As Gene Veith recently said in response to all the news about “Jesus’ wife”, the Church is it. So, here is a little reflection on that in our current cultural context.
First, a warning: this post has a little bit to make everyone uncomfortable (do not read if you are easily offended by issues of a sexual nature)
Second, a disclaimer to counter persons who may misunderstand its content… We have no promise from God that any gift other than His revealed Word and Sacraments (physical element plus a direct promise of forgiveness from His Word) can cause an unbeliever to trust in Jesus Christ. One may believe something in creation shows a God of love (and hence, perhaps mercy), but nude creation, without further clarification, also might seem to reveal a cruel and evil God. Only the believer can see all God’s created gifts as originating from His love, as this is made absolutely clear in His revealed word, and is “incarnated” in the creation with His death on the cross for sinners (for a good “soundbyte” making this clear, click here)
Now, the reflection (related, more theological, post)…
I’ve heard the argument recently that Christians with homosexual inclinations, while acknowledging that gay marriage is not God’s ideal, should still be able to practice it – they should see it as a “cast” of sorts that keeps the flesh in check, i.e. it allows the mortification of sinful desire, helping to channel and contain the need for sexual intimacy. After all, marriage is given to us that it might curb our sexual desires (I Cor. 7).
Some persons in the church have issues with the activities that bring forth procreative fruit and others have issues with marriage. Some would just presume sexual intimacy was a result of the fall (some theologians, particularly in the past, have expressed this view). Other would just assume marriage is given only because of the fall, or because the fall was coming.
Both are wrong. The kids, who granted, are a bit young to understand the details of all these things, just shake their head in amazement.
The Christian with homosexual inclinations, like any other Christian who fights with particular kinds of sin, should indeed mortify the flesh, daily drowning the Old Adam in repentance. This means that they should fight against their same-sex desires, of which there is no acceptable expression.
Why is this so? Because we have and are to have the mind of Christ: His designs, desires, thoughts, words and actions. Nothing else is available to us. We are found in His life. Where He is, there we also shall be.
But perhaps this objection arises: not even married men can think like Christ, who, after all, was never married.
Of course, this is not true because we are the bride of Christ, our Husband. And marital intimacy is always on His mind. The Christian is to always remain child-like as regards faith, but not childish as regards maturity. God would have us understand both what a good father and a good husband are, for they help us know Him better. What follows is what we realize occurs as we mature in our relationship with Him.
In spite of the Church’s valid concerns about its mystics within (see here and here, where I recently addressed issues pertaining to this), we must acknowledge that our husband Christ is a Lover. This Lover is the attractive and strong provider whom the Church desires, and whom He exclusively desires in turn. In our Protector’s presence, all realize His dominance – He does not put up with our, or anyone else’s crap, and will not only freely criticize when necessary, but take drastic action. And He is not only a Lover, but a Fighter – a Champion Fighter. Our Champion is the mighty One who sarcastically taunts the enemies sin, death, and the devil, kicking sand in their faces with authority and confidence. Not only this, but He outwits His foe, turning the tables and winning the seemingly improbably victory via improbable means – an instrument of torture.
Of course not all know this about Him, but faith perceives it (Heb. 2:8): our Man is simply like the millionaire who veils his wealth, choosing to live in simple fashion. And He became Man for no other reason than to win His bride and all she had (stewardship of creation) through His death and resurrection. This is the Son of God who took on created flesh, and it is now this very flesh that enters us in the Lord’s Supper – even if we are not completely aware of the intimate gift this is. A la Song of Solomon, He is the One who aggressively pursues us that He might be with us, speak with us, sharply flirt with us, touch us, and finally, take us: “I want you. And I want you now.” Like a good Lover, He enjoys both giving us pleasure, and yes, receiving pleasure in turn from us. He enjoys us: He woos, ravishes, and finally proceeds to intimacy, in full awareness that good, procreative fruit will be the result. This is no time for “make duty a pleasure” talk, which, as Luther reminds us, is sometimes necessary in the Christian life.
