Jacob raises an important question in his comments about “What is a Marriage?” His asks what is the appropriate role of the state, if any, in determining what makes a marriage binding. He is asking, in effect, do Christians need the state to validate marriage? His unedited comments are posted below. This is the sort of question for which Christians, particularly Christian parents, must have clear, direct answers. Thanks to Jacob for asking this probing question. What is the biblical answer? How would you answer this question for your children? Give it some thought. I will post my response tomorrow.
“This issue has been bothering me for some time now. I think I should say from the start, so as not to make the wrong impression, that Gods design for marriage is between a man and a woman for life. Period. What I haven’t been able to wrap my mind around is how “A man shall leave his father and mother and cleave unto his wife” has been accepted in christain circles as meaning a legal union recognized by the state, stamped on paper, with all the benefits that the government can throw at you for being married. If a christain man were to go and find a christain woman and commit himself to her and take her as his wife,how has he gone against scripture? The church would be quick to call them sinners and out of line with scripture, but please explain to me how they would be? At what point are we confusing tradition with doctrine? Yes, a legal ceremony with witnesses has a certain bindingness to it that cannot be dissolved by jumping in the car and saying “see ya”, but do we need the state to help us to be obedient to God and faithful to our wives (or husbands). While I want to teach my children the sacredness and importance of marriage within Gods design, I wont give them what scripture does not contain. Once this is done then you can throw the authority of scripture in the trash. I hope I am not comming across as critical of your post but this has been eating at my brain for quite some time and your post just seemed like a good time to ask these questions to someone who is most likely more educated in scripture than myself.
I guess another point I was trying to make in the last comment was that for marriage to truly be in line with Gods design it would take a man and woman who actually know what that plan is. Non christains do not get married because they believe the bible says they should. They do it for traditional, legal and perhaps financial reasons. Only non-believers believe the state has the power to license someone to be married like its a dumbstruck or something. As a christain husband I know why I hold fast to my wife and will not leave her no matter the circumstances and it is certainly not because there is a piece of paper with the seal of the Commonwealth of Virginia on it saying I am married to her. It is because I have been commanded to love her by the very one who breathed breath into clay and made me alive and marked me out as His own. The state has the power to re-define marriage because marriage according to the state is not marriage according to the Bible. I could take a 2×4 and nail it to the side of my house and call it marriage, but that would be just stupid. Why do we allow the descisions of a secular state to have so much gravity? We know what is right and true. Let the dead bury their dead and give their sons in marriage.”
One thought on “Marriage – Why is it Binding?”
My personal wrestling with this topic came about when a friend who is a pastor of a small, new church plant, told me of a couple in his church who had been together for many years, but never had obtained a marriage license, and how would I deal with that. My wonderful, insightful answer was, “Man, I have no idea!”
For me, the converse of the dilemma is more helpful: If American laws forbid Christians to marry, then how would the Church handle that situation? I doubt that all Christian men would cease leaving their mothers and fathers to cleave to their bride! But, how would the Church recognize marriages? There has to be some way to differentiate marriage and sinful co-habitation.
I like the thought process, and look forward to the answer. Off the cuff, I would think some type of ceremony (with 2-3 witnesses) would be the appropriate biblical requirement, especially so those in the local church can identify the couple.