Advertisements
Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Family and Marriage’ Category

20131122_174550I wrote last week about the wonderful experience we had with our granddaughter Anna the last week we were in Europe for LST. Again, taking your grandkids with you when you do mission work is truly a formative memory for them. You can leave them no greater legacy than to show them what faithfully doing God’s work can be.

But there are some tips I can give you for making your trip more rewarding for both you and your grandchildren.  Let me just say that Sherrylee and I took our three children with us every summer of their lives until they were college-aged, we have sent many other families with children through LST, and now we have begun taking grandkids with us, so we have lots of experience to share with you.

Tip #1            –           Make sure they are old enough.  If they are your own children, you can take them at every age, but for grandkids, they need to be able to function for an extended time away from their parents. In my experience, 11 or 12-years-old is about as early as you want to start. In fact you have a window between 11 and 14 when it is probably ideal.

  • They may need to be old enough to fly by themselves.  Our two granddaughters both flew individually as unaccompanied minors across the Atlantic by themselves. Of course, a flight attendant always escorts them on and off the plane, but they still had to negotiate the nine-hour flight on their own.
  • At this age, they should be able to entertain themselves (reading, listening to music, video games, etc) when you are busy, but they can also visit with and relate to adults—especially at meals.
  • They also are old enough to try new foods—more or less—and when they don’t like what is served, they don’t make a big fuss, but wait until later to catch up.
  • They are old enough to understand and manage their own jetlag.
  • They are old enough to want to make their own memories, by taking pictures, keeping a journal, or collecting postcards.
  • They are old enough to carry their own luggage and keep up with their own things. (If you teach them to travel light, this shouldn’t be a problem.)

Tip #2            –           Make your plans early enough

  • Their Mom and Dad need to be fully on board with the plans, of course.
  • Determine early on who is going to pay for what.  With ours, the parents paid for the flights and the extra site-seeing costs. We provided ground transportation, lodging, and most meals. Since the kids slept in the room with us, that was rarely an extra expense. Since we almost always rent a car and drive ourselves, that too was no extra expense.  And until they are teens, they really don’t eat that much either.

Tip #3            –           Make sure everybody knows and understands that it is a mission trip             and that the work comes first! 

  • For our gkids, that means that they travel on our itinerary to places we must go and they see the people that we need to see. Our time with them is not built around showing them Europe.

Tip #4 –          Of course you try to squeeze into the schedule something especially                           interesting for the gkids.

  • For our first foray with a grandkid, we spent an hour in Ghent, walking the pedestrian zone before our meeting with the missionaries. Then we stopped at the Heidelberg castle for a walk on the grounds, not even a tour, on our way to the airport in Frankfurt the day before we flew back. The next year with her we planned one day out of eight for an outing in Paris.
  • This year we planned one day out of nine for sightseeing, so we drove to Amsterdam and saw Anne Frank’s house and museum and then went to Zaanse Schans (about 30 minutes further down the road) to a chocolate museum and an open air dutch village full of working windmills. The one other touristy thing we did with her was the Night watchman tour one afternoon in Rothenburg, where we were attending the Euro-American conference for three days.
  • You can sometimes get free layovers in London or other great sight-seeing places either going or coming home. We did that this year, which gave us half a day and an evening in London. We just saw the London Tower and Phantom—but she loved it.
  • Of course these were all fun and special for them, but I hope you can see that we made a balanced effort to do something special for the kids, while not really taking anything away from the work we were there to do.

Tip #5 –          Don’t be afraid to go one on one with your grandkid!

  • We are tempted sometimes to take two at a time, or to let them invite a friend—but I’d suggest you resist that and just take one!  Each one will have their own story then, and you will know that you have made an impact on that one child’s life.  If they are alone with you, then your experiences together will be yours. If they have another friend with them, you will lose many of those special moments you might have had.

Tip #6 –        Give them something meaningful to do!

