Sunday, May 10, 2015
Biblical Marriage part 3: What can the Bible offer about marriage now?
It might be subversive in some circles that two women are getting married to one another and being so damn excited about it. But honestly, it is the most ordinary of things. We love each other. We want to spend our lives together. We want to make vows to that effect in the presence of God, our family and friends, and each other. We want the same legal and financial benefits and protection that are permitted other couples.
Marriage is a concept that has been hijacked by those who think it belongs to them and who have a desire to keep it from people like me. The Bible has been used and abused to justify the idea that marriage is between a man and a woman only. In my previous posts on the topic, I dug through the Hebrew scriptures, the Gospels and the Epistles to expose the variety of ideas of what constitutes "Biblical Marriage" and the non-existence of a monolithic concept of marriage much to the chagrin of a specific subset of Christians.
My good friend Andy challenged me this week to see if there was anything salvageable in the Bible about marriage. Is there anything that it can offer pertaining to marriage now? Katrina did not ask my parents for a whole bunch of cattle as a bride price for taking me off their hands, just as I did not give her parents seven years of servitude for her hand in marriage. We are both wearing gold rings on our fingers, so we failed at that too. And furthermore, our sort of marriage just would not have happened in the ancient near East, or in the early Christian church. Marriage at that time was about an exchange of property and about strategy for improving one's position in the world. It was not necessarily about love, but it was a lot about faithfulness.
So that is where I start. I am a Lutheran, so I value the contributions of Martin Luther to theology and to an exploration of what God is up to in the world. Martin Luther writes that marriage is a legal estate, but also a sacred estate for living out one's vocation in this world. Martin Luther's theology is clear that marriage is about serving one another in Christian love. Each spouse belongs to each another.
(I will concede that Luther described marriage as between a man and woman, but he too was a product of his time, with regards to gender roles, sexual orientation, and so on, so I will continue in his revolutionary spirit and apply the spirit of his work to my own marriage.)
It is in this deep belonging and sacred commitment that we can come as close as to the fidelity and faithfulness of God to us this side of heaven. And scriptures have a lot to say about faithfulness...
From Ruth 1:16, "…where you go, I will go; where you lodge, I will lodge; your people shall be my people and your God my God."
From Psalm 89:1-2, "I will sing of your steadfast love, O Lord, forever; with my mouth I will proclaim your faithfulness to all generations. I declare that your steadfast love is established forever; your faithfulness is as firm as the heavens."
And scriptures have a lot to say about emotional support as well, another sacred task of the estate of marriage...
From Galatians 6:2, "Bear one another's burdens, and in this way, you will fulfill the law of Christ."
From Psalm 68:19, "Blessed be the Lord who daily bears us up; God is our salvation."
And contrary to what some people would have you believe, the Bible contains some pretty erotic stuff as well, for the purpose of marriage is the mutual consolation and companionship of both, and the intimate expression of that love...
From Son of Solomon, 8:6-7, "Set me as a seal upon your heart, as a seal upon your arm; for love is as strong as death, passion as fierce as the grave. Its flashes are flashes of fire, a raging flame. Many waters cannot quench love, neither can floods drown it. If one offered for love all the wealth of one's house, it would be utterly scorned."
Scriptures do not offer a literal prescription for what marriage is in our world. But they do offer guidance on faithfulness, emotional fidelity and support, physical intimacy and expression of love, and God rejoicing in unions of love and mutual respect. God rejoices in the love that Katrina and I have for each other (even if some of God's people decidedly do not) and blesses our union.
Thanks be to God!