Terça, 28 de Maio de 2024
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Common-law Marriage: Sheer Concubinage

Nowadays, marriage is taken as something hackneyed. Many despise it saying that it is a “broken institution”, an easily dissolvable contract or mere social convention that can be replaced by models as valid as marriage traditionally conceived.

Among evangelicals, we can see trivialization of marriage in the adoption, by some Christians, of the concept that common-law marriage is a type of bondage between man and woman as genuine as marriage. According to them, there is no difference between regular and common-law marriage, except that, in the first case, the couple has a “piece of paper”.

In spite of that, in the light of the Bible, things are not quite like that. Let alone in practice. Please note: strictly speaking, common-law marriage is made up when a couple starts living together as husband and wife. The fact is they fornicate and, at some point, decide to give their fornication publicity by living under the same roof. Thereafter, the date stops being a date and becomes “concubinage” – something they currently gave a prettier name, “common-law marriage”, or “stable union”. Living like this for years, the couple believes time brings their union legitimacy and even sanctity, as if an old sin could transform into something acceptable just for being old.

Plain truth, thus, is that concubinage (or common-law marriage) keeps the involved in immorality the same way a single boy and girl who started having sexual relationship last week. Time does not make it approved or pure.  Time does not grant it the status of “bed undefiled” which Hebrew’s author talks about (Hb 13.4). Time does not turn a couple of fornicators into husband and wife, both relishing a holy bond that symbolizes the union between Christ and the church (Eph 5.32).

After all, the fact is that the Bible approves marriage and not concubinage, currently called common-law marriage, showing there is a difference between them. Yes, there is a difference. The holy text says, for example, that Solomon had “wives” and “concubines”, indicating the distinction between the two classes. Jesus also pointed that out when speaking to the Samaritan woman. He said she had had five husbands, but the man she was with then was not her husband (Jo 4.16-18). In this text, the Lord stresses that having a man is not the same as having a husband and uses such distinction to “poke” the Samaritan by revealing her misconduct.

The natural question arising at this point is, “if marriage is holy and common-law marriage is sin, what then distinguishes the two models? In the light of the Bible, what differs stable union from marriage is the “solemn ceremony”. In biblical times, the solemn act that made marriage up was usually a feast followed by certain formalities (Mt 25.1-10). A ceremony also had the power of granting the formality capable of constituting a marriage (Sl 45.8-15). Women who joined a man with no such formalities were taken as concubines, not as wives.

Now, marriage, not concubinage, is the project created by God and able to meet the ideal of “one flesh” in addition to reflecting the relationship between Christ and his church. Any union between men and women out of that ideal is impure and immoral and incurs the condemnation the author of Hebrews refers to when he says that “for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral” (Hb 13.4). Hence the need for couples who are Christians to formally get married. According to the Christian values, it does not mean a mere “piece of paper”, but an actual marriage in God’s standards.

I know this topic raises many questions that find no answer here. Therefore, I refer those interested to a more complete article I wrote on the subject. You can access by clicking the link: http://goo.gl/HQXEmg.

I hope these brief remarks are of help for believers to at least start thinking better about the legitimacy of common-law marriage, latter adopting marriage, something instated by God, and leaving aside human inventions.

Pr. Marcos Granconato

Strength and faith

Soli Deo gloria

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