May 20, 2007

Bruce Hiebert - “The Politics of Christian Marriage”

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Bruce Hiebert [of Langley Mennonite Fellowship and no relation to the webmaster] spoke on The Politics of Christian Marriage. About 20 years ago, John Howard Yoder challenged Christians to examine current thinking and assumptions about marriage, and to compare that thinking with what scripture actually says. Although this exercise may not lead us to change our thinking, it is an exercise well worth undertaking. Though Bruce most definitely did not advocate bigamy, he reminded us that Paul specifies that only bishops are not allowed to have multiple wives. On the other hand, there were several indications that the early church was changing its thinking on marriage, quite possibly moving towards only the ideal of monogamy. For instance, one direct quotation Jesus made from Genesis has urged the historic church to permit only monogamy (as did Roman law; this remains a dilemma for some new Christians in Africa). Essentially, scripture seems to insist that one is 'married' to anyone with whom you have had sex, and that you bear this special responsibility for the rest of your life. In other words, we are to take all our relationships seriously, for life, and not in the more casual manner of today's society. There are a few passages in the New Testament which unambiguously advocate that remaining single and practicing chastity are the very highest ideals imaginable (does today's church ever preach singleness as the highest ideal, as taught by Paul?). Bruce put all of this into context nicely by reminding us that our primary relationship is with God, our secondary relationships are with our neighbors, and that each of us is called to a life of discipleship. Within this framework, those Christians who marry are to take their responsibilities seriously at every turn, for their partners becomes their closest neighbors and couples are both expected to serve God as disciples. The way in which marriages do or do not work directly affects the emotional and spiritual health of the entire fellowship. Bruce therefore portrayed Christian husbands and wives as walking the road of life together, encouraged by God, with Christ at their side, and ideally enjoying the support of other believers. Bruce challenged us to build the kind of fellowships which engender honesty, even about marriages and relationships, for both congregations and families are a microcosm of the Kingdom. [JEK]


Communion: No
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Speaker: Bruce Hiebert
Worship Leader: Andre Pekovich
Song Leader: Rosie Perera
Pianist: J Evan Kreider
Usher: Henry Neufeld
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