Browsing articles in "marriage"
Jan 21, 2014
neil

In our culture marriage has become like a jigsaw without the box

What exactly is God’s purpose for marriage?

In Ephesians 5.31-32 we read ‘for this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.’ This is a profound mystery – but I am talking about Christ and the church.

For many people marriage is a total mystery. Maybe it’s a mystery to you that anyone would want to make the kind of commitment that marriage requires.  Some of us might question why anyone would ever want to give up their freedom it that way.  Maybe it’s a mystery for you that people still think marriage works – you’ve experienced marriages that have been painful or come undone.

When Paul uses the word mystery he doesn’t so much mean something that is beyond our understanding. By mystery he means something that is hidden and must be revealed. The word mystery could equally be translated ‘secret’.  In other words Paul wants us to know the secret of marriage. What could be more important to us not only to know what marriage is but what it is for.

So what is the secret of marriage?

Paul says the secret, v.32, is that marriage is ‘about Christ and the church.’ We can’t understand God’s purpose for our marriages, as believers, unless we look deeply at the relationship between Christ and the church. What on earth does Paul mean?

 I’ve used this illustration at a few weddings recently but I think it captures something of the idea. A 2000 piece jigsaw is hardly a wedding present many people would put on their list. But imagine I gave a couple a 2000 piece puzzle but without the box.  You know that if you can only put them all together they would make a beautiful picture. But what is a puzzle becomes more of a mystery when there is no picture on the box to look at – you just don’t know where to begin.

In our culture marriage has become like a jigsaw without the box. We just don’t know what we’re meant to be making of it. Now think what pressure that puts relationships under, when you are competing to make different things of the puzzle.  Inevitably it leads to stress and conflict.

But the Bible insists that the key to marriage is to understand that the picture on the box is here in the Bible. We know that there is a day still to come when God will have a relationship with his people so perfect, so intimate, so loving that the nearest we come to it on earth, the only way we know how to describe it is a marriage. Christ and the church are made for each other, they will share eternity together in a perfect relationship.

Marriage now is about re-creating in our lives a picture of the marriage that is still to come. The pieces become the picture on the box. Marriage and the gospel inform each other. And we see that idea all of the way through the passage. Five times our passage Paul says to husbands look and learn from Jesus (vv.  23, 24, 25, 29 and 32). He tells us that Christ is the head of the church, that Christ loved the church by giving up his life for her. We learn that he cares for the church by feeding it and sustaining it and that the living Christ is united to his church for all time. And then Paul says six times look at the church and learn, (vv. 23, 24, 25, 27, 29 and 32). Christ is the head of the church; Christ loved the church, he feeds it and sustains it and the living Christ is united to his church.

In our society so many solutions are offered to the challenges of marriage. The state might try to offer tax incentives – appealing to our pockets. Self-help books and agony aunts insist marriage works when we stand up for our rights in a relationship. Paul’s radical message is that husband and wife, by looking to that gospel, learn to give up their rights. The power for Christian marriage comes when wives give up a right to autonomy and independence and husbands give up their right to self-interest by dedicating their lives to the good of their wives.

As we grapple with this passage we find Paul’s key to healthy and happy marriage lies in God, the gospel and his purpose for Christian marriage in the world. Paul will tell us let the gospel inform your marriage and let your marriage glorify the God of the gospel.

Next time ‘why should wives submit to their husbands and what does that look like?’

Jan 17, 2014
neil

Finding God in marriage. 3 ways in which a marriage reveals God’s character

This is the third post in a look at the question ‘What is marriage?’ We began by recongising that there are at least 5 reasons why we need to look at this issue afresh. In the last post we considered the consequences that have flowed from the radical redefinition of marriage from covenant to contract that has taken place in our society since the 1960’s.

Now I want us to reflect on just how what the Bible teaches us about marriage as a covenant relationship changes the way we might think about marriage. The five headings I’m using come from Andreas Kostenberger’s  book God, marriage and family.  As we go through each one I’m going to touch briefly on how a marriage covenant points us to a better understanding of God who has made a covenant with us in the gospel of Jesus Christ.

