One of the most important areas of Christian living is that of marriage and the family. Even those who do not marry do interact with parents, brothers and sisters or with other people who are married, so everyone can profit from learning what the Bible teaches about this subject. Marriage customs differ greatly from one place or time to another, but there are some fundamental truths which are relevant for people everywhere.
Read thoughtfully what the Bible says about the proper relationship between husbands and wives and between parents and their children.
1. Where did the idea of marriage come from?
From God himself. In the beginning God created a man and a woman who would come together in a loving relationship and eventually produce children like themselves.
So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. And God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it.” (Genesis 1:27-28)
He who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together let not man separate. (Matthew 19:4-6)
2. Should everyone seek to be married?
Not necessarily. The Bible highly commends marriage but also recognizes that some persons choose not to marry for good and sincere reasons which are acceptable to God.
He who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from the LORD. (Proverbs 18:22)
An excellent wife who can find? She is far more precious than jewels. The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain. (Proverbs 31:10-11)
The unmarried man is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to please the Lord. But the married man is anxious about worldly things, how to please his wife, and his interests are divided. And the unmarried woman or betrothed woman is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to be holy in body and spirit. But the married woman is anxious about worldly things, how to please her husband. I say this for your own benefit, not to lay any restraint upon you, but to promote good order and to secure your undivided devotion to the Lord. (1 Corinthians 7:32-35)
3. What does the Bible teach about the husband’s role in marriage?
The husband is the head of the wife and should love his wife just as Christ loved the church, his spiritual bride, and sacrificed his life for her.
For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church . . . Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her . . . In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. (Ephesians 5:23,25,28)
Husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered. (1 Peter 3:7)
4. What does the Bible teach about the wife’s role in marriage?
Wives should love their husbands and submit to them just as believers submit themselves to Christ, their spiritual husband. If husbands love their wives with wholehearted and sacrificial love—as Christ loved the church—it will not be difficult for wives to submit to their husbands, since they will be confident that their husbands will always be seeking what is truly best for them.
Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. (Ephesians 5:22)
Do not let your adorning be external . . . but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit . . . For this is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves, by submitting to their husbands. (1 Peter 3:3-5)
5. How is the relationship between a husband and wife like the relationship between God and his chosen people and the relationship between Christ and believers?
God referred to himself as the husband of the people of Israel. He loved them, blessed them, protected them, made a covenant with them, and gave them special promises. In the New Testament, the church is called the bride of Christ. Christ loved the church, prayed for her, and gave his life for her. This special love and care is a wonderful example of the kind of love husbands should have for their wives.
For your Maker is your husband, the Lord of hosts is his name; and the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer, the God of the whole earth he is called. (Isaiah 54:5)
As the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall your God rejoice over you. (Isaiah 62:5)
I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you . . . I was their husband, declares the LORD. (Jeremiah 31:3, 32)
The marriage of the Lamb [Jesus] has come, and his Bride has made herself ready. (Revelation 19:7)
Come, I will show you the Bride, the wife of the Lamb. (Revelation 21:9)
6. What does the Bible teach about faithfulness to our marriage partners?
Marriage partners should be faithful to each other at all times and in every way.
You shall not commit adultery. (Exodus 20:14)
Rejoice in the wife of your youth . . . be intoxicated always in her love. Why should you be intoxicated, my son, with a forbidden woman and embrace the bosom of an adulteress? (Proverbs 5:18-20)
Guard yourselves in your spirit, and let none of you be faithless to the wife of your youth. (Malachi 2:15)
Jesus said: “Everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (Matthew 5:28)
Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous. (Hebrews 13:4)
7. What does the Bible teach about divorce?
God intended from the beginning that marriage should be permanent. In Old Testament times, however, Moses permitted some people to divorce their wives because of the hardness of their hearts. In New Testament times, Jesus reminded people that God’s intention from the beginning was that marriage was to be lifelong.
Jesus said: “Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery.” (Matthew 19:8-9)
For a married woman is bound by law to her husband while he lives, but if her husband dies she is released from the law of marriage. Accordingly, she will be called an adulteress if she lives with another man while her husband is alive. But if her husband dies, she is free from that law, and if she marries another man she is not an adulteress. (Romans 7:2-3)
8. What should a believer do if his or her partner is not a believer?
Believers should not seek a divorce if their unbelieving partners are willing to continue living with them. Believing wives should be submissive to their unbelieving husbands in all things lawful and appropriate and continue to live pure and holy lives.
Wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives–when they see your respectful and pure conduct. (1 Peter 3:1,2)
If any brother has a wife who is an unbeliever, and she consents to live with him, he should not divorce her. If any woman has a husband who is an unbeliever, and he consents to live with her, she should not divorce him . . . But if the unbelieving partner separates, let it be so. In such cases the brother or sister is not enslaved. (1 Corinthians 7:12-15)
9. What does the Bible teach about having more than one marriage partner?
From the very beginning, God’s intention for marriage was that men should have only one wife and women should have only one husband. Though there were plural marriages in certain Old Testament times, these marriages often led to jealousy or other problems. Jesus and the apostles made it clear that believers should have only one marriage partner and that they should be faithful to each other as long as they both lived.
Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. (Genesis 2:24)
He [the king] shall not acquire many wives for himself, lest his heart turn away. (Deuteronomy 17:17)
Each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband. (1 Corinthians 7:2)
10. What does the Bible teach about the physical (sexual) side of marriage?
Sexual relations within the bonds of marriage are good, desirable, and a gift of God. Both husbands and wives should be very sensitive to the needs and desires of their partners. They should not make unreasonable demands or take advantage of one another or do anything that would hurt their partner either physically or emotionally.
Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth! For your love is better than wine. (Song of Songs 1:2)
My beloved is mine, and I am his; he grazes among the lilies. (Song of Songs 2:16)
Behold, you are beautiful, my love, behold, you are beautiful! Your eyes . . . Your hair . . . Your teeth . . . Your lips . . . Your cheeks . . . Your neck . . . Your two breasts . . . You are altogether beautiful, my love; there is no flaw in you. (Song of Songs 4:1-7)
Let my beloved come to his garden, and eat its choicest fruits. (Song of Songs 4:16)
My beloved is radiant and ruddy . . . His head . . . His eyes . . . His cheeks . . . His lips . . . His arms . . . His body . . . His legs . . . His mouth is most sweet, and he is altogether desirable. This is my beloved and this is my friend. (Song of Songs 5:10-16)
Rejoice in the wife of your youth . . . Let her breasts fill you at all times with delight; be intoxicated always in her love. (Proverbs 5:18-20)
Because of the temptation to sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband. (1 Corinthians 7:2)
The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband. For the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. Likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. Do not deprive one another, except perhaps by agreement for a limited time, that you may devote yourselves to prayer; but then come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control. (1 Corinthians 7:3-5)
11. What does the Bible teach about same-sex marriage?
In both the Old and New Testaments, all homosexual relationships are condemned.
If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall surely be put to death; their blood is upon them. (Leviticus 20:13)
Their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error. (Romans 1:26-27)
Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality . . . will inherit the kingdom of God. (1 Corinthians 6:9-10)
Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which likewise indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire, serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire. (Jude 1:7)
12. What does the Bible teach about having children?
The Bible regards the birth of children as a great blessing from the Lord.
God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it.” (Genesis 1:28)
All these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you, if you obey the voice of the Lord your God. Blessed shall you be in the city, and blessed shall you be in the field. Blessed shall be the fruit of your womb. (Deuteronomy 28:2-4)
Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD, the fruit of the womb a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one’s youth. Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them! (Psalm 127:3-5)
Your wife will be like a fruitful vine within your house; your children will be like olive shoots around your table. (Psalm 128:3)
He [God] gives the barren woman a home, making her the joyous mother of children. (Psalm 113:9)
Isaac prayed to the LORD for his wife, because she was barren. And the LORD granted his prayer, and Rebekah his wife conceived. (Genesis 25:21)
13. What should parents do for their children?
Parents should teach their children, pray for them, discipline them in love, provide for them, and serve as good examples of how to live as a Christian.
Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it. (Proverbs 22:6)
These words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. (Deuteronomy 6:6-7)
David said to his son Solomon: “Be strong, and show yourself a man, and keep the charge of the LORD your God, walking in his ways, and keeping his statutes, his commandments . . . that you may prosper in all that you do and wherever you turn.” (1 Kings 2:2-3)
Discipline your son, and he will give you rest; he will give delight to your heart. (Proverbs 29:17)
Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. (Ephesians 6:4)
The LORD reproves him whom he loves as a father the son in whom he delights. (Proverbs 3:12)
14. How should children respond to the teaching and discipline of their parents?
Children should obey their parents in all things lawful, accept their loving discipline, and follow their good example. When parents are old and unable to support themselves, children should help provide for them. When they do all these things, they will bring joy to their
parents. When they don’t, the result will be sorrow, loss, distress, and punishment.
