Sunday, June 26, 2011

In defence of traditional marriage

This week, I have been too busy to write further about the encounter between Jesus and the Samarian woman at the well (John 4:1-42), but the topic hasn't left me yet, and I hope to return next week.

One line of thought that I might consider further is how Jesus reacts to the woman, who appears to be in a highly undesirable domestic union; she has had five husbands and the man she was presently with was not her husband (John 4:18). Interestingly, Jesus knows all about her circumstances, but does not give her a lecture on morality. Does this tell us something about Jesus' views on marriage?

I have no doubt that Jesus (like his Jewish contemporaries) had what we would regard as a highly conservative view on marriage and sexual morality. So, why does he not rebuke the woman for her immorality? The answer, I believe, is that he is saying to the woman that her sins are not what define her, and neither do her "marriages". He offers her a fresh start, and I believe she takes it (I'll explain how and why in a subsequent post).

Does this weaken the argument to preserve the traditional view that marriage is an exclusive, intimate union between a man and woman? To put it bluntly, does Jesus even care about marriage? Yes, I believe he does, but he puts it where it belongs, in the created order, which would make little sense if it were to be divorced from its creator. Marriage is important, but like all creatures, it is only important and meaningful because of it's relationship with the creator (see Matt 6:33). That's why the focus in John 4:1-42 is not on marriage, but the relationship between the woman and Jesus.

Of course, it's impossible to address the subject of marriage without also addressing the current controversy on changing legal definitions of marriage to include same-sex partnerships. Despite the enthusiasm of the media (particularly British and Australian TV - I can't comment on American TV) in promoting same sex marriage, there are good reasons to defend the institution of marriage as an exclusive, intimate and publicly affirmed union between one man and one woman. I worry that those who wish to retain this traditional view may be increasingly marginalized and silenced by (unfounded) claims of bigotry and prejudice. I don't wish to argue the case here and now, but I do recommend a reasoned paper for those who might be interested further here,

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