1.     The permanence of marriage

If marriage were merely a contract between two parties then it could be temporary but because it is covenant established by God it is permanent. Jesus’ words in Matthew 19:4-6 and in particular his conclusion ‘what God has joined together let not man separate’ makes that clear.When Christians marry we must never marry thinking to ourselves well if things don’t work out for me in this relationship, if I am unhappy, unfulfilled, or if our lives are pulling in different directions then I can always leave.

As Tim Keller saysto break faith with your spouse is to break faith with God at the same time.’

James Dobson wrote a letter to his finance shortly before their wedding day and he said ‘I want you to understand and be fully aware of my feelings concerning the marriage covenant we are about to enter.  I have been taught at my mother’s knee and in conformity to the word of God that the marriage vows are inviolable and my entering into them I am binding myself absolutely and for life – the idea of estrangement from you through divorce for any reason at all will never be permitted to enter my thinking.  I’m not naive on this on the contrary I’m fully aware of the possibility, unlikely as it now appears, that mutual incompatibility or other unforeseen circumstances could result in extreme mental suffering.  If such becomes the case I am resolved for my part to accept it as a consequence of the commitment I am now making and to bear if necessary to the end of our lives together.’

How does this point us to God?

This costly sacrifice that comes from committing ourselves by way of covenant is what we see demonstrated by God in the gospel. He made a covenant to love us and he has kept that covenant even though it caused considerable pain to do so.

2.     The sacredness of marriage

Because marriage is a relationship not just ordained by God but as John Stott says ‘sealed by God’ only God can end a marriage. It is not for us to decide that a marriage is finished but for God to say it may be finished. Jesus’ words in Matthew 19:1-12 address marriage, divorce and singleness and in this series we will spend quite a bit of time in this passage.  In his comments on divorce we read very sobering words that tell us that if we end a marriage for reasons that God has not permitted then any subsequent remarriage is sinful and adulterous.  Jesus says, Matt. 19v.9, I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, and marries another woman commits adultery.’ What Jesus teaches in this declaration is that there might be divorces that, whatever we might like to think, are not divorces in God’s eyes. For him the first marriage is not over.

Sealed by God, our marriages are sacred. As his children so we must therefore  work on my marriage, invest in it, nurture and feed it.

How does this point us to God? In the gospel we see God practicing what he preaches. However weak our love is and however many times we may fail God his covenant loyalty means that he will not break promise with us or himself. It is a sacred bond. Our relationship with God is not performance-based and he will not withhold his love or his affection because we struggle to honour our commitments. That said, Scripture’s warning is also clear that if we deny Christ and forsake him our covenant with God is broken.  ‘If we disown him, he will also disown us’ (2 Tim. 2:12).

3.     The intimacy of marriage

In the beginning God says everything in his perfect world is good. That is the constant refrain of chapter 1. But there is one thing that is not good and that is that the man is alone. Now, interestingly, God says it is not good before Adam appears to have noticed that it is not good. There is no evidence in the passage that Adam is lonely. As Christopher Ash points out in Married for Godmarriage is not there to solve the problems of loneliness.’

Our culture tells us that we will be unfulfilled unless we one day marry. That is not so. In heaven we will not be married, the Lord Jesus never married and many Christians down the ages have testified to lives lived fully for Christ as single people. We will return to this theme later. Rather it is the job that God has given Adam to do that means it is not good for him to be alone.

Marriage is a gift of God to help us fulfil the work God has given us to do. In Genesis 1v27-28 we read ‘so God created man, in his own image, in the image of God he created him, male and female he created them. God blessed them and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and increase in number

Part of God’s purpose for marriage is godly offspring. Christopher Ash says ‘we ought to want children in marriage because we want to serve God. The Creator entrusts to married couples the awesome privilege and responsibility of pro-creating.

There are many ways to serve God but the distinctive way in which couples in marriage are to serve God is bringing up godly children. Ash says ‘never despise the significance of parenthood in the service of God! For many, especially mothers what they do as parents will prove more significant in eternity than the most glittering careers in the eyes of the world.’

God’s purpose for marriage addresses two big questions of our day.

Why would God not approve of same-sex marriage?

If marriage is about companionship then it might be that a stable, loving, committed homosexual relationship would be considered equal in God’s eyes with a heterosexual one. But, whilst not the only argument against that conclusion, a key one is that God’s purposes in marriage are pro-creation. I want to point you to this little book called Is God anti-gay? It’s written by a friend of mine, who is a church leader and whilst preferring not to use the title ‘gay’ to describe himself he is someone who is attracted to other men. Drawing on those words of Genesis 1 he says ‘God’s purposes in marriage depend on hetero-sexual relations.’ Marriage is designed to bring children into the world.  