  • Regardless of the kind of mission trip you are doing, find something meaningful that your grandchild can do. On LST projects, they often read the Gospel with other children. Or they entertain smaller children while the parents read. On our trip this year, we attended a missions conference, so Anna not only participated in the youth program, but she helped work with the younger children.  Meaningful is the key word here.  Even children know when they are just being given busy work or when they are just accessories.

Tip #7 –          Help them remember!

  • With our oldest grandchild, we talked a lot of history as we drove. We told her all about the Reformation and World War II.  Since we’ve returned, we’ve “reminded” her of some of those conversations, even occasionally giving her a little something to remind her of something we talked about.  Just keeping memories alive.
  • With our next grandchild that we took this year, our experience was completely different in that while we drove around, we played “Who Came First” with Bible characters, and we sang and sang and sang.  I’m thinking about making her a Playlist of “Songs We Sang in Germany” or something like that to help her remember.
  • In addition, for both of them, we have given them a photobook with our pictures of them and their activities with us—all the good times!  I’m pretty convinced that most of our childhood memories are directly from pictures that we have seen over and over again.  These photobooks are a very inexpensive way of capturing those memories and giving them to our grandkids in a more permanent and accessible medium than anything digital.

Just do it!  If you put God first, and just enjoy the grandkids, it will be a great experience for both of you!

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

20131124_155115Sherrylee and I have just finished spending most of the month of November in Europe, visiting mission sites and talking to some of the most committed Christian people in the world about how to accomplish more for His Kingdom and how to talk to more people about Jesus.

I was able to stop and write a couple of posts during this trip (“Writing An Alternate Religious History for Spain” and “Cathedrals or Storefronts—Does It Matter In Europe?”), but for the most part, we were moving too quickly and too often to generalize our thinking into blog writing.  I apologize for that, but sometimes it is more important to do the work than to write about it.  I know you will understand.

So you don’t know, for instance, that our 11-year-old granddaughter Anna joined us for the last nine days of our trip in Europe. She flew all the way from Los Angeles to Frankfurt, changing planes at DFW by herself! What a girl!

For almost a year now, she has known that it was her turn!  Sherrylee and I have made a commitment to take one of our grandkids with us each year as they become old enough to travel with us.  Three years ago, we took our oldest grandchild Cassidy (also 11 at the time) and then took her again the next year when she was 12.  Kellan would have been the next because he is three weeks older than Anna, but his parents were already taking him to Germany, so he will be invited next year.

But this is not a “let-us-show-you-Europe” trip, oh no!  This is a Mimi and Grandad’s mission trip and the grandkids are invited to join us in the work we are doing. We tell them from the very beginning that we are visiting with missionaries and attending mission conferences; we are not going to Disneyworld in Paris.

On Tuesday morning at 8:30 am, we met Anna at the Frankfurt airport. The airlines are excellent about handling unaccompanied minors, so she was really never unattended during her 24 hours of travel!  The kids just have to be brave enough and independent enough to handle the emotional distance from their parents, not the physical distance.  And Anna was great!

By noon, we were in the car driving to the Netherlands to visit our friends Hans and Ans van Erp, who were the family who invited LST first to Eindhoven in 1987 to help them plant a new church there.  This church is now one of the strongest churches of Christ in Europe.

Anna was especially eager to meet Hans and Ans (yes, we all love it that their names rhyme!). She reportedly told her sister before she left, “I’m going to meet Hans and Ans van Erp. They knew Mommy when she was my age and now they are going to get to know me too! 

Within the first four days that she was with us, we had visited with the van Erps, then the Reinhardts in Wunstorf, Germany, as well as the Roehrkasses, Bratchers, and Smelsors in Hildesheim, Germany.  All of these visits involved long conversations about their local works and how LST was working or could work together with them.  Anna was there for all the conversations—of course.

On Saturday after her arrival, we drove five hours to Rothenburg ob der Taube, Germany, for the Euro-American Retreat.  This was the 50th anniversary of this retreat, which this year brought 230 people from all over Europe together for worship, prayer, Bible study, and lots of fellowship.

