Kristie and I are married. We have the certificate to prove it. The state says we are married and so I believe it. So does my church. So do my church friends. We even wear wedding rings. We also tell people we are married. We have it all. We made our vows thirteen years ago and we are husband and wife.
I have performed the marriage ceremony for dozens of couples. I know the ropes. I have performed them at churches, chapels, by lakes, in a law office, and even on my back porch (twice!). There are some key ingredients I require. 1) A man and a woman. 2) A witness. 3) Vows with specific promises. 4) A marriage certificate. Once the man and woman are present, numbers 2 and 3 are easy for me to wing. However, I can’t do the certificate. The couple has to. It is an issue of the state.
One time I married a couple and forgot to put my “book” and “page” number on the certificate. Another time, we forgot the certificate all-together and had to sign it later in the week (I think after the honeymoon). Were they married? I timidly told the excited (but very nervous) couple not to worry about it. I explained that it was their commitment to each other between God and men that made them united in marriage in God’s sight. They were free to do what married couples do. They were relieved to say the least.
But was I right? How much say does the state really have in whether a couple is married or not? Conversely, how much say do they have if a couple is divorced?
There is no place in the Bible that speaks about the rules for getting married. Believe me, I have looked. No ceremony instructions. No mention of government regulations. No suggested vows. Nothing about a ring, a church, a white dress, a tux, or even someone to preside over the ceremony. The Bible seems to give much freedom to individuals and cultures to mandate these things as they will.
But what really makes two people married?
Here are some options:
1. Living together in a symbiotic relationship (mutual dependence).
2. Sexual intimacy.
3. Making vows of commitment.
4. The state certificate.
5. Self identification as being married.
6. Pronouncement of an officiant.
7. Having children together. Continue Reading →