Marriage: Broken and redeemed
This is wedding season and some of the nation’s leading media outlets have been featuring stories on marriage trends. But not in the way you might be imagining. The NYTimes Magazine featured a cover article on open marriage— not polygamy but polyamory. While the article made clear the culture still widely says, “we’re not okay with that,” it is not altogether surprising when considered in the context of our growing collective brokenness in regards to sex and marriage. We need a return to understanding marriage as God intended it: nothing less than a beautiful picture of the gospel.
Gallup reports Americans now hold “record” liberal views on a number of marriage related issues.
73% of Americans view divorce as morally acceptable;
69% view sex between unmarried men and women as morally acceptable;
63% view same-sex relations as morally acceptable;
62% view having a baby outside of marriage as morally acceptable;
36% view pornography (the sexual exploitation and degradation of others for one’s own sexual pleasure) as morally acceptable; and
17% view polygamy as morally acceptable.
Interestingly, at the very bottom of the graphic, we see that within the context of marriage, fidelity remains an important moral guard. Extramarital affairs, adultery, is only viewed as morally acceptable to 9% of Americans.
These research findings build on trends Gallup and others have been seeing over time and to which we can all attest from our own experiences in a culture which increasingly holds marriage in dishonor. The changes are evidenced in practice as well as belief. Cohabitation without any plans for marriage is now at an all-time high for young adults age 18-34. But it is also at an all-time high for older Americans who are living together out of wedlock after getting divorces in their 50’s.
So, this is not so much a generational problem as a spiritual one. Sin is nothing new, but it never ceases to find new inroads to corrupt, destroy and degrade everything it can. And when it comes to the good gift of marriage, Americans are decidedly making their moral judgments unhinged from the teachings of the Bible.
If you think about it for just a moment, you know someone who is in a same-sex relationship, or living with someone to whom they are not married, or confused about their gender identity, or in the midst of a divorce. Sexual brokenness may be the defining characteristic of our time and many churches are simply not addressing the reality of the moment.
Although tempting to do so, we cannot lay all the blame for the diminution of marriage at the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court and its 2015 ruling in the Obergefell case which legalized same-sex marriage nationwide. Laws change as opinion changes and America had been moving for generations away from what would be considered sanctity in regards to marriage. The capitulation to autonomy in no-fault divorce paved the way for the conversations being had today about open cohabitation, open marriage, same-sex marriage, and yes, polygamy.
The Church must declare the truth about marriage, in love and without compromise. When we realize God’s beautiful intention for marriage, we desire, proclaim and pursue the redemption of marriage from its current state of brokenness in our culture.
In the Bible, God reveals He gave us marriage as a picture of the relationship between Christ, the Bridegroom, and His Bride, the Church. It is a relationship that is exclusive, pure and undefiled. It is also a relationship of ultimate sacrifice, commitment, and permanence.
Compare that to the way marriage is treated today. In an impressive twist, we have set marriage up as an idol while making a mockery of it at the same time. Marriage is presented as the end-all-be-all to fulfill and complete us, while also disposable when it stops meeting our expectations. As we consider those two realities, we can see just how far we have wandered from marriage as a reflection of the beauty and truth of the redeeming Gospel.
As we elevated our own desires and designs above that of the Creator, we got lost in the swirling darkness of confused sexual identities and relational chaos. The only hope we have out of the morass is a return to the Gospel— the very thing marriage was intended to portray to the world.
God is a God of order and God is present still in the confusion, brokenness, and despair of this moment. Invite Him in— invite God, by the power of His Spirit and the redemption available in Jesus Christ— to liberate you from the confusion of our culture and return to the beauty of the gospel. Christ is the perfect Bridegroom. He made the ultimate sacrifice for you: death in our place for our sin. He desires to be in relationship with you and has even done everything to make that possible.
The lover of your soul stands right now to welcome you home, restore you to relationship with Him, clothe you in the righteousness of Christ and work within you and with you on all the restorations and reconciliations that will follow. But the starting point is to turn to Him. Turn toward the Father who stands ready to redeem.