THE IDEA OF MARRIAGE

by Bob Wheeler

 

This past Tuesday the U.S. Supreme Court hear oral arguments in the case of Obergefell v. Hodges, which involves the constitutionality of laws in four states that restrict marriage to heterosexual couples. A decision is expected in late June.

Supporters of same-sex marriage says that homosexuals have a right to marry under the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Opponents of same-sex marriage argue that the decision to legalize such unions is best left to the states and to the democratic process. Michigan Solicitor General John Bursch tried to argue that states have an interest in tying marriage to biological parenthood. The justices, for their part, seemed wary of changing the definition of an institution that has been around for thousands of years.

As we have said before, this is not the beginning of the end for marriage. It is the end of the end, the closing chapter in a long, depressing saga of the decline of marriage in America. The fact of the matter is that “gay marriage” would have been absolutely inconceivable if marriage had not already been pretty well destroyed as a meaningful institution. As it stands now, you do not have to be married to have sex, you do not have to stay married if you don’t wish to. In some place you don’t even have to have sex with your spouse if you don’t want to. Marriage has become a mere legal technicality, a tax filing status, a box you check off on your Form 1040. And so the courts have tended to see it as a discrimination issue. Why shouldn’t gays be entitled to the same benefits of marriage as straight couples?

What are completely forgotten are the duties and responsibilities of marriage. And the reason that these have disappeared is that they are tied to gender roles. There are ( or at least, were) certain things that were expected of a husband and father, and there were certain other things that were expected of a wife and mother. The two roles complemented each other, and together they made marriage. When one of the spouses fell short of his / her duty, the impact was felt throughout the household. The interest of the state in all of this is to ensure that children are conceived and born into relationships in which there is a formal commitment between the biological parents. Homosexuality should be recognized for what it is, something that is profoundly abnormal and dysfunctional.

All of this is past, however. Today we have accepted as normal single parent families, with missing dads and neglected children. In many cases there was never a formal marriage at all, just a changing rotation of temporary sexual partners. What has fatally weakened the argument of some states trying to defend a traditional definition of marriage is that those states sometimes allow unmarried homosexuals to adopt children. And so the argument is made, wouldn’t those children be better off if their parents were married? This is what passes for “family life” in America today.

How very different is the Christian conception of marriage. One of the most eloquent passages in the Bible describing what a marriage should look like is Eph. 5:22-31. Here the apostle Paul compares the marriage relationship to the relationship between Christ and the church. And Paul makes it clear at the outset that “the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body” (v. 23; NKJV). This sword cuts both ways. First of all, for the husband, he is in some sense “the savior” of his wife. Paul explains: Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her . . .” (v. 25). The husband is not just to tolerate his wife, nor even just to provide for her financially. He is to love her. He is to care about her and care for her. Moreover, it is to be a self-sacrificing love. Christ gave Himself for the church – He sacrificed His very life for her. Is it too much for a husband to do the same for his wife?

But something is expected of the wife as well. “Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything” (v. 24). The wife plays a subordinate role in marriage, “For the husband is the head of the wife.”

Is this too much to ask of a husband and wife? Many Americans today seem to think so. We would like to think that we can be married and retain our freedom and independence at the same time. We want to be free to do as we please. We think of marriage as an arrangement into which we enter voluntarily at our own convenience, and which we can terminate at the mutual consent of the parties (the fatal blow to marriage was no-fault divorce, which fundamentally altered the character of the institution). And Feminists reject the idea of gender roles altogether. As a result few Americans today are willing to shoulder the responsibilities and make the personal sacrifices necessary to make marriage work. The divorce rate in America bears grim testimony to how well this has worked out.

In reality all that a Christian couple should be doing is modelling Christian virtue in the home. Love, by its very nature, is self-sacrificing. It puts the well-being of the other person first. It is humble, gentle, and respects authority. It has a servant attitude. It doesn’t ask, “What’s in it for me?”

Is submission to her husband too burdensome for a wife? Has she first submitted her life to Christ, and owned Him as Lord and Master? Is making sacrifices for his wife too much to ask of a husband” Has he ever considered what Christ has done for him?

Marriage is a binding commitment that entails definite obligations and responsibilities, and should not be entered into lightly. But a Christian marriage should exude the warmth and devotion of a couple who genuinely love each other. Yes, we surrender our personal freedom. But in return we found genuine happiness and fulfillment in each other’s love.

Why should gays not be allowed to marry each other? Because they cannot fulfill the gender roles required of marriage nor can they serve as good role models for children in the home. “Gay marriage” makes a mockery of God’s plan for the sexes.

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