Are We Married?

Q. My husband and I have been legally married for 2 1/2 years, however our marriage has not been consummated yet due to the fact that he is in prison. We are both baptized, believing Christians and were at the time of our marriage. We were married in the prison by an ordained minister and took Christian vows before God. I’ve had it in my mind for a long time that we are not truly Biblically married until we “come together as one flesh” and that we are only legally married as far as our State is concerned. I fear that God doesn’t recognize our relationship as a true marriage yet. We both took a vow before God to commit ourselves to one another forever, but does that overrule the “joining together?” Can you have one without the other? Your thoughts on this are appreciated.

A. You and your husband stood before God and man and declared yourselves to be husband and wife. Before secular governments began requiring a license to validate a marriage, this was all that was required of couples. Certainly God knows the unusual circumstances of your relationship and in any case His judgments are based on the motives of our heart. If He looks into your heart and finds that you consider yourselves to be married then that’s how He sees you as well.

In Biblical law, marriage gives sanction to sexual intercourse, not the other way around. The Catholic Church holds that a marriage between Catholics that has not been consummated can be annulled by the Pope, but for the most part the issue of non-consummation is a matter of secular law. In some places a marriage contract can be declared non-binding if consummation has not taken place. You should check to see if that’s the case where you live.

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