Same Sex Marriage and No Fault Divorce – how do you rank them?

Jonathan Merritt and Joe Carter recently wrote about each other’s thoughts on Jesus’ relationships with sinners. Merritt thought Carter too restrictive in his doctrinal stance and Carter thought Merritt too expansive. It makes for interesting reading.

The part that got me thinking about how all this affects my own life, though, was a comment at Joe Carter’s blog:

Would anyone agree that there is a difference between

a) baking a cake you know is for a gay couple
b) baking a cake you know is for a gay couple’s wedding but not attending it
c) taking professional pictures of a gay wedding, at the gay wedding
d) officiating the wedding

Is it possible and consistent that one may perform a-c as a part of his profession, but draw the line at D, and refuse to officiate on account of his religious beliefs?

I responded by asking a question borne straight from my position as a trial court judge:

For d), what if a believer is a government official whose duties include marrying people, like my position (being a judge). If a couple shows up at my building and has their paperwork in order, do I get to choose not to perform the ceremony?

Let’s choose a different situation. My understanding of the Bible says divorce is prohibited except when certain circumstances exist. Can I refuse to grant a divorce decree for a couple who meet the legal requirements for marital dissolution but who do not meet the biblical requirements?

If anyone can see a difference between marrying the same sex couple and dissolving the marriage of a couple that does not meet the biblical standards for divorce, I like to know what it is.

There are a number of Bible passages people rely on for their position on same sex marriage, some finding the Bible supports these marriages and others concluding it prohibits them. People will talk about cultural norms at the time of the writings, others will talk about the timelessness of Scripture. And the funny thing is that I’ve seen people use either one of those rubrics to support and to oppose same sex marriage.

When it comes to divorce, I don’t think Scripture is anywhere near that malleable.

Divorce According to Jesus

On a divorce case, I check the paperwork and if the people meet the legal requirements for a divorce I grant it. I look on the decree as a judicial declaration that these people are entitled to a divorce under the laws of my state. I take this seriously and only sign papers that meet every requirement.

Jesus takes divorce even more seriously:

 Some Pharisees came to him to test him. They asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?”

“Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”

“Why then,” they asked, “did Moses command that a man give his wife a certificate of divorce and send her away?”

Jesus replied, “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning. I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery. (Matthew 19:3-9.)

These theologians thought they had Scripture on their side, but Jesus set them straight: Moses’ lenient divorce law was based on cultural circumstances – a nation of hardhearted people.

Paul continued the discussion of marriage and divorce in 1 Corinthians 7:10-16, where he said that no one should get divorced unless their spouse is an unbeliever and abandons them. If the spouse is an unbeliever and stays in the marriage, he explicitly said there should be no divorce.

But what do you do if the spouse, unbeliever or fellow Christian, is an abuser? Matthew 18:15-17 governs and you can treat that person like an unbeliever who has abandoned the marriage.

Heterosexual Divorce and Same Sex Marriage

That still leaves me with the question I posed on Carter’s blog: what is the scriptural difference between same sex marriage and heterosexual divorce?

I don’t think there is one, but I don’t see the people protesting same sex marriage out picketing legislatures to change the divorce laws.

This started as an exercise in deciding how I should handle things at work, though, so let’s get back to that. What would I do if a same sex couple shows up at the courthouse and asks me to marry them? I know the answer. I’d handle it the same way I handle a divorce case.

If their paperwork is in order, I’d marry them.

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80 Responses to Same Sex Marriage and No Fault Divorce – how do you rank them?

  1. lauradroege says:

    Good post, Tim. I’ve wondered how I would respond if I were in a position to legally marry same-sex couples (like you are, as a judge), but I’ve never thought about how I would respond if asked to grant a heterosexual divorce. I also appreciated the comment regarding an abusive spouse; for some reason, even though I’ve thought about the marital abuse issue, I’ve never applied Matthew 18’s principle to it. Makes a lot of sense to do so, though. Also makes me wonder how many Christian abusive husbands/wives have been confronted on their sin of abuse by their fellow believers, and whether I’d be willing to do that.

    As always, thank you for a thoughtful post!

    • Tim says:

      From what I’ve read, Laura, churches have a ways to go to learn how to deal with abuse within their membership.

      • Cindy says:

        True. When I left my ex for molesting our daughter, my pastor told me not to report him to the police, but allow him to turn himself in. He also told me to do everything in my power to save my marriage.

  2. janehinrichs says:

    I agree with you Tim.

    • Tim says:

      Thanks, Jane. I almost left this as an abstract concept, looking just at the scriptural issues but decided it became more concrete when I was able to relate it to my job.

  3. It has been “illuminating” for me how you compare “ways of life” we are (unfortunately, as they happen all the time) used to (like divorce) with something new like same sex marriage. It shows me that we are always “children of our time” and tend to look at things with our cultural “filters”. As for your decision – I also agree. In a biblical way, there is no difference between the two. I ask myself though how difficult it sometimes must be to have your profession. As I understand the bible, we as citizens are obliged to obey the state’s authorities as long as they don’t offend God’s law. So when is an “offense” beginning? I think of WW II, the persecution of Jews, where it seems clear. But nowadays? I don’t have an answer yet. But it keeps me thinking 🙂

    • Tim says:

      Cultural filters is a good way to put it, Claudia. What other filters are keeping me from seeing the full force of God’s word, I wonder.

  4. EricaM says:

    You bring up a good point, and one that hadn’t occurred to me before. It’s one of those sticky gray areas we all too often forget about. (Exhibit A: Me.) I think this is the very reason a lot of people forget about it. It’s a complicated and tense issue, and one that (thus far) has no clear answer.

    On a similar note, regarding the A-C options, a lawyer friend-of-a-friend wrote up (on his own time-he isn’t her lawyer) a defense of the photographer who has been taken to court for declining to work at a gay wedding. He files her activities under “creative expression” as well as business. If I can find the link I’ll post it here for everyone to look at (and maybe we can get your expertise on the matter!)

    • Tim says:

      I have to confess Erica that the only reason I thought this one through is because I am faced with it through work. I look forward to reading that link if you ever track it down.

  5. Joe Carter says:

    When it comes to divorce, I don’t think Scripture is anywhere near that malleable.

    Scripture is not that malleable on the issue of “same-sex marriage” either. The Bible makes it clear that (a) true marriage is between one man and one woman and (b) any sexual activity outside of marriage is a sinful.

    what is the scriptural difference between same sex marriage and heterosexual divorce?