Whilst in a perfect world God’s design for every marriage is children, living as we do this side of the fall, sadly, not every marriage enjoys the blessing of children. Jane and I know something of that pain personally having waited 12 years to have kids.  If this a personal struggle for you or friends can I commend the book Just the two of us written by a friend.

Why is sex outside of marriage wrong?

God’s design for marriage is that Adam and Eve should express their perfect intimacy through the union of their bodies. In Genesis 2:24 we read ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.’ Sex is the body-language of perfect self-giving intimacy that befits marriage. Sex outside of marriage is to tell a lie with our bodies because when we give our bodies to another – when we are united to them – and yet are not commitment to them through the marriage bond we make one promise with our bodies that we are not ready to make with our whole lives.

How does the intimacy of a marriage point us to the gospel?

The intimacy of marriage does point us to the greater intimacy that God offers to us in the gospel. At the very end of the Bible, in Revelation 21:4, we read ‘God will wipe every tear from their eyes.’  Our need for close, intimate relationship will be fully met in Christ. What many of us are looking for from a marriage is actually to be found in our relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ.

In the next post two further ways in which marriage as covenant changes our view of marriage.

Jan 14, 2014
neil

Why our church is looking at marriage, divorce and singleness

This Sunday at City Church we started a nine week series entitled Marriage, Divorce & Singleness.  I  gave the following 5 reasons for  making this our focus at the start of the new year.

1. Understanding for a world in confusion.  In our times no-one seems really sure as to what marriage actually is. We need God’s word to shed light on this topic with some urgency and in doing so we will find that God’s word constantly challenges the values and wisdom of our culture.

2. Preparation for the future. We need help to make wise choices and decisions about marriage.  Whether we are in a marriage or thinking one day about marriage we need to understand God’s purpose for marriage. What should we be working towards to fulfil God’s ‘mission for marriage.’

3. Healing for the past. For some of us the very thought that we will be tackling subjects that are the cause of much personal unhappiness is a reason to be concerned. Maybe you have been a victim of divorce. For some of us it will be hard to be caused to reflect on an unhappy singleness (through all this talk of marriage!) after having worked so hard to learn to accept it. Well, the series is not here to dredge up hurts of the past and this series is certainly no witch-hunt designed to highlight past sins that have been repented of, but we do want to bring to God our past and seek understanding and a gospel perspective that allows us to move on with renewed joy in our hearts that the gospel is bigger than our past.

4. Wisdom for living well today. We need practical wisdom and advice on getting it right. We will be thinking through how we should live whilst maybe wanting to be married and waiting to be married and yet being single, how to know whether and when to marry. In what ways we should invest in and strengthen our marriages if we are married. What to do if we are struggling in marriage and how to resolve difficulties. Whether and in what situations we might even end a marriage.

But I want to say right at the start that it would be a big mistake to think that the reason we’re looking at this topic is to focus only on human relationships.  Our real goal in this series is that we might all say by the end of it we know our God better and that we have a deeper understanding and appreciation of the gospel.

5. Insight into the gospel.  We need to understand how the themes of marriage, divorce and singleness point us to the very character and purposes of God in Christ Jesus. The truth is, whether we’ve ever thought about it or not that marriage, as a gift of God is given to teach us about our future.

The Bible might begin with a wedding between a man and a woman but it ends with a wedding between Christ and his bride, the church. Whatever our views on marriage for this life, we cannot afford to lose sight of the fact that if we believe the Bible then one day, perhaps very soon, we will all be married.

In Revelation 19 we read these words

Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready. Fine linen, bright and clean, was give her to wear. (Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of the saints.)

The Christian life IS marriage preparation. Our relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ in the new creation is one of perfect union, intimacy and blessing that the only way we can get close to it in this life is to understand God’s gift of marriage.

In the next post we will look at why marriage is in crisis in our culture and how the real and radical redefinition marriage took place not in this past year but 40 years ago.

