by Josh Bryant
Many a pastor has heard the phrase "we're married in God's eyes" as a justification for cohabitation outside of marriage - at least cohabitation prior to a wedding ceremony. The argument is that Scripture does not describe a wedding ceremony and thus it is not required. All that Scripture requires is a commitment to be married. Although it is claimed that this line of reasoning is based on Scripture, it ignores an overarching theme of the New Testament.
Marriage in the New Testament is clearly utilized to depict Christ's relationship with the church. Jesus described the Kingdom of God in the parable of the wedding feast (Mt. 22:1-14). In that parable, the King throws a wedding banquet for His Son. He sent servants to summon those who were invited, but the did not come. In fact, the invitees mistreated and killed the servants. The King instructed the servants to go into the world and invite everyone to the feast, and the banquet was filled with guests. Paul expands on the parable in a much more practical sense in demonstrating how marriage reflects Christ's relationship with the church (Eph. 5:22-33). John described the celebration after the defeat of Babylon as a vast multitude saying "Hallelujah, because our Lord God, the Almighty, reigns! Let us be glad, rejoice, and give him glory, because the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his bride has prepared herself... Blessed are those invited to the marriage feast of the Lamb!" (Rev. 19:6b-7, 9b).
Clearly there is soteriological and eschatological significance in marriage. Couples often are forced to invite people they barely know and rarely see to their wedding. Likewise, we are commanded to go and make disciples of all nations, to invite everyone we meet to the wedding feast of the Lamb. Inasmuch as there is no salvation without a public confession of Christ as Lord (cf. Rom. 10:8-10 "If you confess with your mouth...you will be saved...one confesses with the mouth, resulting in salvation."), there is no marriage without a public confession of one man's and one woman's confession of their commitment to lifelong fidelity.
Additionally, the church is the original arbiter of biblical marriage. Government involvement in marriage is a relatively new creation. In 1215, the church created the "banns of marriage" which required a public proclamation of the marriage from the pulpit. It wasn't until the 14th century that the church conscripted governments to help enforce the banns of marriage by requiring governmental permission to get married - a marriage license.
Now in the 21st century, government's role in marriage and marriage-like relationships is starting to deteriorate. Most scholars agree that Lawrence v. Texas, 539 U.S. 558 (2003), has ended the notion that cohabitation outside of marriage is a crime. Common law marriage and "palimony" still enter into the picture when a relationship ends that does not involve a wedding ceremony. Marvin v. Marvin, 18 C.3d 660 (1976). All that remains is the different tax treatment of lawfully married couples. Some legislatures have even taken up legislation that would remove the government from the process all together after Obergefell v. Hodges, 576 U.S. ___ (2015), which legalized same-sex marriage across the country. As such, the church is likely to be the sole arbiter of marriage; legally the institution seems to be losing favor.
All that to say, marriage without ceremony is no marriage - at least not in the biblical use of the word. Pastors should not shy away from arguments that a couple is married in the eyes of God. Without the church, that is not biblically the case.
Did you know that forcing a woman to have a baby and give it up for adoption isn't human trafficking? Not yet anyway. A lot of people have tried a number of ways to make the practice of coercing a woman into having and adopting away her child fit neatly within existing human trafficking statutes. It just doesn't. The human trafficking statutes were designed to stop modern day slavery and the sex trade. You really have to stretch the current legal definition of human trafficking to make forcing an adoption illegal.
That's about to change. HB 1488 in Arkansas extends the definition of human trafficking to recruiting, enticing, soliciting, isolating, harboring, transporting, providing, maintaining, or obtaining a pregnant woman for the purpose of causing her to to place the unborn baby up for adoption the use of or threatened force, or benefiting financially from any of those things.
Arkansas - tell your representatives and senators to support HB 1488!
Today is the start of what I hope is the final push towards a major victory in the fight against adoption corruption in Arkansas. Representative Clint Penzo has filed in the Arkansas House of Representatives HB1488, legislation that I drafted more than a year ago that has been rewritten no fewer than eight times after working with scores of other legislators, family advocates, non-profit and community leaders, lawyers, judges, adoptive parents, biological parents, and adopted children. Representative Penzo and former Representative Williams have done the brunt of the heavy lifting. There are 9 cosponsors on the bill and legislative support for its passage is reported to be broad based.
However, the celebrating cannot start until Governor Hutchinson signs the bill. There is big money in adoption and there are some who stand to lose it in an adoption process subject to more judicial oversight requiring ethical behavior. Where big money stands to be lost, the people who stand to lose the most will inevitably complain the most and spend their ill-earned money to lobby against its passage. As such, it is vital that we continue speaking out in favor of this adoption reform.
This is not a matter of what letter you put behind your name or the color of your party's banner. In this session of the General Assembly, there has been a proposed constitutional amendment banning slavery in the Arkansas Department of Corrections (i.e. forced prisoner labor). There have been bills submitted that would severely curtail if not eliminate the practice of abortion in Arkansas. These bills in large measure are supported by opposite sides of the aisle despite having one thing in common - both are rooted in the value of human life. We cannot under any circumstance claim to value human life when our practice of caring for orphans is rooted in the commercial buying and selling of that life. This. Must. Stop.
So let me encourage you to share this article on social media. Tag your state representatives and senators. Tag the Governor and Lt. Governor. Send emails. Make phone calls. If you are in a community organization, talk about it at your next meeting, or call me and I'll come talk about it. Make it clear that Arkansans want, deserve, and demand that we keep adoption beautiful.
I follow Christ. I have a beautiful wife Megan and three wonderful children, Harrisen, Rebekah, and Carter. I am a candidate for a Ph.D. in ethics from Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, have an M.Div. from Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary and a JD from the University of Arkansas, am licensed to practice law in several state and federal courts, and live in Rogers, Arkansas. I write a blog and produce a podcast. And I do it all that others may know Christ.