A White Paper Presented at Georgia AC Conference
Holton Chapel Advent Christian Church
24-26 July 2015
By Rev. Dr. Bob Hughes
As Jesus promised, opposition and even persecution would plague his followers until his return, and so much the more as that day approaches. These oppositions and persecutions would come from many sources, but they would be contrived of Satan and his followers, and would intensify even to the killing of believers. The current attack on marriage as being between one man and one woman is a case in point. Though no persons have been killed defending the Christian idea of marriage to date, character assassination and the smearing of disciples who hold to this concept have, and are, happening daily in the culture at-large. There is currently being produced a revision of the King James Version of the Bible that changes passages condemning homosexual/lesbian activity. This revision is being called by some gay groups as the “Queen James Version.” What is the Church to say or do about these things, and in this particular instance, about the most widely held view of marriage among Christians that is under attack?
Holy matrimony was the first covenant between God and human-kind in the Garden of Eden when God gave Adam and Eve to each other and the two, male and female, were to become “one flesh.” In the New Testament, marriage is further revealed as a type, a foreshadowing, of the relationship between God and his Church, which is called the “Bride of Christ.”
Therefore, marriage is considered a sacred thing and something not to be taken lightly. Jesus even performed his first recorded public miracle by turning water into wine at a wedding in Cana of Galilee. He wanted the wedding feast of this couple to lack nothing and have the high importance and recognition of completeness it deserved according to the custom of those days.
To take something instituted by God, and blessed by Christ, and change it into something desired and coveted by blatant humanism is pure profanity. The classic definition of profanity applies when anything that should be respected as high and holy is debased and brought low. For instance, when someone says the word “God” and adds the word “damn” right after it, that is profanity, but NOT because of the word “damn.” The profanity is in the breaking of the Third Commandment concerning the use of God’s name in vain. The name of God is to be used in holy exercises like prayer and praise, or to talk about his goodness when witnessing to others. That name should never be loosely tossed about in such exclamations as, “My God, look at that!”Or, in response to some event, when someone might say, “Jesus Christ, I thought he would never stop talking.” These are classic examples of everyday, and perhaps almost universal, profanity.
If marriage between a man and a woman is a God-given covenant, it should be treated as such, certainly among Christians. If such a marriage is to be highly regarded and respected, then anything that attempts to debase it or lower its standing, is a profane vision of it. What can Christians do in the current political climate to protect the sanctity of the marriage ceremony as between one man and one woman? What can our churches do to be ready in the event this issue comes to home territory within the Advent Christian community? Christians must be prepared to face such issues because opposition forces do not rest. Three things listed below may help in opening serious consideration of this matter, though these three are certainly not intended as an exhaustive or perfect list. Legal opinion should also be sought for proper wording, etc., but this is a starting place. These brief ideas have been gleaned from several sources including Christian writers, attorneys, pastors, and other politically astute persons who see the battle coming.
First, marriage must be seen as the sacred, religious act that it truly is. It is a form of Christian worship and is considered an absolute sacrament by many Christian bodies. God’s blessing is prayed for at each Christian wedding. The aforementioned marriage Jesus attended in Cana is often cited as a case of divine approval. Much of the homily delivered during the ceremony is an invitation for this particular couple to go forth and create a Christian home for the nurturing of themselves and their offspring, should they have any. A Christian marriage is a religious ceremony and at least up until now, religious ceremonies are not regulated as freedom of religious expression still exists under the Constitution. It should be made clear that Christian marriage is a religious worship service. There is a great deal of difference between a Christian wedding conducted by a pastor and the “civil ceremony” performed by a Justice of the Peace, a ship’s captain at sea, or a Clerk of Court. Plain and simple, a Christian marriage occasion is a true worship service invoking God’s blessings through prayer and praise.
Second, a clear policy concerning the biblical definition of marriage can be attached to a church covenant. Reference to Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13 (as under Old Testament law) and to Romans 1:26-27 (as under New Testament grace) and other such biblical instances can be cited. This policy must explicitly state that this particular Christian church, as a matter of religious principle, recognizes “one man – one woman marriage” only, and practices no other form. The church of Jesus Christ cannot be in the business of condoning or supporting non-biblical behavior. Printed copies of the covenant containing this clear policy should be available for distribution.
Third, if church property is sometimes used by outside groups that have no connection with the church as members, and thus are not subscribers to the church covenant mentioned above, a very definitive and separate policy on any remuneration for, or donated use of, church property by or to outside persons or groups must be in print and available for distribution to those asking for property use. Again, it should be stressed that the purpose of all activities must be in conformity with the church covenant and the religious purposes as therein defined. If a fee is charged in connection with property use, it must not be deemed income, but rather as property maintenance funds. This use makes it clear that the church is not a commercial enterprise for hire, but a religious entity whose purpose is to provide and maintain adequate physical facilities in which spiritual growth and development are encouraged and can happen.
Other safeguards (legal, moral and otherwise) may be available, but one thing is certain, just as Jesus promised, there will be no let-up in satanic efforts. Ms. Bertha Cassidy, a long-time Advent Christian missionary, was once complimented on her ability to find something nice to say about everyone she met, no matter how trying or difficult a given person might be. One young pastoral student said to her one day, “Ms. Cassidy, I believe you could even find something good to say about the devil himself.” She thought just a moment and said, “Well, yes, I can. He is ALWAYS on the job!” Since her statement of fact has not, and will not change, the issue of same-sex “unions” is not going away. Christians need to be prepared to face that fact, not shrink from it. Through it all, it must be remembered that Christians are to love, not hate, even those who violently disagree with biblical principles. Love is the greatest of all unifiers for God is love, as the Bible clearly teaches. Let love, even toward those who oppose us, be a constant in our efforts to defend the traditional, time-honored definition of marriage based on biblical principles.