    That’s like asking what is the difference between a unicorn and a horse with a broken leg: the former cannot exist in reality and the latter can. There is absolutely nothing in scripture that can support same-sex marriage. Nothing. Not one verse. The reason is because God has declared homosexual sex to be an “abomination.” You can call a relationship a “same-sex marriage” but it can never be so in God’s eyes.

    • Tim says:

      Thanks for stopping by, Joe. I wonder though if there is a difference between same sex marriage and heterosexual divorce on non-biblical grounds. A lot of Christians say the latter cannot exist in reality either. Your thoughts?

      • Joe Carter says:

        I wonder though if there is a difference between same sex marriage and heterosexual divorce on non-biblical grounds.

        Good question. I think the answer depends on society’s view of what the institution of marriage is for. If as our society now presumes, marriage is merely one of many ways in which we find self-fulfillment, then there is no reason to exclude same-sex marriage or divorce for any reason.

        That is why I wouldn’t take issue with your decision that if they show up at the courthouse you’d marry them. You can’t really be blamed if your role requires you to go along with the fiction that the state has the authority or ability to make a same-sex relationship a “marriage.” Of course, the state can issue a piece of paper that says they will recognize the union as a marriage. But that does not mean that it really is one anymore than simply changing one’s gender on a birth certificate changes the reality of a person’s sex.

        • Tim says:

          And I’d say the same goes for people who want a divorce on non-biblical grounds. Society may say they are not married, but I don’t think Scripture backs it up.

  6. Olivia Faix says:

    Hi Tim,
    I like hearing how you work these things out in your own professional life. For most of us it’s just hypotheticals, although I realize that for LGBTQ people it is very real and very heartbreaking every day. However, I guess I don’t usually stop to think about the people who are in the situation you are where you are bound by law and professional ethics to do a certain thing, and that may sometimes conflict with what you feel you are mandated to do by God’s Word..

    I also like how you compared the arguments (or lack thereof) about same-sex marriage with those about divorce. Personally I cannot buy the argument that this protest is just about calling out “sin” or standing up for “Biblical truth”, because most of the people I hear pushing back against it spend far more effort talking about the perceived sin of same-sex relationships than they do about most other far more common sins. (Just to be clear, I do not think same-sex relationships are sinful.) So it’s really hard for me to believe that this is just about following the straight and narrow path–I think it’s more likely that it’s about not liking gay people. That’s my two cents.

    • “most of the people I hear pushing back against it spend far more effort talking about the perceived sin of same-sex relationships than they do about most other far more common sins”

      Isn’t that the truth! I mentioned on Twitter yesterday that I love my gay, legally married sister. Someone just had to ask if I thought her lifestyle was pleasing before God. My answer? “No, I don’t.” …which my sister and her spouse already know, and we have a pleasant relationship. I woke up this morning to a sexual ethics debate in my Twitter interactions. Lovely. On what other issue do so many people just jump right in and start spouting right and wrong?

      There are many aspects of my own lifestyle that I’m sure are displeasing to God. I was born with ADHD and I also battle depression; I tend towards laziness. Yes, I struggle against it: ellenmandeville.com/battling-disorder/ There’s lots scripture against laziness. Why doesn’t anyone picket outside my house about how lazy people are going to hell? Why doesn’t anyone spout off at me on Twitter about how sinful laziness is?

      One aspect of Twitter that I am loving is that I am reading far more moderate and loving opinions and dialogs on all aspects of life than I read about in national media sources. Thanks, Tim, for being one of those voices.

      • Tim says:

        Ellen, if anyone shows up at your house to picket laziness, I hope you take pictures. Then you can share it with the rest of us and we can live vicariously through you!

      • EricaM says:

        That does remind me of another thing I wanted to point out earlier, but the coffee hadn’t kicked in yet. 😉

        My cousin and his boyfriend used to visit every year to help my great-grandma with repairs around the house. Despite the fact that several relatives were very openly having affairs, they tiptoed around my cousin like they were afraid he had a disease. I remember one day great-grandma scooted over close to my mom and whispered, “The girls don’t think I know those two are dating,” with this little smile on her face. The hypocrisy was very saddening, though.

    • Tim says:

      I think for some people it really is about “not liking gay people.” I also think some people who don’t have to face the issue in their own lives haven’t thought through all the scriptural issues as well as they should. Then again, I probably haven;t thought them through all that completely either; I just know how it comes up in my world.

  7. Wow, heavy ready so early in the morning! First Tim, as a government official, do you have the right to refuse to either marry or divorce anyone with the proper paperwork who meet State requirements? You begin with private sector but I hope that’s still a different ball of wax entirely. 🙂

    Second: there’s a huge difference between dissolving a heterosexual marriage and performing a gay marriage, at least biblically, since a heterosexual divorce is biblical, and there is no such thing as a same-sex marriage in scripture.

    The divorce Moses allowed required a ‘get’, a legal certificate which relieved the female party of any and all obligation to her husband, freeing her to be remarried and come under the protection of another man. It actually was about securing her rights. There’s much more to it but not necessary for now.

    Fast forward, the Pharisees question Jesus because there was controversy during the 1st century (Judaism wasn’t monolithic, neither were the Pharisees) and some Pharisees sided with the liberal House of Hillel, and others with the conservative House of Shammai, both famous sages from before Jesus.

    This famous debate on divorce had come to this: can a man divorce a woman for any reason?

    Liberal Hillel said yes, even for burning the food!
    Conservative Shammai said no! Only for sexual indecency.

    So the Pharisees are asking Jesus to weigh in, which is illuminating, and he sides with the Shammaites here, then points back to creation: “it wasn’t like this in the beginning”.

    I understand the bigger issue for you, as an American court Judge needing to live by and uphold the laws of this country, and you aren’t Jewish and don’t live in Israel with the Temple standing and the Sanhedrin in place, which is an important factor that we don’t always appreciate.

    But the “Pauline privilege” you mention in 1Cor 7 is strange because I still don’t understand how you go from heterosexual divorce always being wrong, to then feeling biblically justified marrying a same sex couple, and the only people who get any criticism are Jews wrestling with the literal application of God’s word given through Moses.

    • Tim says:

      Thanks for the insights, SwJ.

      On “feeling biblically justified marrying a same sex couple”, that’s not my conclusion at all. I also have not leveled criticism at Jews wrestling with God’s word. Jesus told them what’s what, not me.

      • karen d says:

        About this: “So the Pharisees are asking Jesus to weigh in, which is illuminating, and he sides with the Shammaites here, then points back to creation: “it wasn’t like this in the beginning.” I would suggest that no, Jesus was not siding with anyone but redefining the entire way of thinking about the “problem.” Never, not once in the Gospels, does Jesus do or say anything that justifies someone in a position of power to exercise that power — conservative, liberal: irrelevant. Jesus threw the established order on its head, which is why I suggest he pointed back to creation. The problem there for his audience (the religious and therefore powerful/privileged Jews) was that they could not see they were wrong, that the issue was far deeper and far more eschatological than they wanted to make it.

