There is much debate and much concern today about redefining marriage. Where it hasn’t happened already, it seems very nearly inevitable that the definition will soon be expanded to include homosexual unions. And once marriage has been redefined away from the union of one man to one woman, it seems almost impossible not to see it also expand to include polygamous relationships. Already books and media and reality television are attempting to convince us of the goodness, normalcy and health of polygamy; this is just the advance guard the portends a coming all-out attack.
Of course this is not the first attack on marriage in human history. Marriage has always been a battleground. No-fault divorce is taken for granted today, but was a massive, double-barrelled attack on marriage. Before 1968 in Canada, and beginning in 1970 in the United States, couples no longer had to prove adultery or unusual cruelty in order to divorce a spouse; now they could simply separate for a time or cite “irreconcilable differences.” What is considered normal and unremarkable today represented an incredible affront to marriage in its time.
Marriage is under attack. Those of us who look to the Bible for guidance in interpreting life, the world, and the course of human history, see the hand of Satan behind all of this. He is the sworn enemy of God and, therefore, the sworn enemy of anything good–especially something so very good as marriage. He is a master strategist and a master tactician and knows how to get his way.
While we acknowledge his hand in all of this, we need to be careful not to assume that his plan is simply to redefine marriage. Satan always aims for the utmost. He always aims at the furthest possible extent of any sin. He is willing to claim small victories on the slow march to his final goal. John Owen says it of sin but it applies equally to Satan: “Every time it rises up to tempt or entice, might it have its own course, it would go out to the utmost sin of that kind. Every unclean thought or glance would be adultery if it could; every covetous desire would be oppression, every thought of unbelief would be atheism, might it grow to its head.”
If this is true, and I believe it is, Satan’s plan is not to redefine marriage but to destroy it. He hates marriage because he hates God and marriage is a godly thing. It was created by God to glorify God and to provide an ongoing glimpse of Christ’s relationship with his church. It strengthens families, strengthens society, provides the most natural context for spiritual growth and discipleship. It is inherently, intrinsically, all the way good. So why shouldn’t Satan wish to destroy it?
No-fault divorce, polygamous marriages and homosexual unions all advance his plan. Polygamy is dishonoring to God, but not dishonoring enough. No-fault divorce is bad, but not bad enough. Satan will be satisfied only with utter destruction because, simply, that’s who he is. He is the destroyer of all that is good.
How are Christians to react in the face of this kind of attack?
More than anything else, we need to be absolutely convinced of what the Bible says about marriage; pastors need to arm their churches, fathers need to instruct their children. Genesis 2 and Ephesians 5 and other key texts need to be known and understood and applied. This is absolutely crucial because the more Christians cut across the grain, the more they will come under attack and be regarded as hopelessly backward and bigoted. Those who are not firm in what they believe may well crumble under the weight of such assaults. Not only that, but other attacks will follow and knowing the Bible arms us to defend against any assault, not just today’s.
We need to love those who are divorced or pursuing a divorce for reasons the Bible deems illegitimate. We need to love those who are in homosexual unions, those who are in polygamous relationships. They are not the generals, but the foot soldiers in these battles. They are to be loved and pitied, not reviled. They need to know the truth that the truth may set them free. This pity is not merely something we feel, but a pity that takes action in sharing the gospel. It’s not that we have a beef with homosexuals or polygamists or serial monogamists who are quick to divorce; rather, in the Bible we have seen God’s good purposes for marriage and know the importance of keeping it sacred.
We need to likewise understand that Satan really does–always does–aim at the utmost. We can get hung up on a single issue, a single battle, and lose sight of the war. C. Everett Koop looked at abortion and understood that it was but one battle in a wider war against human life and that it would soon morph into euthanasia and post-birth abortion and so much else. Likewise, we can look beyond same-sex marriage and see a much wider war meant to destroy marriage.
We may need to be willing to claim and rejoice in small victories. After all, Satan advances his cause in inches, not in miles. History–especially the history of marriage’s decline–displays his willingness to do so. And as Christians we may need to have to be willing to stop short of complete victory and likewise rejoice at holding even the smallest bit of ground or reclaiming even the smallest corner of the battlefield.
And we will need to have faith–a firm and fixed faith in God’s sovereignty, in his faithfulness, in his purposes. At this point is seems unlikely that God will see fit to stop the enemy’s advance before marriage can be redefined in key ways. In fact, as I write this I am sitting in Toronto’s Pearson International Airport and just down the way is a lesbian couple sporting wedding rings, having taken advantage of Canada’s Civil Marriage Act which was changed in 2005 to define marriage in a gender-neutral way. While polygamy is technically illegal in Canada, there have been no prosecutions for many decades and appeals for making it legal are increasingly common. And yet somehow in all of this we need to take comfort in God’s promises that even this happens within his realm, within his sovereign control. He has allowed it and will somehow bring good from it.