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Thomas Luter

Marriage - The Great Debate


Our charge as Christians is to spend our time in life traveling toward holiness. Day by day, we struggle toward God's Vision for us - to become more Christlike, to become more holy, more saintly and closer to the burning Divinity of Love. We have the Church, the sacraments, prayer, common worship, the Bible, Holy Tradition, the writings of the Church Fathers, countless God sent day challenges to strengthen our hearts and we have the compassion and love of our brothers and sisters on the Journey.  Sometimes we take tiny steps in the right direction but almost as often, we take steps in the wrong direction.  But we move on toward the goal with determination and the aids given to us by our all knowing Creator that our efforts will not be in vain and we will come to the end of our lives in the assurance that we did all we could do toward our salvation. Salvation is not an event, it is a process. 

Somewhere  in that process, we learn what has caused our steps in the wrong direction and we call it sin.  We learn that we all are sinners and fall short but, that there is help and, in as much as we take part in the help, we turn around and head toward the ideal. 

Social media is probably not the best place to find Divine wisdom but a recent post warns us; “Do not judge me because I sin differently than you.”  We have also been taught that we to need leave Judgement to the Holy One “at the pearly gates”.  Yes, we can think that something or someone is not on the right path but a dangerous trend in the Church at the moment is an insipid movement that tells us that judgement is mine not the Lord’s.

What causes us to judge that other’s sins are of a greater magnitude than our own? Might it be that we are trying to make ourselves just a little “higher” than our brother sinner?  Might it be that we have no tolerance for other’s path toward salvation?  Might we just trust our judgement more than God’s? Might we be married to Pride? 

In the past few years, there has been a very disturbing spate of vitriol, anger, hate and fear toward those who think differently and this sin shows itself most ugly in those most deeply involved in the Church - especially the clergy. We teach love but exude venom.  How does the contemporary Christian judge whom to hate the most?

Consider then, the marriage debate.

Baptism is our entry into the Body of Christ through which the salvific Gifts are distributed but, beyond that ‘sacrament of Entry’, do we understand that we do not need to partake of all of the elixirs offered us by the Church in order to be holy? If that were not so, then everyone would need to be married, or to be ordained or anointed with the holy oil. The storehouse of Goods (Very), are there for our help, but all are not a requirement for all. (The unmarried saints will rejoice in hearing this as will the countless numbers of the un-ordained.)

Marriage has historically been both a legal contract and a sacred bonding.  It has been  a sign of love and understanding of commitment and an agreement of the State and of the Church. We have been guaranteed by the State that the legally binding contract will guarantee two individuals certain protections that are afforded other legal contracts - say, between two partners in business or a seller/buyer agreement contract for the sale of a home.  This legal understanding is a valuable procedure for many sorts of human enterprises as promised by our laws and our constitution.

There is neither time nor room here to go in to the Church’s understanding of the meaning of the sacrament of marriage but suffice it to say that it is a distinct and exacting sacrament instituted by the Church.  The bond between a man and a woman has sealed the fabric of mankind for many, many centuries and still remains strong in the hearts and minds of most Christians and will remain so as long as we don’t allow others change it’s nature. 

We cannot imagine the possibility that the State could rule that no one can be baptized or that water cannot be used.  We cannot fathom that the State could require that whisky be used in the Eucharist or that we could not ordain priests, ministers or pastors. Why then do we think that the State can change the definition of marriage?  Marriage is a viable sacrament regardless of the opinion of the State.  Do we really intend to give a panel of judges ecclessiastical authority to tamper with what the church IS.  That cannot happen no matter who says it can. The sacraments are stronger than the State.  The Church is stronger than the government. Of whom then shall we be afraid?

It seems a simple. Let the legal arrangement be ok.  Let two people who proclaim a commitment to one another, live in the assurance that they have a legal protection that only the State can proclaim but,  let the blessings of the sacrament be with those who are bonding with each other in Christ and through the Church. Let there be a legal “Marriage” and a “Sacrament of Holy Matrimony” each with its own requirements, its own meaning and each with its own method of certification. 

The separation of the civic and sacred understanding of marriage would be a healthy progression of our understanding of Order. The clergy would no longer be ministers of the State and would not need to bend to the direction of the secular winds. The Church would then be to finally able to minister completely independent of any of the forces outside of its revelation. 

In the meantime, we need to tether our hearts and minds to the command that we should not judge, lest we be judged.  Let our brother’s path be theirs. Let their choices be theirs and let us live, loving as we were made to love, without condemnation and without hate. We are all His children.