        • Tim says:

          Excellent, Karen. The issue really did go deeper than they were prepared to go, just as it is with everyone Christ deals with. He is the infinite deepness. I am so glad his Spirit is within me so that I don’t have to navigate my way to his depths on my own abilities.

        • karen d says:

          Regarding this: “I am so glad his Spirit is within me so that I don’t have to navigate my way to his depths on my own abilities.” — Me too!! I think this is where I land time and time again on these divisive issues — its like my mantra now: “karen, you don’t know anything. You don’t even know what you don’t know. You absolutely don’t have a once-for-all grip on Holy Writ. So maybe you don’t have all the information you need to judge the situation. Maybe all you need is the Spirit of God to impress upon you faith, hope, love these three. Maybe there is a way forward only for you that extends grace, compassion, mercy and justice for someone who is being told their choices or their sin or their personhood makes them unworthy of such things. If them, then me, and if I’m judged by the same measure I judge others, than baby, GO EASY!” Its funny, i knew so much more when i was younger 🙂

        • Tim says:

          We both seemed more sure of ourselves 25 years ago, didn’t we Karen?

          I think your conversation with yourself in that comment is golden. How about expanding it to a blog post and then letting me run it as a guest piece here? Just a thought. (And yes, I will keep asking you for a guest post until you finally give in and writer one for me)!

  8. I want to apologize for not closing the italics at the end of my post, I didn’t mean for it to go beyond “biblically justified” and wasn’t scolding! Anyway, I said that you aim criticism at Jews wrestling with the literal interpretation of God’s word because you said:

    “These theologians thought they had Scripture on their side, but Jesus set them straight: Moses’ lenient divorce law was based on cultural circumstances – a nation of hardhearted people.”

    My point is God did give them the provision to divorce, even for, as Jesus said, hardness of heart. But He’s given us no such permission to engage in or perform same sex marriage, so, what does that imply for us? Remember, Jesus also said in Matt 5:20 that “For I tell you that unless your righteousness exceeds that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.”

    No, I’m not pronouncing judgment on you or anyone, but it is a high mark Jesus set here because the Pharisees were know as very righteous men. Anyway, thought provoking…

  9. “Jesus threw the established order on its head, which is why I suggest he pointed back to creation. The problem there for his audience (the religious and therefore powerful/privileged Jews) was that they could not see they were wrong, that the issue was far deeper and far more eschatological than they wanted to make it.”

    Ah yes, I’m very familiar with this view, and held it myself for many years too. The problem is that it isn’t sustainable when you interact with the historical record. The elite Sadducees were far more powerful than the Pharisees, who were a smallish reform movement. The Essenes were stricter than the Pharisees by FAR and we Christians have adopted Phaisaical theology, btw, such as resurrection of the dead, reward and punishment, angels and so on, that the Sadducees rejected, which is why Jesus wouldn’t engage them and told them they didn’t know what they were talking about.

    Jesus was about establishing the Word of God as the observant Jewish messiah he was/is, not undoing or dismantling it. And Jews living under Roman rule in the 1st century were not privileged.

    • Tim says:

      The Bible also tells that the Old Covenant needed replacing and that God’s plan was to bless us in this New Covenant. That’s essentially the message of the Book of Hebrews in a nutshell.

      • Well, that’s the traditional Christian reading of it, I agree. But that’s not the only way to look at it Tim. When we look at scripture in reverse (reading the OT filtered thru the NT) and aren’t careful to pay attention to the audience and type of literature, we can make assumptions that are at odds with what God reveals about Himself.

        For example: Moses literally takes dictation from God Himself, and God declares that He is covenanting for all time and “for all generations” with Israel and uses the Hebrew word ‘olam’ meaning “everlasting” regarding not only His covenant with them, but His covenant with Noah, (rainbow), circumcision, but also the same word for His own attributes: His ‘everlasting’ arms, He is “from everlasting to everlasting” Is 9:6″… Everlasting father, prince of peace”, 26:4 …The Lord God is an everlasting rock…” He has an everlasting kingdom.

        So, we cannot take any NT book and use it to do violence to the already established Word of God, because it violates what God already stated is true and has revealed about Himself.

        • karen d says:

          Great conversation! Thanks to you both for engaging and making me ponder. So i’m thinking that indeed, while Jews as a whole were not privileged vis a vis the Romans, Jesus’s primary conversation was not with the Jews about their living under Roman rule (although Jesus does use that context extensively as he teaches throughout the Gospels); rather, my take is Jesus’s primary conversation was to the Jews regarding what Jesus perceived was the nation’s task to be the bearers of God’s Shalom to all nations — God’s chosen people for being a blessing to the nations. So if the conversation is “Jesus with Jews about Israel’s role in the world,” then within that conversation the religious elite were all privileged and were the aim of most (all?) of Jesus’s criticism. My take on the Gospel in this sense is that Jesus’s harshest words were not for the marginalized poor (Jews) or those outside the community of blessing (non-Jews) but the Jewish religious/power system that burdened them with religiosity they could not either afford or accomplish (due to their social / economic position, not their moral character). Anyway, that’s why I suggested that the discussion about divorce isn’t an ideal example of Jesus siding with a faction within the Jewish religious establishment. I hear you tho’ Sojourning, and see what you are getting at re: embodying the Jewish Messiah. I am not sure tho’ what you mean by Jesus establishing the Word of God? Can you say more about that? Regarding Tim’s comment, I’m not sure he’s arguing a replacement theology (although the words do suggest that — Tim?). For my part, I don’t adhere to replacement theology and in fact is why Jesus’s return to the beginning when he talks about divorce is so interesting. If it was a purely New Covenant freedom thing Jesus would not have gone back to creation to make his point. I agree wtih you wholeheartedly that reading the Hebrew Scriptures through the lens of the New Covenant is unsupportable, but sadly the way most evangelical Christians do in fact read the Bible. Even worse (from my point of view) we tend to read the gospels through the lens of the Apostle Paul rather than reading Paul through the lens of Incarnation. Lastly, Sojourning, I really like that you pointed out Jesus’s comments re: divorce have everything to do with the way women were treated in the 1st century … whether he is siding with the conservatives as you suggest or tossing both conservative/liberal notions upside down, we definitely see him challenge the prevailing attitudes about the value of women.

