“And he answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female, And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh?”
(Matthew 19:4 – 5)
I noticed at a time in the recent past that every time I visited a news website, almost every website was broadcasting an “impending” wedding of two people, Meghan and Harry. Having seen these for a number of weeks, I decided to find out what these guys were all about. I discovered that one was a prince and the other an actress. Any spiced up story naturally irritates me so it was natural for me to feel irritated by the over spiced up story. They tried to make it incredible story by forcing the name of Meghan (who was already a popular celebrity) into obscurity so that it’ll sound like a spectacular story of how a nobody met a prince and became a duchess. WOW! But a day or so before the wedding I understood that Meghan was a divorcee whose former husband was still living and the prince was a man with his own past too.
Seeing that they were wedded by the church (their “church”) contrary to Biblical beliefs, I saw this as a clear attack on the institutions of Christian marriage. After the marriage, people everywhere started posting lessons from the marriage and one of them was that there’s nothing wrong with divorce and even remarriage. Their wedding affected the worldview of people in a very negative way. And seeing they were in the church, it has devastating effect on the doctrine of marriage. I saw this as a huge blow. The sermon on the wedding preached from the “Gospel According to Hollywood” was also pointing the fact that the Bible was was quite undermined.
For this reason I wish to write on the institution of Christian marriage to remind of God’s standard for marriage. Not only do we see such undermining of scriptures in Meghan and Harry, we see it wide spread. It is only that their wedding brought it more to bare. I don’t have a problem with Meghan and Harry. They could do whatever they want. They could even divorce and remarry again if they wish, but the church must not be reduced to a mere ceremonial institution.
Marriage In The Perspective of God and Man
“Jesus saith unto her, Go, call thy husband, and come hither. The woman answered and said, I have no husband. Jesus said unto her, Thou hast well said, I have no husband: For thou hast had five husbands; and he whom thou now hast is not thy husband: in that saidst thou truly.”
(John 4:16 – 18)
The things I’m going saying here would be quite hard for many to accept but it is not because it is hard, but because of the amount of compromise and moral failures prevalent today. We have to understand marriage in the sight of God and marriage in the sight of man. Having marriage acceptable in both perspectives is very important to the institution of Christian marriage.
First I’ll look at marriage in the sight of God. From the conversation between Jesus and the Samaritan woman, we can understand a lot about how God sees marriage. Jesus said to an unmarried woman, “Go, call thy husband…” Why? Because it is not the ceremony that makes marriage in the sight of God. This woman probably had never married in a ceremonious way, but was probably involved in illicit sexual activities with various men. So she denied it that she had no husband. But Jesus went on to say, “thou hast had five husbands.” So from here, we see that it is sexual intercourse that makes people married in the sight of God. This understanding is very key to other issues I’ll talk about in this article.
Now, marriage in the sight of men is the ceremony. Ceremony by which two people with the knowledge of their parents show that they are agreed to be wedded and start a home. While sexual intercourse is what institute marriage in the sight of God, ceremony is what institutes marriage before men.
The Bible says our actions should be void of offence before God and man, for this reason, we can’t neglect any of these two perspective in our definition of marriage. We can’t see marriage as just a ceremony and ignore the sexual intercourse (with or without ceremony), and people can’t just go ahead to live together without a ceremony acceptable before men. The most important is what constitute marriage before God, but also very important is what constitute it before man.
So I believe these are the things that constitute Christian marriage.
Divorce & Remarriage
“Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.”
Now I shall speak about the conditions and rules we see in scriptures regarding divorce. But I must first point out that God hates divorce. First, no body likes to do something and have another person undo it without their consent. No body wants to build and another bulldoze it. In Matthew 19:5-6, Jesus makes us understand that the joining of two people into one is the doing of God. So to divorce is to undo God’s work. For this reason Christ admonishes, “What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.” Malachi 2:16 also says, “For the LORD, the God of Israel, saith that he hateth putting away…” So anyone who divorces or behaves in a way that results in divorce does that which God hates. So no Christian can naturally do that which God hates. For this reason, I don’t also believe that divorce is an option for Christian marriages.
Not only that God hates it, I don’t see any reason why people who said “I do” should change their mind to say “I don’t.” It means they probably said “I do” under duress. If it was not under duress, then they must have been blind, foolish, or mad at the moment they said “I do.” In such a case we ought to feel very sorry for the people who went to rejoice with two blind, foolish or mad people saying “I do.”
However, lest people be bound unto that which is hurtful and unprofitable for their spiritual and physical well being, there are conditions we see in scriptures that guides the process of divorce. It is important to know that instructions we find in the Bible about marriage to Christians are prohibitory, but instructions of permission about divorce are for new converts to the faith whose spouse may not look favourably on their conversion. Even for new converts it is still forbidden, or highly discouraged if it lies in their power to remain married to their unconverted spouse, but in a case where the unconverted does not wish to continue with the converted person, there is permission. I shall share what rules we have about such divorces briefly here.
