As we know, the law in the USA has now been changed and same sex marriage is now legal there across all states. Some will tell us that all sorts of natural disasters are about to befall us all as a result. In the UK there were even some Christians that said the unusual floods we experienced here were God’s judgement on our nation. I didn’t agree.
But how should a Christian, who wants to be faithful to their Lord, deal with these changes? How should we be thinking?
One problem for the Christian is that the Old Covenant is sometimes confused with the New Covenant in church culture. In scripture the Old Covenant is seen as the story of God entering into a covenant relationship with a whole nation, not individuals. Laws were set out that would regulate the behaviour with one another within the nation, with outsiders and with their God. The whole nation was given a special place in relation to God and to their world.
Now, in the New Covenant, it is individuals that enter into a covenant with their God and not a nation. Those in the New Covenant are to live by certain standards which are to emerge from within, by the influence of the Holy Spirit, and from new testament teaching. The age of the New Covenant is one where individuals must find their way of living in relationship with God regardless of how society behaves around them. This world view was difficult to keep in mind for the British during the age of empire as empire was often seen as a new version of a people chosen by God. While British church culture has moved from that position it seems to me that the USA have lagged far behind, and so they now agonise over the changes to marriage law in a distinctly USA fashion. After all, in the USA, many citizens believe that their country and empire is special to God as Britain did during their empire.
Of course marriage, as we have known it in the West for many years, is very old. Some of those who have been pressing for a change in marriage have claimed that what we have is recent and only really emerged in the Middle Ages. This is not quite honest and I am not sure it has been a necessary claim for their argument. Yes the Christian church brought a particular character to marriage in this country as they evangelised the nation. But the Christian form of marriage the church brought was very old. It is found in early church practice and came from ancient Jewish practice centuries before that.
Long ago Nebuchadnezzar led the Babylonian invasion of Judah, the Jewish home land. The citizens were taken away to live in Babylon. Some years later the new empire of the Medo-Persians rose to pre-eminence which conquered the Babylonians in 539 BC and the new emperor, Cyrus the Great, decreed that the Jews could return to their homeland. But not all did return. The Judaeans had adjusted, settled and become Mesopotamian citizens. By the time Cyrus arrived there was an established Judaean town called Jahudu. It is from Jahudu that we have this Cuneiform tablet which is a Jewish marriage contract including individual Judaean names. It is dated to after the arrival of Cyrus the Great in 539 BC.
Jahudu Cuneiform marriage contract. Dated to after arrival of Cyrus the Great in 539 BC
So no, marriage as we have known it is not a recent invention.
But back to the original question, how should Christians respond to the changes? I think we need to be sure what we mean by Christian marriage as distinct from state marriage. Christians are not being prevented from entering into Christian marriage, and non Christians are being allowed to enter into marriages that represent their belief system.
However Christians may feel about the changes around them we must keep that distinction in mind, and the difference between the Old Covenant and the New Covenant.