The battle over marriage has seen its ebbs and flows. And at the moment it looks like the other side is getting a few runs on the board. For example, there are now a number of countries that have legalized same-sex marriage. In December the UK also went down that path, but called the unions, “civil partnerships”.
In an interesting development, paintings of traditional wedding scenes have recently been removed from an English registry office in case they offend homosexual couples. The pictures at Liverpool Register Office have been replaced with landscapes since the introduction of “homosexual weddings” late last year. A Register officer said the new paintings were less likely to offend.
So what is going on here? This is nothing less than a full-scale war on marriage. The attempt to redefine marriage, especially in the case of same-sex marriage, is simply a full frontal assault on the institution of marriage. And it has been going on for some time now.
Indeed, it is part of the bigger war over faith and family that has been waging for some four or five decades now. The radical counter culture of the 60s included the various liberation movements such as radical feminism and the homosexual agenda, which declared war on traditional notions of marriage and family. And we are now seeing the bitter fruit of such an assault.
Indeed, the stress on individualism, the rejection of authority, the secularization of society and the promotion of rights without responsibilities has lead to the wholesale rejection of marriage. Thus we are experiencing not just an attack on individual marriages, but on the very notion of marriage itself. Marriage as an institution and as an idea is under attack.
All this should not surprise the believer however. We can expect to see the good gifts of God attacked and derided. The greater something is, the greater will be the attack on it. And marriage is one of God’s great gifts to the world.
It was Edmund Burke who once wrote, “The Christian religion, by confining marriage to pairs, and rendering the relation indissoluble, has by these two things done more toward the peace, happiness, settlement, and civilization of the world, than any other part in this whole scheme of divine wisdom.” No wonder then that the enemy should seek to destroy this most vital of institutions.
Thus Christians are called to uphold and defend marriage. But we need to defend it on two fronts, not just one. Individually, we are to show the world what successful marriage is all about. We are to model God’s ideal to a world that knows little of love, commitment, responsibility and faithfulness. It is extremely important that we demonstrate to the world what God’s pattern for marriage and family is all about.
Unfortunately we have often failed miserably in this regard. Divorce rates in evangelical churches are often as high as in the secular community. And some researchers suggest they may even be higher! This is a scandal and outrage for which all of us should be on our knees in deep repentance. How can we lead unbelievers to the Christian faith when in many respects we live lives no different to their own?
Second, we need to defend the institution of marriage. That means getting involved in the social, cultural and political battles over marriage. There are many groups who are doing all they can to undermine marriage and family. They need to be resisted. And with God’s help we can be victorious.
The best example of this was the marriage forum held in Canberra in August 2004. Some 1200 people from all around Australia crammed into the Great Hall in Parliament House to let our nation’s leader know that we believed in marriage, and would not let it go without a fight. In conjunction with this, a Senate inquiry into marriage was held, and a record number of submissions were received: some 16,000. Of these, only around 100 were in favour of same-sex marriage. These two ground-breaking events led to a vote in Parliament on August 13, 2004, in which it was made legislatively certain that marriage is to be only between one man and one woman.
That was a powerful and historic win. It showed that God’s people, acting with God’s help, can do mighty things.
Thus we need to stand up for marriage. We need to demonstrate in our personal lives what Christian marriage is all about. And we need to demonstrate in the social and political arenas that the institution of marriage is the bedrock of civilized society, and deserves defending. Marriage is too important to do anything less.