Honor your father and your mother. (Deuteronomy 5:16)
Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. (Ephesians 6:1)
A wise son makes a glad father, but a foolish son is a sorrow to his mother. (Proverbs 10:1)
The father of the righteous will greatly rejoice; he who fathers a wise son will be glad in him. (Proverbs 23:24)
The one who keeps the law is a son with understanding, but a companion of gluttons shames his father. (Proverbs 28:7)
The eye that mocks a father and scorns to obey a mother will be picked out by the ravens of the valley and eaten by the vultures. (Proverbs 30:17)
We have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. (Hebrews 12:9-11)
If a widow has children or grandchildren, these should learn first of all to put their religion into practice by caring for their own family and so repaying their parents and grandparents, for this is pleasing to God. . . . If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his immediate family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever. (1 Timothy 5:4,7)
15. How do the deeds of parents affect the lives of their children?
The good deeds of parents often lead to blessing for their children. The sins of parents often lead to problems, trials, and hurts in the lives of their children. The parents may establish a pattern of life that continues in the lives of their descendants, and all of them suffer for the failures of their parents and grandparents as well as their own sins. Not all children of godly parents are faithful to God, but when they are, they and their parents are both blessed. Not all children of ungodly parents continue in unbelief and sin; children who turn away from the evils of their parents can experience God’s grace and blessing and provide their own children with a better heritage. Children can be helped or hindered by their parents’ deeds, but we must not depend on our parents to make us right with God, nor should we blame our parents for our own sinful choices. Parents can influence us for better or worse and must answer to God for their parenting, but each of us remains responsible before God for our own choices.
I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments. (Exodus 20:5-6)
You show steadfast love to thousands, but you repay the guilt of fathers to their children after them. (Jeremiah 32:18)
He [Ahaziah] did what was evil in the eyes of the LORD and walked in the way of his father [Ahab] and in the way of his mother [Jezebel]. (1 Kings 22:52)
He [Jehoshaphat] walked in all the way of Asa his father. He did not turn aside from it, doing what was right in the sight of the LORD. (1 Kings 22:43)
Now suppose this man fathers a son who sees all the sins that his father has done; he sees, and does not do likewise. . . . he shall not die for his father’s iniquity; he shall surely live. . . . The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not suffer for the iniquity of the father, nor the father suffer for the iniquity of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself. (Ezekiel 18:14,17,20)
Do not be like your fathers . . . they did not hear or pay attention to me. (Zechariah 1:4)
You were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ (1 Peter 1:18-19)
16. What is the most important decision believing parents can make regarding their children?
Parents who trust in Jesus as Savior and Lord should honor God as ruler of their family. They should humbly and sincerely determine to serve as an example to their children by walking in the ways of the Lord, teaching their children to walk in the ways of the Lord, and serving the Lord with their entire family.
I have chosen him [Abraham], that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the LORD by doing righteousness and justice, so that the LORD may bring to Abraham what he has promised him. (Genesis 18:19)
I will ponder the way that is blameless . . . I will walk with integrity of heart within my house. (Psalm 101:2)
He [Cornelius] was a devout man who feared God with all his household, gave alms generously to the people, and prayed continually to God. (Acts 10:2)
An angel told Cornelius: “Send to Joppa and bring Simon who is called Peter; he will declare to you a message by which you will be saved, you and all your household.” (Acts 11:13-14)
The apostle Paul told a jailer: “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” . . . And he rejoiced along with his entire household that he had believed in God. (Acts 16:31,34)
Joshua declared: “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” (Joshua 24:15)
1. Is it better for parents to choose marriage partners for their children, or is it better for the marriage partners to make this decision themselves? If the Bible does not answer this question, how can we determine what is best?
In places where parents traditionally choose marriage partners for their children, people will likely be inclined to think that this is definitely the better way. When people are brought up in an area where men and women choose their own marriage partners, they will likely think that this is the better way.
