Should the Government Define Marriage?
I’m writing this in response to the marriage bill (HB62) sitting in the Missouri House out of my concern and in response to some legislators’ concerns that the Biblical definition of marriage may conflict with or wrongfully encroach upon the state and vice versa. The essence of the proposal gives the state the authority to define marriage without calling it marriage. And on the other hand sanctioning it with all the benefits of marriage. With this proposal a moral union and an immoral union would be on the same moral and legal plane, thus giving validity to one and bringing down the other. It also baits the Church into being silent on the marriage debate by giving it its own little box to maneuver in. HB62’s well intentioned compromise is an acceptance of defeat for the Church and society. The passing of this bill would leave Christians vulnerable to the narrative that the Church can legally discriminate, therefore giving the state the appearance of taking the moral high ground by being inclusive. We need to be wise and not give ammo to those who oppose marriage.
One stated concern is that the government presently has authority to license marriage. I find no problem with this, providing that government is properly aligned with God’s laws and nature’s law. The Church’s responsibility is to define truth and evangelistically make its case in the political market place. The civil authority’s responsibility is to enforce it. We don’t want the Church doing the government’s job and we don’t want the government defining truth.
It’s important that we understand that Christian-based laws and Christian involvement doesn’t make the government a theocracy. Every law has a basis in a belief system. The question is whose beliefs are we going to be governed by? For Christians to accept the notion that we shouldn’t promote our laws onto society is to accept subjugation to someone else’s laws. This type of thinking is the most accepted heresy in nearly all of Christendom. Nowhere in the scriptures can you find teachings where God’s law is forbidden or not appropriate for public consumption, but on the contrary quite the opposite.
The essence of the Old Testament law lays out a detailed plan on how to apply God’s laws for mankind and his institutions. Jesus addressed the purpose of His kingdom/government in the Lord’s Prayer by saying, “May thy kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven.” This can be accurately paraphrased by saying, “May the system of governing in heaven be duplicated on earth.” What’s being described is a law system that transcends man and his fallen order. God has commissioned His agents to re-present His government/Kingdom on earth. We need to come to terms with what should be obvious, and that is that God’s laws were given to man to be applied on earth, not to be applied in heaven. Exodus 19:6 says, “And Ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and a holy nation.” Jesus followed up on that in Matthew 28:19 by recommissioning the Church to disciple the nations. As priest of His kingdom we have a duty to warn the kings of the earth to obey God.
Proverbs 29:2 states that, “When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice.” When the righteous are in power, do they govern with unjust laws? If not, then with what? The obvious answer is God’s law. The second part of this scripture says, “But when the wicked man rules, the people groan.” The word wicked simply means unbeliever. Is it God’s will that His people or all of mankind be rule by the wicked with groaning being the only outcome?
Numbers 14:21 says, “But as truly as I live, all the earth will be filled with the glory of the Lord.” The Christian’s first assumption regarding God’s design for the earth is His plan for occupation and control. God did not give us His road map in order for the wicked to rule, but the godly. We have unwittingly accepted defeat as our destiny on earth when the opposite should be our vantage point. The last point that I want to make on this subject comes from Psalms 2:10-12, “Be wise now therefore, O ye kings: be instructed, ye judges of the earth. Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest He be angry, and ye perish from the way, when His wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all they that put their trust in Him.” God expects earthly leaders to obey Him, and they do so willing with the promise of blessings or cursing. The Churches function is to make God’s laws clear by declaring it.
This brings me back to the theocracy question. Do God’s laws make theocracies out of governments? No. There are two important facts that prevented Israel from being a theocracy. 1. Under the rule of the Prophets Israel was a constitutional republic governed by the Ten Commandments and the laws of Moses and administered by appointing representatives over tens, fifties, hundreds and thousands according to Ex.18:12. It was a government very similar to that of the United States. 2. Under the rule of the kings the office of the prophet and the king were distinct. Even though David was considered a king and a prophet he was still accountable to the other prophets that God had approved of, and the Ten Commandments and the laws of Moses functioned as their constitution. If priests (whether Christian, Muslim, or Hindu) are not directly in charge of the judiciary and enforcement of the law, they are not a theocracy. On the other hand, for example, Islam under Sharia law has no division between the Executive, Legislative or Judicial branches. They direct the government with sanctioning powers. It is distinctly different in a biblically based society. Instead of the government being licensed under the priest, they are reminded of their responsibility before God and choose to cooperate or not.
This unique quality of the Judeo/Christian law based society is that the priest/Church does not preside over the legislative, judicial and executive functions of government. The posture of the priest/Church is perfectly exhibited by the prophet Nathan and his relationship with King David. David had sinned before God and Nathan confronted David on behalf of God. Even though Nathan and David were accountable to God individually, David had more authority as it related to the earthly governmental structure, but they were equals before God as it relates to their heavenly standing and requirements for obedience. In that setting David was obligated to heed Nathan’s warnings or face sanctions from God. The distinctions between the Church and the State are clearly exhibited. What Christians need to understand is that Israel was not a theocracy under the kings or the prophets. In both cases of the rule of the prophets and the kings there were appointed judges and magistrates apart from the prophets and priests, and no one was above the law, not even the king.
If having a Biblical law-based society is the criteria for being classified as a theocracy, then every government is a theocracy. Either man will be ruled by the Creator God or a created god. If man is the final judge of truth answering to no one higher than himself, then he is the de facto lord over whatever system that he the rules over.
The New Covenant Church is the prophetic voice of God that functions similarly like the Old Testament prophets. Both are ambassadors from God’s kingdom who relay messages to another kingdom. That is exactly what Nathan was to David. For the Church to allow the state to pervert the definition of marriage will serve only to dilute the true meaning of marriage. To not fight for this turf would be negligent, rendering the Church culturally irrelevant and bring God’s curse on the nation.
We should take note of how many times God accused the leaders of leading the nation of Israel into sin. As the prophetic voice of God we cannot remain silent. If the salt loses its ability to flavor, it is good for nothing but to be trampled under the foot of men. If this happens then we deserve to be trampled.