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“Thou shalt have no other god before me.”  (Exodus 20:3 KJV)

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November 11, 2010

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles.

That's from the Apostle Paul's letter to the Romans - specifically Romans 1:18-23 (this is from the English Standard Version).

So I was on my way to have a rare weekday breakfast out with my wife, when I had this thought that the next part of this series was to be about juice. Seriously - juice!

Just to be sure we're on the same page, here's the kind of juice I'm talking about - as defined at dictionary.com -


1. the natural fluid, fluid content, or liquid part that can be extracted from a plant or one of its parts, esp. of a fruit: orange juice.

Speaking of orange juice - that's the first kind I was thinking of. Take two oranges - squeeze them - take the juice from both - and you have orange juice. That's pretty simple and straightforward.

Next - take one cranberry and one grape. Squeeze them - take the juice from both - and you have cran-grape juice. Now we have two different kinds of fruit - but we still end up with juice. Still pretty simple.

Next - take one pineapple and one banana. Squeeze them - take the juice from both - and you have pineapple-banana juice. Once again - two kinds of fruit - and we still end up with juice. But wait! Have you ever squeezed a banana? There's no juice!

I came to this sad conclusion several years ago when I tried to actually make my own pineapple-banana juice. I put the pineapple spears through the juicer - it removed the skin and pulp - and out came the pineapple juice. Then I put in a peeled banana - out came the pulp - but not even one drop of juice. I "know" that pineapple-banana juice exists - I've bought it - I've had it to drink - and it was really good.

So - what's up with the banana juice? There's no such thing as banana "juice" in the traditional sense. And yet we have no problem calling it juice when we combine pineapple juice with whatever that banana "juice" really is.

But then - is it really such a problem?

After all - no one goes into a restaurant and orders "juice". We order orange juice, or grapefruit juice, or cranberry juice, or whatever kind is on the menu.

OK - now to get on to the point of this little discussion of juice.

Let's say that - instead of juice - we talk about marriage. That's a pretty hot topic these days. I'm not going to put in any specific references here - I assume everyone has seen / read / heard many things on it already.

But - like the juice - lets put in some definitional language. If we go back to dictionary.com we see the following for the number one definition:

a. the social institution under which a man and woman establish their decision to live as husband and wife by legal commitments, religious ceremonies, etc.

b. a similar institution involving partners of the same gender

Down at number 10, we see:

Obsolete . the formal declaration or contract by which act a man and a woman join in wedlock.

Going to another source, just be sure - let's try wikipedia and see what they have to say about marriage -

Marriage is a social union or legal contract between people that creates kinship. It is an institution in which interpersonal relationships, usually intimate and sexual, are acknowledged in a variety of ways, depending on the culture or subculture in which it is found. Such a union, often formalized via a wedding ceremony, may also be called matrimony.

People marry for many reasons, including one or more of the following: legal, social, emotional, economical, spiritual, and religious. These might include arranged marriages, family obligations, the legal establishment of a nuclear family unit, the legal protection of children and public declaration of commitment.

Wikipedia also has a reference to matrimony, which they define as -

Marriage, union of individuals that creates kinship.

So - let's back up a little here and see what's the relationship between juice and marriage.

Let's say that the two oranges represent two Christians.

And let's say the cranberry and the grape represent two non-Christians - one a man and the other a woman.

Finally, let's say the pineapple and the grape represent a gay or lesbian couple.

Note - I didn't say anything about the sex of the Christian couple. There's an assumption here - remember the part about assumed knowledge from part 1 of this series? That assumed knowledge is four clicks away from the definition of marriage on wikipedia.

  1. The 1st click was the one that took us to matrimony, from the marriage page.
  2. From there, we click on "Christian views of marriage" - after all, we're talking about two Christians here.
  3. From there, we click on the link to Hebrews 13:4 (wikipedia uses the same on-line Bible source as I do - biblegateway.com)
  4. Finally, we click on the link to 1 Corinthians 6:9.

What 1 Corinthians says is -

Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders.

The reason for following these references all the way to 1 Corinthians - again, from the Christian point of view - is to show that they must be one man and one woman.

As much as we may like to choose our own definitions of things - for those of us who call ourselves Christians - our definitions are not made by us, but by our God. And His Word - as expressed in the Holy Bible that He gave to us - makes it quite clear that from the Christian point of view marriage is between a man and a woman.

Furthermore, given the Apostle Paul's reference to inheriting the kingdom of God - there is another distinction that can be made. The kingdom of God will be inherited by Christians. Therefore - in the Biblical sense - marriage is between a Christian man and a Christian woman.

