OK. I’ve been avoiding the whole same-sex marriage issue. But I’d like to open it up. So I want you to do a little thought experiment with me…
Let’s image — as seems increasingly likely — the marriage arrangements in Australia are altered at some point in the near future so as make same-sex marriage equivalent under law with marriage as we know it.
What would happen? How should conservative, Bible-believing Christians respond? (Apart, of course, from wailing and gnashing of teeth — which may well be entirely appropriate, especially if churches who refused to solemnise such relationships would face legal sanctions.)
Should we opt out of the institution of marriage altogether — regarding it as corrupt and beyond redemption — perhaps setting up a parallel ‘Christian’ arrangement as an alternative?
Or should we mobilise, go on the war path, and seek to reclaim and ‘re-Christianise’ it?
I guess it’s clear from the way I’ve set up the alternatives that I’m not keen on either option.
It’s because neither of these are the responses the Apostle Paul recommends Christians make to the corrupt and degenerate institution of marriage as it existed in first century Corinth.
I think we can glean from 1 Corinthians 7) that marriage in Corinth had been reduced to a formal shell of itself. An arrangement of purely economic convenience. So far out of touch with God’s original, creation-purposes that married people were in the habit of seeking sexual satisfaction anywhere except within the bounds of marriage!
But Paul doesn’t call for truly spiritual Christians to ditch the institution altogether. Nor does he say, “Let’s reclaim it”. Instead, he gives practical advice for engaging with this cracked and broken institution in a way that is good, God-honouring, and gives people a taste of God’s goodness in creation and salvation.
Briefly, he says:
- If you’re married, your body isn’t your own — you owe it to your partner. So don’t deprive each other of sex or intimacy (except under very particular circumstances you both agree to).
- If you don’t need or get the opportunity to get married, don’t feel you have to. You are not less human or ‘complete’ if you don’t get married (in fact you’ll probably find life less complicated).
- If you’re married, hang in there and try to make sure it lasts — as much as this depends on you. This includes if your partner isn’t Christian (I think the situation Paul’s speaking into is mostly likely that of marriages in which one partner has become a Christian after getting married).
- If you have a choice about who to marry (as widows/widowers did in the ancient world), then marry a believer — and stick to God’s script for how you go about it.
So I’m interested. Based on this, what advice do you think Paul might give to Christians in a context in which same-sex marriage was a reality?