In all the debates of the moment there is a lot of talk about 'rights'. Everybody seemingly has 'rights' because life, most people who don't know God think, is all about me and what I want and what I deserve and how the other people don't understand what I should have and need and why I must have it. I have a 'right' to a relationship and a right to have children and right to this and a right to that. Having rights can end up in a right mess sometimes as this headline shows- Gay man who fathered child wins right to more access. These are real people with real and deep pain of course and consequences from both their decisions and actions- most importantly for their child. That is why 'consultation' really does need to mean exactly that as we make decisions that will have profound consequence for marriage, children and for family life in this land. Marriage is very imperfect, as the divorce statistics show, but changing its definition is something we must not enter into lightly or without some very deep discussion and reflection.
C S Lewis has something to contribute on all this in Mere Christianity:
"Before leaving the question of divorce, I should like to distinguish two things which are very often confused. The Christian conception of marriage is one : the other is the quite different question -- how far Christians, if they are voters or Members of Parliament, ought to try to force their views of marriage on the rest of the community by embodying them in the divorce laws. A great many people seem to think that if you are a Christian yourself you should try to make divorce difficult for every one. I do not think that. At least I know I should be very angry if the Mohammedans tried to prevent the rest of us from drinking wine. My own view is that the Churches should frankly recognise that the majority of the British people are not Christians and, therefore, cannot be expected to live Christian lives. There ought to be two distinct kinds of marriage : one governed by the State with rules enforced on all citizens, the other governed by the Church with rules enforced by her on her own members. The distinction ought to be quite sharp, so that a man knows which couples are married in a Christian sense and which are not.
(via John Richardson)
All of us would do well also to meditate on Mark 12:24.
Reading Knowing God a few years ago taught me so many things and one of them was that before a holy and just God we don't use the language of rights. As a follower of Jesus my ways are not the world's ways as they once were. The word that we need to use is a different one and it is one that puts his will, Lordship, law and glory before my long list of all the things I think he should do for me or for other people. You see what I or the government think something is or should be is not that important- ultimately what will really matter is what God thinks. The word each of us at some point will all have to face is the word 'surrender' and the sooner we do it the better.
So far, it's Chapter Ten in 'The purpose-graced life' that has had most impact on my heart and mind and it is one that speaks to this. Warren writes,
"Surrender is not the best way to live, it is the only way to live. Nothing else works. All other approaches lead to frustration, disappointment, and self-destruction. The King James version calls surrender 'your reasonable service'. .......Sometimes it takes years, but eventually you discover that the greatest hindrance to God's blessing in your life is not others, it is yourself- your self-will, stubborn pride, and personal ambition. You cannot fulfil God's purposes for your life while focussing on your own plans" [Page 82]
Mark Melluish Vicar of St Paul's Ealing and who heads up New Wine came to speak at our church and I urge you to listen to his talk (26.2.12) particularly if you have children as you will discover. It is a testimony and is incredibly moving and one of the most powerful I have ever heard on the issue of surrender and faith.