Home Pastors Articles for Pastors Sacred or Civil: Defining Christian Marriage in a Post-Christian Culture

Sacred or Civil: Defining Christian Marriage in a Post-Christian Culture

There’s a lot of conversation these days about the definition of marriage in both the political landscape and certainly in the life of churches like the PC (USA).

As I have been listening in, there is a distinction that must be clarified. Many discuss marriage as a civil right. But I am not so sure that civil rights is the best way to understand Christian marriage.

Let’s say that there is a Joe in my congregation who is in his mid-forties. Joe has been married for almost 20 years and has three children with his wife.

One day, Joe abandons his wife and children and moves in with his co-worker Jane with whom he has been having an affair for the past three years.

Joe comes into the church and explains how, for the first time in his life, he feels like he has found his soul mate. He always felt trapped in his other life and felt like he was acting out someone else’s role and dream. But Jane has freed him from all that and he would love it if the church would marry him and Jane.

Listen, I would not conduct Joe’s wedding. Joe abandoned his wife and his children. He abandoned his marriage vows to his wife and to his God. And most likely, I would be counseling his wife and children through this abandonment.

More than that, if I were to marry Joe in the church, then in essence, I would be declaring that both God and the church approve and bless Joe’s adultery and abandonment of his wife and children.

I cannot do that. As a pastor, I cannot be a part of something that God has already determined to be a sin.

Joe and Jane can get married through the civil courts. There is nothing to keep him from doing that. But when Joe shows up at the church and wants a pastor to marry him in the church, that’s a whole other thing.

Joe and Jane can be a part of the church. But if they go around saying adultery is fantastic and that everyone should try adultery or that God now blesses and honors adultery, then we would have lots of issues with them in the church.

Precisely because Christian marriage is not a civil right but a sacred rite.

Now let’s apply a similar situation with gay marriage.

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James is follower of Jesus Christ, a husband, and a daddy, and a pastor who is trying his best to love God, love people, and serve the world. James is currently one of the pastors at The Little Church on the Prairie in Lakewood, WA. www.lcop.ws.