        • Tim says:

          I wasn’t trying to support replacement theology, but just pointing out what Hebrews itself says about the New and Old Covenants. the writer there says the Old is no longer needed now that the New is in place.

        • sam h says:

          “So, we cannot take any NT book and use it to do violence to the already established Word of God, because it violates what God already stated is true and has revealed about Himself.”
          I don’t believe that Jesus did violence to the already established Word of God but that indeed He did change the old covenant with the new covenant in many ways, including divorce being allowed on any grounds. Jesus changed the law in regards to the eating of foods by sanctifying all meats. He changed the law in regards to repaying evil to our enemies, He called us to lay down our swords and to repay no man evil for evil, He instructed us to bless our enemies. He changed the penalty of the law by forgiving the woman caught in adultery instead of implementing the law to have her stoned to death. 4 For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth.
          Romans 10:4 (KJV) 9 Then said he, Lo, I come to do thy will, O God. He taketh away the first, that he may establish the second. Heb 10:9 (KJV)
          36 Master, which is the great commandment in the law? 37 Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. 38 This is the first and great commandment. 39 And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. 40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets. Matt 22:36-40 (KJV)
          If we follow Jesus in the Holy Spirit we will find that He never leads us to worship other gods, He won’t lead us to take Gods name in vain, He will lead us to rest on the sabbath, not religiously, for He said, the sabbath was made for man, not man for the sabbath. He gives us rest. “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Matt 11:28 (KJV) He will change our hearts to be able to honor our mother and father. If we feel like killing someone He will lead us away from that and take our stony heart out and give us a merciful heart like His, we won’t feel like we desire to commit adultery anymore and He won’t lead us to spend Friday nights at those bars that are built all around lust or the websites that are full of it. We won’t be led to or need to lie and steal, we will have such contentment that we won’t covet our neighbour’s house, we won’t covet our neighbour’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is our neighbour’s. all these are from Exodus 20:1-17, the ten commandments given to moses.

  10. Jeannie says:

    Very interesting, Tim — thanks for sharing an example straight from your own experience. The post and comments thus far give lots to think about and digest, for sure!

  11. Ken says:

    Thank you for addressing the issue, Tim!
    “What would I do if a same sex couple shows up at the courthouse and asks me to marry them?”
    Tim, I would be very disappointing in you (as a judge in our court system) if you did not marry them, given that they’d fulfilled all the legal requirements for marriage. Likewise, I expect you would fulfill the law regarding (heterosexual) divorces, too. However, while there is a legal correspondence to heterosexual and homosexual divorces in the secular-civil system, in the life of many churches (like mine) there are differences that I feel are missing in your piece, and those differences are the whole reason so many believers are not on board with the gay marriage movement, or at least are not as up in arms about heterosexual divorce as they are about gay marriage. Here is is: When you, Judge Tim, marry a gay couple you are simply recognizing and legalizing a legal (civil) marriage relationship. When you sign off on a divorce, you are doing the same, only recognizing the legal dissolution of a marriage relationship. However, when it comes to the religious rite of marriage (as a pastor, that’s my gig), things are different. Thanks for staying with me! A homosexual marriage represents a departure from my beliefs regarding what is the proper expression and practice of the Christian faith. (I know not all Christian agree about that–but I’m only speaking of my beliefs here.) It is, in a sense, an affirmation of my (and my church’s) commitment to an ongoing support and validation of something that I feel is erroneous, and ultimately hurtful to people. It would be willful hypocrisy on our part. On the other hand, a heterosexual divorce (assuming between Christians, as you’ve postulated above) is my recognition of the dissolution of something that was (in essence, though sadly, not in practice) a good thing, fully supported by the bible, and believed to be very positive in the eyes of God. The gay marriage is the affirmation of something that I do not find biblical support of, and the straight divorce is the recognition of something I find tragic, but legitimate and often necessary–divorce. I’m a West-coaster, too, so am engaging this issue these days. I’d bake the cake, take the picture, and probably end up talking about baseball, if not Jesus. I appreciate your giving attention to it, brother!

  12. Good questions, Tim. You handle tough topics with such grace and equanimity.

    Two things strike me that few Christians are talking about re gay marriage: since when did bludgeoning people or changing laws/cultural norms make any difference? I think the single most terrible thing that can happen is that a person not know God–more damaging than anything else. And yet I do not force people to meet God; I can’t. I have no control over their choices.

    Secondly, my TRYING to control their choices (by offering rewards for the right choice or sanctions for the wrong choice) will NEVER encourage them to make what I view as the right choice. In fact, if they’re anything like me then even a hint of coercion will make them rebel. In other words: my telling someone not to be gay won’t “help” and WILL probably harm.

    When Jesus approached people, he first loved them/forgave them/healed them and secondly told them to make a change for the better. But we never see whether they did or not. Maybe some of them didn’t. Maybe some of those adulterers went on to commit more adultery. And maybe the reason the Bible doesn’t tell us that is because the experience of Jesus was more important than whether or not they suddenly became sinlessly perfect.

    • Tim says:

      Liz, those points are outstanding! Bludgeoning doesn’t work, rewards and sanctions don’t work, the only thing that works in people’s lives is the work of Christ. Such a great comment!

  13. Bronwyn Lea says:

    Thanks for this, Tim. I had not thought about those two (moral, biblical) issues being compared side by side in a civil court, or being handled by a Christian judge. Lots to think on.

  14. @KarenD: I agree, this is good conversation! You said:

    ” rather, my take is Jesus’s primary conversation was to the Jews regarding what Jesus perceived was the nation’s task to be the bearers of God’s Shalom to all nations — God’s chosen people for being a blessing to the nations. ”

    Yes, but remember, they weren’t told to be “evangelical” as we think of (I’m not sure if that’s what your thinking). Rather, they were told to be obedient to the terms of the Sinai covenant (that was their obligation to the covenant, God’s part was to bless them for obedience, and He also promised curses for disobedience as Deut 27-28. But down through history including to modern times, Jews obeying God’s terms has not won them friends. Instead they’ve been persecuted for it and pressured to stop. If they wanted to remain obedient to God, they needed to be protected from the Gentile population that sought to break down their resolve, force assimilation, and defile them – which defiled the Temple etc. that’s why Peter says in Acts 10 (and 11) that it wasn’t permissible for a Jew to be in the home of a Gentile, even a god-fearer like Cornielious. The Torah didn’t prohibit it, but the halachah (Jewish law) did. The Pharisees were trying to get the Jews to turn back to God and take their covenant obligations more seriously.

