In November I wrote a little essay about the meaning and significance of marriage, in December a supplement about the place of marriage in society, and now I wish to cap them off with a brief postscript about what marriage is not and can never be. The relevance of this should be immediately obvious in our culture, and my timing is not coincidental.
I am addressing Christians, but I am not—more’s the pity—simply preaching to the choir. The Christian revelation makes marriage most fully comprehensible (though nature has its witness), and only those who understand what marriage is are rightly positioned to understand what marriage is not. But just because we should understand something doesn’t mean we do, and without proper reflection—in a world with little interest in proper reflection—we can miss things that upon proper reflection are staggeringly obvious.
To the point: there is no such thing as ‘gay marriage.’ Regarding homosexual behavior, the Scripture uses such words as “abomination” (Lev. 18:22, ESV); but ‘gay marriage’ is a chimera, it does not and cannot exist—and no amount of legislation, ceremonial solemnization, and the waving of flags, can change that. Polygamy is a perversion of marriage, but ‘gay marriage’ is simply an impossibility, as is marriage to oneself, marriage to an object, marriage to an animal, or any number of other absurdities which a lost and decadent society may embark upon.
The reason there can be no such thing as ‘gay marriage’ (et al) is obvious if you understand what marriage is: marriage is the covenantal union of man and woman. It is not the reflective union of any 1 thing with itself, nor is it a generic union of any 2+ things, any 2+ living things, or any 2+ humans (even if they purport to love one another very much). Marriage is a term with a definite meaning, a meaning established by God when He created people and ordained the union. Marriage is a unity that requires a commensurate complementarity.
This reality was often not understood by well-meaning Christians during the debates about gay marriage in middle of the last decade; some argued that ‘gay marriage’ should be authorized in the secular sphere, and we should retreat to defending what the church will recognize as marriage. With only a few years’ hindsight that position looks remarkably naïve, as it has become abundantly clear that religious convictions are not respected where issues of sexual identity are concerned. But the argument was wrong-headed to begin with, because it conceded to some extent the root of the whole disagreement—the nature of marriage. The vast societal implications of this error are grievously evident even in this short time.
Lies, hollow things though they are, can be very dangerous. Lying about marriage has cost our society dear, and who knows how much of the price we have yet to pay. But the gospel hope remains, and the invitation extends to all who will receive it. We can have the truth, if we will accept it. We can know the one who is “the way, and the truth, and the life” (John 14:6); we can follow Him on the costly and joyful road of discipleship, the path of peace, the way that leads to glory; in a world of deception, the promise remains: “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:32).