Marriage – Contract or Covenant?

The framers of the Constitution never imagined that the word marriage could refer to anything other than the union of one man and one woman. As a consequence of that assumption, the legal definition of marriage  was the same as the church’s definition of marriage. Marriage was marriage, and nobody saw any reason to treat marriages performed by a justice of the peace any differently than ones performed by members of the clergy. I would like to suggest, however, that the time has come to do just that.

If a couple seeks to have their marriage recognized legally, they can now do so, regardless of whether they are same-sex or opposite sex. And we who are aligned with a particular faith will now no longer be permitted to discriminate against them in conducting legal marriage ceremonies or recognizing them as married once the marriage is done, regardless of the couple’s relative sex. But being married in the eyes of the law and of society need not ascend to the status of marriage in the eyes of God.

Christians of all denominations, Catholics, Jews, Mormons, Muslims and nearly every other faith group all hold to the view that marriage is a covenant between a man and a woman, to love and honor and be faithful to one another until death. It has never been possible, nor will it ever be, to consider two persons of the same sex to be married in the eyes of the God of the “Abrahamic” faiths. With the Supreme Court’s ruling, we now have no choice but to recognize same sex married couples as married in the fullest sense of the law. But a God-ordained covenant marriage can only be between one man and one woman for life.

Therefore, I propose that churches continue to perform marriage ceremonies that are legal under law, and they include those of same-sex couples.  However, couples would be asked whether they would like their marriage to be merely legal in the eyes of the law, or would they prefer a covenant marriage, which of course has no preferential status under law, and would be seen by the law and society as no different than a legal marriage.  It would only matter to them if they would want their marriage to matter to the God in whom they place their trust.  In other words for example, if the God of Abraham, Jacob and Joseph, who is God in the three persons of the Trinity – Father, Son and Holy Spirit – if they want their marriage to be Holy in the eyes of that God – the One whom they by conviction of their own hearts follow as Lord of their lives, then the Holy Bible must of necessity be the sole authority in determining whether it is.

So we have before us a historic opportunity:  Covenant marriage would be legal in the eyes of the law if it in all other respects met the legal definition of marriage under the law.  All marriages performed by a particular church or clergyman would be legal marriages.  On the other hand, only a Covenant Marriage would be pleasing in the sight of the God to whom the couple swears allegiance.

The opportunity that is being presented to us is to discuss openly and bear witness to all that marriage is.  When we are asked about it, we can refer to Ephesians 5:25-27 – “ Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.”  And of course as a part of that discussion, we can explain that the popular definition of love as something you “fall into”, is a far cry from the kind of love God had in mind when he first mentioned the idea of marriage.  That was some six millennia ago, when He said, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.”

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