Question:

Dear Brother,

Thank you for the important site you have created in order to answer those questions that affect Christians lives.

I live in a community where people are influenced by traditional superstition and idolatry. I found out that our tradition on marriage is as far as heaven from earth compared to the laws regarding marriage set forth by God in the Bible. For this reason I have been struggling if what my tradition approves to be marriage concerning me is right or wrong.

In our tradition, a person is said to be married if he sleeps with a girl whether he makes her pregnant or not. If the girl is found out to be sleeping with someone, even if this done privately, the parents especially, the father, asks his daughter who is sleeping with her or who made her pregnant. If the name of the person is made known by the girl, then the person who had sex with the girl or made her pregnant is caught and asked if he is the one who made her pregnant or the one having sex with her. If the man says yes, he will be asked to pay the bride price. If the bride price is paid, that man is said to be married in the sight of communities.

It does not matter how many girls who make known the name of the same men to their parents that he made them pregnant or had sex with them. That person will be pronounced as being a many wives husband. If the parents refused to have that man be their daughter's husband, they do not receive anything or receive some amount for his sleeping with her and tell him not to go to her again, even if the girl has already become pregnant by that person. The baby to be born will still be theirs and they will be responsible for the clothes, food, medical, school and the like.

I had sex with a girl who passed through the above stage with two men. The first man has a mental problem. The other man went to her, made his name known to her father, was caught and paid the bride price. It is after she was with the second man that I went to her and slept with her, just simply to satisfy my need to have sex. She said that she would make my name known to her father. After I knew this, I left to another country to avoid her. I did not know she was pregnant. Since my plan was not to marry a girl who had all these past sexual experiences, I fled to other country in order to avoid her.

I was called and told that she was pregnant. My parents encourage me to live with her as my wife since the community approves this as a marriage. They paid the bride price while I was in that foreign country to show that the girl is my wife. The baby was born. She is almost three years old. My parents still insist that I take her with me and live with her. I refused. Even if I paid all the money needed, I will not live with her as my wife.

My worry is if this is a proper marriage in the sight of God. I know a little bit about the Bible concerning such thing. It is adultery to go to someone's wife, if that is the case, and fornication to sleep with a girl with whom a person is not married. I do not have a legal wife (by this I mean in God sight) and I know that I will be responsible for all the consequence of my sexual sins. Can we say I am biblically married? Do I have any opportunity to marry other girl in the right way that is based on God's law? Love, marriage, sex, and then kids? Since I know that living with that lady would be sin of adultery, I refrained from having sex with her. Also I am no longer having no sexual relationships with any other girl. I want to know the right answer and the right thing to do before it is late. I am concerned with my going to heaven after I died. I want to be an example of a righteous man in the sight of God and teach people in the way I live and practice what I preached. I am so disturbed by this circumstance and would like to hear from you soon.


Answer:

Marriage is defined by God and not society. "Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh" (Genesis 2:24). Though how the joining takes place is not defined in this verse, we later find that God said, "Yet she is your companion and your wife by covenant" (Malachi 2:14). Therefore, the joining is done by a covenant between a man and a woman -- a special vow that binds the parties in a life long agreement. In taking on this covenant, it is God who actually joins the two people. "And He answered and said to them, "Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning 'made them male and female,' and said, 'For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh'? So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate" (Matthew 19:4-6). It is after the joining that the man and woman become one flesh -- an on going process -- but implied is that sex takes place as a part of them becoming one flesh. "Marriage is honorable among all, and the bed undefiled; but fornicators and adulterers God will judge" (Hebrews 13:4).

Your societal rules violate the laws of God. In your society, fornication (having sex without being married) is expected and encouraged. Yet, even in your society it is recognized that the acts of sex does not create a marriage. The woman has to reveal the name of the man who had sex with her to her father. Her father then decides if he wants the man to be his son-in-law, and if so has to get the man to admit that he had sex with his daughter. If these steps take place, then a bride price is paid by the man and they are considered married. Notice that there is no vow committing the man and woman to each other. Because your society bases marriage on secretive fornication, it is possible for a man to end up being married to many women. It appears that since an unmarried woman can have sex with multiple men, she has the choice to name who she wants as a husband. And if I understand you correctly, she could have multiple husbands. This is totally contrary to God's law which only allows one man to be married to one woman (though God allowed exceptions in the Old Testament).

I'm glad you wish to live by the laws of Christ. Just keep in mind that you cannot pick and choose which laws you want to follow. "For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all" (James 2:10). Not that this is a hardship, following God's laws tend to make life better and simpler.

You were guilty of adultery when you had sex with another man's wife. The child that resulted is your responsibility unless another person chooses to take up the responsibility for the child. However, neither adultery or having a child makes you married to this woman. She is already married anyway.

Since you are not married, yes, you can get married in the proper way according to the laws of Christ.