From the previous post on marriage, divorce, and singleness, my radar has been up, and I have noticed some things. First, I noticed an AT&T commercial targeting people “moving out of the friend-zone and moving in together.” Right after this, I saw an ad for Chevrolet touting an SUV to help couples “move in together.” I am sure the marketers did their research and chose these words carefully. The word marriage was not used.
The institution of marriage has evolved and changed for centuries. We see this in the bible as well. The Declaration of Intention in our liturgy, for example, is rooted in a time when most marriages where arranged. Likewise, we no longer use the word “obey.” It has not been long since women were seen as subjects of their husbands. Now, it seems that many have no use for the institution at all. People are waiting longer to get married. Traditional ceremonies no longer make sense to many. I’ve talked to young-adults who are hesitant to get married in a church believing that some of their friends would not be welcomed (at least that’s the perception). They don’t want to get married in the church because they care about others and love them. That is interesting to me.
All of this leads me back to the purpose of marriage as outlined by Wesley. Beyond “repairing the species,” as he called it, the purpose of marriage is to “further holiness.” In other words, marriage is an institution where we can cultivate the virtues of holiness – patience, gentleness, humility, self-control, peace, and joy. That’s what make marriage good for individuals and for society as a whole. It “tempers” us.
Most assuredly, in our current debate, the church cannot adopt an “anything goes” position. The One-Church option has been depicted in this way, but it is not fair in my opinion. Rather, this plan provides the opportunity for us to come to the table together and work to establish a strong sexual ethic for all — rooted in monogamy, faithfulness, commitment even when personal sacrifice is required, and a desire to grow in the virtues of holiness. Such a conversation would require the humility to say we don’t fully understand sexual identity, but we can agree on the values and practices needed for faithfulness and fruitfulness.
Listen to the culture around us. It is marked by division, divorce, polarization, building up by putting down, claiming our own righteousness, seeking the easy way, and “moving in together” without any steadfast commitments. Why are we accommodating to the culture? Are we not called to a higher unity rooted in humility, faithfulness, kindness, commitment, and love?
We can do better. I invite you to bring people together and have this discussion. Can we develop a strong sexual ethic for all? What would be on your list of virtues needed? If we are truly seeking a way forward, it seems to me that this would be a conversation worth having.
Next up – The Sad Defense of Divorce and Schism (an addendum in the series, Wesley and the Way Forward)