    “So if the conversation is “Jesus with Jews about Israel’s role in the world,” then within that conversation the religious elite were all privileged and were the aim of most (all?) of Jesus’s criticism. My take on the Gospel in this sense is that Jesus’s harshest words were not for the marginalized poor (Jews) or those outside the community of blessing (non-Jews) but the Jewish religious/power system that burdened them with religiosity they could not either afford or accomplish (due to their social / economic position, not their moral character).”

    I have a different take. He engages with those he is most similar to theologically. He wasn’t a Pharisee, but he had followers who were, and he was fairly close to them theologically. We know this, partially because Pharisees had a very high level of observance and wouldn’t eat with anyone with less observance, yet they invite Jesus over.

    By far his biggest detractors were Sadducees and he had zero to do with them. I think this is fascinating. Also, They disappear from history btw, the Pharisees are precursors to rabbinic Judaism and as I said, we have adopted some of their theology too.

    The Jews believe Messiah will properly interpret the Torah when he comes, which, they maintain, is divine. In fact, they say, God used the Hebrew alephbet of the Torah to create the universe. Now, when you consider the opening of John ch1 that says “in the beginning the Word was with God and the Word was God… ” this actually is saying the same thing. In Hebrew it’s the memra. I don’t believe he came to rebuke them or replace them (not accusing you or Tim of RT, btw) but he’s fulfilling a mission that was laid down at the beginning. I see him as “ideal Israel” fulfilling a role only a sinless Jew could. So, it isn’t that they failed, although of course they did, just as we, they church, have had lots and lots of failures too, but God tells them several times via Moses that they will fail, even before they ever cross the Jordan! Read Deut 4:23-31, ch 30. And He also says He will redeem His people.

    “I hear you tho’ Sojourning, and see what you are getting at re: embodying the Jewish Messiah. I am not sure tho’ what you mean by Jesus establishing the Word of God? Can you say more about that? ”

    Sure. To say one is “establishing” God’s Word, or upholding it, is idiomatic and means to rightly interpret it and live it out. To “abolish” it or “nullify” it is to improperly interpret it. As Jesus is always pointing back to the Word of God, he says he doesn’t do his own will, but the will of his father who sent him. He always harkens back to scripture, and there was no such thing as the New Testament. He says Jn 5:46: “If you believed Moses you would believe me…” Later on the road to Emmaus Lk 24:44 he says: “….my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the law of Moses and the prophets and the Psalms must be filled…” So, the point is, he keeps pointing back to what has been established as Gods reliable Word. It cannot be broken (keep reading to the end of Luke for example) and we have no basis to call him Messiah if those testimonies (OT) aren’t reliable and unchangeable as they claim to be.

    Well, the Psalms and Prophets and Torah haven’t all been fulfilled! This was a shocker for me… So, as I have come to understand it, what Jesus did was initiate the New Covenant, we have not yet realized it, as can be seen by reading about the New Covenant in scripture. It’s found primarily in Jer ch 31:31-34 and Ez ch 36:24-28

    Enough for now, poor Tim!

  15. Erik says:

    Once again Tim, you have captivated me and given me a somewhat legitimate reason to procrastinate!

    I have a nagging question to ask you, and anyone else who wishes to contribute. What signifies a marriage being a marriage before God?
    Here’s why I am asking: I was legally divorced from my first marriage almost ten years ago. There was absolutely no “biblical grounds” for the divorce. The State of Massachusetts recognized it as a “no fault” divorce that both parties agreed to. I am married now, and many would consider it a “biblical”, “Jesus-centered”, etc marriage where both of us actively follow Jesus. That wasn’t the case for my first marriage. Neither of us were followers of Jesus, although I was aware that I was “running from” God somewhat like a prodigal.

    I’ve often wondered what was more sinful: getting married when I had no business getting married ( motivated by social pressure and whimsical spontaneity ), or getting divorced and then remarried to someone else. That first wedding was not “in a church” but was simply officiated by a JP.

    Being honest about this is difficult. I am so in love with my current wife that I wish I never had to wonder about the issue of divorce. Have I made her an adulteress because she married me?

    Thank you all for your honest replies and sensitivity.

    • Tim says:

      Great questions, Erik, and I’m glad you were bold in asking them and that you found this a safe place to lay them out.

      The Bible says that before we were in Christ we were spiritually dead. Whatever you did then is also spiritually dead. Now that you are in Christ, you are made new and the work of Christ has removed any effect your actions while spiritually dead may have had.

      Now that you are in Christ there is no condemnation at all, so there is no need to wonder about your marriage. The Spirit of Christ is in you and redeems all things for God’s glory. This means that you and your wife are not at all in adultery because of the prior life you had.

      • Erik says:

        Thanks Tim, but that leads me to more questions. When is “before we were in Christ”? I honestly cannot pinpoint a definite transition for me from death to life. My life has certainly had “thin spots” when I was absolutely sure I was encountering Jesus. But, it has also had many seasons of darkness, where I wasn’t even sure I knew who Jesus is. So, if I was already “born again”, and then went on to get a divorce, and am now remarried, where do I stand today?

        I’ve also heard many Christians interpret sex as an act of marriage, and that sexual union is considered marriage to God. If that is true, then our application of divorce has to be also reframed.

        I know we live in “today”. Right now, today, I walk in repentance for my past lifestyle. I still suffer the natural consequences of my past, but I do believe I am forgiven. But, these things do haunt me.

        Thanks for this forum.

        • “I’ve also heard many Christians interpret sex as an act of marriage, and that sexual union is considered marriage to God. If that is true, then our application of divorce has to be also reframed.”

          Hey Erik,

          I too have been thru divorce, and understand your feelings. I also received a lot of mixed messages i.e., the “God hates divorce” crowd had no room in their thinking for it, then there were those who were very lax and treated the marriage vows as no big deal and acted as if my happiness was all that mattered. Now, I’d been abused and cheated on but neither ‘side’ knew that. I know that’s not your issue, but let me give you a little perspective, since you brought up the above, which I quoted.

          The reason some Christians say this is they likely understand the “Old Testament” where that is in fact how one got married– the sex act. This evolved over time of course but still didn’t look like what we think of in terms of a wedding.

          Regarding sin and atonement. We typically have a underdeveloped understanding of the sacrificial system, but it’s useful here, and that is to note that there was never any sacrifice provided for intentional sin! There was a all kinds of goodwill sacrifices and offerings etc. and of course sacrifices for sin, but they were always and only for unintentional sin. This is important, because we’re often told God expects perfection and is somehow shocked and angry when we don’t meet that. Not true, He recognizes we are frail and He provided grace and atonement from the beginning.

