Recently the question arose how to deal with people who want to join in Christian fellowship but who are living in a long term or lifelong, committed defacto relationship. Some important questions are raised . . . .
When such couples seek to join us, what action do we take – welcome them or kinda dissuade them?
Or do we welcome them and then preach rules for them to observe? Hope not.
Do we demand they live by our interpretation of biblical law? Aaagh.
OR, do we believe that the Lord of the gathering is well able to show us who truly seek Him, who are led by the Spirit, and what is His will in each particular case? I think so.
So just how different is marriage from defacto?
And what is meant by “being married”?
Many couples we see from the scriptures were seen as husband and wife —Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rachel, Jacob and Rachel, Moses, David, and so on—though neither a wedding ceremony nor a certificate from the state are mentioned. We read of gifts from the bridegroom to the virgin’s father but no wedding! Yet it is evident that these were married in God’s sight.
It’s fascinating that before the 10th Century AD, marriages of Christian believers were celebrated by families and the community and not in an institutional religious setting. However marriage was frequently seen by the community to be related to God, a serious undertaking and as a lifelong committed relationship.
What Jesus wants for couples as we read in the gospels (Matthew 19:16-30), Mark 10:2-8, Luke 18:15-17). . . .
leave your father and mother
be joined to your spouse—one flesh means one mind, heart and soul as well as body
don’t let anyone put asunder what God has joined (permanent relationship
and love one another “as I have loved you!”
Of course, this last command of Jesus must apply in every relationship. To love the other means death to the self-life and sacrifice for the sake of the other. Your spouse is your neighbour! Right?
So don’t you agree that before anyone—and not only those in a defacto relationship—joins with a fellowship which stands for discipleship and reaching others for Christ, they need to see what the group is all about and what it is NOT. This might mean a process of meeting with them, reasoning from Jesus’ words, standing firm in faith and truth but also being welcoming and not imposing law. Grace and love trumps law.
They may need to be challenged about repentance from dead works and sin and be baptised and affirm Jesus as their Lord. Then it’s a process of teaching and discipleship which will hopefully lead to right thinking and understanding what Jesus wants from us all.
If a proper foundation is laid the incomers will then be open to the correction of the Holy Spirit. But they may decide not be open and withdraw from us. Fair enough.
John 17 “they they may all be one, as we are one” (cf Jn 14) demands we all participate in the closest oneness and communion with one another and with the Father and His Son. Right?
Gal 5:24 “The fruit of the Spirit . . . . .” applies to us all for sure! This is a call for us all to “Live in the spirit”!
These matters should be brought before any who wish to be part of a life-giving, Spirit-inspired group of people.
Well written and expressed Ian, and very relevant for society today. Keep up the good work, may our Lord continue to encourage and bless you.
Thanks Julian very much for your encouraging comment. I appreciate it!
Very interesting and sensible.
I sometimes wonder that the reason there has been confusion is the departure from the order of matrimony in the book of Common prayer….a good read for those needing guidance.
Thanks Bryan for your comment. I agree that the old order of matrimony had a lot of sound advice. These days cohabitation no longer carries the societal stigma it had back then.
Hi Ian, not sure if I agree on this mate. There shouldn’t be a compromise on God’s word. If they come into the group, they should be so convicted by their sin (as revealed by the HS) that they have no choice but to turn from it. I recently met a homosexual who told me how happy she was at her church . If the spirit of truth is in that Church THEN I believe she wouldn’t be able to stay at the church without changing. Yet when you speak to her she has been there for years. We’ve got to raise the standards or we will continue to see the mediocre results. Just my 5c mate. T
Thanks Tyrin. I really appreciate your “5c”. You are right about no compromise— Jesus’ words are plain. Yet He mixed constantly with “sinners” (the term the scribes and Pharisees used) and welcomed them. It may take a while for newcomers to understand and hear what the Holy Spirit is saying. We may think “they should be convicted . . .“ but the reality is often different. There is always the choice and to consider the cost of discipleship. So, many will come to see that the cost for them is too great and will reconsider. See my follow up post also.
This principle of accepting people where they are and welcoming them and leading them to Jesus and the Holy Spirit filling their lives, applies to many other situations we find people caught up in. Because they have been loved and welcomed and not excluded —sometimes at considerable risk, angst and longsuffering to the disciples— drunkards, prostitutes, gays, jihadists, terrorists, criminals, and Moslems in the tens of thousands have met the One who does not keep an account of their sins but with whom they are reconciled by faith and by metanoia, a complete change of mind, due often to the presence of Jesus’ in his holy ones and their prayers.
Jesus chose ‘a devil’ as well as a terrorist, a hated tax collector, one who would deny him three times and most of whom would desert him in his dreadful hour. Amazing. We don’t raise the standard. Jesus has set the standard, right? We follow him and not a movement, not dogmas.
This appears to me to be a good, sensible article on a relevant subject. Well done Ian.
Thank you very much Kevin.