Tuesday, November 07, 2006

I Decided to Start With Marriage

I decided to start with marriage: mainly because the overriding theme of Ted Haggard's "fall" - or perhaps his rise - is his adultery; and not who he was adulterous with. A complicating factor is the question of whether he married against his basic nature as a homosexual and therefore his vows were dishonest and void. Or, if they were not void - they were doomed to failure because he was in denial and self-loathing.

This is about marriage between followers of Christ - well, at least mostly. There are variations cited in scripture even for Christians married to non-Christians; and everything assumed the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.

There are some passages of scripture that are "fundamental" to my understanding of marriage; and that the Holy Spirit has confirmed again and again in my life as true. Let's start with:

Genesis 2:23 The man said, "This is now bone of my bones, And flesh of my flesh; She shall be called Woman, Because she was taken out of Man." 24 For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh. 25 And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.
While I may not personally agree, for the sake of this discussion I have no problem
  • with those who want to believe that the gender definitions in all of this are fluid.
  • if you want to include same-sex marriage in God's definition of one-flesh relationships.
However, I have a problem if you are not willing to "pay the price" the next pieces of scripture imply.

I have direct experience with my wife and I being "one flesh" - this is not about sex (although I believe the sex act creates a marriage - and not the church or society). My wife is "bone of my bones; and flesh of my flesh". We are one entity with two personalities - like Christ and God; and in our unity with God through the Holy Spirit that indwells us both - we form a type of the Trinity that represents the nature of God to the world. Marriage is God's institution for displaying His nature to the world. Of course, we humans succeed in blurring the image we are to present quite nicely and almost always.

Jesus and Paul both branched off the Genesis verse. First, of course,

Mark reports (probably from Peter):
Mark 10:4 They said, "Moses permitted a man TO WRITE A CERTIFICATE OF DIVORCE AND SEND her AWAY." 5 But Jesus said to them, "Because of your hardness of heart he wrote you this commandment. 6 "But from the beginning of creation, God MADE THEM MALE AND FEMALE. 7 "FOR THIS REASON A MAN SHALL LEAVE HIS FATHER AND MOTHER, 8 AND THE TWO SHALL BECOME ONE FLESH; so they are no longer two, but one flesh. 9 "What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate." 10 In the house the disciples began questioning Him about this again. 11 And He said to them, "Whoever divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery against her; 12 and if she herself divorces her husband and marries another man, she is committing adultery."
and Matthew gives "the rest of the story":
Matthew 19:10 The disciples said to Him, "If the relationship of the man with his wife is like this, it is better not to marry." 11 But He said to them, "Not all men can accept this statement, but only those to whom it has been given. 12 "For there are eunuchs who were born that way from their mother's womb; and there are eunuchs who were made eunuchs by men; and there are also eunuchs who made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. He who is able to accept this, let him accept it."
What does this say for Ted Haggard's choices? Or mine? Or yours if you are married? By using the word eunuch, isn't Christ saying that if you are not willing to be married, and married "for life", that you should avoid sex period?

Jesus talked about adultery earlier during the Sermon on the Mount; and made it clear, as usual, that it is our heart - and not our actions - that matter:
Matthew 5:27 "You have heard that it was said, `YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT ADULTERY'; 28 but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29 "If your right eye makes you stumble, tear it out and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. 30 "If your right hand makes you stumble, cut it off and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to go into hell. 31 "It was said, `WHOEVER SENDS HIS WIFE AWAY, LET HIM GIVE HER A CERTIFICATE OF DIVORCE'; 32 but I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except for the reason of unchastity, makes her commit adultery; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.
and immediately goes to the heart of what an oath must be:
33 "Again, you have heard that the ancients were told, `YOU SHALL NOT MAKE FALSE VOWS, BUT SHALL FULFILL YOUR VOWS TO THE LORD.' 34 "But I say to you, make no oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, 35 or by the earth, for it is the footstool of His feet, or by Jerusalem, for it is THE CITY OF THE GREAT KING. 36 "Nor shall you make an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. 37 "But let your statement be, `Yes, yes' or `No, no'; anything beyond these is of evil.