We were there a little early because I was speaking at the opening service. There was a children’s program, but Mimi went and got Anna because she wanted her to hear Grandad “preach.”  Well, it’s just one more little memory that may be meaningful to her in her own Christian life, knowing that she is from a family of preachers and teachers! I was glad she was there.

Over the next three days, Anna participated in worship, was part of the children’s classes, hung out with a few of the younger teens who were so kind to include the almost-teens, and she helped the small children prepare for their program on Tuesday night in front of the whole assembly.

Does that sound like a European vacation to you?  Does that sound like your grandkids dream trip?  Well, it could be if they know how much being with other Christians and encouraging them means to you!!

Of course, we planned some tourist things for Anna.  Of course!  We took one day and went to Anne Frank’s house and museum in Amsterdam, then drove a few minutes over to Zaanse Schans and toured a chocolate factory and working windmills.  It was a cold, blustery northern European November day, but she loved it.

And to cap off her experience, we planned a London layover on the way home, which gave us half a day there.  We drove by Big Ben and Westminster Abbey, but got to tour the Tower of London.  The real treat for her was attending a performance of Phantom of the Opera because Anna herself is very musically gifted.

Take your grandkids with you when you plan your next mission trip!! Sure, you have to make a few adjustments, but you will plant seeds in them that may change them forever. If you haven’t read Cassidy’s recent post about her view of missions, you should stop and read that now!

If we left no other legacy than to have given our children——a vision of what they can do with their lives for God in gratitude for what He has done for them, that would be so much more of an inheritance than anything else we could leave behind.

Take your grandchildren with you when you do His work!  Don’t make it all about them; make it about Him!  Let them see what your greatest love is!

That’s the motivational part of this post.  Next, I’ll come back and share some tips with you on how to take your grandkids on a mission trip with you successfully.

It’s good to talk again!

Read Full Post »

Those who risked responding to my blog on same-sex marriage with differing viewpoints did us all a favor by kindly but clearly raising cogent arguments supporting same-sex marriage.  Neither Christians nor non-Christians should fear open and honest conversation; rather, I hope that we can all “speak the truth in love.”

In John 9 when Jesus heals the man born blind, Jesus’ disciples did not really see the blind man as Jesus did. They saw a theological problem: who sinned, this man or his parents?  They might have continued their conversation while walking right by the man himself.

Jesus, however, saw a person in need of healing, both physical and spiritual, for the glory of God.  I try to remind myself that in all of these difficult conversations, we are talking about our neighbors, our family, our church members, about classmates, co-workers, about people whom God loves!  That helps me with my tone of voice when responding.

But the love of Christ compels us (2 Corinthians 5:13-15) to speak and to say what God would say because “Since we believe that Christ died for all, we also believe that we have all died to our old life. 15 He died for everyone so that those who receive his new life will no longer live for themselves. Instead, they will live for Christ, who died and was raised for them.” I believe; therefore, I speak out.

So let me extend the conversation in response to those comments:

Argument:  Christians should not force Christian views on non-Christians.

Response:  I agree completely.  God doesn’t force people to believe, Jesus did not force people to follow him, and those who follow Him should not either.  However, my counter-question is how should it work in a democracy or representative government as we have when the political question involves what Christians believe to be a God-revealed truth?  Can only non-religious people have a seat at the table? Can only non-Christians campaign and vote on these issues?  Why are Christians who speak out and vote according to their faith “forcing” their views on non-Christians? And should any majority OR minority group, simply because they believe their cause to be moral and right, be silenced,  be segregated, be harassed, or be hated?

Argument: Marriage is a civil institution, not a religious one; therefore, the definition of marriage can and should be determined by the State.

