Questions From Readers
◼ How should individual Christians and the congregation as a whole view the Bible advice to marry “only in the Lord”?
Concerning a woman whose husband has died, the apostle Paul advised: “She is free to be married to whom she wants, only in the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 7:39) That is not merely some personal advice from a human. Paul wrote it under inspiration; so this wise and loving counsel originates with God. Hence, Christians should view it as serious, not something to be ignored or treated lightly. The historical record in the Bible underscores this.
When Abraham chose a wife for Isaac, he did not select a woman from among practicers of false religion, the Canaanites round about. Rather, he went to the trouble of locating, in a distant land, a wife from among relatives who recognized the true God. Similarly, Isaac told Jacob: “You must not take a wife from the daughters of Canaan.” (Genesis 28:1; 24:1-67) Abraham and Isaac realized that marriage was not a matter of mere romantic attachment. Devotion to Jehovah was involved, for marrying an unbeliever could bring serious problems and might even lead a person away from pure worship.
Yet not all the Hebrews kept firmly separate from those who did not worship Jehovah. For instance, Dinah associated with young persons in her neighborhood who did not serve the true God. With what result? One of the young men became passionately aroused and violated her. It seems that for a time Judah moved away from his family and took a Canaanite wife. How did that work out? Well, three sons resulted from that unequal union, but Jehovah had to destroy two of them because of their badness. Simeon also had a son by a Canaanite. This evidently was considered so much out of the ordinary or so undesirable that attention was called to it in the list of Jacob’s descendants.—Genesis 34:1, 2; 38:1-10; 46:8-10.
When God provided laws to guide Israel, he warned against their forming a marriage alliance with a person who did not worship Jehovah. (Deuteronomy 7:2-4) The wisdom of this was underscored by the tragedy that befell Solomon. He may have felt that, because he was exceptionally wise, he could cope with any problem or test resulting from marrying women who were not serving Jehovah. But when he ignored God’s counsel, even Solomon came to grief.—1 Kings 11:1-6.
Finally, in the Christian Greek Scriptures God repeated the counsel: Do not marry someone who is not serving the Lord. The inspired counsel was not, ‘If you find a clean, decent person, it is permissible to court and marry that individual with the hope that he or she may eventually become a Christian.’ Rather, God’s Word clearly says: “Do not become unevenly yoked with unbelievers.” (2 Corinthians 6:14) To marry someone who is not already a baptized Christian would be to disregard that serious counsel.
Because Jehovah’s Witnesses as a people view this counsel as wise and serious, they do not want to contribute to anyone’s going contrary to it. For example, if because of weakness a spiritual brother or sister began to court or date a person who is not a witness of Jehovah, the others in the congregation would hardly want to encourage that by socializing with the unbeliever. They agree with the Bible that the non-Christian is not a good associate. (1 Corinthians 15:33) But they should continue to display interest in their brother or sister. They might be able to offer tactful and encouraging admonition to help the straying Christian to avoid the sad path that Solomon followed.—Compare 2 Thessalonians 3:14, 15.
But what if a Witness planned to disregard God’s advice and to marry someone who was not a baptized Witness? Unless there was some exceptional reason, brothers in the congregation would not want to solemnize such an unequal yoking. Nor would the Kingdom Hall be available for the wedding. It is available for marriages of two baptized Christians who are marrying “only in the Lord.” Or it might sometimes be used by two persons who are regularly serving God as part of the congregation and who will soon be baptized. By not allowing the Kingdom Hall to be used by a Witness who plans to ‘become unevenly yoked with an unbeliever,’ the congregation elders can underscore the seriousness of God’s counsel to marry “only in the Lord.”