Marriage and the Church

Earlier I blogged that I would do a series on identity and the church. Yesterday I set the cat among the pigeons about my stance as a Christian and gay marriage. Many Christians reading it would be horrified because of my seemingly pro gay stance in saying that marriage is a societal rule more so then it is a faith-based / churches role.

I wish to state that I am neither pro gay nor am I against gay’s. I am pro people. All are made in the image of God. All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. (This includes you and me) Jesus was a friend of sinners, and so I will be too.

I want to explain my position more clearly in saying that  marriage is more of a social rule rather than it is a faith / church based rule. It’s important to note that there is a deep understanding within the Church how faith impacts upon the union between believers and that this understanding and practice was and is often different to what happened within marriage on a societal level.

How the modern church views marriage and its role in wedding couples is a new idea within Christendom. There is no Biblical nor historical basis for the Church to be involved or officiate within a wedding ceremony. Nor is there a need for an actual wedding ceremony to take place for a couple to be considered married, apart from them joining together in sexual union and living together as one.

Today it is often assumed within Christian circles that a couple who haven’t had a wedding ceremony are living in sin. Any children from this relationship are considered to be born out of wedlock and in years gone by labeled as bastard children. Many of these couples are looked upon with suspicion, mistrust or even kept at arms length from the church for not living a Godly life… when in fact, history and Biblical history shows they just may be living a Godly life and it the Church who is guilty of falsely labeling them.(just because a couple are married makes them godly… its how they live their lives together that causes this)

As Christians we take the basis for our belief’s and practices from the Bible. There is no direction when Moses establishes the priesthood about the priests being involved in marrying couples. The practice was that the marriage was arranged by the bride and grooms parents, or the man took a wife when he had sex with her and started to live with her.

This practice continued up until the day of Jesus, and this practice continued until 1550 Ad when the Roman Catholic Church ratified that it wouldn’t recognise a marriage unless it had been presided over by a priest and two witnesses. Martin Luther the forefather of the reformation argued that the church had no right to be involved in the wedding process, rather that it was a state or private issue for it of its self was a worldly thing.

So within Christian circles marriage was widely accepted as a private issue between two people who decided to live with each other without the involvement of the church… In England this continued till 1753 when the marriage act was drawn up and it become law that a Church of England priest had to officiate at the wedding for it to be legal.

Therefore it seems that the role of the church and marriage is in instructing believers how to act within the marriage boundaries and not making rules and regulations for society in which the church lived. Many societies allowed for multiple wives. Some societies had rules for men not marrying until they were over the age of 30. Some societies tolerated homosexual relationships. Other societies didn’t.

This then is why I believe that the church shouldn’t be standing in the way of anyone getting married within a societal level, no matter their gender or standing. The role of the Church is to spread the good news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, that through Him relationship with God is offered freely to all.

all references from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marriage

About Craig Benno

I'm an average aussie guy who has lived perhaps a not so average life.
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6 Responses to Marriage and the Church

  1. Vern says:

    I still have no clue how you can arrive at the conclusion that marriage is not a God ordained instituition. Marriage and Sabbath are the only 2 institutions in effect since creation, and they are both pictures of our relationsip with Him

  2. Craig Benno says:

    There is a huge difference between marriage reflecting the covenant we have with God as believers and marriage within society.
    Scripture never tells us to dominate society with laws, rather it tells us how to live as the faithful within the Christian community which is a subset of society. Take Pauls teaching about monogany relationships. He was teaching the Christian community and not making laws about society which accepted multiple wives.

    Marriage of its self is not a godly precept… just because someone weds doesn’t then make them godly. Just because they don’t, doesn’t either. Take the story of Noah and the flood… society was busy eating, working, marrying…..all of these are good things to do, even godly… yet non of these things made society right …for they still ignored God…and missed his grace through the ark.

    Our mandate as Christians is not to go and rebuke society, to make laws within society; rather it is to make Christ known…preach the Gospel message and then train up believers as to how they are to go.

    We live in the world. Scripture teaches us how as Christians we are to live in the world…not to make judgements on the world.

  3. Rob says:

    I would be curious to see how you would understand 1 Corinthians 7: 36 if you think that sex and cohabitation qualifies as marriage.

    • Craig Benno says:

      Hi Rob.
      I see no problems with the historical understanding of marriage (as I have written about it) and this passage. The passage you have referred to makes links to virgin, which culturally means the girl is still at home living under her parents guardianship. To paraphrase what is happening, the boy friend is getting a bit toey…amorous..perhaps the girl is also. Paul says if this is so… go and get married… or in other words …go and live together.

      There is a difference between having a reputation of living with someone for 6 months and moving on to the next person on a continual basis …and someone who decides to live with someone in a long term committed de-facto relationship.

      My point wasn’t that sex and cohabitation just qualifies as marriage…there are issues of fidelity and commitment to each other. Honourable traits that many de-facto couples do live by. My point was that historically the priesthood has never been involved in the marrying process…. though the
      scriptures do speak much wisdom as how marriage should operate to be successful.

  4. Rob says:

    I’m still unconvinced, although I could well be wrong. Firstly, when Jesus turned water into wine he was at a wedding feast. This sounds very much like what our ceremony/reception would be. It does not at all sound like all these people are simply celebrating an unofficial agreement of people to stay together or sexual consummation. Secondly, the Pharisees approach Jesus about divorce and mention a certificate of divorce. If there was no official marriage, why would there be any need for a certificate of divorce to be presented?

  5. Craig Benno says:

    Certainly there was often a celebration.

    It was the Hebrew practice that the parents of both the groom and bride would plan / organise their children to get married…. and a great celebration would take place, sometimes up to a week or more in length.

    During this time though, there was still no priestly involvement. Nor was their any celebration when a Hebrew man took a slave girl to be his wife….rape was the normal course of events for this to take place… or like what happened between Abraham and the slave girl Sarah gave him who become Ishmael s mother.

    You are right to say there were certificates of divorce….but who was responsible for the giving of it? It was the husband and not the priest…..interestingly enough about the issue of divorce women were also allowed to divorce their husbands if hubby didn’t provide shelter, provision and intimacy. This will be a topic for a future article.

    The fact that a couple was a couple was public knowledge. Again many people living in a defacto relationship make it publicly known within the community in which they live that they are together as a couple.

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