Response:  I agree and disagree with this argument.  There is certainly a civil aspect to marriage. The State (and I am not using that term pejoratively) regulates the societal aspects of marriage in many ways, such as:

  • Who can get married?  Not 10-year-olds, not siblings, not people currently married, etc.
  • When can people get married? Some states have waiting periods; some require blood tests, etc.
  • Who can legally perform weddings? Some states allow anyone; others require ordained ministers and/or particular government officials.
  • Which marriages are recognized?  If you marry in a foreign country, the U.S. may not recognize your marriage. This is regulated by federal law.

In my opinion, everyone—including Christians—should “render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s.” We all should submit to the legal authorities in every way with one exception, and that is, if required by law to violate the higher laws of God.

But I also disagree that marriage is only a civil institution. Marriage precedes the existence of civil states.  Marriage exists outside of political states.  For example, I was just watching “Finding Your Roots” with Henry Louis Gates, Jr., who discussed the fact that prior to the Civil War in the United States free African-Americans could marry legally, but slaves could not.  He continued to say, however, that, of course, slaves did marry, but that it was not recognized by the State.

Marriage, according to Jesus (Matthew 19:6) is God joining people together.  The earliest biblical revelation states that the reason for marriage was that “The Lord God said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.” Adam was meant for Eve and Eve for Adam.  No legal ceremony occurred, only God joined them.  And the writer goes on to explain that because of God’s actions in the beginning, future men who marry will “leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh. (Genesis 2:18,24)

I also believe all of the references describing Jesus as the bridegroom and the church as His bride made repeatedly from Matthew to Revelation are witnesses to the holy nature of marriage. And the metaphor is consistent with the Genesis passages and the words of Jesus in that only God joins people to Christ. We are born again, not by human will but by the will of God (John 1:13).

This is the “holy” side of marriage that Christians want to preserve.  Of course, they carry those convictions into the political discussion—and don’t they have the right to? They are just one voice, not the only voice, in the political debate.

Next we will talk about the argument that opposing same-sex marriage is bigotry—a very serious charge.

Read Full Post »

The President’s choice to come out for same-sex marriage disappoints me greatly, not really because of the politics, but rather because of what it says about the moral predicament in our country.  I am strongly in favor of equal civil rights for all Americans, regardless of their immorality, unless, of course they cross the line into criminal behavior—and even then, they should have equal access to the processes of law.

The poll numbers show an American public divided almost 50-50 on the issue. What really disturbs me even more than what the president did is that polls also show that 71% of 18-29 year-olds support gay marriage. I was pretty shocked one day in the LST office to hear a wonderful Christian young woman say, “I wish God hadn’t come down so hard on homosexuality!”   I suspect what these numbers show for young Christians (who certainly have to be in the 71% mix) is their sensitivity to social justice issues in conflict with what might appear to be the more restrictive biblical imperatives.

Before I write another paragraph, let me state that God so loved the world that He gave His Son!  God’s love is all-inclusive, me with my sin and you with yours.  And the Creator God who defines the essence of reality (Truth) by His Word has set homosexuality outside of that which is pronounced “Good!”  The question is not about choice, nor about love, nor about equal rights, but rather about submission.  The question for all of us is whether we live out “not my will, but Thine be done!”

I’m also disappointed in us for making the 50 Shades of Grey trilogy the best-seller on everyone’s list. Romance novels have always sold well, so that’s nothing new, but this particular trilogy seems to be a hit because of its kinky eroticism—especially aimed toward women’s fantasies apparently. I haven’t read it, but here just before Mother’s Day to have all the best-seller lists led by what the reviewers often refer to as “mommy porn” is a sad commentary on us!

Both of these phenomena are possible partly because we Christians have separated our physical bodies—including our sexuality—from our understanding of the image of God, the incarnation (God in us), and the indwelling of God’s Spirit¸ which makes our bodies a temple!

This skewed thinking probably starts as teenagers, when we are taught which sexual activity is right and wrong, but never hear anyone say that sex is for anything other than fun! And adults/church are always trying to keep kids from fun things, so how is sex any different.