          But, what about intentional sin? Even in “OT” times it was the same as it is today, there is only one way to deal with it and that is through true, sincere, repentance. You’ve accepted Jesus, he knows you intimately, he will not leave you where you are…

          Blessings.

      • sam h says:

        I respectfully disagree. And I do so because many in the gay community have used the same kind of reasoning to twist the written words of Jesus into meaning something they didn’t actually say. here is my reading of the new testament on divorce:

        Whosoever putteth away his wife, and marrieth another, committeth adultery: and whosoever marrieth her that is put away from her husband committeth adultery. Luke 16:18

        In this passage, Luke 16:18 if a man divorces his wife and marries another woman, he is committing adultery against his first wife. Otherwise it wouldn’t be adultery: sex with another person while you are married. That’s how it reads to me.

        In 1Corinthians chapter 7 the apostle paul expounds on many things about marriage, divorce and being celebate. In the first part of chapter 7, up to verse 9, paul speaks by his permission and not by commandment (1Cor.7:6). But at verse 10 he states that he is now speaking by the commandment of Jesus,

        And unto the married I command, yet not I, but the Lord, Let not the wife depart from her husband: 11 But and if she depart, let her remain unmarried, or be reconciled to her husband: and let not the husband put away his wife. 1 Cor 7:10-11

        Then at verse 12 he goes onto a discourse in his wisdom again,

        But to the rest speak I, not the Lord… 1 Cor 7:12

        The last scripture in the chapter states…

        The wife is bound by the law as long as her husband liveth; but if her husband be dead, she is at liberty to be married to whom she will; only in the Lord. 40 But she is happier if she so abide, after my judgment: and I think also that I have the Spirit of God. 1 Cor 7:39-40

        Jesus isn’t against marriage, but He does state a lot of things about remarriage that I fear the church has disregarded to their own hurt. As the body of Christ we need to seek the Lord in this, we need to return to Him and find His will for our lives. John Baptist lost his head over this very issue. Herod married Herodias, who was first married to his brother Philip. John the baptist told him it was not lawful for him to do that. Herodias was very upset when John said this and would have killed him but she could not. This to me says that she was not taken against her will, but willingly left her husband philip to marry Herod. The first opportunity she got, she did cause john’s death because he said this.

        They say, If a man put away his wife, and she go from him, and become another man’s, shall he return unto her again? shall not that land be greatly polluted? but thou hast played the harlot with many lovers; yet return again to me, saith the Lord. Jer 3:1

        I pray that Jesus will pour out His Spirit and wisdom so that we will know how to deal with remarriage in the church. I don’t know what His will is for divorced people who have already remarried, in the church or without, I am not suggesting anything except that we all seek His will and understanding for our lives, I am not telling anyone to leave their marriages. I know that His will is that all seek Him, no matter what circumstance they are in for His will in their lives.

        • sam h says:

          A side note on this topic of adultery is that in the early part of this century divorced people were cast out of church and society they were greatly discriminated against. Even if they hadnt remarried, many divorced or were divorced under the grounds that Jesus himself gave, permitting divorce. the social stigma of being outcasts from society caused them lack of housing, services, food, and social shame, some suffered to the point of suicide. Their children suffered this too right along with them. That sounds like what has happened to homosexual people in the past. Aren’t we called to treat people like Jesus does? If we as christians have areas that we aren’t following Jesus in, how can we judge others? Do we think no one else reads the bible and can see these things? The church in america has a large mess going on and I really think we should work on ourselves before we make it our job to judge the rest of the world. I wasn’t alive during the time that divorced people went through all their discrimination and excommunication from the church, I don’t know how the theologans and churches decided to deal with remarriage and divorce, I do know however that homosexual people have every right to look with dumbfounded shock at a church that seems to pick and choose which sins are allowable and which are not. Someone wiser than me can sort all this out, but I would rather be the publican in this story than the pharisee that Jesus described:

          9 And he spake this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others: 10 Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican. 11 The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. 12 I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess. 13 And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner. 14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted. Luke 18:9-14

          Do any of us get to pick and choose which scriptures are relevant to the church today? If that were the case then gay people could just claim that those things were written for another time, or the disciples didn’t understand the culture, or the roman laws at the time or whatever it is that the church said to override Jesus words about divorced people and remarriage and adultery. Jesus only gets to say which commandments we follow, its not dependant on the current church counsel. Thank God He wrote them down for all of us to see.

  16. Hi Tim, thanks for writing this. I think much of the reason that Christians show much more opposition to same-sex marriage than to heterosexual divorce, is simply an issue of the percentage of the population which partakes in it. It’s much easier and more socially acceptable to single out a group that is well under 5% of the population, compared to the fact that about 50% of heterosexual marriages end in divorce. When anyone makes a public statement which is critical of divorce, it automatically puts millions and millions of Americans on the defensive. But personally, having grown up in America as a child of divorce, I feel that America’s silence on the reality of the breakdown of the family is itself tragic. We need to be people of grace, humility, compassion and understanding. In many cases, there is good reason for divorce, and it’s not ever a loving thing to heap guilt on people who have divorced. But it’s equally unloving to be completely silent about the fact that the breakdown of the family in America has been devastating in so many ways, and in particular it has had very serious consequences especially for people of lower socioeconomic status. Thank you for being willing to address this issue publicly in a graceful way. – Matt

    • Tim says:

      Thanks, MH. It’s the unloving response to those who have gone through divorce and the unloving way to interact with LGBTQ people that the Church has to deal with, I think. There is a right way to do it, but I don’t think we’ve hit on it yet when it comes to how most churches deal with these issues.

  17. Aimee Byrd says:

    Oh wow, late to this party, but thought provoking article, Tim. I think a good understanding of the distinction between civil and spiritual kingdoms of Christ’s rule is crucial here (which you point out), but it is still very difficult for the Christian citizen to wrestle with their vocation when these issues come up. I can’t imagine how hard it is for a judge granting divorces and signing civil marriage papers. I would say a lot more difficult than baking a cake…

    • Tim says:

      That vocationally wrestling is hard, Aimee. I think a lot of believers don’t spend much time thinking through how their work fits in the kingdom of Christ. What I do in court might be one of the more visible ways to see kingdom values play in to work actions, but it really comes up in ever vocation, doesn’t it?

