Posted by: dacalu | 5 October 2009

Christian Marriage

Disclaimer: I use several passages here from the King James version in which “man” is used to mean “human.” Usually I go for a more gender neutral (and I think accurate) translation, but in this case, the poetry and familiarity won out.

“It is not good that the man should be alone” (Gen 2:18)
And it is for this reason that we have so many kinds of relationships with other humans.
Some are sexual. Some are physical in other ways.
Some involve friendship, some working together.
Some are based on enjoyment, while others are based on duty or mutual interest.

All of these relationships spring from the simple fact.
It is not good that the man should be alone.

Just as we try to domesticate God,
To make God fit into nice easy to manage boxes
To make God’s behavior predictable,
So we have tried to domesticate relationships.

No, I’m not saying that “marriage” is outdated
But I am saying that we need to seriously think about what it means to us.
What kind of relationships do we want to recognize as individuals and as a church?

Another scripture passage:
“What is man that thou art mindful of him?” (Ps 8:4)

It can be tempting to think that God does not pay attention to such things,
But I think God does. I believe God does.
I believe that marriage was ordained by God
To recognize grace found in relationships
To bind people together and strengthen their bonds
To manifest grace from their commitment
Marriage is not the only such relationship,
And we should think seriously about what other relationships are out there.
The notion of adopting brothers and sisters seems a bit outdated—
At least that we should make a ceremony of it,
But that too is a right and good and joyful thing.
Not quite friendship; not quite marriage; but something else.

Take a look at your life and ask where grace abounds.

For far too long we have argued about what marriage should be
Instead of looking for God where God wills to be found.
I can tell you, it will be in real relationships
And not in the ideal ones we write about in books.
That was one of Jesus’ messages, after all,
The law was made for man and not man for the law. (cp. Mk 2:27)
Likewise, relationships were made for people and not the other way around.

Take a look at your life and ask where grace abounds.
What people in your life enliven you?
What people strengthen your faith?
What people make you a better person?
A better Christian?
What people reveal the image of God inside of you?

Marriage has changed over the years.
At the time of Paul, it was a civil contract between a man and a woman’s father.
It was a property issue, where a woman changed hands.
God showed grace in that arrangement and taught us something about the church
But it is not an arrangement we would recognize today.
In the Middle Ages, marriage was a matter of establishing property rights.
When parents died, they passed on their land (and serfs) to their offspring.
And again, God showed grace and taught us something about responsibility
And consistency.
But it is not an arrangement we would recognize today.
We argued over who had the right to marry, and how, and why?
Marriage became a sacrament.
In the Renaissance, people started thinking about love in marriage.
Rather than a rare blessing, as it was in the song of songs,
Some people thought marriage should be a recognition of a love pairing
(A thoroughly un-Christian concept at the time)
And this too, the Lord turned to our advantage.
The will of the woman became important, and the will of the bride and groom
Became more important than their parents.
Still, it wasn’t something we would recognize today.
I do not say all of this so that you will distrust marriage.
I say it because God’s grace abounds in spite of our inconsistency.
God has made, and does make, and will make marriage sacred
Despite our tampering.
Despite our obsession with property, and lust, and sex.
In the end, as in the beginning, we must recognize
It is not good that the man should be alone.
Humans were not made to be solitary creatures.

It is up to us to look into our hearts and into our relationships and find out how
God’s perfect grace appears in our imperfect attempts to live together.
So I challenge you this week,
Look into your relationships and ask where God is at work.
Take a serious look at marriage
and friendship, and other relationships
and ask what God wants them to be.

It’s time we stopped asking what should be
And start listening for God in what is.
We are vexed about marriage these days,
because we can’t seem to figure out if it is something the state does
or something the church does.
because we can’t decide whether it should be a sacrament, a blessing,
or both.
because we seem far more interested in whether people are having sex
than whether they are manifesting grace.
(and yes, if you think about that for a moment, you know exactly what I mean)
Look for God.
God wants to be found.
Look for grace.
It is everywhere.
And start having some serious discussions about what it means to be alone—
Or not—
in God’s eyes.

We need a new theology of marriage.
It isn’t what it used to be and
(I’m sorry) it isn’t what we want it to be.
It is what God makes it.
And for that I am infinitely grateful,
For God’s power working in us can do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine. (Eph 3:20)


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