Wait, what?? The state licenses marriage?!? (of course they do…I just think it’s sometimes absurd what we accept as normal)
Black’s Law Dictionary defines “license” as, “The permission by competent authority to do an act which without such permission, would be illegal.” So, when did it become illegal to get married? I’ll tell you when…
From the Garden of Eden until about 150 years ago, marriage was a covenant made before God. The state had nothing to do with it. In the mid-1800’s, when all the states in America had laws against interracial marriages, some states began allowing them as long as the couple received a license from the state. Permission (licensure) from the state was necessary for those specific marriages to be legal. Give an inch. In 1923, the “Uniform Marriage and Marriage License Act” was passed by the federal government – 6 years later, marriage licenses were being distributed in every state to all people. Take a mile. The state had usurped God as the “competent authority” regarding marriage.(Thank you, Pastor Matt, for your example and help here)
The Supreme Court forgot that marriage is not their domain and answered the wrong question. The question isn’t do states have the right to deny a marriage license? The question is why is the state issuing marriage licenses?
The entanglement of the American churches with government at all levels is terribly unfortunate, and although there are a few matters such as tax exemption (a benefit now, but soon a snare) the role of the Church in America has been blunted, deflected, and compromised by the insistence of people on seeking political means to spiritual ends.
In the wake of the Supreme Court decision, I think the Church should be less interested in fighting for a Biblical definition of marriage in our constitution and laws, but fighting to separate the federal (secular) government from the sacred institution of marriage. Individual states wanting (truly) to embrace a Biblical definition to marriage should fight to repeal laws that prohibit marriage and STOP issuing marriage licenses all together. We could clean up this whole marriage-licensure debacle by disentangling the government from it. God is the competent authority over the sacrament of marriage…not the State. If people want to enter into an institution originated by God, they should go to God’s institution. Leave marriage to the Church.
I think Jesus would tell us the same thing he told his followers back in the day…and I’m paraphrasing, “I haven’t come to establish a political, military or any other sort of worldly power, but to inaugurate a new thing.” The church (a largely invisible movement of God-people intent on permeating the visible world for Jesus sake) is often distracted by the errant hope of political means bringing about the sort of transformation and joy that God brings by His Spirit through the people of God.
Let this latest turn of events shift your hope away from political means and back to the work that matters most: the Spirit of God, and the Word of God working in and through the people of God for the sake of those who’ve not yet found their way back to God! The simple and organic Church will always be free. You’re free Church. Be free and change the world one life at a time…