BTW - for those who may want to take exception to the words "homosexual offender" as maybe opposed to saying gay or lesbian to indicate specifically whether it is talking about men or woman - it's both. The Greek terms used refer to the partners in consensual homosexual acts - so it applies to both.

Now - on to the pineapple banana juice - the gay or lesbian marriage. Both wikipedia and dictionary.com make it pretty clear that - according to the language in use today - this is considered marriage.

Many Christians will argue that it's not marriage - that marriage is between a man and a woman. I believe you can tell from what I said above - there's a problem with this argument. Again - like it or not - the Christian definition really shouldn't be that marriage is between a man ad a woman - it's between a Christian man and a Christian woman.

However - like it or not - the current usage of the word is more and more becoming that marriage is between any two people.

Before coming to the conclusions - notice - I've left out the cran-grape juice. That wasn't an oversight.

Think about the cran-grape. It sits right between the orange juice and the pineapple-banana juice. It's marriage between a man and a woman - but neither is Christian. As an example - this could be like what happens with so many movie stars. They get married - divorced - married - divorced - and on and one - at the drop of a hat.

Clearly - this is not what God intended - and it's not what the Apostle Paul wrote about in 1 Corinthians. But - are the Christians crying out for these marriages to be called something else? Not that I've noticed. Are they any less un-Christian than gay or lesbian marriages?

For that - let's see what the previous reference in Hebrews says -

Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral.

Oops - there's a problem here. Looks like the movie star type cran-grape juice stuff doesn't really work out either. Unless they repent and sin no more - they aren't going to be inheriting the kingdom of God either.

So - what's the difference? Why do Christians make such a big deal out of the gay & lesbian marriages - but not the repeated marriages of people like the movie stars? BTW - I'm not singling them out - just using them as a high profile example.

For the answer to that - let's go back to the "juice".

Orange juice - is clearly juice.

Cran-grape juice - is also clearly juice.

But that pineapple-banana stuff - no matter how you look at it - bananas don't have juice.

It's just so obvious that bananas don't have juice. But we still call it juice. BTW - we also have a legal definition of juice that says if something has even 10% juice and the other 90% is who knows what (mostly water and sugar) - we will still call it juice.

And so it is with marriage.

The Christian marriage - obviously what God intended - at least in the New Testament.

The movie star type marriage - not so obvious, since each one starts anew with an expectation of lasting. And so we call it juice - even while fully knowing that it's not the pure stuff - like with two oranges / two Christians. No matter how you try to explain it away, there's just no getting around what Paul says in 1 Corinthians.

The gay / lesbian marriage - that's like the banana. It's so obviously different that it's easy to say it isn't what God intended. No matter how you try to explain it away, there's just no getting around what Paul says in 1 Corinthians.

So - if both the cran-grape type marriages and the pineapple-banana type marriages are a problem - again I ask - why are Christians only focusing on the latter?

C. S. Lewis has an interesting view of the world in this quote from Mere Christianity -

Enemy-occupied territory—that is what this world is. Christianity is the story of how the rightful king has landed, you might say landed in disguise, and is calling us all to take part in a great campaign of sabotage. When you go to church you are really listening-in to the secret wireless from our friends: that is why the enemy is so anxious to prevent us from going. He does it by playing on our conceit and laziness and intellectual snobbery. I know someone will ask me, ‘Do you really mean, at this time of day, to re-introduce our old friend the devil—hoofs and horns and all?’ Well, what the time of day has to do with it I do not know. And I am not particular about the hoofs and horns. But in other respects my answer is ‘Yes, I do.’ I do not claim to know anything about his personal appearance. If anybody really wants to know him better I would say to that person, ‘Don’t worry. If you really want to, you will. Whether you’ll like it when you do is another question.’

And that's pretty much what I think is happening here.

We know that a lot of what we call juice isn't juice - but we call it juice anyway. It's easier. And it's no big deal. Unless you have a dietary problem with sugar - or are allergic to some kinds of fruit - or just want to know what you're actually drinking. Then - you read the label. In the case of those less than 10% "juices" - they have to be called juice drinks, to distinguish them from juice. But in general - we're just too lazy to care about whether the juice is really juice or only partly juice or made of something that isn't really juice at all.

In the case of the marriages - I think it's pretty much the same. But - for us as Christians - the laziness can lead to something very different than an allergy reaction. If we get lazy and end up believing our marriages and the gay / lesbian marriages are the same thing - we're on the way to not being able to inherit the kingdom of God. That's quite clear.

What's also clear is that we've already taken this path with the movie star type marriages. We're already well on the way to removing anything special about the Christian marriage - and going further down the path with the gay / lesbian marriage issue doesn't seem at all impossible. In fact - it seems more likely to happen than not.