Jul 19, 2013
neil

85 questions to ask before you marry

In marriage preparation at City Church we ask engaged couples to complete the following questionnaire on their expectations for married life. It’s one we adapted and added to from a questionnaire I did 20 years ago in my marriage prep. classes at St. Helen’s Bishopsgate.

Our approach is to ask the couples to complete the worksheet separately and then talk through their conclusions with each other. We don’t then go through the answers, question by question, with them in marriage prep. classes but we do ask them to talk through with us any areas of significant disagreement or uncertainty.

Expectations in marriage worksheet

  A. Spiritual life 

1. Where and when do you generally read your Bible and pray?  
2. Do you expect to have devotional times together? How often? 
3. How important is God in your life? How is this manifest? 
4. Are you growing as a Christian? In what ways do you envisage your spouse being able to help you grow? Be specific.

B. Daily living 

1. Are you a ‘morning’ or ‘evening’ person? What time do you like to go to bed in the evening and get up in the morning? 
2. How important are music, radio, TV, social media, surfing the internet and computer games to you? Do you think anything will need to change when you are married? 
3. If you were given £25,000 what would you do with it as a couple? 
4. From the list below, what jobs around the house do you expect to do, what might you share with your spouse and what do you expect your spouse mostly to do?

Mowing the lawn, Car maintenance (if relevant), Washing up
Cooking,  Cleaning the toilet, Food shopping
Ironing, Paying the bills, Wiring a plug,
Unblocking a drain, Sewing on a button, Changing the bedding
Doing the washing, Driving the car (if relevant), Taking the bins out

Husband will do:

Wife will mostly do:

We will share:

5. Do you expect to keep some secrets from your spouse? For example:

  • Earnings?
  • Savings?
  • Weight?
  • Private letters? 

6. In what areas do you expect to disagree most? For example:

  • Money?
  • In-laws?
  • Leisure?
  • Life-style? 

7. Is there anything you feel it will be difficult to discuss with your spouse? Are you willing to try? 

C. Social 

1. How would you like to celebrate your first wedding anniversary? What about your tenth? 
2. How do you view your (future) in-laws? How often will you visit them? How often will they visit you? 
3. What about your own parents? How often will you visit them? How often will they visit you? 
4. How often would you expect to speak to your parents and other close family? 
5. How do you think your relationship with your parents will change once you’re married? 
6. How might your parents and in-laws be cared for in old age? 
7. How do you view your future spouse’s friends? Will you encourage these friendships? 
8. How many evenings a week would you expect to be:

  • Out, with your spouse?
  • Out ,without your spouse?
  • In together, with friends?
  • Left at home alone?
  • In together, alone?
  • Out together, just the two of you? 

9. How important is time on your own to relax? Do you relax best in the company of others or in your own company? Do you think you will need time alone when you are at home or on holiday together? 

D. Christmas

1. How was Christmas for you growing up? 
2. What traditions did you have as a family that you would love to keep/prefer to lose? 
3. Do you look forward to the Christmas season? 
4. How would you like to spend your first Christmas together? 
5. How might you balance time spent with your respective families over the years?  

E. Children 

1. What makes you nervous or afraid at the prospect of having children? 
2. If you are able to have children, how many children would you like? How important would financial considerations feature in your thoughts? What other factors would apply? 
3. How long would you like to wait before trying for children? 
4. How would you respond if you became pregnant on honeymoon? 
5. What would be your top three priorities for your children? 
6. What is your view about infant baptism? 
7. Do you anticipate parenting in a similar manner to which you were brought up?  Why or why not? 
8. What sort of education would you want for them? 
9. How do you see your responsibility as regards ‘bringing them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord’ (Ephesians 6v4)? How about your future spouse’s responsibility?  

F. Church 

1. What areas of church life do you currently serve in? 
2. Are there any responsibilities you should consider giving up once you are married?
3. What particular contributions to church life do you anticipate having as a married couple? 
4. In what particular ways do you want to serve God together?  Be specific. 
5. How do you want God to use your marriage and home?
6. What part will hospitality play?

