Tuesday Pastor-Teacher Focus
Before I get to far into this series, I need to explain why I think we need to teach on marriage in the church, in light of the same-sex “marriage” controversy. I don’t want you to think it’s primarily a political thing. For me, that’s pretty far in the background. Not that I’m unaware of it, but it’s not the main thing motivating me. My guess is that if it were only about politics, it would be a hard thing for many pastors to gear up for. But it isn’t. Let me suggest several other reasons to teach about marriage.
Addressing the Underlying Problems
Same-sex marriage is a symptom. The underlying problems affect us all. One of those is with marriage generally speaking: marriage between men and women, that is.
We have lost track of what marriage is, and what it’s for. In Genesis we discover that it’s for companionship (“It is not good for the man to be alone”), for unity (“the man will be united with his wife, and they will be one flesh”), and for procreation (“be fruitful and multiply”). In the Song of Songs the Bible affirms the physical pleasures of marriage. In Ephesians 5 and 6 we see that marriage reflects the relationship of God to his people, the church.
It is a high and glorious picture the Bible gives us. Virtually cultures in history have recognized the truth of most of that picture, based on what it means to be humans living in society.
In particular, marriage has always been tied to procreation; and speaking of “tied,” marriage has typically been societies’ way of keeping the male with the family to help raise his children.
There was a time when marriage meant children. Contraception and abortion changed that, and for the first time, marriage could be about “you and me, babe,” with no young crying babes in the picture. Marriage became for many a means to personal fulfillment, in an inward-looking sense that couples can hold on to but parents never can. There’s nothing quite like having children to make you aware of others’ needs and wants beside your own.
You and Me, Babe
A childless marriage can be very outward looking, if that is the character of the couple. But a marriage with children cannot be merely inward looking, for the couple’s mutual satisfaction alone, unless the couple’s character is very weak indeed.
So marriage for many now is about “you and me, babe:” not quite self-oriented, for there are two people involved, but certainly self-oriented in the sense that the two are in relationship primarily for each other, to meet their own needs.
And with that kind of relationship available for men and women, why wouldn’t same-sex couples be envious? Why wouldn’t they ask for the same thing? If that’s what marriage is, then why should they be denied it? I can see the logic of their demand, can’t you?
They call for equality. What they want, obviously, is not equality with marriage as it once was for almost everyone, where babies were expected to be part of the picture (medical difficulties aside). They want equality with the kind of marriage many men and women are modeling: marriage of and for the spouses’ mutual benefit alone.
Anger at Marriage?
And I can’t help wondering if there’s some anger underneath it all — anger at marriage, that is, for so many people growing up in recent decades have been so deeply hurt by their parents’ failed marriages. I would be surprised if there weren’t a lot of anger there. My parents stayed married until death did them part, so I can’t enter into the sense of loss, disappointment, and frustration that must come when one’s parents split up. But it must be awful. On that emotional level I can see why there could be a motivation to take aim at the institution of marriage and to re-make it.
And so the demand for same-sex “marriage” is a symptom of deeper issues in the culture beyond gays and lesbians. I’ve only scratched the surface. I could go on and speak of more obvious issues like the general approval culture gives to sexual immorality.
Teaching the True Picture
You may have noticed that I titled this “Why We Must Teach On Marriage,” not, “Why We Must Teach Against Same-Sex Marriage.” My guess is that if men and women hadn’t gotten marriage so mixed up, gays and lesbians wouldn’t be pressing for marriage today. We can’t change the past, but we can change the future: we must teach our young couples, and our younger, future husbands and wives, what marriage is for.
But I want to remind you what I’m saying about the role of same-sex “marriage” in this discussion. It’s a signal. It’s a sign, a symptom, of an institution gone sour. That’s the only way many young people can see the institution, for they live in the same culture that produced same-sex “marriage” campaigns: campaigns that make a lot of sense to a majority of them. What will their marriages be like? What vision of marriage do they hold? What can they hope for?
They — we — need a bigger picture and a better hope. That’s why we must teach on marriage.