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Pastor's Page -- Gay Marriage

Let’s discuss marriage, biblically speaking.  Jesus says, “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.”  He then goes on to say, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery.”  (Mark 10:7-10)  How is it then that we not only allow, but sanction such marriages in the church?  There are, of course, many churches which do not.  We are not one of those.  Why?  Because we recognize that the Bible contains many conditional truths particular to the historical circumstances of their time which do not apply today.  Were that not so, we would teach that women who are not virgins at the time of their marriage may be stoned to death (Deut. 22:13-21), that men may have more than one wife (Ex. 21:10, Deut. 21:15), that men should not marry foreign women (Neh. 12:23-27), and that Christians should not marry unbelievers (2 Cor. 6:14).

My point is simply this:  the biblical standard for marriage is not a once and for all decree, but an evolving ethic which has changed along with cultural norms.  Who today would advocate that rape victims must marry their rapists?  That was once the “Biblical” norm.  (Deut. 22:28)  Biblical norms, however, change.  This is especially clear in the first example cited above.  If you divorce and marry someone else, you are committing adultery, no exceptions.  But look what happens when Matthew writes his Gospel, some 20 years after Mark.  In Matthew’s version of the same event, Jesus allows for the exception of unchastity.  (Matthew 19:9--Note, however, that Matthew’s version only speaks to men who divorce their wives whereas Mark 10 speaks to both.)  How do we explain the variation?  It is simple, really.  The early Christian community found in their midst good, faithful, divorced members who sought to re-marry.  The exception was created for their benefit and included in Matthew’s gospel as their witness to the will of God in that time and place.  That is the opinion of most NT scholars I know.  There are other interpretations of such variations, but I have found none that make better sense.

The question today is, of course, shall we change that standard again to include same-sex couples?  Let me put it this way.  When the socially accepted norm allows for pop singer Britney Spears to marry her childhood friend on a whim, a marriage recognized by all 50 states before it was annulled less than 48 hours later, but does not allow committed couples of 20 to 30 years who have successfully raised families to marry because of their sexual orientation, something is amiss.  It is my personal opinion that same-sex couples should be allowed to marry to reflect our emerging understanding of sexual orientation, an understanding that did not exist in Biblical times.  (For my sermon on this topic, see the link for 5/28/2000.)  And I stress personal because we do not have any policy on such from our church, nor is it my intention to ask for any.  

I do ask for dialogue on the topic, however, and I welcome opposing views.  My hope has always been that we will be a church that includes a broad range of views for that is precisely the point of the old motto, “no creed but Christ.”  If we exclude gay couples, married or not, we make homophobia part of our creed.  By the same token, if we exclude those opposed to same-sex relationships, we make acceptance of such relationships part of our creed.  But if Christ is our only creed, then we will include both while we seek to understand each as Christian brothers and sisters.  And make no mistake, there are in our midst, including in our congregation, gay and lesbian couples who are just as faithful Christians as any of the rest of us.  And if God has blessed their relationship by virtue of their love and commitment to each other, who are we to withhold ours?  That is my view.  What is yours?

 


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