Kim Davis is just the beginning folks.
There will be more Kim Davis’s, more protests, more anger, more butting of heads and shouting over top of one another.
Whatever side you’re on, I think all agree the Kim Davis situation is a debacle. A debacle for different reasons depending on your side, but a debacle nonetheless.
I’m not writing this to pick sides or to rally or to protest. I’ve written a lot about gay marriage in the past, which I encourage you to read up on. What I want to show here is how there is a solution, and it’s a relatively simple one, to the moral, political, spiritual and ethical divide that the gay marriage debate has created in our country. A debate that has gotten a lot of people really mad, on both sides of the fence. A debate that has created an even deeper divide between the Church and those we are trying to reach.
- The institution of marriage was desecrated long before gay marriage became legal. I’m not saying this makes gay marriage a moot point, but I seldom here this being talked about transparently. And when it’s not talked about transparently, only part of the picture is given, which isn’t helpful in coming up with solutions. Premarital sex and divorce stomped all over the Bible’s design for marriage long before gay marriage did. I don’t just mean that some rogue individuals who were having premarital sex or getting divorced, but that both have become cultural norms within society, with little voice or resistance from the Church. In fact, so little resistance has been given by the Church that they have become norms in the Church as well.
- When’s the last time you saw a protest of Christians against divorce?
- Or against premarital sex?
- We need to be honest about the reason for all of this. (Generally speaking…) We have heterosexuals in our church pews who are actively engaged in premarital sexual lifestyles. We also have those who’ve been divorced sitting in our church pews. We don’t have homosexuals sitting in our church pews. The natural result of this is that the Church is able to “make a stand” against homosexual sin, preaching to the choir and only getting affirmation in response, while not making a stand for the sins being committed by those in our own congregations. If we made this stand, those people might stop giving or they might get upset or they might leave our churches.
- Our culture’s idea of marriage has parted ways from God’s design for marriage long ago.
- What I’m proposing is not that we “cede the issue of marriage”, as if it were a war between the gays and the Christians. What I’m proposing is that we completely reform and completely reclaim what God’s design for marriage is, separating this reformation and re-proclamation from the civic battlefield, a battlefield it doesn’t belong in. To only “fight” for heterosexual marriage (against gay marriage) is to only fight a portion of the battle. It creates a lot of casualties without really addressing the problem.
- When you get married, which do you care about more: the legal status of the signed document or the spiritual covenant before God? When officiating weddings, doing wedding rehearsals, and watching photographers snap wedding photos, I have heard countless jokes (laden with feelings of truth) that a couple isn’t “really married” until they sign this document. So who actually has authority: God, or the legal marriage document? The answer is God! In some periods of history, a peasant couple would go off into the woods and get married with only the two of them and God and come back to their community and everyone would acknowledge them as married. The Divine Covenant was all that mattered. Does it say anywhere in the Bible that a secular legal acknowledgement was important or needed? Did 1st century Jews need a Roman stamp of approval in order to be married? Were Jewish priests employed by the Roman government to give this approval? No, no and no.
- Why do we care so much about civic authority over and above God’s authority in our marriage’s today?
- Are the Church and State really separated?
- Why does a pastor have civic authority to give someone tax benefits? Why is the Church concerned with tax benefits?
- God’s design for marriage is different than our culture’s. God’s design is one man and one woman, who are both virgins, who will never cheat on each other and who will never get divorced. It’s all or nothing folks. Anything short of that is not God’s design for marriage. I am all for fighting for God’s design for marriage, but it has to entail all facets. And I don’t see it as a fight against a human non-Christian enemy (lawmakers, the LGBT community, etc.), I see it as a spiritual fight against a spiritual enemy, an enemy who has infiltrated our ranks and who has done a very good job of using the Church to trash marriage long before anyone else tried to.
- Why would someone who is not a Christian follow God’s design for marriage?
- Why would our government make God’s design for marriage the legal design? If gay marriage were to be illegal, shouldn’t divorce, adultery and premarital sex all be illegal as well? (They are in Islamic countries, by the way)
- Rather than focusing our efforts (wasting them, it could be argued) in the civic circle of what’s legal and what isn’t, what if we created the way it’s supposed to be within our own walls, as a light to the rest of the world? Just like the Old Testament people of Israel were supposed to be a light to the rest of the nations by doing things God’s way, drawing the rest of the world to God, we need to do this with a recreation of marriage. The Old Testament Israelites weren’t trying to change the laws of the Canaanites or Egyptians, they were following God’s law, letting that light shine, and saying “Come and see that the Lord is good!” That’s the entire design of the Old Testament chosen people of God.
