The constituents of marriage
The root of the issue isn’t the law itself but the Spirit of the law which Jesus makes abundantly clear in Matthew 5:
27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery’; 28 but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29 If your right eye makes you [w]stumble, tear it out and throw it from you; for it is better for you [x]to lose one of the parts of your body, [y]than for your whole body to be thrown into [z]hell. 30 If your right hand makes you [aa]stumble, cut it off and throw it from you; for it is better for you [ab]to lose one of the parts of your body, [ac]than for your whole body to go into [ad]hell.
However, let’s take a step back and examine what marriage is so we have a better understanding of what it means to “cohabitate” or “fornicate”:
In Genesis 2, we can see that God acts as the first Father to give Adam his wife Eve:
21 So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and he slept; then He took one of his ribs and closed up the flesh at that place. 22 The Lord God [t]fashioned into a woman the rib which He had taken from the man, and brought her to the man.
23 “This is now bone of my bones, And flesh of my flesh; [u]She shall be called [v]Woman, Because [w]she was taken out of [x]Man.”
Likewise, there is the aspect of separation and joining, and sex:
24 For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh. 25 And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.
Thus, marriage is generally consistuted of:
- Father giving the daughter to the man — God giving Eve to Adam
- Separating from family(s) — leaving father and mother
- Coming together [to be with and live with] — joined to his wife
- Having sex — becoming one flesh
- In the presence of witnesses [traditionally with a wedding celebration] — in this case, Father/Jesus/Spirit and potentially angels.
Not necessarily all in that order.
A wedding celebration tends to have all of these pieces together — the father gives the daughter to the man. The man and woman are separating from their families and coming together. They are doing it in the presence of witnesses [in a celebration]. And they will consummate — COMPLETE — the marriage with sexual intercourse. This is why the bloodstained sheets were held onto after the consummation as proof in many cultures.
Consummation is a completion of all of the acts that make up a marriage. Thus, sex in itself does not consistute what is marriage.
All are integral parts of a marriage including the permanence of it. Any of the piece of what consistutes a marriage or the dissolution of the marrige is to make a mockery of marriage and the design of what God intended.
When you mock marriage you mock God.
Cohabitation, thus, is a mockery of the institution of marriage and creates dischord when they separate and even when they stay together. Fornication, thus, is a mockery of the institution of marriage and ultimately creates dischord when you separate and even when they stay together. Disobeying the father of the daughter and running off is a mockery of the institution of marriage and creates strife and dischord within families. Disunity within the marriage where husbands and wives live apart is a mockery of the institution of marriage. There are consequences for sin both in this life and the next.
Note: it is impossible to get away from witnesses since God is everywhere, the state is a witness, church is a witness, or in tribes other people are witnesses.
It is the unity of concepts that make up the institution of marriage which are critical to its function just as the unity of the body is the bride of Christ.
It is important to understand that it is unity of the husband and wife as well as the rest of the immediate family that is important. Why else does Paul, inspired by God, make the analogy that the great mystery of marriage is synonymous with Christ and the Church?
God, through Paul, is telling us that all relationships, not just between the husband and wife, but between the family and the witnesses are important. The fullness of unity. This is the reason for the celebration, just as there will be a celebration in heaven when Christ is united with His bride, the Church. Just as there is a celebration when one lost sheep is saved.
Therefore, what is divorce?
You cannot have divorce when there is “just sex” just as you cannot have divorce when there is “just cohabitation.” The mockery of the institution of marriage is already there. There is already sin before God.
Would it be best for them to separate or to marry?
To be honest, I don’t know. This is what repentance and prayer to God are for. Become right before God and cry out to Him for help to show you the path of righteousness.
But what I can tell you is that there is sin there, and there will be consequences of that sin whether they decide to marry or not. I can tell you that there is sin there, and they will need to repent of it before God and to each other. I can tell you that there is sin there, and destruction of any part(s) of that union will have consequences. I can tell you that there will be less happiness and marital satisfaction because of fornication and cohabitation whether they decide to marry or not, and even the worldly studies have born this out.
When you mess with parts of marriage without marriage there are consequences. When you decide to step out of the Truth you will live in a lie. And there are dire consequences for living a lie and stepping outside the bounds of the Truth.
Cane Caldo’s post on the Scripture as a handrail is particularly apt.
What, therefore, is good?
The question, however, remains is what is good?
I would assert that this is also found in the Scriptures:
- It is not a question of whether it is lawful.
- Nor is it a question of what is good [for you only].
- It is a question of what is good for your neighbor.
1 Corinthians 10:23 All things are lawful, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful, but not all things edify. 24 Let no one seek his own good, but that of his [i]neighbor.
And who is our neighbor?
Luke 10:25 And a [l]lawyer stood up and put Him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” 26 And He said to him, “What is written in the Law? [m]How does it read to you?” 27 And he answered, “You shall 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 your neighbor as yourself.” 28 And He said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this and you will live.” 29 But wishing to justify himself, he said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
Your neighbor is everyone, even your enemy. It is no coincidence that the parable of the good Samaritan is told after this.
Therefore, how much more is it important for the father to give away the daughter and there be witnesses to join in the celebration of marriage? How much more important is it not to fornicate before marriage? How much more important is it not to cohabitate before marriage? The nature of the unity of marriage is not only symbolic.
It is the community-wide witness and celebration of the unity of marriage and not only of the husband and the wife. This is the all encompassing unity of what is marriage on this earth. And this is the all encompassing unity of what is the marriage of Christ and the Church.
It should come as no surprise or coincidence that it was marriage that was often used by rulers to unite kingdoms that had enmity between each other. Such is the strong pull of the community created by marriage.
The hand of marriage
Think of the grip of a hand. If you use one finger and tighten it then the bond is not strong. But it still hurts if you rip it apart. If you use two fingers and tighten the bond it is stronger. But it still hurts if you rip it apart. This is what happens when you fornicate, when you cohabitate, when you sow dischord between the father and daughter, etc.
You want to clasp the bond altogether with 5 fingers at once to get the strong hold, and you never want to rip it apart. This is the essence of the (1) father giving the daughter to the man, (2) the two separating from their families, (3) them joining/living together, (4) in the presence of witnesses, and (5) it is consummated with sex.
There is unity within a grip that requires all 5 digits of the hand to be working as one. This is synonymous with marriage on this earth and the eventual marriage of Christ and the Church.
Sex is the lynchpin of marriage just as the thumb is the lynchpin of the hand, but it doesn’t make up the whole marriage. It is, however, one of the unifying aspects that brings forth the important characteristics of hand function just as sex brings forth the important characteristics of family function through one flesh, pleasure, children, etc.
Sex provides the locking grip to the hand that allows the strength of the hand to be multiplied many times over, and provides unique functions such as grip for fine motor tasks which enable writing and crafting. The same thing occurs with the formation and independence of a new family unit.
This is why the lack of sex destroys marriages because it severely weakens the cohesion of the family unit. This is why fornication before marriage has far reaching negative consequences to the married. When you rip your thumb off you severely weaken the whole hand and its entire function.