The article below was published in the Indianapolis Star, Faith and Values page of January 25, 2014. The title was not my choice as it implies my weighing in on the current Indiana Legislature debate on adding an amendment to the Indiana state constitution, defining marriage. I do support such an amendment, but that is not my focus here, rather an effort in the very limiting space of 350 words to offer a historic Christian and biblical perspective to counter the common arguments that the Bible does not give defining limits to marriage. I address that issue more fully in my post of last June, Before Citing the Bible, Be Sure to Read It First.
Seeking Grace in Marriage Debate
Last summer, I preached nine sermons on Sex in a Broken World, based on Paul’s New Testament letter, 1 Corinthians.
My goal in preaching is biblical faithfulness, and following Jesus, “full of grace and truth” (Gospel of John 1:14), especially when preaching highly sensitive subjects like sex.
I hold to the historic Christian understanding of marriage as a monogamous covenant between a man and a woman, a commitment “until death do us part.” God’s design from creation reflects His purpose for the two sexes, for the raising of children, for family relationships.
I also affirm, consistent from Moses to Jesus to Paul, that sexual relations are sacredly designed for marriage between one man and one woman. Any other sexual relationship is outside of God’s will and is destructive to those who participate and to society.
So how does that work in a culture where hook ups, co-habitation, divorce, polygamy, homosexual relationships and even more are widely accepted?
The changing winds of morality do not dissuade me from preaching what I believe God reveals. So, where is grace? How do grace and truth coexist? How does the church respond where marriage is redefined to be outside of the historic time tested boundaries?
While holding to what I believe is truth, I also celebrate the grace modeled by Jesus – to a woman who had multiple marriages and other relationships, to more than one adulteress or prostitute, to at least two cheating tax collectors, to a young man bound to his money. Yet, as Jesus expressed extravagant grace, he didn’t back off from truth, “Go now and leave your life of sin” (John 8:11).
In our sexually permissive and sexually confused culture, how do we express grace? 1) Honor the dignity of all persons; 2) Sympathize with the struggle (we all have that in common); 3) Distinguish between temptation and behavior (temptation is not sin; surrendering to it is). 4) Declare the grace of God in the Gospel and call to repentance. There is hope for us all.