  18. @sam h: “I don’t believe that Jesus did violence to the already established Word of God but that indeed He did change the old covenant with the new covenant in many ways, including divorce being allowed on any grounds. “

    Let me say, I don’t believe he did violence to it either. I believe the violence is done via interpretation.
    First, the covenant is everlasting. It says so over and over.
    Second, divorce was never allowed “on any grounds.” A man was permitted to divorce his wife if he found “some indecency in her” yet this is not defined. Hence, the sages, tried to figure out what God meant by this. (As another example, God forbids Jews to do any work on the Sabbath, yet He doesn’t define “work”, so they must determine it based upon interpretation) anyway, by Jesus’ time it’s well known that the leading houses of Hillel and Shammai were in sharp disagreement on this issue of interpretation. The Pharisees also were divided. Many disagreed with popular opinion that God intended a man be able to divorce his wife for any reason at all (Hillel). Jesus’ position goes along with the (pre existing) Shammite opinion, but he adds his remarks about “from the beginning”, and of course he would know! 🙂

    “Jesus changed the law in regards to the eating of foods by sanctifying all meats. He changed the law in regards to repaying evil to our enemies, He called us to lay down our swords and to repay no man evil for evil, He instructed us to bless our enemies. He changed the penalty of the law by forgiving the woman caught in adultery instead of implementing the law to have her stoned to death.

    I assume you mean Mark 7 regarding meat. The problem is that this passage is talking about ritual hand washing (Netilat Yadayim) as relates to the “Traditions of The Elders” as can be seen from beginning of the ch, and the fact that “some” of Jesus” disciples aren’t doing it and the Pharisees, who do have this tradition, are asking him why they don’t. This section has zero to do with kashrut laws, much less changing what “food” is for a Jew, in other words, he is by no means declaring pork kosher, if he were, you can bet there would have been a huge riot.

    Repaying enemies? Not sure what you mean here. When did God command revenge on enemies? Actually Deut 32:41 and Prov 25:21-22, both OT, do the opposite. Presumably you’re talking about “an eye for an eye” in Ex 21:24, Lev 24:20, Deut 19:21. If so, God wasn’t calling for revenge! That injunction is to *limit* punishment to be commensurate with a crime.

    Re: woman caught in adultery. Lev 20:10, Deut 22:22-24 command stoning for adultery, this is true. But if you’re correct, then it’s curious why Jesus would tell her to “sin no more” and thereby invoke that very thing you claim he changed; the law. If something is sin, yet no longer has any consequence as you say, why did he need to die? Why do we need to repent? I think there’s a better answer than “he changed the law.” Allow me to explain.

    “A Sanhedrin that executes once in seven years is murderous.” Another Rabbi responded: “Once in 70 years!” And Rabbi Akiva said “If we were in a Sanhedrin, no man would ever be executed.” To convict someone of a capital offense they needed 2-3 credible wittiness (Deut 17:6-7) Based upon God’s constant mercy to Israel, they also understood their obligation to show mercy and it was customary to attempt to discredit witnesses, but they couldn’t do it willy-nilly, the Torah is God’s word, after all. So, they looked for loopholes: without 2-3 credible eyewitnesses, they couldn’t enact the death penalty. Interestingly, the eyewitnesses were also the ones who had to “cast the first stones” (Deut 17:7). Apparently, Jesus’ remark had a profound effect upon them and they took off. Without the eyewitnesses, there’s no way to legally carry out a death sentence. Additionally, under Roman rule, it was not legal for the Jewish court to do so. There’s much better explanations to this text, that do no “violence” to the scripture that came before, is my point.

    Re: “the law.” Unfortunately, we use this term to sum up the “OT”, specifically the first 5 Books of Moses, instead of the original Hebrew word “Torah”. Because this Hebrew word had to be interpreted into a non-Hebrew culture, a word had to be found for it and that word was “Law” however, it isn’t the same thing.

    In Hebrew ‘Torah’ means teaching, instruction, not law. There are laws and decrees within the Torah, but it’s incorrect, and leads to incorrect understandings, to refer to it as “law”. The root word of Torah yareh and is an archery term meaning to shoot an arrow and hit the mark one was aiming for.

    Also, as Christians we claim that Jesus is the Word made flesh, right? But that “Word” is non other than the “OT” that we keep saying he did away with. That same Word says that if someone comes along and, even via miraculous signs, tries to deviate from it, then they (Israel) is NOT to believe him! And that he is a FALSE prophet! So, when we say Jesus changed God’s established Word and did away with it, we are declaring him to be false! How could the promised messiah deviate from the scripture that testifies about him? Read Deut 13. It clearly lays this out.

    He will change our hearts to be able to honor our mother and father. If we feel like killing someone He will lead us away from that and take our stony heart out and give us a merciful heart like His, we won’t feel like we desire to commit adultery anymore and He won’t lead us to spend Friday nights at those bars that are built all around lust or the websites that are full of it. We won’t be led to or need to lie and steal, we will have such contentment that we won’t covet our neighbour’s house, we won’t covet our neighbour’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is our neighbour’s. all these are from Exodus 20:1-17, the ten commandments given to moses.”

    I agree, he never leads any to do such things. And my own life is a testimony in learning how to live closer to him and find a path of holiness. However, I still sin. And the issues in the Christian community tell us that “Christians” aren’t doing all that better than the non-Christians, for we do go to bars and covet and commit adultery and lust etc…

  19. I will say that I get very heavy in my heart when I hear certain believers of Christ say things against homosexuality, when they themselves are in the process of a divorce and adamantly refuse to work on their marriage no matter what happened or they are living with someone and sleeping in the same bed while unmarried while proclaiming Christ and going to church. These things really make me sad. Can they not see their own lives are in need of work?
    I have known so many couples who have divorced in this year alone and my heart is aching because a bunch of them HAVE gone to me for advice, but when I tell them to extend grace to the other person. . .they get mad and say I don’t know how horrible it is to be married to that person and that I have no right to tell them to work on it. . . .while I say, “don’t listen to me, here’s what Jesus has to say about it. . . .” and I bring them to the Word of God. . . and they say, “well he’d understand why I have to do this.” :: smacks hand on forehead :: it makes me ache!!!!!

    • Tim says:

      When you point them to the word of God and they still don’t get it, that’s when I can see clearly that this is someone sorely in need of the Spirit’s guidance (just like me, of course!).

      Your willingness to help them is God’s grace working through you, Victoria, I’m sure, and it’s for their benefit and God’s glory.

  20. Thanks for being so transparent.

  21. Dee says:

    Tim
    Here is a partial quote from CS lewis’ point of view on this. It seems to be supporting where you are coming from. If you have time, the whole quote is great,
    https://www.craigladams.com/archive/files/cslewis-on-marriage.html
    “My own view is that the Churches should frankly recognise that the majority of the British people are not Christians and, therefore, cannot be expected to live Christian lives. There ought to be two distinct kinds of marriage: one governed by the State with rules enforced on all citizens, the other governed by the Church with rules enforced by her on her own members. The distinction ought to be quite sharp, so that a man knows which couples are married in a Christian sense and which are not”

    • Tim says:

      That’s a great quote. I had a pastor once who said he wouldn’t mind if all marriages were performed by the state and the church stayed out of it.

