Debates on marriage have become commonplace in our culture. In the last couple of election cycles, it has become apparent that a rising number of Americans are shifting their opinion on this debate. States have seen the term “marriage” re-defined to describe relationships not identified as “marriages” in the thousands of years various cultures have been using the term. Judge’s gavels and ballot boxes have passed judgment on an institution that has served as a foundational cornerstone in the majority of societies in human history.
Where should those who follow Jesus land?
Surprisingly, the narrative in the Christian world is beginning to shift. A number of self-identifying Christians and formerly traditional churches are migrating away from the biblical framework of marriage to a more culturally acceptable outlook.
In tracking and taking part in dialogue on this subject over the years, it seems that Christians who are beginning to accept atypical views on this topic are doing so because “it just doesn’t seem like that big of a deal.” Additionally, as the understanding of biblical gender identity has dissipated, and the acceptance of alternative sexual practices has become commonplace, the subject grows more complicated for those trying to figure out what is right.
Surrounded by this environment, perhaps it is necessary for the Christian dialogue on this subject to be informed more intentionally. For those who believe and submit their lives to the teaching of the Bible, I don’t think the real question is “What should we believe on the marriage issue?” That answer is pretty obvious in Scripture.
The Bible reveals marriage as a relationship created by God. God created this relationship as the first human relationship, a relationship which brought together the first two humans: one male, one female. Since God created it (along with everything else), He alone has the right to define it.
God first created mankind, and He differentiated them sexually: male and female (Genesis 1:26-27 and Genesis 2:18-23). Genesis 2:18-25 gives the details of the entire scene. After creating mankind and differentiating them sexually as male and female, God created marriage as the governing relationship between his sexually differentiated image-bearers.
The simple biblical fact is that in marriage God brought together in a “one-flesh” union that which He had created as two distinct sexes when He made mankind male and female. Marriage was God’s original creation within which he brought together that which He had differentiated.
This idea of a “one-flesh” union guides all of the Bible’s teaching on marriage. Jesus mentions it (Matthew 19, Mark 10), Paul refers to it several times (1 Corinthians 6, 2 Corinthians 6, Ephesians 5, among other places), and the heart of their teaching is that the one-flesh union is something sacred that God performs. What is it that God is doing in marriage? He’s bringing together in “one flesh” that which He originally differentiated sexually (male and female) in the creation of His image-bearers.
I think this reality does something specific for us as we think about the marriage issue being debated in culture. For the Bible-believer, this isn’t simply “what we believe” it’s “why we believe it.” What does the Bible say about marriage? It’s a covenant between one man and one woman for a lifetime. But why does the Bible define it this way? Because in God’s original creation, He made marriage to be the one-flesh re-unification of that which he differentiated–male and female. So why is it not plausible for Bible-believers to call a relationship between a male and a male or a female and a female “marriage?” Because God didn’t design marriage as a means to bring together that which is already the same.
This means there is no possibility of a same-gender relationship ever being a one-flesh union in the way God designed marriage to function. This doesn’t have anything to do with our feelings, or with someone’s commitment to another person, or with how we pay our taxes, or with who we sleep next to in bed at night. Marriage is something God does. Marriage is something God brings together. And according to God’s word, God doesn’t unite that which he hasn’t differentiated. In marriage, God brings together in a one-flesh union a male and a female. This was the intent of His original design. And since God alone designed it, He alone defines it.