In 1997, a motion was made at the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) meeting in Dallas, Texas to add an article on the family to the Baptist Faith and Message. Tom Elliff was the president of the convention at that time and asked me if I would chair the committee to write the article. It was a great honor to do so and especially to work with such a distinguished group of people.
When the article was presented to the SBC in Salt Lake City, Utah, in 1998, the center of attention swirled around the statement that “A wife should graciously submit to the servant leadership of her husband.” News reporters were like piranhas seeking to devour. Baptists were couched as backwoods hillbillies at the least, and ignorant intolerants at the worst. Interesting because the language used was biblical and clear, but the world had no use for biblical truth. Surprise! NOT!
I would suggest that if the article were presented today, the line that would get the most interest and condemnation would be “Marriage is the uniting of one man and one woman in a covenant commitment for a lifetime.” In today’s world, Southern Baptists are seen as out of touch and out of date in our understanding of marriage. Many people would question the need for marriage at all in the new age, others would question the restrictive idea that marriage is only for a male and female relationship, and still others would argue that the word “one” should be removed.
It is in this context that we must revisit the formative text of Scripture. Marriage was not a societal invention that restricts and places people in bondage. Marriage as a one man and one woman for life relationship was not invented by humans. Marriage was divinely instituted as a gift in the Garden!
When you look seriously at Genesis 2, it becomes abundantly clear that marriage was a grace gift from our Creator. The first “not good” of creation occurred after Adam had named all the created animals and was still alone. Even with God’s presence, he felt alone. God created for him a helper—complement and completer. God gave woman to man to complete him physically, emotionally, and spiritually.
Gen. 2:24 presents marriage in the language of covenant. Jesus used this verse in the Gospels and then declared, “What God has joined together, let no man separate.” God joined Adam and Eve together in a three-way covenant. The covenant was between man, woman, and God. This verse is used by Jesus and by Paul to present marriage as a loving gift from God that seals a man and woman in a loving permanent relationship.
Paul points back to the Genesis passage, but places marriage in the heart of the Gospel. Marriage is seen in the light of Jesus and His bride. There is no more powerful picture of marriage in Scripture than in Ephesians 5. We are to love our spouse as Jesus loved His church.
Some people suggest that Southern Baptists’ rejection of same-sex marriage is based on an interpretation mired in time-sensitive cultural casings. Not so. The Genesis account is fundamental to the establishment of the human race and the God-designed relationship in marriage. God could have made another Adam for Adam. He did not. God laid down a foundation for marriage that was affirmed clearly and incontrovertibly by Jesus in the Gospel accounts and the great apostle Paul in his writings. From the first page of Scripture until the last, there is no evidence that same-sex marriage has foundation in biblical truth. No amount of interpretive gymnastics can produce one ounce of evidence.
So is God the divine killjoy? Is He simply seeking to make homosexuals miserable by denying their feelings? Unequivocally, no! His design in marriage is no more restrictive on the homosexual than someone prone to adultery or polygamy. God designed us for monogamous relationships in covenant between a man and woman, and it is in this relationship that we reach our highest and greatest satisfaction. When this same relationship is informed by the Gospel and lived in the light the Cross, we enjoy the fulfillment of God’s intention set forth in creation.