Today the Northern Ireland Assembly meet to vote for the fifth time on the redefinition of marriage. The LBGT community, activists and some political parties want a law passed to permit Same-Sex Marriage. I do not intend to rehearse the debate ad nauseam today, but I do wish to pass one comment.
Just over a week ago the leader of the UUP, Mike Nesbitt, made a speech at his Party Conference. During that speech Nesbitt reiterated that his personal view was that marriage is between a man and a woman. He cannot, he says, bring himself to accept Same-Sex Marriage. Even so, he proceeds to concede, he believes he stands on the wrong side of history (read the story here).
I find myself in agreement with Nesbitt regarding the definition of marriage, but in disagreement about which side of history we stand on! Before I go any further though, permit me to acknowledge that much damage has been done to the witness of the gospel by the church’s treatment of the LBGT community. While we cannot turn our backs on what Scripture teaches, we must take our stand with grace. For an example of this see Gordon Walker’s treatment of the subject here.
As I said I am not going to rehearse the debate in its entirety. But, it is necessary for me to state why, as a Bible believing Christian, I believe that marriage is a union between one man and one woman. The reason? Because the Bible never portrays marriage is anything other.
Scripture’s treatment of intimate relationships is governed by the account of creation, or what theologians call ‘Creation Ordinance’. In other words principles found in creation are binding for the whole of humanity. Genesis clearly teaches that God created humanity male and female, two distinct genders (Gen. 1:27). Why? Well we are told it was not good for the man to be alone (2:18), and so the woman was created as a companion (2:22). This is the first intimate relationship in the whole of creation, and it is one which is binding. Genesis makes this relationship binding on all of creation:
Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. (2:24)
Later in Scripture, after referring to these verses in Genesis, Jesus then makes it clear that this relationship, marriage, comes from God (Mt. 19:6). It is given by him and so it is governed by him. In addition to this other intimate relations are forbidden and condemned (Rom. 1:23-27; 1 Cor. 6:9).
The aforementioned verses are only a small selection of those which treat marriage right throughout Scripture. The picture that is consistently painted by the biblical authors is one in which humanity finds meaning, security, joy, happiness and fulfilment in this union of one man and one woman (although none of this is ultimate as that alone is found in Jesus whether we are married or celibate).
Now this reasoning is very unlikely to convince someone who is in favour of Same-Sex Marriage. However, that is not its purpose. I merely highlight these things to affirm that Bible believing Christians must take God’s Word at face value. God’s Word paints marriage as an intimate and fulfilling relationship that exists between one man and one woman and so we must remain opposed to Same-Sex Marriage.
But does that mean we are on the wrong side of history?
Scripture also affirms that God is in control of history (Job 12:10; Ps. 31:15), and that history is heading toward a final point – the return of Jesus Christ.
That Jesus Christ is returning is evident right throughout Scripture (see previous posts here and here). It can most easily be asserted by the angels’ words to the disciples at the beginning of Acts. They say ‘This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go’ (Acts 1:11). Key to our considerations today is what Jesus will do when he comes back. The Bible is really quite explicit about this – he will judge the living and the dead (Mt. 25:31-33; 2 Tim. 4:1; Jas. 5:9). Jesus will judge the living and the dead concerning their standing before God in light of Scripture and the gospel contained within it.
Beyond this judgement then we learn that all things will be made right (Rev. 21:1-8). It could be understood that history is a story of God working in creation. And that God is the God of the Bible. He then is going to put all things right, make all things new. Not just homosexuality, but homosexuality is certainly one of those things. It’s a disordered desire, and humanity has many. Homosexuality is little different than a love for money or the excessive ambition that drives people to work long hours, and do whatever it takes to succeed, to achieve a fame which perishes (note how neither money nor ambition are inherently wrong but how easily they become disordered by excess, the same with sex which God made good but is easily distorted in so many ways by our broken hearts).
The fallout of this is that God controls history; and surely that means that those who abide by his Word, living in light of his Righteousness, will find themselves on the right side of history – no?
On the Wrong Side of History?
Subsequently, no matter what the result of the debate and vote in the Northern Ireland Assembly today, those who hold to the biblical view of marriage will not find themselves on the wrong side of history. It is impossible for those who abide by God’s Word to find themselves on the wrong side of history. Undoubtedly, at various periods throughout human history we will find ourselves in the minority and facing the very real threat of having our religious beliefs threatened by law. But, ultimately, those who hold to Scripture, and what is contained within, will find themselves on the right side of history.
Nesbitt is right marriage is a union between one man and one woman. However, he is mistaken about which side of history he currently stands on…