Under Australian law, Sandra and I can't marry. But when you think about it, who really controls marriage? I know that there are legal considerations in most countries, which mean that the Government is able to regulate certain benefits for those who are married, which other people do not receive such as tax breaks, medical benefits and a range of other things. But is that all that marriage is?
Two Understandings of Marriage:
When the Bible speaks of marriage, it doesn't really mention tax breaks or medical benefits. It mentions the joining together of two people in a committed bond before God. It also speaks in the Bible of a man and a woman being joined in this bond, but that's a subject for later in this article.
These days, we tend to think of marriage as being a commitment between two people who love each other. That is certainly the modern understanding of marriage in the western world, but it was not the understanding that the people of Biblical times had of it, and it is not the understanding that many communities today have of it either.
When a man took a woman as his wife in Biblical times, she became his property, this is particularly highlighted in Exodus chapters 20 and 21 where several verses deal with the 'ownership' of women, be they wives, daughters or slaves. For example if a man was a slave, he was required to serve six years as a slave and then in the seventh year, the year of Jubilee, the male slave could go free, but if the man's master had given him a wife and she bore him children, the wife and children remaiined the property of the man's master.
Marriages in the bible were more often made as a means of making strategic alliances with neighbouring kingdoms or tribes. So marriage in Biblical times was less about relationship, and more about social status.
Today, in Western society, at least, that understanding has changed so that we get married because we love each other and wish to make a family together, be that a family of man, wife and children, man wife and pets, or two men, or two women with or without pets and children. Not many of us would accept the idea that one person in the marriage becomes the property of the other!
Love is Arbitrary:
Under this understanding, my question would then have to be, "Well, who gives any government the right to dictate to me who I can love or settle down with?"
The answer to that is NO ONE! The government does not have that right. Love is arbitrary, it is not subject to any law but itself. People fall in love wholly independently of any Government body, and I say a resounding AMEN to that.
The Government can legislate on who gets tax breaks and medical benefits, but the day the government tries making a law about who I can love is the day this pacifist will take up arms!
The most laughable thing I have ever heard a Government representative say, and this was in a letter to me from the Australian Attorney General, was that "the use of the word marriage is in contravention to Australian Constitutional Law and as such was rejected as forming a part of the Bill presented to the Australian Government with regard to legalisation of Sam Sex Unions."
I'm sorry to tell you, Mr Attorney General, that I consider myself married to my partner regardless of your Constitutional Law or anyone else's!
In the gospel of Mark, when Jesus speaks of marriage, he uses the term. "What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate."
This is crux of the matter. Marriage was instituted by God, not by man. "What God has joined together, let no man separate."
God brings people together. He certainly brought Sandra and me together, and God is the only one who can separate us, not that I believe he would.
Good Fruit Bad Fruit:
Jesus gave us some very good guidelines for how we ought to judge whether something is good or bad, when he spoke of good trees and bad trees in the gospel of Matthew 17:15-20
"By their fruit you will know them," Jesus said. This can be applied just as easily to relationships as it can to any single person.
I see many relationships around me every day that produce bad fruit. The fruit of anger, the fruit of violence, the fruit of divorce and heartbreak.
On the other hand I also see many relationships that produce good fruit. These relationships are strong, and nurturing. They build up and encourage both the couple in the relationship, and those around them. I see just as many same sex relationships bearing this good fruit as I see heterosexual relationships that bear good fruit.
I think that the world would be a better place if we stopped putting so much emphasis on the who of relationship and started to emphasise the fruit of them. Just as a tree can be judged by its fruit, whether it is good or bad, so can a relationship be judged by its fruit, whether it is right or wrong. If a relationship is healthy, if it is producing good things in the lives of those in it, if it is contributing in a positive way to the lives of those around it, then what justification can there possibly be in forbidding the couple to marry? In my opinion, there is NONE!
In closing, I would like to leave you with this passage of Scripture to think upon.
1st Timothy 4:1-5
The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron. They forbid people to marry and order them to abstain from certain foods, which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and who know the truth. For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, because it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer.