Eric Carpenter has an interesting post up this morning, What Makes Two People Married? . Eric looks at the idea of marriage from Genesis 2:24 and how that passage applies to marriage and what makes two people married in the eyes of God. Here is a snippet.
So what takes a couple from not being married to being married? We find the answer back in Genesis 2:24. Although the wording of the verse is directed to the male, it applies to both parties involved. There is a three-step process. First, they leave their parents. This is not necessarily a physical departure (in some cultures the young couple lives with one set of parents for quite some time). Instead, it describes a departure of identity. Second, upon leaving the parents the couple holds fast (clings) to one another. They become closer to one another than anyone else on earth. They hold on and don't let go. Third, they become one flesh. In many ways they go from being two people to one person. They are one unit. This describes much more than just physical union. It talks about a couple becoming one in covenant with each other, forsaking everyone else.
What we see described in 2:24 is usually accompanied by a public ceremony of some kind (a wedding). That's where the becoming one can be seen and declared publically. This seems appropriate. That's probably why it occurs in all cultures. However, it is not necessary.
Absolutely true. Not only is a public ceremony not necessary, I wonder if it is even beneficial, at least in its traditional form. I wrote something about this earlier in the year in my post, Marriage and membership. Here is the pertinent portion….
To get on my soapbox for a minute, I have long thought that the church should not be in the business of performing wedding ceremonies in partnership with the state. In other words the church should not serve as an agent of the state to facilitate legal weddings. I think that it turns “church weddings” into just another cultural institution and along with that it loses value as the culture devalues marriage. Marriage between two Christians who become one flesh in the eyes of the church should be completely separate from two generic people getting married in the eyes of the state. Two Christians do not need the approval of the state, the blessing of an ordained cleric or a piece of paper to be wed. If Christian couples who wed want to go to the justice of the peace to get legal recognition for various purposes in the eyes of the state after the fact, that is fine. I just think that the weird system where the state recognizes marriages performed by the church yokes the two parties together and we certainly should avoid that wherever we can. The church never makes the state more holy but the state certainly infects the church and diverts it from the work of the Kingdom wherever the two are combined.
I would still affirm this. Marryin’ and buryin’ are two ways the state gets the church to act as its proxy while bribing (and controlling) the church with preferential tax and regulatory treatment. If there is any example of the church being unequally yoked it is found in our perverse partnership with the godless secular government.
As Eric writes, this perspective should help us to frame the issue when dealing with “gay marriage”. As the state has no right to define marriage, it really means very little if the state declares “gay marriage” to be valid because it runs contrary to what God has decreed for marriage and therefore is by definition null and void, regardless of tax breaks and health benefits. Now, when a "church" recognizes and blesses sinful relationships and call them marriage, that is a different issue. Regardless, as my perception of marriage has changed from a church-state partnership I have become increasingly less interested in the fight to preserve “traditional marriage”. Keeping homosexuals from receiving state recognition of their union does nothing to bring them the Gospel nor does it make America a more holy nation. Since homosexual “marriage” is inherently invalid in God’s eyes, why should we expend our energy and money as the church fighting against “gay marriage” and preserving “traditional marriage” rather than preaching the Gospel to the lost and helping the poor, the widow and the orphan? Unbelievers in a lifelong monogamous heterosexual marriage don’t get a pass at the Judgment any more than homosexuals living a licentious lifestyle do. We should focus our efforts where we have been called rather than on trying to make unbelievers act externally less like unbelievers. Certainly homosexuality is abhorrent and a grievous sin but the remedy is the Gospel, not legislation. That doesn’t mean that as a citizen voting my conscience I would support something that God declares an abomination but nor does it mean that I should spend time, money and effort to preserve something that cannot be overturned or affirmed by the votes of man.
Marriage in the eyes of God requires far more than holding an hour long religious ceremony in a “church”. The world can do what it likes, it always has, but that doesn’t change what God has decreed. Our mission is not to preserve traditional secular marriage. It is to proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom of God and no amount of legislation can accomplish that.