- Whether the word “marriage” is kept semantically or not is not something I care enough about to argue one way or another (I’ve brainstormed that a whole new word could be used for the Divine Covenant of marriage, like the biblical Greek word for marriage gameo, or the biblical Hebrew word for “one flesh” found in Genesis 2:24), but the point is: Something new needs to recreated within the Church that starkly stands out from our culture’s autonomous version of marriage. This needs to be done honestly, with confession and repentance within the Church of all the ways we have trampled on marriage ourselves. This recreation of the Divine Institution is just as much motivated by the way we have tarnished it as it is motivated by the definition of it being a man and a woman.
- With this, I’d argue to let homosexuals have the civic tax benefits they are looking for. I don’t think most Christians can see how helpful this would be in tearing down the divide that keeps so many from exploring Jesus in the first place. Why should it bother us if non-Christians have the tax and civic benefits listed tom the right? (Selected from 1,138 benefits, rights and protections provided on the basis of marital status in Federal law, Defense of Marriage Act: An Update to Prior Report, General Accounting Office, 2004).
- The solution to all of this is for pastors to not be the ones who sign any legal, civic document that grants people tax benefits and/or “legal status”. The tax benefits / legal status have convoluted Christians’ priorities of authority for too long anyway. We make our marriage covenants as if it were some sort of legally binding agreement, not one actually taken seriously before a Holy God. This is not just a chance to preserve God’s design for marriage as between a man and a woman, it is a chance to stop the rampant pattern of divorce and to curb the Christian mudslide of premarital sex. Like a celebrity getting a prenuptial agreement, if you want a marriage that has the option of divorce, get that agreement somewhere else. If you want a marriage that is a cemented covenant before God that you will never get divorced, then perform that ceremony within a Church, with your Christian community as witnesses, reclaiming what the word covenant actually means. So long as the motive for marriage is based in some legal status and the legal outlet of divorce is there, this divine covenant will never be taken seriously.
- A person can legally get divorced, but they are still married in God’s eyes. I’d also argue that someone is married in God’s eyes with the first person they have sex with. That’s at least how his design is supposed to work.
- Get married under the Divine Covenant described in the Bible, then if you’d like the legal status of “United States marriage / civil union” and have the additional tax benefits for you and your spouse, then by all means go and do that as well, with the county clerk, Justice of the Peace, Elvis, or whomever. But that isn’t what makes you married in God’s eyes!
This is not ceding an issue or giving up on an argument. In fact, I would argue that this well-intended attitude from Christians for that sort of arguing is subconsciously motivated by the pride of wanting win a fight and to be right (regardless of what is actually gained or lost) than it is in bringing about solutions that work and bringing glory to God’s design for marriage within the Church. We aren’t ceding anything, we are being realistic about how we got to where we are and we are reforming, or even completely recreating, what marriage was supposed to be in the first place.
This would make Kim Davis happy because a civic union (that they happen to steal our word “marriage” for) will no longer be considered a marriage by Christians anymore. It has never meant that to God, so why should it for his followers? It is a distribution of civic benefits, something Mrs. Davis can give out with a clean conscious before God.
It would also make the LGBT community happy because they’d have the civic benefits and equal rights they are looking for, causing them not to hate the Church as much because they don’t see us as trying to keep these rights from them. This lessening of hate will build bridges for friendships that will allow the light of Jesus to authentically shine into their lives from ours. We would be treating our homosexual friends the same way we do our heterosexual friends who decide to not follow God’s design for marriage: we firmly proclaim God’s truth, while doing so in a graceful and loving way, while still maintaining real friendships that actually work!
Practically, this solution would take place by pastors legally giving up their right to sign governmental marriage documents. The Church would create its own Divine Covenant document that it would hand out instead. It would also reshape how serious pastors would take pre-marriage counseling, making sure an engaged couple knew what they were committing to if they went the route of God’s design. It would also drastically increase the sacredness of the wedding ceremony itself, with the Divine Covenant and the specific vows therein (e.g. to not get divorced!) to be explicitly and understood stated by all involved.