John Piper says non-Christian marriages are valid but ‘fall short of God’s highest purpose’

Are non-Christian marriages — the marriage of two non-Christians — legit in God’s eyes? It’s the question today from a listener named Steve. “Pastor John, thank you so much for your ministry,” he writes. “This podcast and a number of your books have had a large impact on my spiritual walk. Here’s my question: A coworker asked me if I thought God honored secular marriages. My gut reaction was yes. My coworker said no. He believes that if two parties don’t believe in God, then God is not in that marriage, and therefore God does not recognize the marriage. He went further to state that God does not even hear non-Christian prayers. I’ll be honest, I didn’t know how to respond or defend my opposition to his stance. Is there biblical backing for the legitimacy of secular marriages?”

This is one of those classic instances where disagreement precedes definition, or where conflict precedes clarification. So it’s an opportunity for me to get on my soapbox and plead with all Christians that we not engage in conflict or in debates where the terms of the conflict and the definitions in the debate are not clear.

Define Up Front
Arguing about words or phrases that are undefined is like a watchdog barking at shadows. It might scare away a burglar, but he also might scare away the fireman who’s here to save your house from burning down. An argument without clear definitions is like playing tennis with the net down and all the lines erased on the court. And you can argue till doomsday: “The serve was in!” “No, it wasn’t!” What good does that do to? That’s just crazy.

This is my plea: insist on definition and clarification before you disagree. For example, what does this person mean by saying, “God is not in the marriage”? What in the world does in mean? What does it mean when he says God does not recognize — or he said honor — the marriage? What does recognize mean? What does honor mean?

So what often happens when we insist on clear definitions is that problems begin to solve themselves. I’ve seen it over and over again. Often, the definitions themselves answer the questions you were debating. So I would encourage all Christians not to waste your time playing tennis without any lines on the court.

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Source: Desiring God