Last week President Obama came out in support of same-sex marriage and since 2001, ten countries, including our own, have begun allowing same-sex couples to marry. The question is, why does it matter? Why not let people do what they want, and be who they are as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone else? I mean, in the end, what is really at stake here?
Well for those of us who profess faith in Christ and hold fast to the authority of scripture, this issue matters because marriage is ultimately about something infinitely greater than ourselves. As John Piper points out in his book This Momentary Marriage, “The ultimate thing we can say about marriage is that it exists for God’s glory. That is, it exists to display God. Marriage is patterned after Christ’s covenant relationship to His redeemed people, the church. And therefore, the highest meaning and the most ultimate purpose of marriage is to put the covenant relationship of Christ and His church on display.” That is what is at stake. That is why this issue matters.
As a result, we had better be prepared to give a defence to anyone who asks and yet do so with complete gentleness and respect, because the reality is that we are all sinners in need of God’s grace! Furthermore, the apostle Paul tells us to “not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind.” As such, here are some of the reasons Kevin DeYoung gives for why Christians should continue to publicly and winsomely oppose same-sex marriage…
The promotion and legal recognition of homosexual unions is not in the interest of the common good. That may sound benighted, if not bigoted. But we must say it in love: codifying the indistinguishability of gender will not make for the “peace of the city.” It rubs against the grain of the universe, and when you rub against the grain of divine design you’re bound to get splinters. Or worse. The society which says sex is up to your own definition and the family unit is utterly fungible is not a society that serves its children, its women, or its own long term well being.
Marriage is not simply the term we use to describe those relationships most precious to us. The word means something and has meant something throughout history. Marriage is more than a union of hearts and minds. It involves a union of bodies–and not bodies in any old way we please, as if giving your cousin a wet willy in the ear makes you married. Marriage, to quote one set of scholars, is a “comprehensive union of two sexually complementary persons who seal (consummate or complete) their relationship by the generative act—by the kind of activity that is by its nature fulfilled by the conception of a child. So marriage itself is oriented to and fulfilled by the bearing, rearing, and education of children.” This conjugal view of marriage states in complex language what would have been a truism until a couple generations ago. Marriage is what children (can) come from. Where that element is not present (at the level of sheer design and function, even if not always in fulfillment), marriage is not a reality. We should not concede that “gay marriage” is really marriage. What’s more, as Christians we understand that the great mystery of marriage can never be captured between a relationship of Christ and Christ or church and church.
Allowing for the legalization of gay marriage further normalizes what was until very recently, and still should be, considered deviant behavior. While it’s true that politics is downstream from culture, it’s also true that law is one of the tributaries contributing to culture. In our age of hyper-tolerance we try to avoid stigmas, but stigmas can be an expression of common grace. Who knows how many stupid sinful things I’ve been kept from doing because I knew my peers and my community would deem it shameful. Our cultural elites may never consider homosexuality shameful, but amendments that define marriage as one man and one woman serve a noble end by defining what is as what ought to be. We do not help each other in the fight for holiness when we allow for righteousness to look increasingly strange and sin to look increasingly normal.
We are naive if we think a laissez faire compromise would be enjoyed by all if only the conservative Christians would stop being so dogmatic. The next step after giving up the marriage fight is not a happy millennium of everyone everywhere doing marriage in his own way. The step after surrender is conquest. I’m not suggesting heterosexuals would no longer be able to get married. What I am suggesting is that the cultural pressure will not stop with allowing for some “marriages” to be homosexual. It will keep mounting until allaccept and finally celebrate that homosexuality is one of Diversity’s great gifts. The goal is not for different expressions of marriage, but for the elimination of definitions altogether. Capitulating on gay marriage may feel like giving up an inch in bad law to gain a mile in good will. But the reality will be far different. For as in all of the devil’s bargains, the good will doesn’t last nearly so long as the law.
For further biblical reflection on this weighty issue I would highly recommend reading Michael Horton’s posts here.
“Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.” - Ephesians 5:31-32 ESV