I also firmly believe that we Christians have also completely removed the “holy” from holy matrimony.  Although held in church buildings, most of our marriages are secular services, sometimes with an occasional nod toward God who is sitting in the back of the auditorium.

Three things I would like to see:

  1. I’d like for our children to be taught that their bodies are the temple of God. I think once that is our predominant message, we will learn how to help them understand the implications for their life.
  2. Secondly, I would like to see us appear before the throne of God in our wedding ceremonies and not just come to the marriage altar and sign a legal document.
  3. And, lastly, I would like to see us re-mystify our sexuality, acknowledging it as a God-breathed gift, not only for our personal benefit, but because creating and loving is a reflection of God in us!  The oneness of sex is the same mystery as the oneness of God. The joy and pleasure of that oneness should be transcendent, not sado-masochistic.

I pray for the president; I pray for us.

Read Full Post »

It’s graduation time, a wonderful time for parents to be very proud of what their kids have done, a time to brag on them and show off all their trophies to the grandparents and friends!

But wait!  Did you think I was talking about high school or college graduates?  No, I was talking about kindergarten and elementary school graduates!

It was the trophy thing that threw you, wasn’t it! But by the time an almost 7-year-old boy starts first grade, he could easily have half a dozen trophies for soccer, more for T-ball, and some for basketball. In addition, there are likely ribbons and medals, all displayed on the mantle with a couple of cap-and-gown graduation pictures, one from pre-school and one from kindergarten.

For a couple of decades now, our society has been very concerned about children growing up with

Self-confidenceSelf-regard

Self-worth

Self-love

Self-awareness

Self-esteemGood self-concept

Self-respect

Self-acceptance

Good self-image

Some are wondering if we aren’t using the word self much too often.

Recently, David McCullough, Jr., an English teacher in Wellesley High School in Massachusetts delivered the commencement speech for the high school graduates.  In the course of his address, he told the graduates and their parents, “You are not exceptional,”  and shocked people enough to cause a national uproar.

How dare he say that my child might be average! The nerve of a teacher to evaluate my child by some standard.  How could he sweep through our houses and make all of our kid’s trophies vanish?

I have some personal experience relevant to this topic from my own days in the classroom. For twenty years, I taught English to college freshmen and sophomores, and my annual evaluations were generally quite good—especially taking into account that I taught required general education courses that most students were poorly prepared for and didn’t want to take.

I noticed, however, in the last three or four years of teaching that some new comments started appearing in my evaluations that I had not seen before. Students started saying that I was not showing them proper respect and that I did not listen to them.

I took these comments very seriously, but was puzzled as to what I was doing differently. I prided myself on good relationships with my students, with lots of open discussion and exchange of ideas.  What was I doing suddenly that made them feel disrespected??

After probably a year of introspection as well as seeking the counsel of my colleagues, I came to the conclusion that I had really not changed, but that the students had changed.  My students were coming into the classroom with two completely new assumptions for which I was unprepared:

  • Assumption One:  The opinions of a student are as authoritative and valid as those of the professor.
  • Assumption Two:  It is disrespectful for a professor to suggest that a student’s opinion might not be right or might benefit from further research, especially in front of other students.

I know there are professors who act like they are the Alpha and Omega of all knowledge, but, you’ll have to take my word, that I am not of that ilk. Yet, some of my students had that impression and it really bothered me.  In fact, I haven’t been in the classroom for almost ten years now, and it still bothers me!

What we are asking ourselves is do we really build healthy self-confidence by giving every kid a trophy or are we promoting a sense of entitlement and rewarding mediocrity.  Here are a few symptoms of kids who might have learned the latter from our trophy mentality:

  • I should get a good grade just for coming to class.
  • I should get a good grade for turning in the work, regardless of the quality of that work.
  • Everybody should get to score a goal.
  • Children’s ideas about parenting are as valid as parents’ ideas about parenting.
  • What? I have to practice to make the team!
  • “You can’t tell me I’m wrong! That’s just your opinion!”

