Thursday, July 28, 2005

Marriage Maths

So in the past two weeks, I've chatted with two people, and read about one person online, who have/are going through the issues relating to Christians dating/marrying non-Christians. I think there're lots more people who are in a similar dilemma due to the theological impasse presented by the following black and white picture.

So we go to the relevant verse. It is a short verse from Paul, but one that strikes fear and uncertainty in many people.
Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness? And what accord has Christ with Belial? Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever? And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said: "I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people."
2 Corinthians 6:14-16
I think it's useful to first consider the practical advantages of taking this verse at face value. Obviously, if two people share similar ideas and beliefs, all other things being equal, life should be easier etc. There would be less quarelling and so on.

But then again, Paul is saying that unbelievers are 'lawlessness' and 'darkness'. I find that really sweeping statement-ish and just a little bit arrogant. In my MSN chat when my friend asked me for my opinion because she once dated a 'non-believer', I thought for a while and typed "Screw it. Love. Love. Love. Love is the answer." or something to the effect. Which, admittedly, was rather idealistic and probably won't be all that simplistic in reality.

Is there any Biblical basis for this? Is there any room for negotiation for verse 14? I think there is. In the parable of the Good Samaritan, a lawyer asks Jesus what he needs to do to inherit eternal life. Jesus asks him what the Law says and how he interprets it. The legal eagle correctly answers "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind", and "Love your neighbor as yourself." But the lawyer wants to test Jesus some more, and so he asks, "And who is my neighbor?" So...
Jesus said: "A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead.

A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side.

So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.

But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, took him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two silver coins[e] and gave them to the innkeeper. 'Look after him,' he said, 'and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.'

"Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?"

The expert in the law replied, "The one who had mercy on him."

Jesus told him, "Go and do likewise."
Luke 10:30-37
The first two guys who don't help the wounded person are both of the same faith/background as the Jews. The last guy is the Samaritan who helps the wounded guy. Based on this, I reckon that an analogy of the relationship between the Jews and the Samaritans is probably a little similar between Christians and Muslims in today's context. They don't really like each other (or at least some groups!) and they have different beliefs, even if they worship the same God, and one is an outcast in the other's society.

I think the interesting thing about this parable is that essentially, Jesus is asking us to be like the Muslim (as per contextual paraphasing above)! Why? I think Jesus is saying that labels don't really matter as much as the authenticity of the person him or herself. To assign 'righteousness/lawlessness/light/dark' to people based on their social standing or beliefs is just too simplistic. The proof is in the pudding.

So going back to the marriage issue, I think maybe the first verse taken at face value might not be too helpful. Have you ever seen a Christian with a black user icon? I sure have! :) So, my feeling is that yes, Paul's right about choosing wisely as it's not very nice to marry someone who's lawless and basically a really bad person. But anyone can fit this criterion, not just unbelievers. I think faith differences can potentially make or break a relationship. But what about a couple who knows, understands, respects, and accepts another's differing faith? Is that not enough? Is that not one of the grand manifestations of unconditional love?

Update (!): Trackback, must-read counter arguments from Adina.


Blogger akikonomu said...

First, congratulations for this site.

Second, rather interesting image you posted. My usual response to people who ask questions like AnswersinGenesis is to speak in the most withering tone: God didn't say that. Paul did.

Third, I would rap those horrible evangelicals on the head and introduce to the science of Hermeneutics and centuries of biblical scholarship.

1. It is believed by some on linguistic analysis that the passage is a fragment either of non-Pauline origin, or not in its proper place, belonging instead to a different book or chapter.

2. Nowhere does Paul identify what type of unequally yoked relationship he refers to in this passage. It may refer to marriage; it equally may refer to taking part in the city's civic pagan cult rituals (remember this is Corinth we're talking about), entering a business relationship, eating food offered to idols, visiting temple prostitutes...

3. Nowhere in the Bible does Paul command Christians to withdraw themselves from the world, which is what AIG's creative interpretation amounts to.

4. The rhetorical device used in the passage points to the injunction not to compromise the integrity of the faith. In thought and act, one should not connive with the world in a manner that compromises their spiritual integrity. That is the real message.

5. Sorry lor, but people who instinctively think this passage refers to marriage are simply ignorant. Those who preach that this passage refers to marriage are simply not biblical scholars.

Monday, August 01, 2005 9:27:00 PM  
Blogger Christina said...

First, a personal comment. I am currently struggling with this issue - I have a baby with a man who is not a Christian. He knows that I am and that I want to teach our son about Jesus, and has no problem with this. He wants to marry me. We love each other. But the attack I've had from the "Christians" I know has been outrageous. My own mother said that if I married this man, she would stand up at my wedding and oppose, because I am a Christian and he is not. Is this right? Should I keep my family apart, seperate my son from his father, and struggle being a single mom apart from the man I love simply because he has not commited his life to the Lord? I don't know....You are right in saying that God didn't say that..Paul did. Paul said alot of things that Christians base their lives on, yet he was just a man, and a very opinionated one at that. Why don't these people see that the Bible was written by humans, containing human opinions and human errors? Aughh! Okay, anyway. Just wondering if anyone has any thoughts on my situation. I am planning on meeting with the pastor at my church..He said he would like to meet with the two of us as an objective third party. We will see. I just don't know which way to go here.

Thursday, October 06, 2005 11:55:00 PM  
Blogger jeffyen said...

Hi Christina, hopefully the meeting with your pastor will make things right/clarify things. Alternatively, a 'secular' marriage counsellor might be something to consider too. I reckon issues like these are something counsellors will encounter at some point or another. You're in my prayers...

Sunday, October 09, 2005 11:52:00 AM  

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