Married?… Or not?…

Ok – here’s one for the armchair theologians to pontificate on…

I was chatting with a mate today who is a full time Christian worker. The conversation went like this:

Me: “So are you guys married yet?” (I knew his wedding was coming up divx squid and the whale the )

Dave: “Yeah – we are – two weeks now”

Me: “Great – you got married in the ‘bush’, is that right?”

Dave: “Yeah – down south – a great day”

Me: “Who married you?”

Dave: “A guy in our church – Brad”

Me: “Oh, ok. Is he a marriage celebrant? Or did someone else sign it off?”

Dave: “No. No one signed it off”

Me: “Oh…” (I begin to wonder about the implications of this…)

Me: “So what does that mean then?”

Dave: “Well we are married, but we haven’t done the paper work.”

We went on to talk some more and explored the question briefly. But this raises some interesting questions doesn’t it?

My friend believes that under ‘common law’ he and his wife are married. She came up later and was wearing a name with his surname on it. She had ‘taken’ his name. But when they bought air tickets recently she had to go under her maiden name because they are not officially recognised as a maried couple.

However if they co-habit for a year then our society deems them to be ‘married’.

My questions in all of this are quite simple:

When are a couple actually married?

Can ‘biblical’ marriage exist independent of ‘societal/legal marriage’? I.e. Can you be married in the eyes of God but not the state?

Now my friend will probably be reading this, so share your views with that in mind. As we spoke I asked him for permission to start a discussion on here and he agreed as he was interested in the views that others would have. (That doesn’t mean ‘hold back’, but it does sometimes shape how we respond if we know the person concerned is reading.)

I’ll offer my two bobs worth first up – at the risk of being rude… In my view he and his partner would be married in the original biblical meaning of the concept, but given that we are required to comply with state law I would suggest that they are not married legally here in West Oz until the paperwork is done.

I know they intend to do the paperwork, but more as a matter of convenience as they see themselves as fully married after their wedding ceremony.

This marriage question is a significant one for missionaries and church planters, because we will always be dealing with co-habiting couples and we need to know how to respond with both grace and truth.

So… what do you reckon?

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