Holy Week and Holy Matrimony

March 27, 2013

This week we are given a concurrence of events worth considering.  It is Holy Week, the pinnacle of the Christian year when we remember the final days, crucifixion, and resurrection of Jesus the Christ.  And in the US it is a week when our Supreme Court is considering two cases related to gay marriage.  I’d like to mention two ways I feel these events are related.

The first has to do with crucifixion.  On the day we call Good Friday Jesus was killed by the political and religious powers that conspired against him to take his life.  The Apostle Paul, while he was still an enemy of the church, encountered the living Christ on the road to Damascus, who said to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”  Saul had not been persecuting Jesus, per se, but had been hunting down and harassing his followers.  Yet, Christ identifies directly with those being persecuted – ‘why do you persecute ‘me?’  Since the very beginning there has been a strong tradition within Christian faith that has identified the suffering, the persecuted, the marginalized, the ‘least of these’ (Matthew 25) with the very being of Christ.  Crucifixion still happens, and has a thousand different faces.  Sometimes that face has been a gay man or woman, girl or boy, who has been excluded, ridiculed, belittled, dehumanized, imprisoned, tortured or killed because of who they are.  During Holy Week we remember that every time someone’s humanity is diminished, and suffers at the hands of another – or at the hands of ‘the crowd’ – that we can see in that person the face of Christ.  “Why do you persecute me?”

The second point of connection has to do with love.  The cross is the ultimate symbol of selfless, sacrificial love.  The Apostle Paul uses the love demonstrated on the cross to counsel husbands and wives how to treat one another, comparing Christ’s love for the church to that of husband and wife.  “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (Ephesians 5:25).  This is love to the extreme, as challenging as it gets, and it’s a beautiful image of what marriage can be.  The prospect of gay marriage presents us with a pointed question about the nature of love.  Can the love of a man for a man, and a woman for a woman, reflect the same kind of selfless, sacrificial love that is also the ideal for a woman and man?  Can husband-husband love and wife-wife love also embody the love of Christ?  Experience is answering this question with a resounding Yes.  Gay love can be equal in quality, intensity, selflessness, purity, sacrifice, and covenantal fidelity as that of non-gay love.  Husbands are already loving husbands as Christ loved the church.  And wives are already loving wives as Christ loved the church.  This is a holy and blessed love, a witness to the everflowing love of God, which heterosexual marriages strive for as well, despite repeated failure.

Marriage is a legal question this week, but it also remains a theological question for the church.  Churches do not need to wait for a Supreme Court ruling to bless gay couples who wish to commit their lives to one another.  But the church can be a voice for justice and equality for enabling gay couples to marry to receive all the legal benefits of marriage that straight couples already enjoy.

Holy Week and Holy Matrimony go together very well.

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