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Is attending a wedding an endorsement?


Earlier this month, Thailand legalised same-sex marriage, the first Southeast Asian country to do so. In time, others will almost certainly follow suit. With destination weddings becoming increasingly popular, Singaporeans in same-sex relationships will no doubt consider solemnising their marriages in nearby Thailand. This means that we can expect to receive invitations to such weddings.

 

For the next two editorials, using this article(1), we will biblically consider (1) What marriage means, and (2) What attending a marriage ceremony means.

 

It is my prayer that it will offer us encouragement to respond wisely, for the love of Christ and neighbour.


Pastor Luwin Wong 

 

“Pastor, our gay son is engaged.”

 

“Pastor, a few years ago my brother left his wife for another woman. Now they’ve invited us to the wedding.”

 

“Pastor, my daughter wants to marry a non-Christian.”

 

Pastor, should we go to the wedding?


Questions like these punctuate conversations in pastors’ studies across America today. And they highlight the dilemma created for Christians by the revolution that has taken place regarding sexuality, marriage, divorce, and the nature of the family.


Marriage has come to be viewed as a means to cement a deepening commitment between two people, or even as a way to express intense romantic feelings without much thought to lifelong mutual obligation. Questions of morality and sexual ethics — of what’s right and good and true — are banished, almost entirely, from mind. A wedding is now an elective procedure that centres exclusively on the wishes of the parties involved.

 

Under these conditions, when Christians push back on a loved one’s intention to marry, their ethical objections often come as a complete surprise and are met with uncomprehending outrage. Their concerns are seen only as casting ill will on what the bride or groom assumes will be their special day.

 

“Why can’t you just be happy for me?” on the lips of a deeply loved friend or family member can exert a powerful pull on our hearts and cloud our judgment as we try to think clearly and make faithful and loving decisions in light of biblical truth.

 

One way to navigate these complex ethical conundrums is to ask some foundational questions: “What is a wedding?” and “What kind of act am I engaged in when I attend a wedding?” Answering these questions can help us decide when to go and when to stay home.

 

What is a wedding?

Before we go any further, let’s simply acknowledge two biblical facts about weddings. First, we have no detailed examples of wedding ceremonies in Scripture. None. What does a “biblical wedding ceremony” look like? No idea! But, second: the Bible’s teaching on marriage helps us understand what wedding ceremonies ought to look like.

 

1. Marriage is designed by God for the intimate and lifelong union of one man and one woman.


This is the implication of Genesis 2, where God declares that man’s aloneness is “not good” (v. 18). In what we might call the first-ever premarital counselling class, God brought every animal to Adam to name, as if to pound home the fact that among all other creatures “there was not found a helper fit for him” (v. 20). Only woman was made to be the complement and partner of man.


2. Becoming husband and wife entails a solemn covenant marked by binding vows.


We know that prior to marriage there was commonly a period of public engagement (Deuteronomy 20:7; Matthew 1:18; 1 Corinthians 7:25–28), which required a heightened level of commitment and public recognition of the intent to marry. Similarly, the extended (and fascinating) marriage negotiations in Genesis 24 undertaken by Abraham’s servant in his search for a wife for Isaac are predicated upon the eventual establishment of a formal, publicly acknowledged marital bond.

 

Another important text in this discussion is Ezekiel 16:8, a passage that offers a tantalising glimpse of Ancient Near Eastern wedding practice. The Lord speaks of Jerusalem using the metaphor of marriage, saying, “I made my vow to you and entered into a covenant with you . . . and you became mine.” The metaphor assumes a common practice of public covenanting, involving the exchange of vows, as part of entering into marriage.

 

3. Marriage is intended by God to be both universal and sacred.


Let’s remember that marriage was not given to us as a concession to help ameliorate our sinful liabilities after the fall. It was given to address the only “not good” thing that existed prior to sin: “it was not good that the man should be alone.” God instituted marriage as a part of his generous care for us, as creatures designed for intimacy and community. Together with the Sabbath and the so-called cultural mandate of Genesis 1:28, marriage is a “creation ordinance”: a binding pattern for all, meant for the welfare of all.

 

Marriage, in other words, is intended for human beings simply as creatures and image-bearers, not just for believers in the God of the Bible.

 

But the universality of marriage should not be understood to suggest that marriage is somehow only customary or utilitarian — only valuable to society so long as it continues to serve a useful social function. No, the simple fact that marriage was instituted by God, and not by us, reminds us that it’s a sacred institution with which we have no right to tamper. It’s for this reason that the Bible uses the language of marriage to describe the holy bond of love and intimacy between God and Israel, Christ and his church.

 

Thus, a biblically faithful understanding of weddings will insist on these two propositions: marriage is for everyone and marriage is holy.

 

(1) David Strain, (March 4, 2022), Is Attending a Wedding an Endorsement? The Gospel Coalition. Taken from https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/attending-wedding-endorsement/

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