VATICAN CITY (BP) — Christians must defend marriage by facing opponents winsomely and demonstrating that God’s plan of one man and one woman for life promotes human flourishing, Rick Warren told international religious leaders at the Vatican Nov. 18.
Warren, pastor of Saddleback Church, a Southern Baptist congregation in the Los Angeles area, said he supports God’s unchanging model for marriage and opposes gay marriage because “the only way to always be relevant is to be eternal. What is in style goes out of style. But no revolution lasts. Every lie eventually crumbles under its own deception. Cultures rise and fall. Cultures come and go. It isn’t necessary to be on the right side of culture. It is necessary to be on the right side.”
Along with Russell D. Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, Warren provided an evangelical Protestant viewpoint on the complementarity of man and woman during the second day of a Vatican-sponsored colloquium on marriage. About 350 religious, academic and civil society leaders from 23 countries and various world religions gathered at the headquarters of the Roman Catholic Church for the Nov. 17-19 event.
Warren said he planned to speak on “Why Marriage Matters” but changed his topic to “What Must We Do?” after the 27 speakers on the program before him explained thoroughly the importance of traditional marriage. He outlined action steps for leaders to take in defense of marriage following the Vatican gathering. Among them:
— Believe what Jesus taught about marriage.
Male-female marriage is God’s idea, not man’s, and sex was created for marriage, Warren said.
“Even if you disbelieve the Bible, every human body, every living person, is a witness and testimony to God’s intended purpose for sex,” Warren said, according to his manuscript. “Sex was not created for recreation, but for the connection of a husband and wife and the procreation of life.”
— Celebrate healthy marriages.
“We will convert more opponents by being winsome and positive about the beauty and joy of marriage than by being negative about immorality,” Warren said.
Churches should encourage people with happy marriages to share their testimonies, he said. Highlighting the benefits of marriage is also important, including healthier children, increased safety for women and greater economic stability, Warren said.
— Engage every media to promote marriage.
“Right now, the church is being out-marketed by opponents of marriage,” Warren said. “The minority view is getting the majority of media attention. Right now, Christians are known more for what we are against than for what we are for. Whichever side tells the best stories wins.”
To stem the cultural tide in favor of gay marriage, Christians should promote “tasteful” movies and television shows that celebrate marriage, Warren said. Media produced by marriage proponents should portray “the joys and benefits of healthy marriages and the hard work it takes to maintain a great marriage.”
Social media should be used “to mentor the next generation” regarding marriage, he said. Warren personally uses nine social media channels, he said.
— Face attackers with joy and winsomeness.
“Culture has accepted two lies: that if you disagree with someone’s lifestyle, you must hate them or are afraid of them [and] that to love someone means that you must agree with everything they believe or do,” Warren said. “Both are nonsense.”
Citing the Bible’s commands to “overcome evil with good” and “bless those who curse you,” Warren said, “Attackers are not the enemy; they are the mission field. Jesus died for them.”
To “stay winsome under attack” believers must be willing to face ridicule for the truth and remember that they “live for an audience of one,” he said.
Traditional marriage advocates must also give people hope that a biblical marriage is attainable and teach the purposes of marriage, Warren said. He listed among marriage’s purposes eliminating loneliness, channeling sexual expression and multiplying the human race.
But the deepest purpose of marriage is to illustrate “the mystery of Christ’s love for His bride and body,” the church, Warren said.
“No other relationship, including the parent-child relationship, can picture this intimate union,” he said. “To redefine marriage would destroy the picture that God intends for marriage to portray. We cannot cave on this issue.”
Warren concluded, “The church must never be captivated by culture, manipulated by critics, motivated by applause, frustrated by problems, debilitated by distractions or intimidated by evil. We must keep running the race with our eyes on the goal, not on those shouting from the sideline. We must be Spirit-led, purpose-driven and mission-focused so that we cannot be bought, will not be compromised and shall not quit until we finish the race.”