On the topic of Marriage

The issue of marriage, divorce, and re-marriage are of great urgency. Especially when we consider that a great portion of the global population resides in communities where legal and ethical boundaries are not very clearly defined. It is, therefore, pretty challenging to give sound Christian advice when it comes to important issues such as interpersonal relationship management and the like.

Having served in less developed places in Malaysia for quite some time, I’ve come across issues that are hardly mentioned in globalised cities like that of Singapore. For example, it is common for pre-marital sex from as young as primary school. It is common to be considered “married” without having the need to go through the legal procedures to register the marriage. Polygamy is a norm when it comes to families of special status or gangs. No, I’m not referring to Muslim marriages (though I’ve heard of issues arising from polygamy as well). Rather, I’m referring to Christian families who have also fallen victim to issues like polygamy, child abuse, domestic violence, and the like.

So, I think it is only appropriate to come up with a list of advice about marriage. These pieces of advice are derived from my quiet time as I thought through the issues that arise from the lack of education or from cultural values that might be at odds with Biblical teachings. All of these suggestions do not come directly from the Bible, but are inferred from my reading of the Bible and Christian articles. It is my prayer that these will be able to help someone who is struggling in their broken family relationships, leading them to a ministry of reconciliation with the people around them.

You are only considered married if you:

  • Solemnised your wedding before a congregation, testifying that the vow with your spouse (of the opposite gender) can only be broken by death.
  • Registered your marriage in accordance with the law should it requires of you. [1]

You should not be considered married if you:

  • Did not say a vow with your “spouse” before a conscious crowd.
  • Did now vow before the Lord [2].
  • Did not legally register when the law dictates that you should [1].

You can only leave your spouse if:

  • Your spouse committed adultery [3].
  • Your spouse is an unbeliever and he/she chooses to leave [4].
  • Your spouse passed away.

You should not leave your spouse if:

  • They are willing to live with you (even if he/she is an unbeliever). [5]

If you were married (said a vow and/or legally registered your marriage) and left your spouse:

  • You must not remarry.
  • You need to aim to reconcile with your spouse. [6].

Can you marry someone who has a child / is not a virgin?

  • Yes. Pre-marital sex, like any sin, will be forgiven by the Lord. If Jesus forgives someone for committing pre-marital sex, why shouldn’t we forgive them too and accept the child if they have them?

Are cross-cultural marriages permitted?

  • Yes. So long as they’re in the Lord. [7]

Is polygamy / open relationships permitted?

  • No. Each man should have sexual relations with his own wife and each woman with her own husband. [8]

What if my parents forced me to marry someone who is not a believer and someone whom I can’t see myself serving the Lord together?

  • Seeking the will of the Lord takes precedence over parents’ authority when the parents proved unfit of making Kingdom judgements. [1] You have the right not to marry someone who is not a believer / someone whom you can’t see yourself serving the Lord with.

Will I be considered unfit for ministry if I date someone who is not a virgin? Will my ministry be considered unacceptable?

  • No. If you know with firmness that Christ has forgiven his/her sins. Why is dating someone who has a child / is not a virgin, be unacceptable? In a fallen world like ours, everyone is a sinner. If you cannot accept a fellow Christian who accepts a flaw in their chosen partner, what makes you think God can accept the Church with all her transgressions?
  • Who are you to say that someone’s ministry is unacceptable? All ministries — if its sole purpose is to lead people to the Lord — comes from God. By denouncing someone’s ministry, you’re denouncing the work of the Holy Spirit [9].

Must I marry the person who raped me?

  • No. Rape is non-consensual sex. You are not obliged to marry him. No vow was mentioned and no register was signed. Sex does not equate marriage. Seek, however, to forgive him for he knows not what he did (Luke 23:34). They do not know the harm that they’ve inflicted. They do not know the damage they’ve caused. But know for certain that God forgave him if he truly sought repentance. Also, know with full certainty that God will heal all wounds; God will also cleanse areas of the bodies that might be dirtied by the act. You are a new person in the Lord. And you’ll forever be God’s beloved child.

Footnotes:

[1] — https://www.desiringgod.org/interviews/must-i-wait-for-my-parents-to-approve-of-my-future-spouse
[2] — It is because the Lord is the witness between you and the wife of your youth. You have been unfaithful to her, though she is your partner, the wife of your marriage covenant. (Malachi 2:14, NIV)
[3] — But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, makes her the victim of adultery, and anyone who marries a divorced woman commits adultery. (Matthew 5:32, NIV)
[4] — But if the unbeliever leaves, let it be so. The brother or the sister is not bound in such circumstances; God has called us to live in peace. (1 Corinthians 7:15, NIV)
[5] — If any brother has a wife who is not a believer and she is willing to live with him, he must not divorce her. And if a woman has a husband who is not a believer and he is willing to live with her, she must not divorce him. (1 Corinthians 7:12-13, NIV)
[6] — But if she does, she must remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband. And a husband must not divorce his wife. (1 Corinthians 7:11, NIV)
[7] — Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. (2 Corinthians 6:14, NIV).
[8] — But since sexual immorality is occurring, each man should have sexual relations with his own wife, and each woman with her own husband. (1 Corinthians 7:2, NIV)
[9] — Therefore I want you to know that no one who is speaking by the Spirit of God says, “Jesus be cursed,” and no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit. (1 Corinthians 12:3, NIV).

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