Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Mutuality or redemptive love: a biblical theme for marriage

More Light Presbyterians have posted two articles on marriage. One is by Dr. Janet Edwards asking the question, “What is Marriage?”, the other is “Standing on the Side of Love: Marriage in Church & State” put together by the National Board of Directors and staff of MLP. What struck me about these two articles was an attempt to move, as Christians, beyond the biblical meaning of marriage by means of subterfuge.

The Edward’s article first states that: “From start to finish, the Biblical norm for human marriage is patriarchal dominance by the husband/father -- a far cry from the mutual love between equals that most American Christians value in marriage.” But she goes on to refer to a different biblical model which is supposedly seen in a mutual love relationship between God and “God’s people.”

The second piece, the statement by the MLP Board, lifts up a statement by the Presbytery of the Red Wood Permanent Judicial Commission of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). That is:

“We call upon the church to reexamine our own fear and ignorance that continues to reject the inclusiveness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.(G3.0401c) We say this believing that we have in our own Book of Order conflicting and even contradictory rules and regulations that are against the Gospel. In this particular case, in W4.9001 we have inclusive and broad descriptive language about marriage, “Marriage is a gift God has given to all humankind for the wellbeing of the entire human family.” This sentence is followed immediately by “Marriage is a civil contract between a woman and a man.” The language of the second statement draws on our cultural understanding today of marriage that is rooted in equality. But it is not faithful to the Biblical witness in which marriage was a case of property transfer because women were property. Nor does it specifically address same gender marriage.” (Spahr vs. Redwoods Presbytery (pdf), August 24, 2010).

But note the latter part of the statement and its failure to involve the complete meaning of marriage. Biblical marriage is not defined by women as property. Instead there is a biblical theme that lifts up the Creator and his purposes.

Both Edwards and the MLP staff and Directors have failed to understand a significant part of the biblical view of marriage. That is, its picture of the redemptive love and purposes of God. Edwards comes close in that she references “Hosea 1-3:5, Ephesians 5:22-25, Revelation 21:2-3.” But these are not pictures of mutual love but rather of redemptive love. And the sides are not even. That is, on one side is gracious healing love. On the other side is a sought for soul bought back and redeemed at cost.

For instance, Boaz’s words to Ruth are not property exchange words but words of gracious favor and redemptive need and care. (There is also some choice in this that has nothing to do with property) Boaz speaks:

“May you be blessed of the Lord, my daughter. You have shown your last kindness to be better than first by not going after young men, whether poor or rich. Now my daughter, do not fear I will do for you whatever you ask, for all my people know that you are a woman of excellence.” (Ruth 310-11)

As this is a beautiful picture of the beginning of an intimate relationship between a man and a woman; it is also a beautiful picture of the redemptive work of the Lord of the Church. Arthur E Cundall & Leon Morris in their commentary on Ruth quote G.A.F. Knight:

“Knight reminds us that this action of Boaz in redeeming the helpless Ruth has implications for the author’s view of God. We must ask ourselves, he says, ‘What reading did the author put in this act of redemption by Boaz? Did he realize that if a mere man, a creature of God, could behave in the manner described, and had indeed by his action exhibited the power to redeem an outcast and bring her into fellowship with the living God, then two things could be said of the Creator of Boaz/- (1) God must feel at least as compassionate towards all the Ruths of Moab and of Babylon and of every other land as his creature Boaz felt towards Ruth; (2) God must actually be a God of redemption, with the desire and the power to redeem all outcasts into fellowship with himself.’”

And this is not ‘a man is the redeemer, woman is the redeemed’ theme. Instead it is simply a redemption theme which belongs to God seen in the beautiful union of man and woman. The Church is the redeemed, (both men and women), Christ is the redeemer who washes her clean.
So those who enter Christian marriage must come as sinners who have been redeemed.

Adulterers who do not repent tear apart their marriage. And same gender marriage, biblically, is sin because it rejects the redemptive and transforming act of God. It turns aside the suffering of Jesus on the cross. There is no such marriage in Scripture but instead a call to repentance.

Biblically speaking it is neither a matter of hierarchy nor mutuality when speaking of same gender marriage. It certainly must not be a matter of conforming to society. That is forbidden. But instead marriage must conform to scripture and confessions. We must obey the one who at great cost redeemed his people. It is a matter of blood, the blood of Christ, the kinsman redeemer.

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