Jesus said, “But I say unto you, That whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery.” (Matthew 5:32). He also says almost exactly the same thing when he said, “And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery.” (Matthew 19:9). There’s a prevalent error that is common today in which people say it is wrong for a man to put away his wife and remarry for any reason. Even if she’s unfaithful to him. However, I think this passage is quite clear on the matter. There’s no occasion whatsoever for which a man should put away his wife and marry another EXCEPT for fornication. Note that in the first verse he uses the word, “saving for the cause of fornication.” So we see that there’s no amount of unpleasantness that one experiences in his matrimonial home that can justify divorce and remarriage. Even if she’s barren, hot tempered, or whatever. These are not enough to justify putting away of the wife and marrying another. If such should happen, the person is guilty of adultery. But this does not apply in the case of fornication.
Now we must be careful here in applying this rule to women. When he said “except” or “saving for…” he was referring to a man putting away his wife and not a woman putting away her husband. When referring to the woman, he says, “…whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery.” There’s no use of the word “except” here. So whatever the reason be for which she was separated, anyone who marries such commits adultery. While we may allude that the exceptional case applies to women also, I am not sure this is the case, for I believe the omission was not done in error. Apart from this, it is not an error not to have said, “whosoever marries a divorced man commits adultery.” So I’m sure there’s a difference in the rules guiding men and women.
Now the command pertaining women and divorce reads thus, “And unto the married I command, yet not I, but the Lord, Let not the wife depart from her husband: But and if she depart, let her remain unmarried or be reconciled to her husband…” (1 Corinthians 7:10 – 11). This is the commandment of the Lord. If she depart from her husband, let her remain unmarried or else she should go back to her husband. To remarry another while her husband is alive is adultery.
We are sure to arrive at error if we are going to approach this issue with the delusion of gender equality. From what I see in scriptures on the matters of divorce is that the rule for men and women do vary slightly.
But you see this rule applies to people who were blind, foolish, or mad at the moment they said, “I do.” In other cases it applies to those who prior to their conversion were married to people who would not have a favourable disposition to their well being after their conversion. But God hates it so must we and avoid it at all cost.
So this goes to tell us that marriage must be entered into with utmost caution. Before you say, “I do,” ensure you really do.
Handling Pre-Ceremonial Marriage
“And if a man entice a maid that is not betrothed, and lie with her, he shall surely endow her to be his wife.”
Now I’ll talk about Pre-ceremonial marriages. By this I refer to sexual intercourse without wedding ceremony. To understand how to handle this case, we must put in mind that sexual intercourse is what joins people together in the sight of God. So when such happens, it must be treated as a marriage.
When I was young, we read a book called “Global Tales” in school. It had many interesting stories but not the adventure and suspense type. It just had stories of interesting happenings round the world. One of the stories had in it an incident that occurred in a church long time ago. There were these people who were supposed to present a drama, and in the drama a guy was supposed to kiss a girl, so when it got to the part where he was to kiss the girl, he went ahead and kissed her. Having done that the church looking into it forced him to marry the girl. They said he kissed her longer than what was justifiable for a drama and that there was passion in the kiss. I found that to be so funny. The guy came to present a drama not knowing he’d be going home with a wife he never bargained for.
At one point I saw the whole thing as a setup and the verdict of the church to be a bit crazy, but when I looked at it in the light of scriptures, I realised that, while I’m not able to conclude on whether it was a setup, their judgment was sound.
Now, what point am I making? If a man being a youth sleeps with a girl, he should not put her away. They must get married. That is what we can see in Exodus 22:16. We may say this is the Old Testament, but seeing that such people are married already in the sight of God as we can understand in Jesus’ conversation with the Samaritan woman, it would be adultery to put her away and marry another (whether ceremonially or not). The church should never endorse such a marriage and should never wed such people. If they feel sorry for their deed, they should show the good work of repentance by cleaving to each other. If they are not financially buoyant to start a home, the church should assist them financially and with counsels on how to maintain the home they’ve started in an awkward way. The church should not deny such people assistance seeing they’re repentant, but should treat them as their poor and render them assistance in any possible way.
For this reason, any body that marries a woman not a virgin commits adultery. I am quite aware of stories about how a man who loves a woman who had been promiscuous and decides to ignore her past on account of the “love” he has for her. I know the sentiments people attach to such crappy stories, but let me make something clear, such people may be separated, but it is one and the same thing with marrying a man’s wife. That is adultery. As said above, if anybody finds himself or herself overtaken by such moral failures and are repentant, they should return to their partner and work things out and get married ceremonially.
It seems like a hard judgment, but parents have the responsibility to ensure that they raise their kids to live lives void fornication to avoid this confusion. It is not a hard judgment if people lived and behaved properly. If a society has stringent laws against thieves, it is only the thieves or people that expect to steal that’ll complain. So also, if this judgment is put forward as a standard, it is only fornicators and people that expect to fornicate that’ll complain. So the church must choose. Do we listen to Christ and his word, or do we override his word by the desires of fornicators?
This is my take on marriage. We must do all it takes that encourages people to live in chastity and holy matrimony for this is God’s will. We must also do all we can by justifiable means to discourage infidelity of any kind. May God give us grace and wisdom to pursue his will in this matter and in everything else in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Prayer: O Lord God Almighty, Institutor of marriage, we beseech you this and every day to guide us into proper understanding about this institution of marriage. It very easily can get confusing and jumbled up. Please guide the steps of our young ones away from the confusion of in-chastity and keep our older ones from the hurts of infidelity. May we live holily and pleasantly in love. This I ask in Jesus’ name. Amen.