I. Can’t. Help. It.
I’ve seen one FB sticker too many.
First – I fully support the right of individuals to have an opinion on both sides of the marriage equality debate. Many of my friends support a change in legislation to allow all people, regardless of sexual orientation, the legal right to marry. I fully support their right to express their beliefs.
I have a handful of friends who support the definition of marriage as one man and one woman. Again, I respect their right to such an opinion.
Push me the wrong way and I can argue either side equally passionately. Not because I believe both sides with equal passion, but because I’m smart and flighty like that and should have went to law school. But I digress.
What I cannot support: tossing around the word “Biblical” as a means to defend either* side.
If we want to use “Biblical” as the marriage standard, then lets go back to a few instances in Genesis. Like Jacob. Oh, Jacob. He bought his wife – exchanged 7 years of manual labor – and when the new Father-in-Law pulled a switcheroo, he slept with the wrong sister. Well, the rule of the day was: you shake her, you take her. So though the deal was for Rachel, Jacob got Leah as wife #1 and had to work another 7 years for Rachel.
A few things to point out from this little example about the “biblical” definition of marriage:
- Though it was a social custom, it held many economic components in order to be legit. Lots of gifts and payments to make it all happen. Love played a role – “Jacob served seven years for Rachel and they seemed to him but a few days because of his love for her” (Gen 29:20). But he wouldn’t get the girl with a simple handshake for Laban.
- The passage that discusses the wedding? Then Jacob said to Laban, “Give me my wife, for my time is completed, that I may go in to her.” Laban gathered all the men of the place and made a feast. Now in the evening he took his daughter Leah and brought her to him; and Jacob went in to her. (Gen 20:21-23). *Sorry, I should’ve given this post a PG13 rating at the beginning.
- Marriage and sex went hand-in-hand. Thanks to a recent round of research on Persian bridal economics, I’ve learned that most sexual encounters resulted in either marriage or a concubine arrangement (step above slave, step below marriage). (Or prostitution, which seems like choosing a payment plan that’s simply more pay-as-you-go rather than buying cash, as Dave Ramsey would advocate).
Hardly the engagement process or bridal experience of nowadays, eh? The Bible is full of info on marriage customs, but we don’t seem to adhere to all of them. For instance, Part of Mosaic law includes a clause that mandates a man who rapes a woman to marry her – not as punishment for the woman, but for her care and protection. She would be deemed unmarryable by the society and possibly left destitute. Praise be to Jesus that we don’t enforce this in our society – and that the status and role of women has been elevated to the extent that she’s not deemed tarnished goods after falling victim to a heinous crime (and subsequently forced to live with the offender).
Does such “Biblical” evidence prove marriage is only between man and woman? Does it allow for same-sex marriage? Are there verses everywhere that can be used to “prove” the argument for either side?
But what we don’t get is a picture of my wedding day that replicates the experience of marriage in the Bible. (Which is too bad. I had a beautiful wedding day!).
We simply must acknowledge that we’ve imported a few of our experiences into the texts. Not facetiously mind you. It’s simply what we know. It’s what we’ve experienced, so when we read that “Jacob loved Rachel” we automatically assume she was wearing Maggie Sottero and served a vanilla cake with raspberry creme filling.
The writer of the book of Hebrews reminds us that the “Word of God is sharper than a double-edged sword.” But it’s one that’s often used offensively as much as defensively. One that hurts people, cuts to the deep.
Friends, people shouldn’t leave our presence maimed by the Scriptures. We have no authority to slice and dice. Convicting and convincing is more the work of the Holy Spirit than Holy Helpers. Instead we have a responsibility to love others. All of them. The ones we agree with, the ones we don’t.
So please, continue worthwhile and thoughtful discussion. Ask questions that matter, not ones that prove your point. Show some humility and let others see that you don’t know all the answers. But please, leave the “Biblical definitions” out of it.
We don’t get many definitions in the Bible. Those came more with the age of reason, eons after such a beautiful and helpful and true Book was composed. But what we do get are pages and pages of examples, stories of truth involving faithful people trying – succeeding and failing – to walk with God. Much like many of us are attempting today.
*Admittedly, most offenders if the “biblical defense” attempts fall on one side more often than the other. Again this post isn’t for or against either side, but rather the poor use of evidence to defend a position.