G. Communication and Conflict 

1. Are you good at communicating “basic” information: diary planning, phone messages, short- and medium-term plans? If not, how will you improve? 
2. Are you good at the kind of communicating that builds and strengthens intimacy? Do you think you need to improve at making space for that in your relationship? 
3. Do you think your spouse does? How can you help? 
4. Do you find it easy to talk about things you are struggling with? How can your spouse help you? 
5. How good are you at “speaking the truth in love”, saying difficult things in a loving way? 
6. Are you willing for your spouse to be frank with you regarding any personal habits you have that they find unpleasant or simply unhelpful? How best might they address or initiate the subject? 
7. How do you respond to conflict?  Do you go quiet, sulk, become argumentative, become defensive? 
8. How do you anticipate resolving conflicts? 
9. Do you consider your future spouse to be good at communicating?  How could they improve? 
10. Do you consider yourself to be good at communicating?  How could you improve?

H. Recreation 

1. What do you enjoy doing in your leisure time? Is this something you plan to continue to do when married? Would you anticipate your spouse being involved in this? How? 
2. How often do you expect to have a holiday? What would you expect these to look like? 

I. Work 

1. What is your attitude towards work?  Do you find it difficult to stop working? Do you find it difficult to switch off after work? 
2. How important is having a career to you? What expectations or hopes do you have for your career? 
3. How would you respond to an expectation from an employer for you to work overtime, or increase your hours?  
4. How do you feel about the role of housewife and mother? As a mother, how soon would you consider returning to paid employment, if at all? As a father, how would you feel about your wife going back to work?

J. Money 

1. What standard of living have you been used to?
recently
in your childhood 
2. What expectations do you bring into marriage in relation to this? Do you expect a steadily rising standard of living? 
3. What debts do you have? 
4. What about savings and assets? 
5. What is your attitude towards money?  Do you generally save up before buying larger items, or do you buy these on credit and pay back? 
6. When you buy something, do you prefer to pay more for quality instead of pay a lower price? 
7. Do you budget carefully? 
8. Are you giving to the church in a disciplined manner? What will that look like when you are married? 
9. Will you have a joint account when you are married? 
10. Do you plan to save together? How much? What will these savings be for? 
11. Will you maintain a savings account, pension, life insurance? 
12. Who will be in charge of the money when you are married? Who will be responsible for paying different bills and how? 
13. Do you expect to talk about every purchase you make, set a threshold for this, or each be free to spend what you want? 
14. How much money do you think you ought to spend on holidays? 

 K. Home 

1. Do you expect to be living in Birmingham in 5 years? What about in 10? 
2. What are your priorities in choosing where to live? 
3. How important to you is where you live and what sort of house/flat you live in?

  • Now?
  • In 10 years?
  • At retirement? 

4. What sort of home would you expect in 5 years’ time? 
5. How important is it to you to be buying your own home? 
6. How much of a practical handyman/woman are you? Do you enjoy doing things around the home, for example: putting up shelves, mending things, decorating, making curtains, etc.? 
7. How tidy are you? How important is it for you to have a clean and tidy home? 

L. Marriage 

1. Try to write down in a sentence or two about why you want to get married and why to this person in particular? 
2. How do you hope being married to your spouse will benefit them? 
3. How do you hope being married to your spouse will benefit you? 
4. What could undermine these benefits? 
5. How often do you expect to have sex? 
6. Where would you turn to if you were having problems with the sexual relationship within your marriage? 
7. Do you think romance is important? How do you intend to be romantic towards your spouse? 
8. How will you keep God central in your marriage? How might you keep a check on that? 

Notes for discussion

Aug 3, 2012
neil

Myth-busting with Tim & Kathy Keller

Tim and Kathy Keller deconstruct the cultural myths that surround marriage and give a gospel answer.

(HT: Justin Taylor)

Jul 28, 2012
neil

‘the unexpected in-between’ – Wisdom for any who are single but wish they weren’t

What is God’s purpose in when we want to be married but have to live contented lives as single people? Justin Taylor has pulled together a bunch of resources (books,audio & video) for anyone wanting to think through issues of singleness and the Christian life.

Jun 15, 2012
neil

Getting some reality into our religion…Jesus and adultery

In today’s Spectator Magazine the author Martin Amis is quoted as saying ‘years and years ago, someone defined pornography as hatred of significance in sex. That’s what pornography does.’ Below is the third part of my sermon from last Sunday evening on the 7th commandment ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ In this extract we consider how through lust we all break this command.

C: How we all break the 7th commandment

We saw last Sunday in Jesus’ sermon on the mount that God is as concerned with how we think as much as how we act.  You shouldn’t measure obedience to God’s word by what you do or don’t do but by what we would like to do or not do.

