Power Vested In…Not Me

I have been married for 9 wonderful years. My wife and I have a wonderful but odd relationship. I don’t think she’ll disagree. Like most relationships, our private conversations should never be made public. If they were, there would be a movement to have me committed for psychiatric observation.

Although I have been married to my wife for 9 wonderful years, not all of those years were raspberries and cream (cough 2007…cough 2013). Those were hard years. A major aspect of those difficult times is that it forged our relationship into steel. When you share a foxhole with someone, you get close to them, and friends, my wife and I have shared some foxholes. Some of those hard times though are difficult. With some level of seriousness, both my wife and I have told each other “you know, if it weren’t for the fact that going back on the dating scene wasn’t petrifying, I would totally leave you.” Anybody else say that? No, just us? Well okay then.

Through our odd relationship, my wife and I believe in biblical marriage as portrayed in the story of creation. When God created Eve to be a companion for Adam, He created the ideal situation. This is the model that God blessed. We believe that even though there are stories of polygamy and concubines in the stories of the Old Testament, that it is not an affirmation of that behavior, but a reporting of what happened. The men and women of the Old Testament were incredible people, but they were also as sinful as anybody. As a minister, I believe that one man, one woman to be the intent of our creation as well the atmosphere in which the family can best flourish.  I believe that it is because of our belief in a biblical marriage relationship, that the rough times were made softer because we did them together and in a way that is within God’s prescription.

As a minister, I believe marriage is an institution ordained by God. As such, I believe it to be a part of a covenant between God, husband, and wife. What follows are thoughts that I have entertained for years, using research that I have known about for just as long. Please take my word, that this is not a reactionary post in response the Supreme Court decision, and something that I have committed a lot of thought, time, and prayer.

The history of marriage in the United States is a story of an attempt to continually redefine marriage to something that God never intended. Colonial marriages were largely matters of property and reproduction.  Married women would give up any rights they might have had as an individual in subservience to their husbands. If marriage is to be a picture of the church, and if husbands are to love their wives as Christ loved the church, then treating wives as something a notch above property without any rights, is antithetical to the gospel. Jesus loved His bride (the church) so much, that He died for her. Husbands, Jesus is our example.

In colonial America, few weddings happened in churches, and few people found fault with pregnant woman marrying. This was a common practice in early America. Marriages were nothing more than glorified business relationships, so there was no need for the church to be involved.

Slaves were forbidden of legally marrying at all, and if they happened to have engaged in what would be considered a marriage relationship by God in secret, it didn’t matter, because slave owners would separate them without a second thought. Some slave owners allowed for marriages to be conducted outside of state recognition, but this was an attempt to pacify the slaves so they wouldn’t cause trouble or run away. If there was an opportunity to sell husband or wife, the sanctity of marriage did not prevent the slave owner from conducting business.

Freed slaves would get the legal right to marry as states abolished slavery, but not across racial lines. The law forbidding mixed race marriages is a law that carried through into the 20th century, so this is not as much of an antiquated concept as we would hope.   A 1967 Supreme Court (Loving v. Virginia) case rendered a ban on laws forbidding those relationships and declared them unconstitutional and related laws unenforceable. In 2000 (yes, 2000!), Alabama became the last state to adapt the state law to reflect the Supreme Court decision.

It wasn’t until the Victorian age when marriage for romantic love came in vogue, which is what we would be comparable to a modern dynamic of marriage. Recently, states have again attempted to redefine marriage, and the Supreme Court has recently overturned the bans on the existing state bans on those marriages.

The conversation about the redefinition of marriage has been happening since prior to the establishment of the republic, and that definition has run contrary to the biblical definition throughout. We are not unique in trying to shoehorn marriage into something we want it to be, then looking to God for Him to bless it.

I am a minister of the gospel. The state has my ordination credentials on file, and as a matter of convenience, they have vested me with power to affirm these relationships for legal purposes. With my mighty right hand, I can give you the power to file your taxes “Married, filing jointly”.

I have tested those credentials and have performed ceremonies in my dual role as minister and agent of the state. One of those weddings was especially memorable as I had the privilege of marrying my brother to his wonderful wife. Not many people have the ability to say that.

Affirming those relationships as an agent of the state is to also agree with the historical and modern definitions of the state’s definition of marriage. It is to be a part of a definition of a marriage that I cannot, in good conscience, associate myself with. The sordid history of legal marriage in this country, and the relationship that the church has with the state in regards to marriage, muddies the biblical definition of marriage and detracts from the gospel. The gospel is more important to me than the ability to cite book and page on a marriage license. This relationship between the church and state is akin to mixing ice cream with manure. It doesn’t do much to the manure, but it sure does affect the ice cream.

As a minister of the gospel, I will perform the sacrament of marriage as asked and as I am lead by God, but I will no longer use the powers vested in me by the state. If a couple wants to have their relationship recognized by the government, they will have to render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and visit their closest justice of the peace or judge. Marriage is a covenant between God, a man, and his wife; there is no more room for Uncle Sam.  To be abundantly clear I will not affix my signature on ANY marriage license…which includes completely committed, Bible believing, Jesus following, heterosexual couples.

I agree with my friends who decry that the United States is trying to redefine marriage into something that is not something that would be pleasing to God. But what else is new?

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About larsenphillip

I'm an imperfect disciple of Jesus Christ. I am learning that my walk with Jesus gets deeper when I drop the presumptions that I have and simply follow him. I get frustrated when people put God in a box, and presume to know how He will reach individuals, work in peoples lives, and advance His kingdom. If Tony Campolo or Jim Wallis were to call me and ask me to work for them for free...I probably would. I think one day I'll write a book, and I am a nut for STL Cardinal baseball.
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