In the ongoing debate about marriage, conservative voices often use the word “traditional.” The legal definition of marriage, they say, should be based on tradition. Is that right?
Cultures tend to evolve and ours is no exception. In the last few decades attitudes have shifted dramatically about what behaviors should be accepted, and therefore, should be promoted and protected by our legal system.
First, voices began saying that not every sexual relationship should be restricted to marriage. As this idea gained acceptance immorality and adultery multiplied. Decades of progressive attitudes about sex have left their mark. Has sexual immorality become a new American tradition?
Then people began to say that not every baby deserves to live. As a result our society legalized and accelerated the destruction of what came to be called “fetal tissue.” After destroying tens of millions of unborn babies, can we say that abortion has become a sad new American tradition?
Next, people decided that not every marriage is worth fighting to save. The result was an explosion in the number of broken homes. Higher and higher percentages of marriages ended in divorce. Another new American tradition?
It also became popular to say that not every child needs both a mom and a dad. Single-parent homes emerged as a valid choice for family. With so many children growing up in one-parent households, could we say that single parenting has become an American tradition?
Now our culture wants to say that not every marriage must be between one man and one woman. A vocal and politically powerful minority is working hard to establish another new American tradition: so-called “gay marriage.”
If the definition of marriage is determined by tradition, then it is doomed to be tossed about by the fickle cultural breezes that constantly swirl in our country. Traditions come and go, some good and some not. Marriage is far too important to be left to the shifting winds of culture and tradition.
The Bible reveals God’s original design for marriage. Early in the account of creation, in Genesis 2, God’s Word says, “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and join with his wife, and the two will become one flesh.”
Note the beginning: For this reason. For what reason? Because God made them male and female. Marriage begins with the unique compatibility between a man and a woman.
Jesus affirmed God’s ancient design for marriage more than a millennium later. When asked about divorce he quoted Genesis 2, and then he added, “So what God has joined together let no man separate.” Jesus agreed with God’s original definition of marriage, rejecting the idea that family evolves or that it must bow to popular cultural notions.
Conservative defenders of one-man-one-woman marriage often claim to believe in the authority of the Bible, yet they choose to argue that tradition should define marriage. Why? Do they believe that tradition will be more agreeable to a secular culture than the Bible?
Another argument says that traditional marriage is the best foundation for a healthy culture. This line of reasoning also attempts to persuade culture about godly marriage without mentioning God or the Bible.
One-man-one-woman marriage does offer the best foundation for any culture. But marriage is more than a strong platform for society. Marriage is meant to be a visible expression of God’s love for his people.
The risk of rejection is no excuse for softening God’s Truth. God designed marriage to be one man and one woman totally and freely committed to one another [f]or a lifetime. Jesus affirmed God’s unchanging design for marriage and added a statement about the permanent nature of the relationship.
So, why not boldly and honestly promote God’s Truth about marriage? The Bible itself promises that God’s Word is eternal and unchanging: “The grass withers and the flower falls, but the Word of the Lord remains forever.”
In the debate about marriage the church must decide whether to argue for tradition or for God’s design. Traditions change but God’s Word stands forever. Let’s take our stand with the Truth.
– Richard Foster, Grace Baptist Church, Camden, AR, May 2012
Printed May 2012; Camden News; Camden, AR.