Marriage has been in the news, with the government’s plans to redefine marriage to allow same-sex couples to marry making its way through the House of Lords. Some argue that the plans to extend marriage to same-sex couples are matters of long delayed justice and equality for gay people. Others argue that it is an unnecessary move, given the importance of marriage to society.
Indeed, while many voices have been heard in the debate, both for and against, Jesus’s voice, strangely, has been not heard. And in this heated debate we need authoritative guidance, a voice that will tell us what God, the Maker of marriage’s views are. In the Lord Jesus Christ we have that authoritative voice. He knows because he shares in the identity of God and can so reveal God’s purpose for marriage.
He is asked, in his time on earth, about the nature and definition of marriage: “Some Pharisees came and tested him by asking, "Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?" (Mark 10:2). They are asking Jesus for his opinion on what constitutes marriage: is it life-long? Jesus replies by taking the Pharisees back to Scripture: "What did Moses command you?" (v.3). Jesus believes that Scripture gives the authoritative view on this subject. The Pharisees focus on the permission in the Law for divorce (Deut 24:1-4). But Jesus replies that the definition of marriage is not found in the Mosaic concession but in Genesis 1-2.
Jesus unpacks the definition of marriage by citing and interpreting Genesis: "Haven't you read, that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female’ (Gen 1:27), and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’ (Gen 2:24)? So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate" (Mark 10:5-9). Jesus asks us to consider God’s purpose of marriage at creation. God creates “male and female” to complement one another (and indeed to procreate, Gen 1:28.) Jesus says that God’s definition of marriage is that it is a public union (“for this reason a man will leave his father and mother”) and a sexual union (“and the two will become one flesh”) and monogamous, between One man and One woman (“so they are no longer two, but one.”) Jesus believes that God’s definition of marriage is that it is exclusive and heterosexual “for this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife.”
Further Jesus goes on, as God has intended it this way - “therefore what God has joined together;” - neither church nor state can change or redefine marriage: “let man not separate”. Parliament can no more change marriage that it can declare that our weather must be sunny all the time. It is just the way it is. These are the Maker’s instructions. What God has defined let not Parliament or Church redefine.
It is neither unjust nor unequal that marriage is between a man and woman anymore than it is unjust that an 18 year old cannot receive a pension, or unfair that only mothers, and not the childless, receive child benefit.
Yet God offers his love to all people, whether married or unmarried. For Jesus Christ has come to earth in order to set us right with God. He did this by loving the church and giving himself up for her. This is the real good news: that Jesus is our bridegroom, we are his bride, and this marriage will last forever (Eph 5:31-32).
Revd. Dr. Ro Mody is a member of the Council and the Theological Work Group of The Latimer Trust.
This article was first published in the CEN in June 2013
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