Even when we do not realize it, He is showering us with His love. Now it is true that we are not by any means the most attractive partner, and our ways and goals – our fleeting fancies and silly concerns – often do not mimic His own. Nevertheless, our foolishness does not sway Him – He sees us as cleansed in His own sacrificial blood – as a beautiful and pure virgin. Christ goggles. And yes, “one-flesh” intimacy is always on his mind. When we are with Him in the way He ultimately desires, we lose ourselves in Him. We are not self-conscious of our imperfection, but focus on Him and what He is doing for us and in us – and, feeling connected and secure, we joyfully submit and obey His will. Him in us and we in Him – we are one with the Strong one who makes us strong when we are weak. Not our will, but His, be done. And more: though He loves us just as we are, as intimate moments with Him reveal, He nevertheless refuses to leave us that way – there will indeed come a day when we will be all that He envisions we will be.
And just as the lover covets letters from his beloved when separated by great distance, so our Lord treasures our groanings of anticipation and prayers to Him.
We are the ones who ruin the glory of God’s beautiful gift that is marriage and sex. Further, gay marriage simply cannot give us this picture – homosexual activity fits neither with this husbandry nor the fatherhood that it fruits. This is because marriages are icons – albeit highly imperfect ones – of this marriage we have been discussing, which is the True Marriage. Ephesians 5 reveals more than God’s love for sinners alone – it reveals God’s love for His human creatures. Christ’s specific actions for our redemption are not a completely new picture, but only more fully reveal this picture.
There are indeed times when the doctrine of creation can becomes Law for no other reason that that it is not Gospel – that is Gospel in the very narrow sense of Jesus’ death and resurrection for sinners – for the infection of sin still weighs heavily upon us. At the same time, there is also a wide sense of the word Gospel, in which everything that God has given and gives us is seen as a gift from Him, as it rightly is. This is especially true of both marriage and sex, as both were given prior to the fall into sin. In this environment, Adam and Eve had original righteousness (in a child-like innocent stage) and everything was a “get to” (there was no law save the one God gave about the Tree of the Knowledge of good and evil)!
And so it will be again come the final consummation. There will be a great wedding feast – the final great union and fulfilled anticipation for all who believe. Come Lord Jesus.
October 3, 2012 at 12:51 pm
Sounds really homoerotic. Yikes.
October 3, 2012 at 1:18 pm
Yeah, I can see how you would get that. But its precisely why homosexual behavior/marriage doesn’t work. Not crazy about being a “wife” either, but that is what the Church is. We can’t ignore that, even if we want to. At the same time, see the other post linked at the top of the page.
October 18, 2012 at 4:00 pm
Insightful observations here. A few comments…
I, for one, believe a man reaches his fullest potential as a husband when he comes to understand his identity as a bride (of Christ). Not in any sexual sense, of course, but in the sense of being unconditionally loved, wooed, desired, the object of Christ’s passion and jealousy, covered by his divine protection and provision, etc.
I quibble a bit with one phrase in particular: “marriage is given to us that it might curb our sexual desires.” I would rather say marriage is given in order to fulfill them. Our physical union as husband and wife is the ultimate expression of intimacy in the same way our union Jesus is in the spiritual sense.
October 18, 2012 at 4:34 pm
Thanks so much for commenting!
I think we’d agree. That would be one of the purposes of marriage, the others being the need for everyday companionship and the continued existence of people on earth (and of course this is all simply meant to be a picture, or icon, of Christ’s marriage with the church.
Paul does talk about marriage being for those who burn, and I see how what you are saying works with that passage to. The difference in our approach might be what it means for God to give someone the gift of remaining single. Are most who are given this gift more or less asexual, in that they do not have much sexual desire at all? Or are some with lower desires also possibly given this gift. Marriage and celibacy are both great gifts of God. While I consider them equal, and each having strengths, there is no doubt that Paul says one is preferable insofar as we are talking about riveted focus on spreading the Gospel (that said, these folks who can do this are not necessarily more mature spiritually and again, are not filling a role that God would consider superior in dignity).