Does the Bible give us any clear teachings regarding this matter? Not specifically. In the early part of the Bible, it seems that at least some parents played a very strong role in finding marriage partners for their children. Abraham, for example, sent his servant to find a wife for his son Isaac. Even so, the woman chosen, Rebekah, was asked whether she wanted to leave her family in order to be married (Genesis 24). Isaac and his wife, Rebekah, later played a strong role in sending their son Jacob to find a wife. At the same time, Jacob’s own attraction to the lovely Rachel motivated him. (Genesis 27:46 and Genesis 28 and 29). Judges 14:1-4 tells of the role of parents in the marriage of Samson, though Samson disregarded his parents’ advice not to marry a pagan woman. Other passages also indicate that parents “gave” a daughter to someone in marriage, and the groom (or his family) was expected to give an appropriate gift to the woman’s father for the “loss” of his daughter. (See Genesis 34:11-12; Genesis 29:18-20; 34:12; and Exodus 22:16-17.) In the New Testament Paul writes that older women should teach the younger women to love their husbands (Titus 2:4). This may hint that the marriages he refers to were “arranged” marriages rather than “love” marriages, but it is not actually stated that the marriages were arranged by parents, and it is certainly not commanded that all marriages be arranged by parents. In another place, Paul writes that a widow who wishes to marry again is free to be married to whom she wishes, only in the Lord. (1 Corinthians 7:39). Here it sounds like the choice of mate would be up to her, not her family. None of these passages contains a clear command from God as to whether or not marriages should always be arranged by the parents. For the most part, both in Bible times and in history, marriages were arranged in different ways at different times and in different places. There would appear to be no specific arrangement which is the only one pleasing to God or the only one likely to produce a long and happy marriage. Matchmaking arrangements may vary, but in most cases it is wise for young people and their parents to seek each other’s input when choosing a marriage partner. In a society where arranged marriage is common, parents should not force a mate on an unwilling son or daughter but rather pay close attention to the young person’s wishes. The Bible commands fathers not to provoke their children to anger (Ephesians 6:4, Colossians 4:21), so it would be wrong to push a young person unwillingly into a marriage. Conversely, in a society where most people choose their own marriage partners, young people would be wise to seek the advice of Christian parents and ask their blessing on a marriage even though the parents don’t actually choose the spouse or arrange the marriage. Parents have had many more life experiences than younger people, and they are able to recognize potential problems or pitfalls which younger people may not see.
It is also generally helpful for a bride and groom to have similar backgrounds, though this is not absolutely essential. It is very important, however, for the marriage partners to share a common faith. For Christians, this is not only important but also commanded. (See 1 Corinthians 7:39 and 2 Corinthians 6:14). It is also very helpful (if possible) for a bride and groom, before marriage, to have some meaningful counseling from people who are able to provide helpful guidance and direction. As most married people realize, it is not enough that a bride and groom have strong feelings for each other. Life has many dimensions and challenges, and potential husbands and wives should be made aware of these before they make a permanent commitment to love and live with each other as long as they both shall live. (See Paul’s observations in 1 Corinthians 7:28 and 7:32-35.)
2. In Matthew 19:4-6 Jesus says that “a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife.” Does this mean that young couples should not live with their parents after they are married?
Not necessarily. There are times and circumstances (such as a housing shortage or economic concerns) which make it necessary for young married couples to live with their parents. There may also be other situations where local customs expect young people to live with their parents for a while after they are married. However, Jesus’ teachings in Matthew 19 would appear to indicate that a man and wife have stronger obligations to each other than to their parents. (See also Genesis 2:24 in this connection.) The newly married man should, as soon as possible, become the head of a new household and no longer occupy a secondary place in his home. The wife also should give her primary allegiance to her husband rather than to her parents. However, both husband and wife should seek to maintain a cordial and loving relationship with their parents, respecting them for who they are, and showing appropriate gratitude for all that they did for them during the years before their marriage.
3. What are some reasons why it might be wise or desirable for a young man or woman to remain single rather than seeking marriage?
There are various good reasons why a young person might choose not to marry. Consider what Paul writes about this in 1 Corinthians 7. Marriage can bring burdens and distractions as well as joys and blessings, and the distractions might well interfere with a person’s strong desire and commitment to serve the Lord in some special way. Paul himself chose to remain single for that very reason. Further, since there are many marriages that result in unhappiness or even divorce, a young person who is content to live a single life might understandably feel that he/she will live more happily without marriage. Others simply cannot find anyone they feel would make a suitable spouse. For them, it would not be worth the risk of living unhappily with someone for the rest of their life. There are also those who simply enjoy the freedom of living, working, traveling, and enjoying their hobbies and special interests without running the risk of marrying someone who would be a burden rather than a blessing. All of these reasons would seem to be legitimate if a person is able without too much difficulty to live a celibate life as Paul indicated in 1 Corinthians 7:8-9. On the other hand, a “swinging single,” who avoids marriage commitment to one person in order to pursue sexual relationships with many different people, is staying single for a very bad reason. That person is living like a fornicator who has no part in God’s kingdom.
