Should Pastors marry Couples Living Together? The Bible is quiet about this specific topic, so it rests back on the Ministers Understanding and personal convictions on how he should proceed with the couple that has come to understand God’s design for Marriage
Should Pastors marry Couples Living Together / The Origin and Meaning of Marriage.
Biblically marriage is a formal and sacred union between two individuals especially a man and a woman. Marriage is also known as wedlock or matrimony. In the book of Genesis, we see God officiating the first marriage and therefore becoming the founder of this institution.
And the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall on Adam, and he slept, and He took one of his ribs and closed up the flesh in its place.
Then the rib which the Lord God had taken from man He made into a woman, and He brought her to the man. And Adam said: “This is now bone of my bones And flesh of my flesh; She shall be called Woman Because she was taken out of Man.”
Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. ( Genesis 2:21-24).
From the last statement of the above scripture that says and they shall become one flesh, shows that marriage is not only a physical union but also spiritual.
Marriage Jesus/ His Bride
That is to why marriage in Christianity has been likened to the union between Jesus Christ and those who have believed and the church.
For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body. Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, ( Ephesians 5:23-25).
Ingredients of Christian marriage.
It involves a man and a woman.
From the model of the first marriage that took place in the Garden of Eden, marriage should take place between a man and a woman.
Any union that is not involving the two cannot be regarded as a marriage according to Christianity.
The two should present themselves holy before getting married.
Keeping oneself holy from sexual immorality was considered very important during the dispensation of the law of Moses. Anyone who could be found to have broken the law of keeping themselves pure before marriage had to be put to death.
This means if a lady entered marriage and it is found out that she was not a virgin, she had to be stoned to death.
. “But if the thing is true, and evidence of virginity are not found for the young woman, then they shall bring out the young woman to the door of her father’s house, and the men of her city shall stone her to death with stones, because she has done a disgraceful thing in Israel, to play the harlot in her father’s house. So you shall put away the evil from among you. Deuteronomy 22:20-21).
Jesus Christ teaches us how important purity is before marriage when He gives us an example of how He is faithful to make sure that He cleanses His bride which is the church with His word such that when Christ comes back He finds His bride spotless without any wrinkle.
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish. ( Ephesians 5:25-27).
The two examples from the Old and the New Testament shows how God values purity before marriage.
Married / Living Together / Cohabitating Couples.
There are two ways in which couples can decide to come together to form a family. They are those who would choose to come together in marriage. While others may opt to start living together as a family without formally getting married. This second type of union is what is referred to as cohabitating couples.
4 Reasons as to why some Couples May Decide to Cohabitate are:
Fear of commitment:
Conducting a marriage means the two are ready to commit their time, energy, and resources in settling for the marriage. Couples who just came together and started living without legalizing their union will find it easy to separate as they didn’t invest in the marriage in the first place and so they will find it easy to separate without involving anyone.
Fear of the divorce process
The entire process of filing a divorce is much involving, it brings a social and emotional effect to the couples, now some of those opting to cohabitate are the ones who have this fear. They opt to be in a commitment that they can easily break up in case of disagreement.
Lack of funds to formalize a marriage
While this might not be a strong reason for couples not to marry as legalizing a marriage is not that expensive. It can be done even without a ceremony that may need funds. The most important part of the marriage is not how big the ceremony was but the union of the two.
Government Subsidies and Taxes
Sometime Tax discounts and Government are given with rules and specifications that encourage couple from becoming married because it would be a loss of income.
But after a while, these cohabitating couples after living together may decide to marry each other. The big question here is that should the pastor conduct such a marriage?
Are pastors Required to Officiate the Marriage of Cohabitating couples?
This is one of the toughest questions among the religious groups. A poll was carried out among Protestant pastors whether they would wed cohabitating couples and the results were as follows; around 60% of the pastors agreed that they would officiate the marriage while around 30% said that they would not. 10% of the pastors were undecided on the matter.
Christian Pastor Poll
What does the Bible Really Say about such a Marriage?.
But if marriage is defined as the process of uniting individuals who have kept themselves pure and only are brought together during marriage therefore in the case of cohabitating couples this principle doesn’t apply. This is because in such a union the two had already lived together and even in many instances have children.
Sexual Purity is Good
A good example of couples in the Bible that viewed marriage as a pure union is Joseph and Mary the earthly parents of Jesus Christ. Mary had kept herself pure while she was engaged to Joseph, they were never involved in sexual activities till they got married.
