Licensed to Marry
Recently I came close to getting hitched. For personal reasons, my then-fiancée and I talked about having a minister oversee a private exchange of wedding vows and later get the marriage license. Fortunately we didn’t follow through on that idea. Unresolved issues eventually surfaced that prompted me to cancel our marriage plans. Two cannot walk together unless they are agreed (Amos 3:3).
Years ago I knew a man who secretly exchanged vows with a woman and moved in with her but had a public wedding ceremony a few weeks later. Although that marriage lasted, similar unions haven’t. I knew a woman that “married” a man who quickly withdrew his affection after their exchange of vows. That relationship fell apart without them ever getting a marriage license.
Until the 16th Century, Christian churches accepted the validity of a marriage based on the couple’s declarations. Nowadays, a person’s word isn’t valued as much anymore. That’s why contracts are often necessary for certain agreements to be legal. People who believe a marriage license or certificate is “just a piece of paper” are not only shortchanging themselves but their partner as well.
Christians should be willing to obey the laws of the land as long as they don’t go against the Bible. Romans 13:1 says, “Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God.” 1 Peter 2:13-14 says, “Therefore submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake, whether to the king as supreme, or to governors, as to those who are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and for the praise of those who do good.”
Of course, we are to resist man’s laws when they directly go against the higher laws of God. Acts 5:29 says, “We ought to obey God rather than men.” But obtaining a marriage license doesn’t violate Scripture. Nor does it cause one to be “in bed with the state” as a few fringe ministers teach. Couples marrying without a license where they can readily obtain one are really committing fornication and open themselves up for judgment (Hebrews 13:4) unless they repent. God wants His people to have marriages recognized by man as well as by Him.
“Remind your people to submit to the government and its officers. They should be obedient, always ready to do what is good.” - Titus 3:1 (NLT)