So - finally getting near the conclusion - should we push to define marriage as between a man and a woman?

I believe I've made my position clear - no, we shouldn't. After all - that would mean considering a Christian marriage to be no different from the movie star cran-grape type of marriage.

Does that mean it's OK to call the gay / lesbian marriage a marriage? Again - from the way I read it - neither the movie star cran-grape people nor the gay / lesbian pineapple-banana people are going to inherit the kingdom of God - unless they repent and accept Jesus and follow His teachings.

One final thought from the New International Bible Dictionary concerning marriage -

Marriage was often a means of strengthening and promoting the fortunes of the family, quite aside from the prospect of producing children. A bride was more likely to be chosen because of the desirability of union with her family, or for her healthy physique and suitability for family life, rather than for other considerations. The father was responsible for finding a suitable bride for his son, and the wishes and feelings of the young people were largely irrelevant to this decision. On some occasions the bride’s consent was asked for after the actual marriage arrangements had been made. Thus Isaac’s marriage was arranged between his father’s servant and his future wife’s brother. She was then consulted (Gen 24:33-53, 57-58), though perhaps only because her father was no longer living. On rare occasions, parental advice was either ignored, rejected, or not sought (26:34-35), and, in a most unusual initiative, Michal, daughter of Saul, expressed her love for David (1 Sam 18:20).

In general, marriages were arranged with relatives or with those of the same clan. One might marry a member of the same tribe or possibly move outside this circle to marry within another Israelite tribe. Marriage to a foreigner was generally discouraged, though some Hebrews took wives from among those women captured in war, while others, such as Samson, received permission from their parents to marry a foreigner, Samson marrying a Philistine woman (Judg 14:2-3). Concern was always expressed that marriage with a non-Israelite would dilute the covental faith by the introduction of ideas and practices concerning strange gods (1 Kings 11:4).

Because marriages with close relatives were common, limits of consanguinity are recorded for the Israelites to follow (Lev 18:6-18). Formerly, a man could marry his half-sister on his father’s side (Gen 20:12; cf. 2 Sam 13:13), though this is forbidden in Leviticus 20:17. Cousins—such as Isaac and Rebekah, as well as Jacob, Rachel, and Leah—frequently married, though a simultaneous marriage with two sisters was specifically forbidden (Lev 18:18). The union between an aunt and her nephew produced Moses (Exod 6:20; Num 26:59), though a marriage between such relatives was subsequently forbidden by the Mosaic Law.

In the ancient world the primary purpose of marriage was procreation rather than companionship, and, as a result, large numbers of offspring were regarded as an asset. But an important secondary objective of marriage was the maintaining or increasing of family property, and in royal circles many marriages constituted the seal to what in fact were really political alliances. From the time of the patriarchs, wealthy and powerful people were able to indulge in polygamy, but because of the bride-price there were comparatively few men who could afford more than two wives. One way of circumventing this problem, however, was for a man to have several concubines, and this custom seems to have had quasi-legal sanction in cases where the legitimate wife was barren. Thus the childless Sarah provided her handmaid Hagar for her husband Abraham (Gen 16:3), as a woman in these circumstances would also have been required to do under the law code of Hammurabi (146). Jacob, already married to the two sisters Rachel and Leah, was also provided with the maid of each of his wives (Gen 30:3-9), while his brother Esau had three wives (26:34; 28:9; 36:1-5).

Quite clearly - there's a lot in the Old Testament meaning of marriage that's considered inappropriate today.

So - finally what are we to do about this marriage issue?

From Romans 12:1-2 -

Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

And from Matthew 22:21 -

“Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.”

Do not conform to the ways of the world.

And don't mix what belongs to the world with what belongs to God.

Juice is a word - and there are many kinds of juices. If we want a particular one - we have to ask for it.

Marriage is a word. In the world today - as it has been all along - there are many kinds of marriages, with many different meaning and implications. If we want a particular kind - we have to specify it.

Maybe the problem isn't so much that we need to define marriage to be the way we want it to be - regardless of who "we" is.

For us as Christians - that kind of argument has already been lost - if indeed it had ever been "won". The word marriage has seldom - if ever - been exclusively used to define what the Bible would consider a Christian marriage.

Maybe what we need is what juice already has: an adjective - which is defined by dictionary.com as -

a word whose main syntactic role is to modify a noun or pronoun, giving more information about the noun or pronoun's referent.

We can't define words for Caesar - and we aren't called to do that.

Maybe all we need to do is what we're actually called to do - be a Light unto the world - stop fighting the world - use an appropriate adjective - and use our Christian marriages to be a light to the rest of the world as to what "our" Christian marriages are really about - and give credit where it's due - to God. Period - end of story.