Joseph was very upset when he realized that his fiancée Mary was expecting a child before they were officially married. This issue really disturbed Joseph. He knew that it was wrong for them to proceed with their plans of getting married when Mary seemed to have broken their vow of remaining pure before getting married. Joseph had decided to put Mary away secretly had not the angel of the Lord intervened.
Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not wanting to make her a public example, was minded to put her away secretly. But while he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. ( Mathew 1:19-20)
Joseph Took it Very Serious
I believe we can learn a lot from this example of Joseph and Mary and especially from the character of Joseph. If the baby that Mary was expecting was not from the Holy Spirit but from another man, then Joseph didn’t want to make the person that will officiate their marriage share in their sins. He would rather stop the engagement than to continue with the marriage plans.
He had chosen rather break up with Mary than to bring shame on God and his servants. This is because marriage is an honorable thing and should be respected by all. Marriage is honorable among all, and the bed undefiled, but fornicators and adulterers God will judge. ( Hebrews 13:4).
Marriage is Honorable
When the Bible says that marriage is honorable among all, it means that all the parties that are involved in the entire process of marriage be it the couples that are being married or the religious leaders or the government, should honor and have respect for any marriage. The word of God says that God will bring judgment to anyone who doesn’t honor marriage.
Couples who are intending to get married have a great role to play just like the way Joseph was about to do in making sure that they don’t bring temptations to pastors by insisting them to be married knowing very well that it is not according to the word of God.
The pastors on the other hand should be careful not to share in other people’s sin. They should also keep themselves pure. When Apostle Paul is instructing his son Timothy on how to conduct ministry, he is much concerned about the character of believers and sin. Paul informs Timothy not to share in people’s sin and should rebuke anyone who sins openly
Those who are sinning rebuke in the presence of all, that the rest also may fear. I charge you before God and the Lord Jesus Christ and the elect angels that you observe these things without prejudice, doing nothing with partiality. Do not lay hands on anyone hastily, nor share in other people’s sins; keep yourself pure. ( 1 Timothy 5:20-22)
Apostle Paul warns Timothy from laying of hands on people hastily. This means that before any laying of hands any Pastor or religious leader should find out if it is according to the scriptures. Be it ordaining of young ministers or marriages.
Now the question someone may ask is , should the couples who have been living together and now have decided to get married not be allowed to get married?
It will be based on their faith in Christ Jesus. Those who will enter or inherit the kingdom of God will be those who have believed in Jesus Christ and have turned away from their past sins and vowed to live a holy and righteous life.
Becoming Christians Past Sins Forgiven
God is faithful to forgive our past sins and allow us to have a relationship with Him and will not remember nor counting our past sins. This is not based on our works but His grace and mercies. As in heaven, there will be no marriages. The only marriage believers are expecting is Jesus Christ and his church.
Jesus answered and said to them, “The sons of this age marry and are given in marriage. But those who are counted worthy to attain that age, and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry nor are given in marriage;( Luke 20: 34-35).
No couple should feel condemned because they didn’t have an official marriage as there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. This is because when we believe in Jesus Christ we are justified freely through His grace. As condemnation may cause guilt and make the couples insist on being married as a way of clearing the guilt. They will in turn out pressure on their Pastor to marry them.
And from the poll that we looked at earlier that was conducted among Protestant pastors if they can allow marrying cohabitating couples, most of them agree because of the wish of their flock or they just want to extend grace to the flock, they wish to assist a couple that has grown to the point they realize they need to make changes to be pleasing to God.
The Couple is Moving from not understanding God’s Will in Marriage, to one where they realize they have been wrong and want to make necessary changes. Positive things this is implying
- Couple want to do what is right in God’s Eyes
- Couple Realize they were wrong
- Couple have grown in their understanding of God’s Teaching
“But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were thrown into the sea. If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter into life maimed, rather than having two hands, to go to hell, into the fire that shall never be quenched—( Mark 9:42-43)
Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather resolve this, not to put a stumbling block or a cause to fall in our brother’s way. ( Romans 14:13).
Therefore, in conclusion, This is one in the matter of preference for the Minister. Since there is no clear Biblical Example. instead, he should extend the love of Jesus Christ to all members without discrimination but also at the same time he should teach them to live according to the principles of the word of God.
Going Forward The Pastor can
- Perform the Wedding
- Help the Couple to get Married at Courthouse – If he is convicted that he should not perform the ceremony
- Preventative – Teaching Young People on Purity
Personally – I did Several things,
- I performed the Marriage
- I helped the Couple to become Christians (if they were Not) Forgiveness of Sins
- I helped the Couple understand Gods View of Living Together – Repentance
- I helped them share that understanding with their children