Here is a good, and a little bit funny, article on the nature of “biblical” marriages. If you don’t want to read the whole article, here’s how the author sums up the nature of “traditional” marriages with a biblical foundation:
Traditional marriage is one man with multiple wives, multiple concubines, wives conquered in war and wives acquired in levirate marriage, possibly including girls under the age of ten, but definitely not including anyone of a different ethnic group, in an arranged marriage with disposition of property as its purpose. That seems very different from “one man, one woman,” does it not?
This goes to my contention that most people really don’t know very much about what the Bible does say about a lot of topics, including slavery (very much affirmed), role of women in church and society (pretty well denigrated), arranged marriages (pretty well the norm), polygamy (more than acceptable), rape (not really a problem–just marry her afterward and bring her along with the rest of the wives), nature of clothing (no blended fabrics acceptable), the nature of the priesthood (no lame, no sexually disfigured permitted), and a host of other things. I’ve written more about some of those things here and here.
In one way or another, many of those practices and commands have been either conveniently ignored or explained away by taking a larger view of the overall message of the Bible. I believe that overall message centers on two things: giving glory to God and acknowledging the redemptive work of Jesus Christ so we might live in reconciled intimacy with that Holy God.
The way we humans handle our sexuality must be addressed. But questions and guidelines about the way we handle this part of our lives cannot serve as the final dividing line between deciding who is worthy of grace and who is not.
Where slavery is concerned, most people today take the larger view. Even though the practice is clearly affirmed and even encouraged in many places in the Bible, we say today something different. We affirm that respect for all creatures stamped with the Imago Dei means we will not agree that one person gets to own another person, strip that person of basic rights, and use that person at will, discarding him or her when usefulness has ended. Most Christians today are horrified to hear of ongoing practices of young girls sold into sexual slavery (happening all over the place) or people being put in concentration camps and stripped of all dignity (check out the book Escape from Camp 14--this is taking place right now in North Korea). We take strong moral stands against such injustices.
I began to change my views of the legitimacy of same-sex attraction when I began doing some reading and study of those who are born “intersexed” or with ambiguous genitalia. In a small percentage of births, it is impossible to say clearly, “it’s a boy” or “it’s a girl.”
I started asking myself, “Did God make a mistake with these children?” “Does God love them as much as God loves those who are more clearly defined sexually?” “Must someone born this way be barred from Christian leadership because we consider them fatally flawed and incapable of speaking as God’s mouthpieces?”
While those with SSA and the Intersexed are not the same, the questions that come up are the same. When is someone a “mistake” or an “abomination” because of the way they are made? Are only some people born in the Image of God? If so, what defines them? For a long time, those few were much defined as male, with lighter skin, and property owners. Everyone else was just a bit less, somehow sub-human.
So, I ask, “Is this a holy way to look at those who are different?”
I know I read the scriptures through the eyes of one who has generally felt left out of those who could be considered holy and acceptable before the Lord God. I’m female and lefthanded. Both of those factors have been suspect for generations. The meaning of word “left” comes from the same Latin root, “sinestra” that the word “sinister” comes from. Left-handers have long been looked up as broken, wrong, just a bit evil. As for women . . . there are still many places in the world, including some places in the US supported by influential Christian denominations where women are very much excluded from the public square, from leadership, from positions of spiritual authority.
Who is right? Who is wrong? Each side will argue its position by various biblical texts and theological pronouncements. Often, each side condemns those on the other side to an eternity of separation from God.
And the world in need of grace walks by and says, “Well, it certainly can’t be found there.”
The church rightly has huge, huge issues with what is known as the “gay lifestyle” of unrestricted and wanton pursuit of sexual gratification. Presumably, we also have huge, huge issues with the heterosexual pursuit of the same thing. But only one of those concerns gets airing as “unholy” or “unacceptable.” We need to refine our stance so that all of our sexual practices come under the exposing spotlight of the Holy One.
And remember, our call is to seek justice, act with kindness and mercy, and stay humble before our God.