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FIRST-PERSON: Defending marriage by displaying it

JACKSON, Tenn. (BP)–The U.S. Senate defeated the Federal Marriage Amendment in a procedural vote on July 14. Those who had invested in recent events leading up to the vote realized that gaining enough Senate supporters was a daunting task.

During the weeks before the vote on the proposed amendment to the Constitution, many older churchgoing people lamented the fact that the Senate was actually discussing such an issue. They decried, “In all our days, we never would have dreamed America would be voting on such a thing.” Looking ahead, Majority Leader Bill Frist, R.-Tenn., summarized the debate and decision by saying, “The only question is who will amend it and how it will be amended. Will activist judges — not elected by the American people — destroy the institution of marriage? Or will the people protect marriage as the best way to raise children?”

The recent events in California and Massachusetts caused many to realize that something needed to be done. Activist judges acted capriciously, allowing homosexual couples to flaunt their debauchery all the way to courtrooms, courtyards and even church altars to be married by those with convictions small enough to perform such unions.

Emotions have been high as rhetoric has flowed for weeks. On both sides of the issue, there have been numerous petitions, rallies, campaigns, phone calls, forums, sermons, letters to the editor, magazine and television features, and more. Marriage has become one of America’s most politicized and controversial topics.

Feeling that traditional marriage is simply too antiquated for today’s society, many senators voted against the amendment proposal. They honestly believe that marriage is an equal-opportunity relationship vehicle to be employed solely at the pleasure of each individual as he or she sees fit.

Other representatives supported the spirit of the proposal but were hesitant to enter the process of actually amending the Constitution unless absolutely necessary. They agreed with the essence of the Federal Marriage Amendment but were convinced that the Constitution was not the means by which to handle such an issue.

The result was disappointing to many. However, Christians should not be discouraged. The Apostle Paul warned young Timothy that the time would come when even the church would “not endure sound doctrine.” Instead, they would “turn away their ears from the truth” (2 Timothy 4:3-4). If such were anticipated in the church, how much more so in broader society?

Perhaps the current marriage malaise in America is not primarily the fault of homosexuals, liberal legislators or even the media. A great share of liability lies at the feet of Christians — those who are supposed to understand and model what marriage is all about.

Much has been said lately concerning the “sanctity” of marriage. Indeed the Bible teaches that it is a divine institution created by God. Those who enter marriage are to do so with reverence and responsibility. The biblical model of marriage is seen clearly in Genesis 2:22-25. “And the Lord God fashioned into a woman the rib which He had taken from the man, and brought her to the man. And the man said, ‘This is now bone of my bones, And flesh of my flesh; She shall be called Woman, Because she was taken out of Man.’ For this cause a man shall leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave to his wife; and they shall become one flesh. And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.”

It is one thing to defend the sanctity of marriage. This is happening across the country. However, it is quite another to display the sanctity of marriage. When divorces among “Christian” people rival the rate of those among non-Christians, there is serious concern. What kinds of signals are Christians sending when we say one thing about marriage but practice another?

Ephesians 5:22-33 depicts marriage as a human relationship reflecting Christ’s relationship with the church. Paul clearly shows that husbands and wives are to model this reality. This means that marriage is not simply an avenue for the earthly pleasure of humanity. Rather, it is a living picture which continuously displays to all the love and commitment inherent between Christ and his church.

Those outside the church will not appreciate the nature, role and benefits of holy matrimony until they first see it among those inside the church — regardless of how clear and convincing our arguments might be. Contemporary culture and the latest decision by the Senate only prove this.

The call to be salt and light demands that Christians make their convictions known even among elected representatives. More importantly, however, it requires that we live out our convictions in our states, our cities, our neighborhoods, our places of work, our schools and our homes. When it comes to marriage, the maxim is true: The light that shines farthest shines brightest at home.

Rick Santorum, R.-Pa., got it right when he said, “I would argue that the future of our country hangs in the balance because the future of the American family hangs in the balance.” For this reason, let us love our wives and be faithful to our husbands. Let us also understand that marriage is not ultimately an issue about a man or a woman. Instead, it is about God first, foremost and finally. The essence and value of holy matrimony will never be recognized on the hill of Congress unless it is first realized in the homes of Christians.
Todd Brady is minister to the university at Union University in Jackson, Tenn.

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  • Todd Brady