Saturday, January 28, 2017

Letter to a friend about living together

Dear Nichole,

It's so sad for Joyce and even for Kevin [that he is involved with another woman and yet says he still has feelings for Joyce].  He seems to think feeling equals loving.  Feeling can be a part of loving, but loving biblically is making a decision to do what is best for the other person.  

Love is putting the other's needs above you own.  With regards to the husband and wife, it means mutual submission. Ephesians 5:21 ought to be the start to the paragraph [about marital relations in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians], not the end of the last paragraph. Ephesians 5:22 [should not] start out as if it is a new thought.  Ephesians 5:22 has no verb.  The verb “submit” is in Ephesians 5:21 and it is assumed as the verb in Ephesians 5:22. So, all people in the church ought to be submitting to each other, and within the marriage the wife is reminded to submit. (In the view of some commentators, since the Fall the woman wants to control and supplant the husband.)  The husband is given a very difficult and really impossible command to love [his wife] as Christ loved the church (agape NT love, not eros Gk desire or "love" or fileo friendship). [Christ] died for the church.  

Synonyms for love are a bit difficult in the Bible, since they are sometimes used synonymously, "’Peter, do you agape me?’ ‘Lord, you know that I fileo you.’"  Repeated twice.  The third time, Jesus asks Peter using files.  Why didn't Peter answer using agapeo  the first two times? Embarrassment? Peter had denied Christ? Perhaps Peter didn't want to admit agapeo? It would have been too hard?

I think Linda's right to a point, if someone doesn't recognize the authority of the Bible, then they won't accept what it says.  On the other hand, you could make what's called a Natural Law argument.  Thomas Aquinas argued that there are certain natural principles or laws in creation.  As God has created the world, there is a certain way things are in the world. [Whether anyone accepts that they exist or have any influence over them doesn’t change that they exist and have influence over them.  At the same time those who resist biblical teaching may be able to see that these Natural Law principles exist when they would be unwilling to accept the Bible.]

Almost all mammals have [pairs of] males and females, and copulate to produce offspring.  There is no reproduction of offspring without pairing. The morphology of mammals as regards sexual organs is amazingly similar. Some animals are even monogamous or monandrous (one wife or one male).  It's true that some mammals like cattle or lions have herds and prides, in which one male has dominance and breeding rights.  However, other like elephants breed for life to one mate.

It seems that God has so designed the world that monogamous or monadrous marriage is the norm for humans.  This would seem to be obvious from millenia of marriage practices across cultures.

In the end, though, young people today are very confused by a non-Christian media industry that has pushed alternative forms of marriage and sexual relationships.  If George cheated on Sally, I bet she'd "kick him to the curb."  I have had students tell me that they know people whose idea of marriage is open marriage, like Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn (or as in the "Friends with benefits" movie).  However, who is going to help you when you're sick, if it's only about sexual satisfaction?  Who will care for you when you're old? [Marriage is mutual concern and caring, i.e. real loving.]

Ordinary marriage is also a civil contract.  Do you share things in common?  Do you need a prenuptial agreement? If you live together, what happens if many years or decades later you split and you own common property like a home?  In many states, there is common law marriage.  If you have lived together long enough, say seven years, you are considered married by the law.  This means your children aren't "illegitimate", i.e. they can inherit property. It also means that the surviving "spouse" can inherit joint assets.

None of this will seem too important until there are children involved or someone is chronically sick or property is involved.  Love is supposed to conquer all.  However, if love is just feelings, they come and go.  "Commitment" - “What I'm lookin' for
Is a love that's forever”
as the song goes.
I guess Sally doesn't see the need for any more commitment than George's love and word.  Biblically in the OT it seems that if a man sleeps with a virgin, she is his wife.  She could not marry anyone else. She was "used". (Her hymen would be broken.) In some sense in biblical terms having sex is getting married (if you weren't already; then it would be adultery).

The situation is different now.  No one seems to understand that sex is metaphysical.  It's not just about saying words, which could be said without intent or loveless commitment (no feelings).  When two people join sexually, they become one.  It's something much deeper than a casual contact of genitalia.

Perhaps it's good now that there is no "double standard". i.e. that men may cheat and be sexually active outside of marriage, but women can't.  On the other hand, the open relationships practiced by many or perhaps even most now lead to heart ache and a lot of confusion.  The answer to divorce is not open relationships.  It's more love, more agape. 1 Corinthians 13.

I don't think it does any good to try to force people to listen to you or the Bible or to agree with you.  Your discomfort at their choices is probably louder than their concern for the issue.

We have seen a lot of people live together for a while and then get married.  Some don't, but usually indirect teaching by example and patient love for your spouse says more than words.  We have also seen many couples start to come to church when they have Sunday School aged kids.  Sometimes the parents come to Christ at that time!  Patience in such situations is hard and the question of what to say when is very difficult.  Try to be patient with them and just have fun.  Be yourself in your relationship with Richard [her husband] and vice versa. Pushing them to do what you think it right will probably only meet with a stubborn resistance.

Praying for you all.


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