4. One of the purposes of marriage is to produce children. Are there any good reasons why Christians should or may decide not to have children?
In Bible times children were usually regarded as a precious gift from God. (See, for example, Genesis 30:19-20, Psalm 127:3-5 and 128:3-4.) Not being able to bear children was usually considered a great disgrace, a huge disappointment, and maybe even a punishment from God. (See Genesis 30:1-2, 22 and 1 Samuel 1:10-11.) Are there situations, then, when God is pleased with a couple’s decision not to have children? Christians do not always agree on the correct answer to that question.
When married couples prayerfully seek to know God’s will in this regard and then decide not to have children so that they can serve the Lord more effectively, most believers would seem to have no major problem with that decision. When couples choose not to have children because of the very difficult circumstances in which they live—such as very challenging economic problems, severe persecution of believers in their area, genuine health concerns or other pressing needs, many Christians would not challenge their decision. However, when couples choose not to have children simply so that they can spend more time and money on their own pleasures, some Christians would definitely question their decision. Each of us must seek to serve the Lord to the very best of our ability without quickly judging the decisions of others. Ultimately, every decision that is made in regard to having children must be made prayerfully, humbly, and sincerely. We should beware of being influenced by social trends that are anti-child or look down upon larger families, and we should take to heart the biblical teaching that children are precious blessings from God.
5. Husbands should love their wives as Christ loves the church and gave his life for the church. What should a Christian wife do if her husband does not love her or treat her with kindness, helpfulness and respect?
Regrettably, the situation described here is very common. This may be especially true in areas where women have historically been treated as “second class citizens” or when a Christian woman has a non-Christian husband. However, it is also true in some Christian homes. The solution to this problem is not simple. In Christian homes, the husband should be patiently but strongly reminded what the Bible says about the divinely appointed role of husbands in a marriage and the command: Husbands, love your wives, and do not be harsh with them. (Colossians 3:19) Pastoral or other professional counseling may be both needed and helpful. Happily married couples could possibly meet with those in troubled marriages. Much prayer should be offered by those who know the situation and are concerned about it. Women who are familiar with broken situations should thoughtfully, lovingly, and prayerfully provide support for the wives whose husbands are unloving, unkind, or not very thoughtful. Wives with unloving husbands can also be given helpful literature to read on how faithful wives should deal with their domestic problems. In very many cases, however, the problem is never fully overcome. This is particularly true in cultures where women are generally treated poorly. In those cultures, husbands often do not consider their behavior to be inappropriate, and they are not easily persuaded that it is.
6. Should Christian wives obey their husbands if their husbands tell them to do something that is contrary to the teachings of the Bible?
There are some who answer this question with a strong YES. They claim that husbands who tell their wives to do something wrong are responsible for the subsequent behavior of their wives, and the wives who faithfully do what their husbands tell them to do are themselves not guilty, no matter what they do. However, that is not true. Husbands do have some authority in the home, but they do not have a higher authority than God does. Wives (as well as the rest of us) must always obey God rather than man. (See Acts 4:19 and 5:29.) So wives should not obey husbands who tell them to do something wrong.
7. Is divorce ever permissible for believers? Is re-marriage permissible for those who have been divorced on unbiblical grounds?
God hates divorce (Malachi 2:13-16), though in Old Testament times he permitted people to divorce their spouses on certain grounds because of the hardness of their hearts. (See Deuteronomy 24:1-4; Matthew 19:1-8.) In the New Testament, however, God makes it very clear that the only permissible ground for divorce is marital unfaithfulness on the part of one of the partners (Matthew 19:9). Most evangelicals understand “unfaithfulness” here to refer specifically to adultery. However, since the Greek word used here for “unfaithfulness” is not the same as the word for “adultery,” some believe that “unfaithfulness” may possibly refer to other forms of unfaithfulness as well. From the very beginning, however, God intended that marriage would be permanent—and he still does!
