What is so special about the traditional definition of marriage? And why is it that conservatives cling to it so adamantly, opposing–even in light of increasing cultural acceptance of alternatives–any redefinition that deviates from the one man-one woman model? The answer to this question is that marriage represents so much more than just an earthly union between a husband and wife.
“For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church…This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church.” (Ephesians 5:29, 32)
A significant reason Christians resists an expansion of the definition of marriage is because God provided this institution as a picture of Christ’s relationship with us, His church–a relationship between stronger and weaker rather than a unilateral one between equals as would be implied by a same-gender union. So what does God tell us about Christ and His bride, the church?
Scripture commands husbands to build up and value their wives as Christ nourishes and cherishes His church:
“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish. So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church. For we are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones. ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church.” (Ephesians 5:25-32)
We, as individual followers of Jesus, are also loved by Him–nourished and cherished as a God-fearing husband cares for and values his wife–and we will one day be with Him eternally.
A great explanation of this picture lesson is provided by GotQuestion?Org at http://www.gotquestions.org/bride-of-Christ.html:
“In the New Testament, Christ, the Bridegroom, has sacrificially and lovingly chosen the church to be His bride (Ephesians 5:25-27). Just as there was a betrothal period in biblical times during which the bride and groom were separated until the wedding, so is the bride of Christ separate from her Bridegroom during the church age. Her responsibility during the betrothal period is to be faithful to Him (2 Corinthians 11:2; Ephesians 5:24). At the Second Coming of Christ, the church will be united with the Bridegroom, the official “wedding ceremony” will take place and, with it, the eternal union of Christ and His bride will be actualized (Revelation 19:7-9; 21:1-2).”
This union of God’s people to Him in eternity–our eagerly awaited glorification–is referred to as the marriage supper of the Lamb in the Bible:
“Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder, shouting:
For our Lord God Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and be glad
and give him glory!
For the wedding of the Lamb has come,
and his bride has made herself ready. Fine linen, bright and clean,
was given her to wear.’
(Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of God’s holy people.) Then the angel said to me, ‘Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!’ And he added, ‘These are the true words of God.'”(Revelation 19:6-9 NIV)
Even Jesus’ institution of The Lord’s Supper (the giving of the cup to drink) was from the Jewish custom of betrothal. When the bridegroom gave a cup to the bride to drink she could refuse, but if she took it, they were both promising to be faithful to each other. In the same way Jesus was offering a union with Himself to His followers–a betrothal, if you will–represented by their, and our, accepting of the cup.
This beautiful picture provided by our Lord no longer works if you attempt to alter the gender of either partner within the marriage paradigm. Coupled with the fact that Scripture identifies same-gender sexual activity as sinful (Romans 1:18-32), these reasons–rather than an insensitivity to or hatred of others–preclude those who faithfully follow God’s Word from embracing certain cultural trends.
Thank You that you love us, Your people, as a godly husband does his bride; may we remain faithful to You while we await Your return. Help us be a blessing to those around us; use us to draw others to a true and genuine relationship with You! Amen.