Loving polygamists in our churches

What? You don't have any bigamists or polygamists in your church? I think Paul's disciple Timothy did, why else would Paul mention them as not eligible for the role of elder/overseer/bishop/presbyter or deacon in 1 Timothy 3, verses 2 and 8? In cultures where Christianity is the minority/missionary religion this is not a rarity. As culturally Christian areas of the world slip toward post-Christianity, this reality in our own churches is becoming more likely. It may already be true in sub-cultures where Christian churches are the minority outposts. What will churches do for those families who leave fundamentalist Mormon splinter groups that practice polygamy or those who convert from polygamous Muslim culture in Utah or Detroit or your own increasingly diverse neighborhoods? I don't see anything in the Bible encouraging divorce. However, Paul does say if one spouse converts and the unbelieving other initiates divorce then let them go, 1 Corinthians 7:15. If there are children involved, why would any church encourage divorce or separation? But, legally, only one marriage contract is valid in our culture. If there are no children, and since the marriage is in name only, not a legal contract, the relationship is co-habitation, not marriage. In that case, maybe the woman can apply the advice Paul gives slaves in the Corinthian church,
7:20 Let each one remain in that situation in life in which he was called. 7:21 Were you called as a slave? Do not worry about it. But if indeed you are able to be free, make the most of the opportunity. 7:22 For the one who was called in the Lord as a slave is the Lord’s freedman.In the same way, the one who was called as a free person is Christ’s slave. 7:23 You were bought with a price. Do not become slaves of men. 7:24 In whatever situation someone was called, brothers and sisters, let him remain in it with God. (NET)

In other words, be free. But there is another temptation for the church. Instead of calling people to Christ's better life, we let others sink into the mud of the culture and turn a blind eye to those in our care who seek out polygamy or polyamory. They claim monogamy is too hard, so instead of swimming against the current of their selfish desires, they turn and go with the flow, as Tony Jones has encountered. They disregard Jesus's teaching on God's intent for marriage in Mark 10,
10:5 But Jesus said to them, “He wrote this commandment for you because of your hard hearts. 10:6 But from the beginning of creation he made them male and female.13 10:7 For this reason a man will leave his father and mother, 14 10:8 and the two will become one flesh. 15 So they are no longer two, but one flesh. 10:9 Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.” (NET)
Jesus focused on two genders, distinction from their childhood households, and consummation of some sort. Adding another party to this party would be adultery. Jesus has a big problem with adultery and recommends self-mutilation before adultery (in his hyperbolic way), see his Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 5:27-30. He certainly forgives adultery, see John 8, but also tells that poor woman, after he forgives her to stop it. In John 4 he calls out a lady for being a serial monogamist (5 divorces) and living with a guy, but she became an evangelist to her neighborhood. Good news can't be contained.

What are the options for the church? Love all but promote some, which would be "open, but not affirming." This is not a new issue for the church. It keeps coming up, because no one has stopped sinning. Refraining from calling it sin undermines the witness of the church, Christ's bride. Marriage is a picture of Jesus's love for us the church collective, see Ephesians 5
22Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord, 5:23 because the husband is the head of the wife as also Christ is the head of the church – he himself being the savior of the body.5:24 But as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. 5:25 Husbands, love your wives just as Christ loved the church and gave himself for her 5:26 to sanctify her by cleansing her with the washing of the water by the word, 5:27 so that he may present the church to himself as glorious – not having a stain or wrinkle, or any such blemish, but holy and blameless. 5:28 In the same way husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 5:29 For no one has ever hated his own body but he feeds it and takes care of it, just as Christ also does the church, 5:30 for we are members of his body. 5:31 For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and will be joined to his wife, and the two will become one flesh. 41 5:32 This mystery is great – but I am actually speaking with reference to Christ and the church. (NET) [my bolds]
Christ loves one church. We are his body, he is our head. He is the bridegroom, we are the bride. We are different and distinct from Jesus, we are other, not the same, the Latin terms would be hetero, not homo. He is singular, he has one bride. Our consummation with Christ in the new age is called a wedding feast in John's Apocalypse chapter 19
19:6 Then I heard what sounded like the voice of a vast throng, like the roar of manywaters and like loud crashes of thunder. They were shouting:

“Hallelujah!

For the Lord our God, the All-Powerful, reigns!

19:7 Let us rejoice and exult

and give him glory,

because the wedding celebration of the Lamb has come,

and his bride has made herself ready.

19:8 She was permitted to be dressed in bright, clean, fine linen (for the fine linen isthe righteous deeds of the saints).

19:9 Then the angel said to me, “Write the following: Blessed are those who are invited to the banquet at the wedding celebration of the Lamb!” He also said to me, “These are the true words of God.” (NET)

Therefore, those who aren't in sinful, broken, image-defiling marriages shouldn't seek one out. Those who come to Christ and his church in such relationships should get free of them if they can, but "if they can" is complicated. Complicated things need to be handled with abundant grace and lots of room for the Holy Spirit.

Tony thought this conversation should be had, these are my 2 cents, but I don't have a PhD or MDiv. I have a B.S. in Biology and I took two years of NT Greek, but those don't contribute to this discussion.



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