I find it odd that the same people who demand a separation of church and state also demand that the church function as state agents. As a church elder a few years ago, I recognized the danger that is found in the church serving as an agent of the state in any capacity. The context at that time was gay mirage, but the same concepts can be used in the enforcement of any and all COVID mandates that are passed along. I began to think through some of the ways that the state tries to get involved in church matters and came up with an idea. The principals are actually quite simple, though I was unable to convince any of the other elders to my way of thinking. Here are the logical steps, focused on marriage. This can also be altered to fit other contexts as well.
- Jesus is the Lord of the Church. The state can handle state matters, but they ought to leave church matters to Jesus. For a church to obey man rather than God is to do the opposite of what the apostles did when they were commanded to stop teaching in the name of Jesus. Render unto Caesar and so on.
- Loving both God and neighbor is what we are called to do. Defining what love looks like is not a role given to the state, but to the church. Jesus defined this love, and used the Law of God in His explanation. This love is further shown in the examples given throughout the epistles. The love is very different than what many in our culture would expect. Does that mean that the Bible is now outdated or that the people need to be transformed? You can only choose one.
- God owns marriage. God created marriage prior to the fall because it is universally good that one man and one woman should come together and become one flesh. God allows for no other marital structure than this. Yes there was polgamy in the Bible. This alternate structure is never suggested by God and I can’t think of a time when this didn’t lead to problems.
- Marriage was given to all of humanity, not just to the people of God. Within the people of God, we are to have boundaries of who a Christian should and should not marry in regards to the spiritual placement of both of the spouses. Outside the people of God, marriage is still defined as one man and one woman coming together for life. See point #3 if that doesn’t make sense.
- Churches, cake bakers, florists and others have been persecuted when the owners refused to be participants in any wedding that disrespected the nature of marriage as defined by the creator of marriage. The Gaystapo does not stop when they identify a target. They are totalitarians and will continue to fight until their target submits or is ruined.
- Totalitarians worship the state, not God. Ultimately, this funnels into a worship of the self. Because they know that they cannot acheive the approval of a God-honoring church, they seek the approval of the state, then use the state to attack the church. Their hope is in the ruination of everything that makes the church special. So when the church submits to the state in any inappropriate way, the church is making an undue public statement of authority.
- Staying with the main point of this post, I believe that it is God honoring for a pastor to inform the government that he will no longer be signing any more state wedding documents. He will also need to address this with the bride and groom beforehand. In the eyes of the church and in the eyes of God they will be fully married with every benefit that comes with that status. The state will not recognize the marriage though, so the couple will likely need to make a trip to a courthouse for that step in the process.
- Any couple who announces that their wedding was originally performed by a justice of the peace will be welcomed and their marriage is to be honored every bit as much as one that occurred in the church. If they wish to renew their vows in the church, that is fine as well, but not required. Personally, I would suggest they marry in the church, then stop by the courthouse on their way to the reception. Or maybe wait until they get back from the honeymoon. God has priority in a Christian marriage, so don’t sweat the small stuff.
I realize this may add a little inconvenience for the couple. I understand this is not the way we have done things in the recent past. Convenience is not the point of all of this though. Separating the functions of church and state is. Protecting the church from the state is. Honoring God and not the state is. This strategy will not end the attacks on the church. The church will be facing attacks for the foreseeable future. But this is one way that the church can stop inviting these attacks. It also serves as a great way for the people of the church to start exercising their mental muscles as they think through the risks that we have accepted in the name of convenience.