“C” is for Consent
Whenever I’m asked to officiate a wedding, I feel responsible to accomplish two things:
- To share God’s perspective as revealed in the Bible about how the gift of marriage is intended to bless each prospective spouse, their relationship, and the wider world.
- To highlight how the expectations around close, intimate relationships in modern American culture diverge significantly from Christian values. I’ve settled on an approach that uses three “C” words to do this: Consent – Contract – and Covenant. I’ll be taking on one of these words per week for the next three weeks.
Consent is a term that has become that most common moral touchstone for our young people when considering their relationships. While “consent” applies to friendships and working relationships, it is most commonly applied to romantic and sexual relationships. Any quick internet search will yield a short definition like the following from Savisyouth.org* :
Consent is an absolutely necessary part of a healthy relationship. Consent in a dating relationship is when partners mutually agree to sexual activity. This can include hugging, kissing, touching, or sex. Both partners must be consenting.
It’s true that consent is absolutely necessary for every relationship amongst equals. As Christians, the belief that we are all image-bearers-of-God ought to be more than enough to keep us from steamrolling one another! However, in this fallen world, in the absence of consent, even peer relationships can easily devolve into one person dominating, controlling, or even abusing another. So Christians can and should heartily affirm that, indeed, consent is an important and necessary foundation for all relationships amongst equals.
While consent is part of the ground floor for any decent relationship, our culture now implies that consent is enough, the highest bar one needs to clear, to ensure a healthy relationship.
I strongly disagree with this increasingly popular vision of consent.
Consent is basic, but it is not ennobling. Consent is necessary but not sufficient.
Necessary but not sufficient to produce healthy relationships at work, at home, and with friends. We need a higher vision of what a relationship can be.
Though we are infinitely far from equals, God honors our consent in responding to his grace. This remains a huge divine mystery to me. While God could force us to trust and obey, the Lord desires our acknowledgment, affection, and love to such an extent that God has been willing to patiently abide millennia of human sin and misery so that we might use our frail-but-free wills to gratefully respond to his love for us in Jesus. I hope that you will use yours this very weekend to wholeheartedly worship God wherever you might be.
Grace and Peace to you,
* I share this as a typical example, not as a recommendation