ and His bride, the Church. The husband represents Jesus exercising headship, authority, cherishing, nourishing, and sacrificial love. The wife represents the Church exercising submission, respect, admiration, honor, and devoted love. This picture requires a leading man and a supportive woman. You cannot have it with two guys or two gals.
Advocates of same-sex marriage are not my intended audience here. I am speaking to the Christians who respond to them. We tend to fight more as human beings or American citizens or natural philosophers than as Christians, arguing that the family is at stake, or that a well-ordered society requires both parents in the home, and so on. But there is nothing uniquely Christian in those conclusions. A well-educated atheist might make the same claims. The Christian opposition employs an argument that unbelievers must deny because the true significance of marriage is something (Someone?) they must deny—Jesus Christ.
It’s time for Christians to debate as Christians rather than as Americans, conservatives, or philosophers. Like everything else, marriage was created for Christ (Col. 1:15-18). Let’s stop helping unbelievers in their efforts to steal it away from Him.