Paul cranks "one flesh" up another notch or two - but of course he was writing after the Pentecost so that makes sense. Does our intent matter when we enter marriage - a "one flesh" relationship? Paul was obviously dealing with a Corinthian church in crisis on a lot of levels; including sexually. In his letters to the Corinthians, he corrects them about prostitution and marriage; and points out a deep spiritual reason to "flee immorality":
1 Corinthians 6:13 . . . Yet the body is not for immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord is for the body. 14 Now God has not only raised the Lord, but will also raise us up through His power. 15 Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take away the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? May it never be! 16 Or do you not know that the one who joins himself to a prostitute is one body with her? For He says, "THE TWO SHALL BECOME ONE FLESH." 17 But the one who joins himself to the Lord is one spirit with Him. 18 Flee immorality. Every other sin that a man commits is outside the body, but the immoral man sins against his own body. 19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? 20 For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body.
Imagine God, Christ, and/or the Holy Spirit as a direct participant in your every sexual acts once you have been indwelt - that should give you some pause; and imagine marriage as initiated by the sex act itself - even with a prostitute. [For those interested in what became of the Corinthians after these two letters - see Clement of Rome's letter to the Corinthians. This, incidentally, was close to acceptance into the Canon]

One last point, which is derived from this one flesh relationship:
1 Corinthians 7:1 Now concerning the things about which you wrote, it is good for a man not to touch a woman. 2 But because of immoralities, each man is to have his own wife, and each woman is to have her own husband. 3 The husband must fulfill his duty to his wife, and likewise also the wife to her husband. 4 The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does; and likewise also the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. 5 Stop depriving one another, except by agreement for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer, and come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control. 6 But this I say by way of concession, not of command. 7 Yet I wish that all men were even as I myself am. However, each man has his own gift from God, one in this manner, and another in that. 8 But I say to the unmarried and to widows that it is good for them if they remain even as I. 9 But if they do not have self-control, let them marry; for it is better to marry than to burn with passion. 10 But to the married I give instructions, not I, but the Lord, that the wife should not leave her husband 11 (but if she does leave, she must remain unmarried, or else be reconciled to her husband), and that the husband should not divorce his wife.
The idea that our sexual life is under the authority of our spouse, whether we are the husband or the wife, is of course a radical concept - which has never been practiced by all believers and may never be. As much as folks want to separate Paul's teaching from Christ's, the theme of Paul's presentation here is clearly present in and derived from the teachings of Christ.

Of course, that is all really hard teaching which humans care to ignore - because it's hard: "Moses" still allows us to divorce because our "heart is hard". There is some teaching on what I, as a husband, need to do in order to make this work. Maybe that will help:
Ephesians 5:25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, 26 so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless. 28 So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself; 29 for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church, 30 because we are members of His body. 31 FOR THIS REASON A MAN SHALL LEAVE HIS FATHER AND MOTHER AND SHALL BE JOINED TO HIS WIFE, AND THE TWO SHALL BECOME ONE FLESH. 32 This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church. 33 Nevertheless, each individual among you also is to love his own wife even as himself [see also: "The Submission of the Christian Husband"]
Nope, no out there for myself or Ted.


Regardless of Ted Haggard's "orientation", and his honesty about that with his wife, when he got married, he was "in for the duration" and obligated to take "every thought captive" for Christ. There is no excuse for adultery; and if he is divorced he should be celibate for life unless he is reconciled to his wife: he should become a eunuch for the Kingdom of God.

I am as hypocritical compared to this standard as Ted Haggard is: I am teaching this is true while not living up to it - even today. If we are all honest, we all would be hypocritical to this standard (as Christ loved us?) unless we delete part of the standard to save our hypocrisy. Luckily, while we are called to strive for holiness (and are responsible for "every thought and deed" in that), we can rest in the love and mercy of Christ when we fall short. Which, of course, we all will.

* * * * *

Other resources:

No comments:

Post a Comment

How to debate charitably (rules are links to more description of rule):
1. The Golden Rule
2. You cannot read minds
3. People are not evil
4. Debates are not for winning
5. You make mistakes
6. Not everyone cares as much as you
7. Engaging is hard work
8. Differences can be subtle
9. Give up quietly