The Rev. Dr. Jay E. Johnson -- Episcopal priest and theologian -- reflects on Biblical Values for American Families:
...It is important to recognize, for example, that the most common marriage pattern in the Bible is polygamy; it is not a union of one man and one woman. Even in the New Testament, married life as we understand it is not presented as the model. The most prominent models of Christian life in the New Testament, Jesus and Saint Paul, were not married, and neither had children. Paul explicitly ranked being married below being single. And when Jesus was asked about his own family, his reply was radical: “Whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother” (Matthew 12:48-50).
On this basis, the early church developed a model of family that broke totally with ancient kinship patterns, monogamous or polygamous. The family in the New Testament is religious and nonbiological; more than anything else, it is like what we might think of as the “church family.”
The Bible does not provide us with concrete examples that we can directly apply to marriage and family as we understand these relationships today. In fact, the examples of what some might refer to as “biblical family values” are deeply disturbing......Religious opposition to marriage rights for same-sex couples frequently turns to the Bible for support. For example, one denomination has based its opposition to marriage equality on “the biblical teaching that God designed marriage as a lifetime union of one man and one woman.”
But, as we have seen, this claim hardly reflects what the Bible actually says or the ancient cultures in which the Bible was written. The structures of biblical families are rooted in cultural practices far removed from the values of Christians today......Societal definitions of marriage and family have changed, and will continue to change, over the course of history.
What the Bible presents as the abiding standard is not based on biology or specific forms of legal contract, but on the quality of love that is shared. That is why many Christians today believe that if same-sex relationships exhibit such spiritual values, they deserve the protection and recognition that marriage represents in our society.
If we have any intention of preserving marriage and building strong families, we must base our support on neither ancient practices nor those of secular modernity; instead, our basis must be values that are unchangeable—faith, hope, and love. These are the biblical standards for Christian marriage and Christian families today.