"One Flesh": The Christian Definition of Marriage

By Kristin J. Tremba

ssmrings_protFor centuries the Christian Church, regardless of denomination, has viewed marriage as an exclusive and sacred union between one man and one woman. This view is found in the first words of the Bible, words revered by Jews and Muslims alike.

Genesis 1:27 says, "So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them." Genesis 2:23-25 adds, "The man said, ‘This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called 'woman,' for she was taken out of man.' For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh."

This "one flesh" union is the merger (or re-merger) of two different but similar constituent parts (one male and one female) united physically, mentally and spiritually via a life-long marital covenant. The husband and wife "are no longer two, but one," Jesus said, and he added, "What God has joined together, let man not separate" (Matt. 19:6).

Two men united in marriage remain two men, and two women united in marriage remain two women. However, a husband and wife united in marriage creates something new - a "one flesh" union. This marital oneness reflects the oneness of God, and as the oneness of God creates new life, marital oneness has the potential to create new life via children (new men and women).

To this day, the vast majority of our Protestant congregations continue to view marriage as an exclusive and sacred covenant between one man and one woman. It is written into our creeds and confessions, and only until recently has there been the attempt to redefine marriage as the union between two men or between two women and to redefine or undermine Scripture in order to advocate homosexuality in the Church.

Read an opposing perspective on Marriage Equality and the Church here.

As a Christian woman who has experienced same-sex attraction and who at one time desired to live in a same-sex union with a woman, I have questioned my faith tradition and the Scriptures, to be sure. As I wrestled with these questions, I began to search for answers. I stopped reading the Bible in a cursory fashion, and I began to study it, asking God for his Holy Spirit to guide me. I prayed, "Lord Jesus, I love you, but I don't know what to do or to believe, but I want your will to be done in my life more than anything."

God was very faithful to answer that prayer, and as I objectively studied Scripture and prayed, the Lord opened my eyes to his intense love for me. The Lord also revealed his commands and his purpose for my life. I came to realize that my sympathetic love for Jesus wasn't enough. Jesus said, "If you love me, you will obey my commands" John 14:15. Therefore, Christ challenged me to demonstrate my love for him by being obedient to his commands, including what the Scripture (Old and New Testament) said about sexuality.

Although the road of obedience is not easy, it is good. Jesus said, "The thief comes to steal and to kill and to destroy, but I have come that you may have life, and have it to the full" (John 10:10). As I have grown in my trust and dependence upon God as my Father (as one who is able to provide), God has brought incredible joy and healing to my life through my relationship with him and with others. It is true that "God rewards those who seek him" (Hebrews 11:6).

My experience of turning away from homosexuality and of finding freedom from same-sex attraction is highly suspect and offensive to the secular world, but it should not be to the Church. My experience is not revolutionary. Christians in the Early Church also struggled with homosexuality, and they "were washed, sanctified, and justified in the name of Jesus Christ" (I Cor. 6:9-11).

It is pretty obvious that we Protestants do not believe the same thing about what defines Christian marriage and even what the Bible teaches about it. In each mainline denomination, there is a "civil war" being waged by liberals and conservatives over this issue. Over the past 30 years, conservative movements have risen up within these denominations to counterbalance the growing trend toward liberalism and gay advocacy in our governing bodies.

This battle will continue to rage despite our ecumenical dialogue. In the meantime, Presbyterian Renewal Ministries, such as OneByOne, will continue to educate and equip the Church to adhere to the Christian view of marriage and provide help, compassion, and support to those who are in conflict with their sexuality.

Kristin J. Tremba is the director of OneByOne (http://www.oneby1.org/) and a graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary (M.Div.), Teacher's College Columbia University (MA), and Anderson University (BA). She served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Albania, worked for the US Peace Corps in Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan, and taught English in the Bronx. She has been an instructor at the Savannah College of Art and Design and Boston University. She resides in Orlando, FL with her husband, Mike.

7/7/2009 4:00:00 AM
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