There is nothing quite as pristine and clean as a newborn set of standards. There is nothing quite as bruised and battered as the veteran set conscientiously applied. When it comes to marriages, our church is like yours; we realize there are high standards we must take. There is so much at stake: for the sake of the Lord’s good name, for the sake of Godly homes, for the good of adults and children, for this culture and the generations to follow, the church must never compromise her high view of the home. The church, in helping people become Kingdom people, will always find herself at the front door of homes.
In general, the basic standards for a home are not hard to find. It requires that a man and woman be committed to one another for the rest of their lives. It requires that each has a character mature enough to sacrificially surrender his or her rights for the other. And for the Godly home, it requires hearts of faith. In a perfect world, we would eagerly look forward to the next couple that asked us to work with them and their upcoming marriage. We would simply help them give application to these principles, pronounce them “husband and wife,” and then encourage them a little from the sidelines. And sometimes, by the grace of God, this is our privilege.
But we live in a less than perfect world. The messiness of life presents so many perplexing situations. Normally, the couples we work with seem to demonstrate a world in disarray. There are some in disarray but wanting help; there are some in disarray and oblivious to…well, just frankly oblivious! While there are others who live in disarray and are very determined to keep it that way! In the most severe cases the only role they ask of us is “now bless us and make what we’re doing legal and socially acceptable!”, which of course a faithful church cannot do, and so we find ourselves in tension with the very ones we would like to rescue. The church is not a “Justice of the Peace,” nor are we a wedding chapel. We have a higher calling; we are shepherds to the Lord’s people, even to those who do not know Him yet. Faithful shepherds shouldn’t be bought off by honorariums or even the applause of a community. The greater questions are: did we call them to higher things? Did we lift up the standards of God? Did we love truth, yet treat them with grace?
We have established a basic set of principles that our ministers use in determining which weddings we perform and from which ones we excuse ourselves. These principles in themselves are pretty clear and explainable, but we recognize that the problem is in the application. Precise formulas work pretty well in math or chemistry, but people are a far cry from either. We freely confess that in attempting to apply these standards some situations still leave us quite unsettled. On some occasions we feel as if we have tilted to an excessive harshness while on others toward a cowardly nothingness. The problem is that it is hard to read repentance, it is difficult to decipher whose version of the truth is truth, and it is hard to know when to give grace and when the best love is absolute firmness. Yet decisions must be made, and by the grace of God we do our best.
(II Corinthians 6 and I Corinthians 7 appear to be direct Biblical mandates forbidding Christians from making this choice.)
A. Situation one: If they were “divorced against their will”
B. Situation two: “Unfaithful to their former vows, but now repentant”
C. In most every other situation we decline to help establish a new marriage when there is such “unfinished business” with the Lord and a former mate.
* Every couple that we marry is required to go through our premarital counseling, the heart of which is a six-part video series entitled “A Lifetime Love…Building the Marriage You Want To Come Home To.” Each engaged couple identifies and recruits a couple “married at least ten years” whose “Christian life and marriage they admire.” (We have couples recruited should they not know anyone.) The two couples will view the series together in one of their homes over a four to six week period. The teaching is carried by the video, but the resulting mentoring relationship arises out of the process. Our ministers work face to face with the couple before and after the video series.
GENERAL WEDDING GUIDELINES AS USED BY THE COLLEGE HEIGHTS MINISTERS
- Normally we will marry non-Christians Qualifiers:
- If they are willing to work with us through the pre-marital series. * (See below)
- If we find the two essentials: 1) commitment, and 2) sufficient character to carry out that commitment
- We gladly offer to work through the pre-marital series, provided they will accept our decision at the end of the series *
- But, if teaching does not produce a change of heart, we decline to perform the wedding.
- However, if they have children together, this significant factor takes us to a different position.
- And if it seems they had maintained a heart of faithfulness throughout their former marriage
- And if they have not rushed to remarriage but have allowed sufficient time for the offending partner to repent and attempt restoration (certainly nothing less than one year)
- This repentance must seem genuine
- This repentance must be expressed to their former mate and children. (We help them write the letters, set up the meetings, etc.)
- And this repentance must even explore the question of reconciliation. With their permission we often call the former mate ourselves to see if it is even possible to discuss an attempt to reconcile. If there is not a possible way to reconcile the previous marriage (due to remarriage, etc.), we will then proceed to help this relationship be successful
- If they will separate until the marriage and honor a new purity, we are happy to help them marry. (We will gladly help one of them find a temporary home until their wedding)
- An exception is made if they have children. If they have children we normally believe it more harmful to the child to have a parent move out. We simply encourage a more immediate wedding. (And we encourage the wedding ceremony itself be framed as a response to the Lord and a teaching moment for their children and friends)
“A LIFETIME LOVE….BUILDING THE MARRIAGE YOU WANT TO COME HOME TO”
By Randy Gariss
Six, fifty-minute sessions
Session 1 – Why Doesn’t Love Last? A look at why the neighbors’ marriages are failing
Session 2 – Staying in Love…There is a profound secret God wired into the human heart.
Session 3 – How a Woman Loves a Man & How a Man Loves a Woman: The created difference between us
Session 4 – Words…How to have a healthy and tender fight
Session 5 – Finances, In-Laws, and Sex…Being wise matters
Session 6 – How to Have a Spiritual Home
Bonus Session – A Deeper Look at the God-given Differences Between Men & Women