If your primary occupation on Sunday morning avoids anything to do with church, don’t bother to read this column.
If you weary of one more discussion on the importance of defining marriage as a heterosexual experience, stop reading.
If you just want a warm fuzzy tale of family events, take a break and come back next week. This week, I will be sorting my way through a few thoughts I have on marriage as a believer in the eternal, sovereign God.
This week I explore what I think about the covenant which joins two souls in marriage, a decision which modern society has made into a very complex, controversial issue.
Reading through the Old and New Testaments has left me with a deep impression of the repetitive description of God’s relationship to His believers. Throughout the Bible, God plays the role of the husband.
Time and again Isaiah refers to Israel as God’s bride or wife. “For your Maker is your husband – the LORD Almighty is His name – the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer; He is called the God of all the earth.” Isaiah 54:5
In Hosea, God tells the prophet to marry a prostitute to represent the way the Jewish nation turned from worshiping God to worshiping idols. When his wife returns to prostitution, Hosea seeks her out in the marketplace, buys her back and takes her home as his wife – just as God sought to redeem and restore His loving relationship with Israel, even after they had prostituted their beliefs to idols.
In the Old Testament the nation of Israel is the bride, the promised and cherished one. In the New Testament the followers of Christ are similarly portrayed as a virgin coming to her bridegroom. For instance in 2 Corinthians 11:2, “I promised you to one husband, to Christ, so that I might present you as a pure virgin to him.” And again in Ephesians 5:25, Paul admonishes, “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave Himself for it.”
All the references to the relationship of God with those who believe and follow Him reflect a husband and a wife – a male/female relationship.
There is no portrayal of God as a female or wife; nor is the analogy ever of two entities with essentially interchangeable roles or capabilities. God provides, protects and leads. Believers — whether Israelites or Christ’s followers — are those under His protection. We are the loved ones receiving His provision and watchful care.
Believers look to God for leadership, submit to His commands and enjoy the protection of a sovereign, strong God. And, in spite of all that, believers break His commands, follow false gods and walk away from His protection.
For that reason, God has already done what no human can ever do. He came to earth as the ultimate provision — the perfect sacrifice for our lifelong predisposition to trespass over His boundaries. We can never do what God does for us. The roles are not interchangeable.
Today some push for a different understanding. Today some want marriage to be redefined as any two persons choosing to share their lives regardless of their birth gender. Voices ring out loud and clear on both sides from church halls to city halls, from annoying talk radio to trash talk television shows. But putting all the popular yammering aside, the issue comes down to this: As followers of the eternal God we do not exist merely for our personal happiness. Our mandate as believers is to live in every way possible that brings honor and glory to the God of the universe – including within our marriages.
We do not glorify God when we twist His analogies of His love for us by equating the union of a man and woman to the union of two women or two men.
We do not glorify God when we seek personal happiness and embrace a union diametrically opposed to the picture He regularly uses to describe His love for His followers.
We do not glorify God when we shrug our shoulders and say, “times are changing. We need to re-consider what is socially acceptable.”
People change. Their viewpoints, their rules and their focal points change but, God does not change.
Because I follow an eternal, unchanging God, I can not consider a redefinition of marriage structured to suit a temporal, social environment. I choose instead to glorify God by adhering to His analogy of marriage demonstrating His unchanging, sacrificial, eternal love for mankind.
(Joan Hershberger is a reporter at the News-Times. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org)