From Dr. David Unander
Whenever we teach ‘Earthkeeping’ (BIO 103), early in the course we study part of the Creation Mandate to humanity: to serve and “keep”, take care of, the Garden (i.e., Genesis 2:15). The course name, ‘Earthkeeping’, even derives from that command. It’s a foundational understanding of God’s revelation of the type of relationship humanity has with our world.
Jesus also referred to the Creation Mandate, when the Pharisees challenged him to define lawful divorce. He replied that the existence of divorce at all was only because of hardened hearts, “but at the beginning of creation,’God made them male and female. For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’. So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.” (Mark 10:5-9).
This comes to mind whenever I hear judgments spoken against the standard that sexual intimacy is intended by God to be limited to marriage between a man and a woman. The phrasing usually implies that a culture in which all sexual practices are openly practiced is a justice long-denied the world.
It’s easy to overlook that the Greco-Roman world Jesus was born into, was quite unrestricted about all lifestyles, GLBTQ, and other letters, too. That openness was mainstream, not marginal. Julius Caesar, for example, may be history’s most famous bisexual; in some Greek cities in some eras, perhaps the majority of men had a male lover, often beginning as a boy.
Devout Jews were thus an oddity, worshipping one eternal Creator God, as well as insisting God was only pleased with sexual relations between a man and woman in a marriage covenant. Jesus, fully God and fully Man, had no qualms about ripping social protocols of ethnic discrimination, or legalistic interpretations of the Torah, or relegation of women to a trivial status. However, he affirmed and strengthened the Creaton Mandate of one man and one woman joined in marriage. Jesus extended the Torah even to lustful thoughts, not just outward behaviors. Never did he give even a hint of affirming all the GLBTQ (etc.) lifestyles within the Roman Empire.
The apostle Paul stressed how, because Jesus came, the sacredness of marriage is now revealed to be due to a far greater marriage, that of Jesus and his bride, the church, a “deep mystery”. Husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies…he who loves his wife, loves himself…This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church (Ephesians 5). Like male and female, Jesus and his church are different, asymmetrical, only far more so than man and woman, as Creator and redeemed creation. He is the initiator, the one who invites us at great personal cost to himself. It is a monogamous, faithful relationship: Jesus does not cheat on us, nor does he have another bride than his covenant people.
All human marriages are, at best, a broken, distant image of that deep reality they are meant to help teach us. Nonetheless, because of Jesus and his bride, the Bible reveals that marriage between a man and a woman is God’s design, which God takes very seriously. Christians in the Roman Empire were sometimes morally at odds with their culture. Since the Bible describes Christians as strangers, ambassadors of a foreign kingdom, sometimes to be at cross-purposes with American culture should be no surprise to us either.
C.S. Lewis once quipped that chastity was the most unpopular of all Christian virtues, (although he thought it probably was a tie with forgiveness for those who’ve wronged us). Yet there it is. Jesus told his disciples that to follow him would mean taking up their cross and denying themselves. That means far more than just hard choices to restrain one’s sexual passions outside of God’s design – but it does mean that, too. However, we’re not just called away from something, we’re called to something better. Paul put it this way: For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen (II Cor. 4:17). May we so live, and be committed to that standard at Eastern.