Non-Legal Wedding

"Married in the Eyes of God" — but not the State

By Kersley Fitzgerald

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Continued from Page One

In some states, having a church wedding without filing a license could be considered a common law marriage. In Colorado, for instance, a relationship is a common law marriage if the two parties affirm they are married, present themselves to the public as married, file joint tax returns, have joint finances, and possibly went through a particular ritual, such as a ceremony or the exchange of rings. Does that mean my 70-something friend is legally wed? Not necessarily. From Colorado Family Law Guide:
A person cannot pick and choose to call himself/herself married only when it's convenient, and then single at other times. So a party asserting a common law marriage claim likely needs something close to unanimity of evidence, and have not claimed to the contrary, to have a decent chance of success. Two documents claiming to be married, and one claiming to be single, probably means you're single!
My friend wears a ring, had a ceremony, and presents herself to the public as married, but as far as Tricare is concerned, she's single. That means she's single and cohabitating, which she is adamantly against.

"But she's married in the eyes of God!" you might say. "God ordained marriage, not the government!" You can't pick and choose, though. Her first marriage was legal. Because it was recognized by the government, she received certain benefits. To this particular branch of the government, she is choosing to present herself as attached to her late husband, but to the rest of the world, to this new man.

That's not God or the government defining marriage — that's my friend defining marriage for her own financial benefit.

If we accept the government's benefits for married couples, we must accept the government's definition of marriage. In the US, there are procedures to be considered married, which usually includes turning in paperwork and definitely includes relinquishing financial benefits of a late military spouse as directed. If the government does not allow a marriage that God does (as in the case of the star-crossed slaves), you'd have an argument for an independent marriage in front of God — but you would not be able to take advantage of any government-ordained marriage benefits such as family health insurance plans or joint tax filing.

And the ironic thing is, Christians should celebrate the fact that the government does withhold benefits from remarried spouses. It shows that at some level, the government does understand the sanctity and importance of marriage. They understand, at least, the joining together of two people at a particular time in a peculiarly sacred union. It's kind of amazing this is still a thing.

My friend made her choice because of the benefits she receives by virtue of her late husband's military service. But I could see how point 1 of the Got Questions article could be turned around for those who would be financially impaired by marriage without any concern about lying to the government. Is it "reasonable" if marriage would result in a significant increase in taxes? Or require a $10,000 prenuptial agreement to protect the inheritance of the children? Or if one spouse would be required to take on medical costs of the other?

There is another option, of course. It's don't get married at all. Don't have the ceremony or the rings. Don't present yourselves as married. Don't have sex. Don't live together. Being married isn't required.

We complain about how the government has warped the institution of marriage, but we're often willing to look the other way when our friends and family do the same.* It is glorious to find love later in life. It is wonderful to have another who will care for you willingly, easing the burden on family members. Is it worth it to disrespect God's concept of marriage to do so? How much do we really value marriage when it comes to financial security?

Marriage may result in comfort, support, the end of loneliness. But that's not what marriage is. What it is, is a metaphor for the relationship of Christ and the church. The church came with a lot more baggage than a higher tax bracket. And Jesus had to sacrifice a lot more than covering medical bills. If a Christian couple is honestly concerned about how the culture understands marriage, they should be willing to honestly represent a biblical marriage:
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. Ephesians 5:25-27
That is the state of things now. That is the effect of the current law on marriages now. It doesn't mean it has to stay that way. There's nothing wrong with making inheritance and property laws fairer. But until those laws are changed, that's what we have. That and the question: "How big a priority is following Christ?"

*Not to say my friend's kids do so. They have expressed their concerns and let it be.

Image Credit: Ulbrecht Hopper; "old couple in black and white"; Creative Commons

TagsBiblical-Truth  | Christian-Life  | Current-Issues  | Family-Life  | Personal-Life  | Personal-Relationships  | Sin-Evil

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Published 9-14-15