Discussion in the post yesterday about civil unions came around to the notion that the state should get out of the marriage business, that it should just be a matter for the church.
I can see that if you are a Roman Catholic. But if you are a Protestant–especially if you are a Lutheran–that seems problematic.
Lutherans don’t believe that marriage is a sacrament. After all, non-Christians can get married. It’s a matter of the Kingdom of the Left. It’s a matter of state law, not the law of the church. At least that was the case Luther was making against the technicalities and restrictions of canon law.
It’s true that marriage is a matter of “what God has joined. . .” And that Christ is hidden in marriage. Still, it’s an example of God’s working in His earthly kingdom, not that of the church. That is to say, marriage is a vocation.
God works through the lawful authority of the state to create marriages. A couple with a marriage license who got married in Vegas are married in the eyes of God. A couple who had a church ceremony without that license are not married. A married couple who have been divorced in court are divorced. The Church of Rome can say that since divorce doesn’t exist under church law, they are still married, but Protestants don’t say that. Pastors presiding at a wedding declare the marriage “by the authority invested in me by the state of _____”
That doesn’t mean the state can invent marriages of people whom God has not joined together. That would be a violation of the ruler’s vocation. Still, it seems to me that it makes a very big difference how the state regulates marriage, and that Christians cannot just opt out of that.