Friday, October 25, 2013

Instructions to the Church # IV

Let Marriage be Honored Among All

Bishop Eric Menees

In the first century, the Church catholic was under attack from every side: the Roman pagan government viewed Christians as a non-conforming oddity; Jews viewed Christians as sacrilegious pretenders; and within the church there were struggles between orthodox believers and proponents of Gnostic religions who were trying to insert themselves into the church.

In the midst of that struggle, God brought forth brave men and women to lead the church and proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ. The author of the Epistle to the Hebrews was inspired by the Holy Spirit to instruct and encourage the Church to be strong, faithful, courageous, and loving.

In this morning's Bishop's Note we continue our examination of Hebrew's Chapter 13:1-9, and take up the issue of marriage. Hebrew's states: "1 Let brotherly love continue. 2 Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. 3 Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body. 4 Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous."

While written in the first century, this exhortation for the church to honor marriage and to maintain biblical sexual morality is absolutely vital to the life of the church and our society. We live in an environment that is increasingly like that of the first century. Marriage is challenged in the courtroom and in the classroom. The political and social emphasis is on acceptance and affirmation, rather than on honoring marriage and biblical morality. The Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) and the Diocese of San Joaquin oppose these innovations, and even though the courts legalize same sex marriage, I will not permit a priest in this diocese to preside at such a service.

However, that being said, the greatest threat we have to marriage is not from homosexuals challenging the laws of the land -- it is from the Church’s own failure to maintain the sexual morality that we've been called to practice. Recent studies sadly point out that American Christians have nearly the same divorce rate as do non-Christians. (March 2008, Barna Research Group) The number of people having extra marital affairs is nearly the same for Christians and Non-Christians, and the same holds true for the number of men who regularly look at internet pornography. George Barna, who conducted the divorce study, said: "There no longer seems to be much of a stigma attached to divorce; it is now seen as an unavoidable rite of passage." Interviews with young adults suggest that they want their initial marriage to last, but are not particularly optimistic about that possibility. There is also evidence that many young people are moving toward embracing the idea of serial marriage, in which a person gets married two or three times, seeking a different partner for each phase of their adult life."

While not taught in the church, this statement reflects a growing attitude among Christians in the church. If we want to honor marriage and practice biblical sexual morality, we need to get serious about biblical teaching in the church. We need to empower parents to teach their children, in word and example, the importance of marriage as a gift from God, meant to be lived out in a life long relationship between one man and one woman. Christians are to remain celibate prior to marriage, and chaste within marriage.

We will see a mighty strengthening of the church when we begin to practice what we preach!

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