Respecting Marriage, Praying for America
Four ways to influence the nation
When God created Adam and Eve and brought them together, He created the institution of marriage.
God made the first man and the first woman in His own image (Genesis 1:27). He saw that every aspect of His creation was “good” or “very good” (1:4,10,12,18,21,25,31). And yet, when God contemplated man without woman, He said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him” (2:18).
The Creator did this by making “a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man” (2:22). Matthew Henry comments on the importance of this verse for the relationship of husband and wife:
The woman was made of a rib out of the side of Adam; not made out of his head to rule over him, nor out of his feet to be trampled upon by him, but out of his side to be equal with him, under his arm to be protected, and near his heart to be beloved.
Adam himself exulted in the intimate equality he had with Eve when he said, “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh” (2:23).
These verses lay the foundation of a Christian view of marriage.
As Christians, we believe marriage is the voluntary, lifelong union of a man and woman. In other words, it is a heterosexual institution. It contributes to human flourishing, not only by uniting a husband and wife with each other, but also by producing offspring and extending God’s loving stewardship throughout the earth (Genesis 1:28–30).
Marriage is a type of Christ’s relationship with His Church (Ephesians 5:31–32), in which we are Christ’s bride (Revelation 21:2,9).
Moreover, marriage is a monogamous institution. It is a sacred covenant between “man” and “wife,” both terms being singular (Genesis 2:24).
The prophet Malachi, speaking for God, excoriated the men of Israel because they had been fooling around: “The Lord is the witness between you and the wife of your youth. You have been unfaithful to her, though she is your partner, the wife of your marriage covenant” (Malachi 2:14).
All this information is basic to our understanding of marriage. It’s something you already know and already teach. So you may be wondering why I’m mentioning it now.
As important as politics are, we will always be playing catch-up with culture if we don’t bring people to repentance and faith in Jesus.
For the past few months, I have felt an increasing urgency to pray for Assemblies of God churches and ministers to teach and model a biblical view of marriage. Also, I have felt led to pray more intensely for the protection of our religious freedom to do so.
The proximate cause of that urgency was the passage of the so-called Respect for Marriage Act (RFMA) by the U.S. House of Representatives on July 19. The bill repeals the Defense of Marriage Act (1996), which defined marriage in federal law as “a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife.”
I recognize that in some ways, RFMA is simply catching up with the Supreme Court’s Obergefell decision (2015), which requires states to recognize same-sex marriage. And yet, in other ways, it’s evidence of our nation’s continued moral drift.
In my opinion, RFMA is anything but respectful to marriage.
It seeks to redefine marriage — our most basic human institution.
If marriage need no longer be understood as a heterosexual institution, how long will it be before legislation decides marriage doesn’t have to be monogamous either?
And as is often the case with pro-LGBT laws, there may be negative consequences for the religious freedom of people and organizations who teach and practice a biblical and traditional view of marriage.
According to Michael P. Farris, former president and CEO of Alliance Defending Freedom, RFMA “empowers the government to punish millions of Americans who hold decent and honorable beliefs about marriage — beliefs that have existed since time immemorial — exposing citizens to predatory lawsuits and even endangering the nonprofit status of faith-based organizations.”
Religious freedom is a big deal. It’s not just about the freedom to believe what you choose to believe; it’s the freedom to live, speak and act according to those beliefs.
The Assemblies of God has a long tradition of being apolitical. We do not endorse politicians or electioneer on their behalf. Being apolitical does not mean being ignorant of the times in which we live, however.
Unfortunately, we live in a time of a moral revolution. The biblical foundations are being dug up and pulverized, while activists and politicians lay new ones in their place. Marriage should be a cultural foundation rather than a political football, but for many years now, the very definition of marriage has been a matter of debate.
So, what should we do? Let me close by suggesting four concrete actions we all need to take:
First, pray for the nation. Second Chronicles 7:14 was written to Israel, but it also serves as a model of prayer for the Church. “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”
All of us want God to heal our land, but have we put in time on our knees in humble prayer, seeking God, and repenting of our own known sins?
Second, preach the gospel. As leaders in Christ’s Church, the Great Commission describes our primary ministry: “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19–20).
The most effective way to change a nation is not to change its laws, but to change its heart. As important as politics are, we will always be playing catch-up with culture if we don’t bring people to repentance and faith in Jesus.
Third, practice good citizenship. Jesus said His disciples are “the salt of the earth” and “the light of the world” (Matthew 5:13–14). As citizens, we can make a positive impact on our communities in many ways. One of those ways is by casting an informed vote.
Fourth, promote good leaders. Romans 13:4 describes a government official as “God’s servant for your good.” In Paul’s day, Roman citizens didn’t get to choose Caesar, but this year, we get to choose Congress. Choose well.
Writing to the people of Judah in Babylonian exile, the prophet Jeremiah wrote, “Seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper” (Jeremiah 29:7).
Together, let’s seek the welfare of our country and pray God’s will be done on earth as it is in heaven!
This article appears in the Fall 2022 issue of Influence magazine.