Monday, July 1, 2013

The Sanctity of Marriage

     One of the “hot button” issues in American politics today is the issue of gay marriage. It is, for supporters of the homosexual agenda, a major step in normalizing homosexuality in our culture. Supporters of gay marriage put forth the idea that marriage is a fundamental right that all Americans should be afforded and that limiting marriage to heterosexual couples is simply discrimination. They see it as a secular agreement that signifies mutual commitment and affords partners legal rights and protections. 

     Evangelical Christians have long held that marriage is far more. It is an institution created and
defined by God. It is, as we state in our Baptist Faith and Message, “the uniting of one man and one woman in covenant commitment for a lifetime.” It provides the “framework for intimate companionship” and “the means for procreation of the human race.” Clearly we see marriage as being far more than just a secular agreement between two consenting adults. It is the foundational union on which the family is built.

     Given our lofty proclamations, it is more than a little concerning that Christian marriages don’t seem to be any different than any other marriages. One of the most embarrassing realities is that Born-Again Christians get divorced at the same rate as those who claim no faith at all. While we are not perfect, and we know divorces will occur within even the most devout body of believers, one would expect there to be some difference between divorce rates in the church and in the lost world. One study even showed that the divorce rate in Baptist churches was a little higher than the secular world

     I believe the problem is that while we say we believe that marriage is a holy union, in reality we don’t treat it as such. Beyond the gender limitations, we allow that anyone has the right to get married. After all, no one wants to deny a young girl her opportunity to don an elegant wedding gown and to walk down the center aisle of the church as her friends and family celebrate her moment. It often seems that more time, attention and preparation is given to the wedding than the marriage. Unfortunately, this is even the case in Christian marriages.

     Several years ago Tom Elliff while serving as Pastor at First Southern Baptist Church – Del City, found himself terribly burdened by the number of failed marriages he was seeing in his community. Believing that only Biblical, Christ centered marriages would stand a chance of success he made the decision not to marry couples without making sure that they were believers and that they intended to live their lives according to the principles of God's Word. He said, “I had to decide if I was going to marry everybody that came down the road or follow God's Word.” Elliff instituted five prerequisites that all couples must fulfill before he would consider performing the ceremony – 1) both must have a growing relationship with Christ, 2) they must be Scripturally free to marry, 3) they must have parental approval, 3) they must be debt free and, 5) it must be the right time. 

     Imagine if every pastor were to adopt such a standard. What would happen if we, as Christians were to teach our children God’s requirements for marriage and would lovingly decline to support ceremonies that were contrary to God’s commandments? The Bible does clearly limit marriage to heterosexual couples, but gender differentiation is not God’s only requirement. If we really believe that marriage is a sacred institution, we should begin to treat it as such.

In His Service,