We saw that ‘You shall not murder’ is not an excuse to hate because hate is really murder in the heart. So in that second reading we had this evening (Matthew 5:27-30) we saw that ‘You shall not commit adultery’ speaks to our hearts that are full of lust. And that really matters because Jesus won’t allow us to divide the room this evening into two categories of people; the sexually pure and the impure. No, for the reality is that when it is the attitude of our hearts that are held to account surely we are all sexual failures.

Kevin DeYoung writes: The 7th commandment doesn’t just forbid adultery and pornography. It forbids every action, look, conversation, thought, or desire that incites lust and uncleanness.

To lust is to look at a person in a way that leads to sexual arousal and so again we find God’s purpose in the commandment to reveal to us that we are all adulterers in the heart.

1. Be radical

Jesus warns us what a serious sin lust is when he says ‘ If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.’

Jesus wants you to know that there is a difference between being sorry and being repentant.

Being sorry means regretting sin, being repentant means running from sin. Joseph when seduced into bed by Potiphar’s wife ran for his life. He fled the house. A friend of mine I met with to read the bible each week left his job because of a growing attachment to someone at work.

Maybe we would run from an inappropriate relationship but the bigger challenge for some of us is that we naturally have a pretty forgiving attitude to inward sins, we’re just much less concerned about the sins of the heart not least because no-one else knows about them.

The pastor who looks at pornography then preaches on purity is a dangerous person.

Not only do we sometimes simply forgive ourselves for our sin but  we even use the gospel as an excuse to sin. We say well God has already forgiven me so I can sin anyway. Well it is true that the gospel does forgive sin but it is a dangerous thing to turn a truth into a half-truth because as Jim Packer has said ‘a half-truth, masquerading as the whole truth becomes a complete untruth.’

The same gospel that forgives our sin also teaches us (Titus says) to say ‘no’ to ungodliness so if there is no fight for purity in our hearts is there evidence of grace in our lives?

So are you ready to take urgent and radical action in battling sexual  temptation in our lives. That might mean not having a TV license or having accountability software on our computers or changing gym membership or even job. It would certainly mean stopping sleeping with your boyfriend or girlfriend.

If you are here this evening as a non-Christian I want you to know how totally amazing is the grace of God through his Son’s death on the cross he has dealt with our sin whatever our sexual sins, however we have lived, no-one is too far from God.  Grace is always amazing but it is never cheap.

The sign that God is at work is real repentance.

2. Be honest

We do need each other in the battle.  Married couples we need to help one another think through how to keep investing in our marriages.  To help us in the battle with sexual sin we should seek support and we should make ourselves accountable. DeYoung comments ‘No one fights a war by himself, and no one will get victory over sexual sin on his own.’

3. Be real

About your own vulnerability. Recognise that if a man like King David, a man after God’s own heart, could fall into scandalous sin then why not me or you?

I don’t know why guys wouldn’t want to put some kind of software on their computers to take away temptation. Maybe you need to honestly face up to the fact that you are not ready for a relationship because you know that you could not control yourself physically and would only damage the person you were dating. Maybe you need to recognise that you are flirting in a dangerous way with a housemate.

Being real means recognising that you and I are weak and that the sexual impulse is very strong. And being real means recognising that sexual temptation sometimes comes from an unexpected direction at a time when we least expect it and in a way we’ve not  gone looking for it.

King David’s adultery with Bathsheba began with David simply being in the wrong place at the wrong time. He was at home when he should have been with his army he was on the roof of his palace when he stumbled across beautiful Bathsheba bathing on the top of a near-by building. The results of a man with time on his hands was scandal.

Jun 14, 2012
neil

My contribution to the Government’s consultation on same-sex marriage

The Government’s consultation on same-sex marriage closes at midnight tonight. Over 100,000 individuals and organisations have replied. Filling in the on-line form I was allowed a maximum of 200 words in expressing my opinion. Here’s what I wrote…

There are many reasons why the current definition of marriage must remain.

Firstly, throughout the world, across all cultures & times, marriage has always & only been defined as an exclusive relationship between a man and a woman. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights establishes this point very clearly in Article 16.

