In a newly released blog post, conservative preacher and theologian John Piper said church leaders should reject members who choose to marry non-Christian partners.
The DesiringGod.org founder first noted Christians who marry non-believers are “defying and rebelling against an explicit command of the New Testament of God.” To make his point, Piper referenced 1 Corinthians 7:39, in which the apostle Paul wrote: “A wife is bound to her husband as long as he lives. But if her husband dies, she is free to be married to whom she wishes, only in the Lord.”
“‘Only in the Lord’ means only to a person who is in the Lord — a believer, a follower of Jesus,” wrote Piper. “So, if this teaching is made clear to a believer, and a believer rejects obedience to this command, she or he is acting in open defiance of the teaching of the apostles and of God.”
He went on to argue that, in choosing to wed unbelievers, Christians reveal their “true priorities,” placing their spouses above their commitments to God.
“A believer who chooses to marry an unbeliever shows how deeply compromised the believer’s love for Christ is,” reasoned Piper. “If the believer enjoys the presence and the friendship and the intimacy of a Christ-rejecting person (boyfriend or girlfriend) more than the presence and the fellowship of Christ, their very faith and love for Jesus is in question by Jesus.”
Piper suggested, too, that marrying a non-Christian is a “spurning” of church authority, the basis for his argument that Christian leaders should kick out members who marry unbelievers.
At first, Piper encouraged church leaders to try to steer the Christian away from his or her errors, but, if those efforts don’t work, they should reject the believer who is married to a non-Christian.
“The elders plead, they pray, they teach, and then, if all of that is rejected, you remove the believer from membership in the church for moving ahead with the marriage,” he wrote.
While the 74-year-old Piper said the believer — unless he or she is repentant of the sin of married a non-Christian — should be rejected by church leaders, he said people in such a predicament should not consider divorce.
“It does not mean that the marriage is nullified,” he clarified. “It really is a marriage — a marriage that should not have been entered into, but now, having been entered into, should not be broken; it should be sanctified.”
“Repentance of sin in marrying an unbeliever does not include divorcing the unbeliever,” he added, noting the believer should express to their non-Christian spouse “remorse and regret for disobedience” to Scripture and Christian teaching.