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.