Sherrylee’s Aunt Jane, a long-time teacher and counselor at Greater Atlanta Christian School, once gave us good advice, saying, “A child does not become confident through compliments, but through competence.”

 Somehow this should all be easier for Christians because our confidence and sense of being loved comes from Him, not from ourselves.  A sense of entitlement is erased by His grace, which rewards us with what we do not deserve, but because of His Goodness, not ours.  Our striving for excellence grows out of a sense of worshipful gratitude.  Our motivations are Him-centered, not self-centered.

Teaching our children, both with words and deeds, about God is the only way to give them real confidence and competence.  And then, someday, as the song says, we’ll bow down and lay our trophies at His wounded feet.

Read Full Post »

The word bigot is a terrible word.  For me, it is in the same category as maggot, or phlegm, or vomit!  Those may be a little more sensory than you are comfortable with, but what about the racist N… word or the F… word for homosexuals?  Some words evoke so much emotion that to use them carelessly can damage others and to use them intentionally can be immoral, sometimes illegal.

A common dictionary defines bigot as a person who is “obstinately or intolerantly devoted to his or her own opinions and prejudices, especially one who exhibits intolerance or animosity toward members of a group.”  The etymology is a little shadowy, but some suggest the root of the word may have been “by God,” or the mocking of that phrase by those who resented others using it.  In any case, the word has been around since the 12th century—and people who acted with intolerance or animosity toward others even longer!

Are Christians who oppose same-sex marriage guilty of bigotry?  Piers Morgan, who certainly can be seen as representative of a certain mindset in the American population, suggested the Rick Santorum, a practicing Catholic, was a bigot because he held to the teachings of his church that homosexuality is a sin.  Santorum made very clear that he did not feel it was government’s place to regulate morality for all citizens, but that did not keep Morgan from using the B..word!

I wonder if we could agree that it is not bigoted to just hold opinions?  I wonder if we could agree that within our working definition of bigotry that it is the words intolerance and animosity that give the odious smell to the word?

Was Jesus a bigot for saying that a man who lusts after a woman has committed adultery with her in his heart (Matthew 5:28)? In the same lesson, he says it is wrong to commit murder or to be angry and hate another person. Is that intolerant? (Matthew 5:21-22).

Was Jesus a bigot for saying that adultery is a sin? Or that divorce for frivolous reasons is not God’s Will? Or that not only breaking an oath, but anything other than a truthful Yes or No is not godly?

Was He intolerant because he said not every teacher is a good teacher, that some are wolves in sheep’s clothing (Matthew 7:15)? Or that those who simply call out to God without the prerequisite obedience will not enter the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 7:21).  Shouldn’t everyone get a trophy?

Was St. Paul intolerant and bigoted when he says that it was immoral and wrong for a man to sleep with his father’s wife (1 Corinthians 5:1-2)?

If today a minority group banded together to insist that all loving sexual activity between consenting adults was moral and should be allowed by law throughout the nation, including—as the opponents would certainly point out—prostitution, incest, sibling marriage, cousins marriage, and polygamous marriages, would we relegate St. Paul  to bigotry.

And if I haven’t yet touched anything that you hold a strong opinion on in any of the above paragraphs, anything that crosses your moral line and where someone else might be more liberal than you, how would you feel about wearing the bigot label?

Having said all of the above, I do believe there are bigots among us—on all sides. I’m appalled by bigotry among Christians like the Westboro Baptists who appear to me to cross over unequivocally into bitter intolerance and animosity.

I was reading a great story yesterday about a 9-year-old boy in Topeka, KS who with his mother happened to come upon a Westboro Baptist group picketing with hateful signs. He looked up at one picket sign that said, “God hates F….s”  According to his mother, he immediately ran back to the car and made his own crude, but profoundly true response to the sign.  His sign said, “God hates No One!”