  22. Adam Borsay says:

    I think the problem always arises when we grant the government power in an area that is beyond its natural purview. For a Christian, marriage is a uniquely religious event. The government has just decided to endow certain benefits to such unions, which creates the friction for non-traditional pairings that have been generally excluded from said benefits.

    If you took away the “benefits” of a governmentally sanctioned romantic pairing much of the debate would become moot.

    This is a bit of a pie in the sky idea…but…I think any individuals, or group of individuals, who want to enter into a contract with each other to share finances and joint tax filing(amongst other things) should be allowed. Romance unnecessary. My best friend and I have always joked that if we didn’t have wives and kids we would just live together and spend our free time playing video games till the day we die..but those darn family responsibilities ;).

    If two people really wanted to share their lives together, share the financial and medical burdens of one another, etc, I think the Government shouldn’t get to tell them no. The governments job is to simply enforce a legally entered into contract we have together. When the Government begins to have the role of defining what is appropriate for truly “romantic” relationships we have entered into a problematic context.

    A pastor I respect actually doesn’t have a license to marry in his state purposely. When couples come to him he informs them that they are welcome to go to the court house to sign the governmental contract, but that his role is to officiate a purely religious ceremony. As an ordained minister myself, I am strongly considering following that example.

    The mingling of Government, religion and relationships puts people like yourself in a sticky situation. Why should you be forced to affirm anyones relationship legally?? The Government(and by extension Judges) should only be interested in upholding legally entered into contracts and the legally allowable circumstances of the dissolution of said contracts.

    • Tim says:

      Great points, Adam, Marriage in America is a government sanctioned contract, and divorce is a government sanctioned dissolution of that contract.

  23. Tim…such a thoughtful post. It reminds me of my own position as a psychotherapist. I am ethically mandated to treat a same-sex couple who comes to me for help. I really struggled with this at first, and it ended up opening my mind and clarified what I really believe about the Word, our actions regarding love, culture, the law, and any perceived differences in sin. As a therapist, I am not allowed to bring up my Christian beliefs unless the client does it and wants to talk about it. I’ve seen God work in very mysterious and amazing ways in this regard. As an example, a bisexual woman who declared early on her atheistic belief system texted me prior to a session and asked if I would “tell [her] about Jesus.” I did. She became a believer. Then she died of cancer. Her unbelieving twenty-something son also became a believer before she died (she held on until that happened). I have to go by the laws of my profession or I will lose my license and not be allowed to help anybody. I have attended the gay wedding of my friend’s son and his partner. I love my friend and I love them. Love trumped any concern I had about the relationship. I have been terribly abused by an ex-husband while the church turned it’s back because he was on staff. I have been told I cannot have a relationship with my own son because my husband didn’t like him (the feeling was mutual). I disobeyed my pastor and snuck out to love on my son every chance I got. These are real struggles in the Christian life and each of us has to grapple and do our best to follow the heart of God in such matters.

  24. NGl says:

    The answer is that just because some hetersosexual marriages don’t last (for whatever reason: infidelity or abuse, or simply because people chose to go on different paths), does not make the essence of marriage – an union between one man and one woman – any different.
    Just because some people choose to abuse their spouses, or misuse their marital status for their own gain, does not mean that the idea of marriage itself should be changed.

    Abusive marriage, or unhappy marriage, or or or… does not negate the original idea which God gave in the the beginning. People can misuse His gift – but that does not change what He made.

    Nowhere in the Bible is a homosexual union seen as a good idea, neither as a norm or as an acceptable exception. (and yes, the New testament fully continues OT’s position)
    I am sure you are well aware of all this – just answering your rhetorical question.

  25. Julie Frady says:

    I think there is a difference between a government employee (like a judge) whose duty it is to both marry and grant divorces, and a priest or reverend of a denomination whose doctrine states that same-sex marriage is wrong. Even a judge in one of those denominations is duty-bound to marry and grant divorce because of their government job. The pastor or priest is prohibited by their denomination from marrying same-sex couples, and they are not involved in officially granting divorces (though they can counsel to that end).

    I think it is different for the reverend and the judge, even within the same denomination. Thus, the reverend or priest could do options a – c and not do d in your example at the beginning of your article, whereas the judge or justice of the peace must do all four.

  26. I see your comparison in the exact opposite way. I see scripture clearly against homosexual sex. I see no examples of condoning it in scripture. No affirmations of same sex unions. Sure people try to twist the story of David or Ruth into some round about way of maybe a possible example of something that could be construed as…..but that’s a major stretch.

    On the other hand, there are examples of divorce in scripture. There are allowances for divorce. Now, you get to the stipulations for a Biblical divorce and that’s where it gets malleable. Scripture says if the man leaves, let him go. Some would make the case that a man that beats his wife has broken the covenant and left the marriage in the sense.

    Would you say that scripture doesn’t allow for divorce in cases of abuse?

    The point is we can argue about what true allowances there are for divorce with the original language and such.

    However to say that the Bible is definitely clear on divorce, but ambiguous on Same Sex marriage is a strange argument to make.

    • Tim says:

      How do you see those divorce issues relating to modern no fault divorce?

      • Well, I don’t think it’s a reality. No fault divorce. Kind of like “Pro Choice.” We are changing the meanings of words so regularly, we would have to first define our terms. Just because they check “no fault” on a document for whatever reason, it doesn’t mean that there was not a Biblical reason for divorce. I would imagine many check off no fault where there are all types of abuse that can’t be proved or what not. In other words, how could you really know? Contrasting that with a same sex marriage where there is no denying that they are two men getting married. Again, I am not really even digging into whether or not you should or should not marry them. I was just taking issue with your labeling of the Biblical reasons for divorce being hard and fast, while the Biblical view of same sex marriage being up for debate.

        • Tim says:

          I didn’t mean to give the impression either is up for debate or hard and fast. What phrasing lends itself to that?

        • “When it comes to divorce, I don’t think Scripture is anywhere near that malleable.”

          This is where I am unclear. It sounds to me like you are saying the scriptures can be made to say different things in regards to same sex marriage, but not as much with Divorce. Am I wrong in my interpretation?

        • Tim says:

          I see what you mean. I was writing about the idea of using cultural norms in evaluating what Scripture says about divorce, and the malleability found in that type of analysis, not the malleability of Scripture itself on those passages.

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