If a person is divorced on grounds other than adultery of the spouse, that person should remain single or be reconciled to the spouse (1 Corinthians 7:11-12). However, if a person is divorced on the grounds of marital unfaithfulness, the spouse is free to marry and is not considered an adulterer (Matthew 19:9). (Note: In Leviticus 21:7 and 14 and in Ezekiel 44:22 we read that a priest was not permitted to marry either a widow or a divorced person—except for widows of priests. That prohibition is not repeated in the New Testament.)
8. Homosexuality is becoming more common in the world and even in some churches. Should the church today accept a homosexual lifestyle as acceptable to God? If not, how should the church deal with homosexual persons who claim to be followers of Christ?
Though homosexuality is becoming widely accepted in some societies, the Bible never condones a homosexual lifestyle for either men or women. The church, therefore, should not act as if homosexuality is now acceptable to God. It isn’t. At the same time, we should recognize that for some people a homosexual lifestyle seems more “natural” for them than a heterosexual lifestyle. And, if people are convinced that something feels “natural” rather than “chosen,” they may feel that they are no longer responsible for their conduct. However, that does not make their conduct right or acceptable in the sight of God.
Those who are involved in a homosexual lifestyle should be treated with sincere and loving concern rather than simply being condemned for something which they feel is beyond their personal control. At times, professional help might also be recommended for those who would very much want to pursue a lifestyle that is pleasing to the Lord. At the same time they should be shown from the Bible (if they are willing to listen) that what seems “natural” is often sinful and wrong in the sight of God. They, like the rest of us, may often have to be reminded that what is right or wrong in God’s sight is not determined by our natural feelings or tendencies but by what God himself teaches us in His Word. The church must warn that homosexual sin, like all other sin, leads to ruin and hell if there is no repentance or desire to change. The church must also bring good news: homosexual sin, like all other sin, can be forgiven when people repent and count on Jesus’ blood to wash away their guilt; and such sin can be resisted by the power of God’s Holy Spirit living within us (1 Corinthians 6:9-11).
9. Some believers in the Old Testament (such as Abraham, Jacob, and David) had more than one wife and God did not seem to condemn them for that. Are there situations today where the church should regard polygamy as acceptable to God?
Polygamy is generally not a major issue in most western cultures. However, it is still a major concern in some other cultures. Given the fact that Old Testament leaders often had more than one wife, it would seem fairly easy for believers in some cultures to justify their own polygamous practices. However, God created only one wife for Adam in the beginning, and this seemed to be the divine pattern for marriage in the future. The pattern of having only one spouse is also the approved pattern for leaders in the New Testament. (See, for example, 1 Timothy 3:2 and 1 Timothy 3:12.)
A significant problem arises, however, when a man with several wives becomes a Christian and for the first time realizes what God’s intention is for marriage. If the polygamist divorced all his wives but one, he would be “guilty” of divorcing innocent wives. In addition, the divorced wives might have an extremely difficult time providing for themselves and any children they might already have. They might also be looked down upon by others in the community and have very little opportunity to support themselves. In those situations, missionaries and other mature believers sometimes decide that the best thing they can do is to promote a monogamous lifestyle in the community and make sure that no new believers take more than one wife for themselves. They also appoint as leaders only those who have one spouse. At the same time, realizing that divorced wives would have an extremely difficult time in their culture, they permit polygamous men to continue to live with the wives they already have if they so choose. This may not be an ideal solution to the problem, but it does seek to meet the needs of people in less than ideal situations in a loving and caring way.
10. What are some of the most important things that parents today can and should do for their children?
The answer to this question will depend at least partly on the situation where people are living. However, there are some things which should be relevant in every culture or situation. Among them are the following: Parents should set an example for their children in every area of life. They should be people of integrity, perseverance, diligence, patience, love for family and others. They should also put Christ first in their lives, be faithful to their marriage partners and show them honor and respect, be faithful in worship, prayer, and study of the Scriptures. They should seek to return good for evil, show kindness to those who may not treat them kindly, be sensitive to the needs of the poor, help those who are in need, and earnestly seek to stay away from anything and everything that would be displeasing to the Lord or hurtful to others. Sensitive parents will also spend quality time with their children, be sensitive to their needs and concerns, deal patiently with their weaknesses, encourage them as much as possible, discipline them in love, and pray faithfully for each child individually. They should also put much more emphasis on the treasures of heaven than on the accumulation of earthly goods. A good motto for all parents can be found in the Scriptures where Joshua boldly proclaimed: “As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:15).