by Frank Turk
Jesus has a definition of Marriage, and Society needs that kind of marriage – if for nothing else than stability and continuity. But does the Church need Marriage? Can the church abandon marriage to the culture and still be the sort of thing Jesus intended?
I think the answer, quite frankly, is no: the church must again bring marriage to society in a way that is greater than the Law. You see: marriage is a necessary way in which the church brings the Gospel to Culture – and in this case, the Gospel is actually the solution to culture.
This is why our argument for marriage, our apologetic for this union, is not merely an evolutionary argument which says that because there are two sexes, marriage is for two sexes only. Our argument rests not on the brute fact that men and women exist and seem to have the equivalent of matching Lego parts, but on the matter that God has actually said something about this.
This is the point: God says it. That is: he makes it clear with words that this is what he means by it. Jesus sums it up briefly in his response to the Pharisees, but that question of “one flesh” comes up again as Paul instructs the church in Ephesus:
Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, … that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes it and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.”
And to the wives he said:
Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.
Now let me ask you: how can this be translated into a Law when it is in fact utterly the woof and weave of the Gospel? It cannot be translated into Law. Trying to do so makes it something which human people cannot do. You cannot legislate the humility this takes. You cannot legislate the priorities this requires. You cannot legislate the profound intimacy this creates. You cannot legislate the love at the very heart of this relationship which God wrote into the very creation of our kind.
The church needs marriage because it is a necessary part of God’s order in creation.
The church needs marriage because broken people need to be sanctified and to learn the meaning of sacrifice and love.
The church needs marriage to fully and rightly demonstrate the Gospel to society.
Is marriage the only way we send this message? Absolutely not. But consider the question we are asking today: what do we do about sexual confusion? What do we do about our society where the norm is quickly becoming illegitimacy and an knee-jerk retreat to divorce when things get hard? What do we do to show people what virtue is rather than beat them down over their failings when ours are frankly no less visible or obvious?
If our concern is whether or not our culture understands the right roles of men and women under God’s design and authority, the solution to the culture is the Gospel – as wrapped up in the design of marriage. Missing this, and setting our hope on the transforming power of the Law rather than on the work of Christ in the message of the Gospel, is never going to achieve what we intend to achieve.