Laws of Marriage

Now, dear brothers and sisters—you who are familiar with the law—don’t you know that the law applies only while a person is living? For example, when a woman marries, the law binds her to her husband as long as he is alive. But if he dies, the laws of marriage no longer apply to her. So while her husband is alive, she would be committing adultery if she married another man. But if her husband dies, she is free from that law and does not commit adultery when she remarries.”
Romans 7:1-3 NLT

I don’t know why Paul used the illustration of marriage to make a point that “the law applies only while a person is living”. And in such a misogynistic way as well. Of course, we could write these verses from a man’s perspective as well, and they would be just as applicable. But we mustn’t be too hard on Paul – that was the culture of his day. His message, though, is a very unpopular one in today’s societies. It’s not just about the failure of a man or a woman to keep and honour their marriage vows. There is also the current societal preoccupation with single sex marriages. Paul used a straightforward example in his letter but I’m sure he never envisaged that it would open a “can of worms” on 21st Century Planet Earth.

To take the problem of marriages demanded between single sex couples, we first have to ask the question – do we believe that the Bible is the inspired and infallible Word of God, or is it a book of writings that can be interpreted and ignored in the light of the society in which we live? My writings in this blog always assume the former position, the infallibility of Scripture, because that is what I passionately believe. If you, my reader, lean towards the latter then what I am about to write might not sit easily with you. Genesis 2:24, “This explains why a man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one“. Right in the beginning of Genesis, God states two positions – marriage is a union between a man and a woman, and He also implies that there are only two genders (but that’s for another day in another blog). Jesus referred to this Scripture when He was asked about divorce. We read what He said in Mark 10:6-9, “But ‘God made them male and female’ from the beginning of creation. ‘This explains why a man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.’ Since they are no longer two but one, let no one split apart what God has joined together“. 

In Deuteronomy 24:1-2 we read that divorce was allowed in the Israelite culture of the time – “Suppose a man marries a woman but she does not please him. Having discovered something wrong with her, he writes a document of divorce, hands it to her, and sends her away from his house. When she leaves his house, she is free to marry another man“. Some Pharisees tried to trap Jesus with a question over divorce (perhaps it was just as hot a topic then as it is today), and we read in Matthew 19:7-9, ““Then why did Moses say in the law that a man could give his wife a written notice of divorce and send her away?” they asked. Jesus replied, “Moses permitted divorce only as a concession to your hard hearts, but it was not what God had originally intended. And I tell you this, whoever divorces his wife and marries someone else commits adultery—unless his wife has been unfaithful””. Jesus’ disciples were appalled by what He said, it seems, responding with, “ … If this is the case, it is better not to marry!”” (Matthew 19:10b). They took what He said very seriously.

So Paul, in his example about the law, stated that a marriage contract between a man and a woman could only be broken by the death of either partner. Then the remaining partner was free to remarry. There is another “can of worms” for our societies today over the marrying of a divorcee, but that too is for another day. Marriage is a legally binding contract in God’s eyes which ideally should not be broken. But we also have to balance this apparently dogmatic position with other Scriptures, such as God’s love and grace. We who are married pray for both our own marriages and for those of our friends and families. The devil is in the business of destroying marriages, as he is for anything that is God-ordained. Forewarned, we keep close to God and in difficult times we pray for more love and grace.

Dear God. You established an order on earth with two genders, who were to be joined together in a holy union. I pray for protection both for my own marriage, but also for the marriages of my friends and family. In Jesus’ name. Amen.