God hates sin, but Paul says—yes, the same one who opposed incest:  Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die.  But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:7-9)

Christians cannot but hate sin as God does, but we must be just as loving of sinners, and we must demonstrate our love by letting mercy triumph over judgment! (James 2:13)

 

Read Full Post »

Those who risked responding to my blog on same-sex marriage with differing viewpoints did us all a favor by kindly but clearly raising cogent arguments supporting same-sex marriage.  Neither Christians nor non-Christians should fear open and honest conversation; rather, I hope that we can all “speak the truth in love.”

In John 9 when Jesus heals the man born blind, Jesus’ disciples did not really see the blind man as Jesus did. They saw a theological problem: who sinned, this man or his parents?  They might have continued their conversation while walking right by the man himself.

Jesus, however, saw a person in need of healing, both physical and spiritual, for the glory of God.  I try to remind myself that in all of these difficult conversations, we are talking about our neighbors, our family, our church members, about classmates, co-workers, about people whom God loves!  That helps me with my tone of voice when responding.

But the love of Christ compels us (2 Corinthians 5:13-15) to speak and to say what God would say because “Since we believe that Christ died for all, we also believe that we have all died to our old life. 15 He died for everyone so that those who receive his new life will no longer live for themselves. Instead, they will live for Christ, who died and was raised for them.” I believe; therefore, I speak out.

So let me extend the conversation in response to those comments:

Argument:  Christians should not force Christian views on non-Christians.

Response:  I agree completely.  God doesn’t force people to believe, Jesus did not force people to follow him, and those who follow Him should not either.  However, my counter-question is how should it work in a democracy or representative government as we have when the political question involves what Christians believe to be a God-revealed truth?  Can only non-religious people have a seat at the table? Can only non-Christians campaign and vote on these issues?  Why are Christians who speak out and vote according to their faith “forcing” their views on non-Christians? And should any majority OR minority group, simply because they believe their cause to be moral and right, be silenced,  be segregated, be harassed, or be hated?

Argument: Marriage is a civil institution, not a religious one; therefore, the definition of marriage can and should be determined by the State.

Response:  I agree and disagree with this argument.  There is certainly a civil aspect to marriage. The State (and I am not using that term pejoratively) regulates the societal aspects of marriage in many ways, such as:

  • Who can get married?  Not 10-year-olds, not siblings, not people currently married, etc.
  • When can people get married? Some states have waiting periods; some require blood tests, etc.
  • Who can legally perform weddings? Some states allow anyone; others require ordained ministers and/or particular government officials.
  • Which marriages are recognized?  If you marry in a foreign country, the U.S. may not recognize your marriage. This is regulated by federal law.

In my opinion, everyone—including Christians—should “render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s.” We all should submit to the legal authorities in every way with one exception, and that is, if required by law to violate the higher laws of God.

But I also disagree that marriage is only a civil institution. Marriage precedes the existence of civil states.  Marriage exists outside of political states.  For example, I was just watching “Finding Your Roots” with Henry Louis Gates, Jr., who discussed the fact that prior to the Civil War in the United States free African-Americans could marry legally, but slaves could not.  He continued to say, however, that, of course, slaves did marry, but that it was not recognized by the State.

Marriage, according to Jesus (Matthew 19:6) is God joining people together.  The earliest biblical revelation states that the reason for marriage was that “The Lord God said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.” Adam was meant for Eve and Eve for Adam.  No legal ceremony occurred, only God joined them.  And the writer goes on to explain that because of God’s actions in the beginning, future men who marry will “leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh. (Genesis 2:18,24)

I also believe all of the references describing Jesus as the bridegroom and the church as His bride made repeatedly from Matthew to Revelation are witnesses to the holy nature of marriage. And the metaphor is consistent with the Genesis passages and the words of Jesus in that only God joins people to Christ. We are born again, not by human will but by the will of God (John 1:13).

This is the “holy” side of marriage that Christians want to preserve.  Of course, they carry those convictions into the political discussion—and don’t they have the right to? They are just one voice, not the only voice, in the political debate.

Next we will talk about the argument that opposing same-sex marriage is bigotry—a very serious charge.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: