Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Thinking about marriage

There’s always been a bit of a furore about marriage and sex in Christian circles. I wonder is it possible that we confuse our biblical understanding of marriage, betrothal, engagement and responsibility when looking the lens of [western] legal marriage concepts and societal expectation and if so how easy is it for us to separate what we have practiced as the norm from what the bible actually says?

For a whole host of reasons, I’m not offering an answer to that question – this is after all a blog which captures some of my struggles to understand and live right and I wouldn’t want to knowingly or unknowingly [Rob Bell like] lead any reader to conclusions I don’t support - but I share below some of the questions that have challenged my assumptions/perspective…

  • Hypothetically: If it could be proved that Jesus had a sexual relationship (with Mary Magdelene ) would that challenge His divinity, or our understanding of sex[ual sin]?
    • If Jesus did ‘kiss Mary on the mouth’ (as suggested in gnostic gospel of Philip), and ‘loved her more than the other disciples’ (as Philip and gospel of Mary Magdelene suggests) does that redefine what we might see as appropriate loving contact ‘prior’ to marriage [if we assume that had Jesus have been married it surely would have been recorded?]
  • Might the growing trend towards co-habiting, civil partnership and alternative lifestyle choices in our communities require us to redefine how we speak about marriage so that we are clear about what we communicate is God’s plan? If indeed God has but one blueprint for the way in which each of us should live.
  • In cultures where plural marriage is permitted by law would we define God’s understanding of marriage differently? (Does God actually care how many wives/husbands we have (or had?). Is it important that the Trinity is 3 not 2 persons? Do we speak of responsibility to wives rather than singular wife? Do we promote divorce as a method of ‘making right’ something which is ‘wrong’?)
  • In cultures where there is no marriage ceremony but where there is an understanding of ‘belonging’ would we define sexual activity within that relationship to be sinful?  If not, how do we respond to co-habiting couples in the West? – ie what exactly are we communicating is biblically sinful? (sex without legal contract? sex without clarity of exclusivity?)
  • Is it right to conclude that faithfulness is not about how many wives or concubines a husband might have, but how you care for them? 
    • Is marriage then more about faithful responsibility (provision and offspring) not sexual monogamy?
    • What then is the biblical definition of adultery? Since if one even looks with the eye at another he has committed adultery in his heart (even before a sexual act has taken place!)
  • Paul seems to suggest [1 Corinthians 7:32-33] remaining single is preferable to marriage, and that marriage is reserved for ‘if you can’t control yourself’… [1 Cor 7:36] So is God for marriage or against it?
    • For elders and deacons is it essential they are married?…
    • or if they ‘are’ married essential for them to only be married to one woman (presumably at once)?  
    • What then do we make of ‘it is not good for man to be alone?’
  • If there was a global disaster which significantly affected the number of men available to sire children and continue the species, would our biblical understanding of marriage, wives and sex subtly change?
  • If there was a global disaster which significantly affected the number of women available to bear children and continue the species, would our biblical understanding of marriage, husbands and sex be different than if men were in short supply?


What I’m pretty certain of is:

  • Marriage is a good thing for lots of reasons. Some biblical, some practical. some personal
  • Taking responsibility for each other is serious and important.
  • Providing stable environments for child rearing is essential.
  • Loving relationship (as an antidote to brokenness) is always on God’s heart.
  • How we speak about how people live demonstrates to them what the kingdom of God is like.
  • I don’t think Song of Song’s is primarily about God and us,  nor am I certain (from the text) that the sexual activity was exclusively post marriage. [but then I voted for the Alternative Vote so what do I know :) ] .

You may find some answers to the questions above in some of these links: (* determine for yourself their validity to speak on the subject) better still do your own research / ask your elder..

No comments: