When anyone asks me to marry them I will always agree to have at least one meeting, to learn about the couple, see where they are spiritually, get to know one another and see if we (officiant and couple) are a good fit. It’s a no-strings attached informal info session. At the very least it is an opportunity to share of the Christian vision of marriage and most importantly the Gospel. If we decide to proceed the couple commits to biblical premarital counselling.
Sometimes, sadly, because of sin and an unwillingness to do things God’s way on the part of the couple, I, by conscience and conviction, cannot proceed beyond this first conversation. This is of course done respectfully and charitably but must nevertheless be done. For example, I cannot marry same-sex or trans-gendered couples. Adultery, fornication, divorce and remarriage are also things that must be seriously explored. If the couple are not Christians I ask why a Christian marriage and will invest in a couple seriously interested in the ways of the Lord versus those interested in a Christian wedding simply because the Church has a centre aisle. I believe holy matrimony to be a sacred institution and so I am quite comfortable stepping outside of the common lens of seeing it as a form of evangelism (it is primarily an opportunity to disciple and not to evangelize, though in some cases this may be a positive side benefit). As someone who is lawfully allowed to officiate over wedding ceremonies I take the opportunity with all seriousness likening the responsibility to James 3:1, not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.
You may have noticed that I left out one sort of couple, the blended couple, or a Christian seeking to marry a non-Christian. Should a Christian even entertain marrying a non-Christian? Should a Christian officiant preside over a mixed-wedding? Though some would argue it is a great opportunity to convert the non-believer, a work the Christian spouse can finish up, the classic evangelical response and consensus has been, and still is, “no.” The remainder of this blog will unpack “why.”
The why centres around what the Bible clearly says. This is not an ambiguous area where there is some degree of flexibility, the Scriptures are quite clear on the matter. Let’s build from the less clear to the clear passages:
Whether you are considering marriage for the first time or are in a situation of remarriage, resolve today to be obedient to the Lord and only “marry in the Lord.” This should be the number one criterion you have in finding a spouse.
If you find yourself in a mixed-marriage, confess and ask the Lord to strengthen your faith and save your spouse. Surround yourself with a good church and strong Christian fellowship and may your brothers and sisters in Christ prayerfully support you.
As always, would love to chat if this or any blog generates an biblical or situational questions. These are difficult matters, let us wrestle with them before the Lord and with His help.
 If you cannot find a Christian spouse it is better to wait upon the Lord than settle for something less. He will honour your patience.
 Though I have met a select few upon whom the Lord had mercy and the spouse was converted, this shouldn’t fuel disobedience nor foster wishful thinking.
Though our ultimate citizenship is in heaven, Christians ought to pray for their earthly country, its leaders, and ultimately its salvation. Did you know Canada used to be a Christian country, though now a conservative estimate is that only 3-4% are born again. In fact at the turn of the last century Ontario was one of the most Christianized lands in the world! Though there is cause to hope for brighter days, as it was Canada day this week it is relevant to look back to our Christian heritage as an encouragement to look forward.
Here are just three marks of our Christian past (point people to these when doing evangelism):
-Our coat of arms. Did you know the Latin saying on our coat of arms is taken from Ps 72:8 and expressed the Christian vision for Canada: Et dominabitur a mari usque ad mare, et a flumine usque ad terminos terrae or "He shall have dominion also from sea to sea, and from the river unto the ends of the earth." And don’t forget the cross at the top of her majesty’s crown!
-Our national anthem. Originally part of a larger Christian hymn, one line says it best: God keep our land glorious and free. It is God we need to look for to keep us glorious and free, a freedom and blessing which comes from faithfulness to the Gospel.
- Our Charter: While many forget this or dismiss this all together, the defining line of our Charter comes at the very beginning: Whereas Canada is founded upon principles that recognize the supremacy of God and the rule of law.
Sadly today we can only beg God’s mercy (“Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people.” Pr 14:34). Any hope of future blessing can only be found in the Gospel re-reaching our land. Not that Canada would look the same in the past if this were so in the future, but we need to point people back to the founding person of Jesus Christ if we are to remain glorious and free: “ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is; and walk in it, and find rest for your souls.” (Jer 6:16)
Twice now recently I’ve been confronted with this question: should we jettison the good with the bad when a Christian leader or ministry abandons the faith, swerves in their beliefs or whose morals are compromised?
One such case was a pastor of a church who had an affair with the church secretary. Neither was willing to repent. The church was devastated.
The other was a music ministry which wrote some good songs. They drifted more and more into the extreme of the charismatic movement and became closely associated with “grave soaking.” (The practice where their prophet has died and you lie on the grave to absorb the holiness or spirit which had indwelt them—not dissimilar to Roman Catholics rubbing some holy location, such as the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem).
Many former evangelical leaders have also been known to have drifted into neo-liberalism and secular humanism. What shall we make of their writings?
These are all troubling situations, and many others like them. However, while one may feel the need to disassociate with their music or writings, etc, for reasons of conscience or witness, there is no inherent reason to stop using their material, if what they wrote at the time accorded with Truth. If someone spoke truth, whether as an unbeliever or a believer who strayed, what they said or wrote still has lasting value (even if we may be discrete in how we commend or use their works publically).
The old Anglican confession of faith, The 39 Articles, recognized as much. It said:
XXVI. Of the Unworthiness of the Ministers, which hinders not the effect of the Sacraments.
One needs to remember that even amongst faithful ministers and ministries no one is perfect. That never excuses sin or apostasy, however, it does help our perspective when we are personally shattered by the realization of some fall.
For Biblical warrant, consider the life of Samson and Judas:
· Samson: While many esteem Samson as a great hero he was in fact a lawless scoundrel. He womanized and broke all three of his Nazarite vows, not to mention countless other commands. He only twice is recorded as crying out to God, and then only when he was desperate. Yet, he is recorded in Heb 11 as among those of faith. His actions cannot be excused, but was there some value in some of the things he did, and did God ultimately use everything for His glory and purposes, yes.
· Judas: Did his betrayal of Jesus invalidate the Gospel he proclaimed to those who truly believed it and were saved? Did it invalidate the example of good done when he gave money to the poor even though he stole from the money purse? No. The truth displayed remains valid despite the person ultimately being discredited as an unbeliever.
So the next time you are deeply troubled, pray for the person or ministry—that God would save or restore them, pray that God would have mercy on you to keep your foot from stumbling and take consolation that it is the Truth spoken and done that ultimately matters and not the faithfulness of the person, however important that may also be.
Author: Chris Crocker
Pastor, historian and beekeeper.