What Happens During A Wedding Ceremony That Makes Sex Okay?

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The Wedding Ceremony of Andrea Kastner and Thomas Morton by Thomas Thorspecken

The good old American wedding. It’s as comfortable as applie pie. So steeped in tradition we accept it as God’s word. Wedding dates, wedding planners, wedding rehearsals, rehearsal dinners, invitations, announcements, wedding ceremonies, wedding vows, engagement rings, wedding rings, legal witnesses, marriage licenses, preachers, money for the preachers, wedding cakes, bridesmaids’ luncheons, buttercream icing, buffets, entrances, preludes, interludes, processionals, recessionals, receptions, wedding dresses, tuxedos, ball gowns, veils, headpieces, open stocks, bridal registries, place settings, bridal showers, what to toss, flowers, garter belts, trains, corsages, boutonnieres, cascades, fillers, freeze-dried petals, pomanders, English garden arrangements, Tuscan arrangements, beveled edges, deckled edges, embossed, engraved, suits, proofs, sets, albums, escorts, place cards, overlays, pickups, sweetheart tables, first dances, honeymoons, best men, bridesmaids’ dresses, maids of honor, grooms, grooms’ mothers, ushers, wedding songs, ring-bearers, flower girls, father’s left arm, wedding parties, formal photographs, guest books, rose ceremonies, thresholds, frogs, spiders, black cats, rice tosses, stag parties, toasts, tin cans, five sugar-coated almonds, candlesticks, thirteen coins.

The problem is, none of it is in the Bible.  There is absolutely no description of a wedding ceremony in scripture. And there is nothing about weddings that make them innately biblical. No vows. No marriage licenses. No punch. Did you just did dizzy? If weddings are considered spiritual events on the same order with births and deaths, at what point during the wedding does God say, “Okay, you can have sex and become one flesh now”? Does a preacher become a stand-in for God when he asks, “do you take this woman/man to be your wife/husband?” Protestant churches would have you believe that.  So if marriages don’t start with wedding ceremonies, when do they start? Maybe we should consult the Bible. Take a look at Ephesians 5:30-32:

“For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones.

For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh.

This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church.”

I cannot think of a more dignified and accurate metaphor for the sexual union than a man and woman becoming “one flesh.” Leave it to the genius of Apostle Paul and his way with words. Am I saying we’ve had it wrong all these years? Yes I am. The church slipped off the tracks when marriages became separated from sex with pomp and circumstance and assumed it could take on the role of God and unite two people forever.  Of course, all of this was done to allow and legalize divorce.  The church can’t do that. A preacher can’t do that. A thousand bowls of coconut-pineapple punch can’t do that. Even more sobering is the fact that man’s vocabulary can’t superimpose itself on top of God’s vocabulary. A classic example is “premarital sex.” If all sex before marriage is premarital, what do you call sex after marriage? Postmarital? Does all that bad sex before marriage suddenly become good when a preacher says, “You may now kiss the bride” in front of two witnesses and a gaggle of onlookers? Most churches will tell you it does because they routinely marry “cohabitating partners.”  I just don’t think so. Does that mean there are millions of people walking around today who are married through fornication and don’t know it? I’m afraid so. God’s word and commandments are so far removed from today’s reality that they’ve become unrecognizable. The church didn’t defend them and the congregants tossed them out the window in favor of comfort and pleasure. Instead of conforming our lives to God’s word, we have conformed God’s word to fit our lives.

Notice what Paul says in verse 32. I think it’s one of the most overlooked passages in the Bible. In very plain language, he is telling us that marriage is a mystery we will not understand on this earth. Could it be that sex actually bonds a man and woman beyond our comprehension so that they are more “one flesh?” than we even realize? Could sex chemically change our bodies permanently so that a man does become one with a prostitute when he has sex with her? Those are uncomfortable questions. And the world today doesn’t want the discomfort of a mystery. Every answer is in the palm of our hands. Just Google it. Is there anything science cannot explain? It tries. But, “The foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength (1 Corinthians 1:25).”

The Euphemism Of Marriage

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According to the Oxford Dictionary, a euphemism is “a mild or indirect word or expression substituted for one considered to be too harsh or blunt when referring to something unpleasant or embarrassing.” We hear euphemisms everyday: Correctional facility instead of prison, collateral damage instead of accidental deaths, enhanced interrogation techniques instead of torture, pregnancy termination instead of abortion, etc. We can add one more – marriage. Turning to the Oxford Dictionary again, we see that marriage is: “The legally or formally recognized union of a man and a woman (or, in some jurisdictions, two people of the same sex) as partners in a relationship.” In short, it’s a legal sexual relationship recognized by the state you live in. The legality of marriage via a marriage license and wedding ceremony give it its formal social recognition. But it does not in any way reflect the relationship between God and his church. Do you think a state that recognizes a homosexual relationship can honor a same flesh union in the eyes of God? Of course not. That would be like casinos giving half their proceeds to the church. The dictionary’s definition of marriage is a far cry from the union described in the Bible. Oxford even now leaves room for the union of “two people of the same sex.”

There is an increasing attack on Christian virtue today and church leaders have no clue what to do. They have, in large part, brought it on themselves – whether through pride or just plain ignorance. Many of the inroads the homosexual activists have made can be traced back to the fact that the church has never defined marriage – other than a courthouse visit, a sprinkle of rice, and a preacher with a few talking points. When compared to the biblical description of a permanent one-flesh union, marriage today is but a euphemism – a punch line in a world that can’t even agree on what is male and what is female, a world where the norm is adultery and fornication. It is but a mere ticket to free sex and legal disposition of inheritance at the time of death. And it has come to mean no more than a marriage license, a wedding ceremony, and a tax break. Oh, and don’t forget the honeymoon. So if marriage is just a euphemism today, what is the more harsh word that it’s replacing? What is the biblical terminology that has become too uncomfortable in the 21st century? Could it be the biblically based “one flesh union.”

“Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.” Genesis 2:24.

“For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh.” Ephesians 5:31.

“What? know ye not that he which is joined to an harlot is one body? for two, saith he, shall be one flesh.” 1 Corinthians 6:16.

This may come as a shock for many, but a biblical marriage has nothing to do with a marriage license, wedding ceremony, exchange of vows, justice of the peace, preacher, or three day cruise. But wait a second, you say. If you take away all of those things, then what is left? That’s just my point. What we know as marriage today is not even remotely akin to God’s original plan. A biblical marriage is a man and woman becoming one person in Christ; witnessing together, making decisions together, raising children together, reading the bible together, etc. They move in one accord. Their love is unconditional. They sacrifice for each other. Divorce is a foreign concept to them. A more accurate noun today may be “covenant.” This word is used to refer to marriage one time in the KJV in Malachi 2:14: “Yet ye say, Wherefore? Because the LORD hath been witness between thee and the wife of thy youth, against whom thou hast dealt treacherously: yet is she thy companion, and the wife of thy covenant.” While the Bible supports marriage being a covenant of one flesh between a man and woman and God, it does not support it as a contract between a “committed relationship” and a state government. The marriage license today is but a means to an end, a means for men and women to objectify each other and enhance social status. It’s seen as a way to get ahead, a way to ecoonimic prosperity, the Coupe de Ville status symbol. Those marrying young without adequate education and income find out it’s a quick road to poverty with their first child. For many churches, marriage has become the means by which a person gets to heaven. This is especially true in conservative denominations such as the Southern Baptists. Men are taught to “man up,” get married, and have children as soon as possible. The SBCs Albert Mohler has made this one of his talking points. Men are taught that marriage is the only way to become a responsible citizen. The fact is that marriage and family are worshipped today just as Baal, the pagan idol of the Phoenicians, was idolized in the Old Testament. The marriage license and its ties to the state are the very means by which the Defense Of Marriage Act was struck down in 2013. So now we have a legal contract on the civil state side and a sacrificial covenant between two baptized people on the church side. Is it time for preachers and priests to quit signing marriage licenses and retire their roles as civil servants? Which side would it help, those holding to a traditional view of marriage of a man and woman for life or those in favor of redefining marriage as any “committed relationship”?

The meanings of words do change over time, regardless of whether or not they are biblical. Consider what happened to the definition of “saint.” It went from meaning someone the Roman Catholic Church deemed holy in some way to a person who is particularly good. But biblical principles do not change, regardless of prevailing terminology. Apostle Paul explained this clearly in 1 Corinthians 7:19: “Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing, but the keeping of the commandments of God.” The same thing is true of marriage. Marriage is only as important in so far as it observes the commandments of God. The marriage license has no inherent value. The vows have no inherent value. Wedding rings have on inherent value. But the witness of loyalty and commitment does have value that transcends courthouses and joint tax returns. If you would need a marriage license and church service to legitimize your marriage, then it has indeed become no more than a euphemism.

Fake Wedding Rings

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It’s another phenomenon I’m still trying to fully comprehend, single girls wearing fake wedding rings.  Has the glorification of marriage actually risen to the point of literally bowing down to idols of gold and silver?  I understand the main reason they are worn is to “ward off” unwanted men.  But I think someone with halfway a degree of discernment can avoid that.  From a cultural point of view, what is that saying about men today?  If they see all of them as wild dogs with their eyeballs popping out of their head, it can’t be too good.  It seems that this phenomenon even reinforces the old stereotype that women are blind and stoic creatures, at the mercy of whatever meat falls in their lap. And in my opinion it does objectify women, denying the natural male-female attraction.  What does it say about the kind of men they want to marry?  Do they expect to find him with eyes fix on their bodies, down on his knees proposing marriage before even meeting him? 

The finger ring goes all the way back to the time of the Egyptians.  The Bible indicates that the signet ring was used in Egypt as a symbol for authority and identification.  And Pliny the Elder told the story of how Prometheus was accused of stealing fire for Zeus and shackled in chains.  He was eventually pardoned and forced to wear a remnant of one of the links as punishment.   You can even read about the signet ring in Genesis 41:41-44 when the “Pharaoh took off his ring from his hand, and put it upon Joseph’s hand, and arrayed him in vestures of fine linen, and put a gold chain about his neck.”  And the wearing of bethrothal rings can  be traced to ancient Rome.  Around 70 AD, they were being made from iron and approximately the second century gold was introduced.  Most scholars agree that they started out as secular symbols, but were quickly sanctioned by the church.  By the 11th century, they were part of the benediction in the wedding ceremony. 

Down through the centuries, wedding rings have been used to symbolize a couple’s commitment to each other.  And just as important, they have been used to communicate who is available and who is not available for marriage.  Single men have relied on them to answer that question in less than a second, thus avoiding any awkwardness or miscommunication. 

Symbols play an important role when it comes to passing values from generation to generation.  One of the values we don’t need to pass to the next generation is objectification of women.  Playing musical chairs with wedding rings only adds to this problem.  Not to mention what it does to honesty and trust. The only time I can think of for a single to wear one is if they’re positively not going to marry.  Who knows, in a few years, you may be able to choose if you want to be a man or women on any particular day.  I don’t think that’s the society we want to build for the next generation.