A few thoughts on the proposals for allowing same-sex marriage.

It seems to me that the Christian view on marriage can easily be lost in the discussion. This view was expressed by Jesus when he said, "What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate" (Mt. 19:6; Mk 10:9, ESV). Note that it says "God", not "the state".

What does this mean? It means that when a couple make their vows to each other, something else is happening. God is involved. God is joining them together. God causes the two to become one.

It means that the state needn't be involved at all. Nowhere in the Scriptures do we read of the state marrying people. (Nor of the church marrying people, in fact.) So, while it is immensely helpful if everyone knows who is married to whom, and therefore for the state to keep records of marriages, the state does not itself join people together in marriage. God joins them together.

But what if the state's definition of marriage is different to God's definition of marriage?

It certainly makes things a bit confusing. Some people might think they are married, when in fact they are not (because God has not joined them together). Or, conversely, some people might think they are no longer married to each other when in fact they are (because God had joined them together, and that hasn't been revoked).

The latter was the case in Jesus' day. The society had introduced "any cause" divorce (Mt. 19:3), where a marriage could be annulled for "any cause", not only for adultery (or other extreme breaches of the marriage covenant). But this wasn't the definition God was using. So what happened if a man divorced his wife (for "any cause") and then married someone else? In God's eyes, he was still married to his first wife, so in taking another wife he was committing adultery against his first wife. So Jesus said, "[W]hoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery" (Mt. 19:9, ESV).

So how should Christians respond to the proposals for same-sex marriage?

For a start, we shouldn't panic. If the state's definition of marriage is wrong, that's not the end of the world. God will still join people together, using his own definition.

But if the state tries to overreach itself, then there could be cause for concern.

For example, if the state thinks its role is to define words, so that it would be illegal to use the word "marriage" with the "wrong" meaning, then that would be very worrying (not least for poor Humpty).

Or if the state thinks its role is actually to educate children (rather than simply to ensure that children have access to a good education), and if part of that state education is to indoctrinate children into a particular view of marriage, then that too would be very worrying.

But in terms of the definition the state uses when it writes a list of who is married to whom, I personally don't see that as too big a deal in itself.