Secondly, it has been acknowledged by even Tory MPs that the idea that marriage can be redefined but only for civil marriages is deeply flawed. Any legislation will quickly be challenged by homosexual couples wishing to undertake a religious ceremony and a likely result is that religious institutions will be compelled by law to marry homosexual couples against their own right to freedom of conscience.

Thirdly it should be remembered that there is no electoral mandate for such legislation. No political party included ‘gay marriage’ in their manifesto and therefore the people of the UK have not been giving the opportunity to express an opinion at the ballot box. Finally the consultation process itself has been deeply troubling.

Through-out the period Equalities Minister Lynne Featherstone has repeatedly insisted that the Government will proceed with legislation regardless of public opinion.

 

Jun 12, 2012
neil

A quite brilliant article in the Telegraph on Peter Tatchell, gay marriage and the role of the State

Brendan O’Neill writes in the Telegraph on the domestication of Peter Tatchell

 

His conclusion is sobering ‘The gay marriage campaign will end up expanding the remit of the state, granting it the authority to overhaul an ancient institution, redefine our relationships, and rebrand is all as “partners’ rather than husbands or wives.’ 

Jun 12, 2012
neil

Sex is a signpost – God’s purpose in the 7th commandment

Preaching through a series on the 10 commandments on Sunday we reached the 7th .  Yesterday I posted the first part of the sermon on the relationship between sex and marriage. Today the second part looks at God’s purpose in the 7th commandment.

What is the 7th commandment?

The seventh commandment reads ‘You shall not commit adultery’.  Pretty much every Jewish adult who first heard those words of God would either have been married or engaged to be married. Every adult could expect to be married by the age of 20. So in that culture the biggest challenge to honouring God with your body was remaining faithful to your spouse.  But the commandment clearly speaks against all kinds of sexual sin.

Paul in Ephesians says ‘ Among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality or any kind of impurity.’ The word there for sexual immorality is porneia and refers really to any sex outside of marriage.

So why is faithfulness in your marriage so important to God?

We’ve been learning over again in this series is that each of the commandments that call on us to ‘love our neighbour’ depends upon a more fundamental  commitment to ‘love God’.  There is a right and necessary ordering of the commandments.  It is the nature of our relationship with God that compels us to remain faithful to our spouse.

Covenant faithfulness in marriage is an expression of our covenant faithfulness to God.  As God is faithful to us and as we are to be faithful to him so we are to exhibit the character of faithfulness in all our relationships, especially marriage. As his people so we want to be like him, to say to the world how great it is to have God as our God and so being faithful to our promises is part of saying thank you to God for being faithful to his.

I was at a wedding a while back, chatting to a non-Christian couple. They asked how long my wife and I had been married and at the time it was something like 10 or 11 years.  One of them was surprised that having married so young we had lasted so long and then the other commented ‘it’s only the Christians who stay married.’ Sadly, in a fallen world marked by sin that is not always the case but it often is.

Our faithfulness in marriage is a reflection of God’s faithfulness we reflect God’s character as the faithful one who loves us with a never-breaking love. A husband and a wife are in their marriage to model the exclusive relationship between God and his people.

What makes adultery so serious it is both one and the same time a betrayal of a spouse and a denial of our God.

In Genesis  39:9-10 Joseph refuses to betray Potiphar by sucombing to the advances of Potiphar’s wife. He refuses out of loyalty to an earthly master. But more fundamentally he recognises that to break a human marriage is to do a wicked thing and sin against God.’

The 7th commandment is given by God to protect marriages, to protect children in marriages and to protect God’s own name and reputation in the world.

Jesus and marriage

No wonder then that Jesus in Matthew 19:3-6  issues a solemn warning that it is God who joins a couple together in marriage. Through marriage they are now to be considered as one person (v.6) and therefore Jesus issues a command ‘let not man separate.’ It is not that it is impossible but rather that it is should not happen.

And the consequences for those who do break this commandment are serious. In the book of Hebrews Christians are reminded of the seriousness of honouring God with their marriages. 13:4

Marriage should be honoured by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral.

Yesterday we saw that sex outside of marriage damages ourselves. Today that it dishonour’s God and we are warned judgement awaits those who dishonour God through adultery or sexual immorality.

Tomorrow’s post looks at how we all break the 7th commandment and how through Jesus we can keep the 7th commandment.

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