Dealing with Polygamy
We have been asked by pastors how to deal with polygamy during a revival (particularly in pagan, African and Islamic areas). What is the solution for people from a polygamous background that come to faith in Yeshua, according to Judeo-Christian values? Here are some suggested biblical principles:
- Repentance – Since there are complexities to the issue, we should face it with prayer, humility and sensitivity. Biblically, people would repent, cry, fast and seek the Lord to find solutions for similar issues, such as slavery and pagan marriages. (Ezra 9)
- Gospel – Every true solution involves a change of heart. Until one is aware of the love of God, the grace of the cross, the miracle of the new birth, then the root of the issue cannot be dealt with. (John 3)
- Biblical Teaching – Scripture’s clear standard must be taught that God’s will is for one man and one woman to be married. (Matthew 19) This prevents anyone in a polygamous marriage from eldership within a local congregation. (I Timothy 3)
- Forbidden – Polygamous marriages are not permitted in a community of faith. No compromise should be made with believers. The question at hand is only concerning those who come to the congregation with a previous condition.
- Social Change – Through the influence of prayer and biblical moral values, our hope is to change the laws of the country, and the social norms of the community around us, for monogamous marriage only. (Deuteronomy 16)
- Workable Solution – Yeshua said that Moses temporarily permitted divorce because of people’s hardness of heart. This indicates that even when it is against God’s best desire, sometimes we have to find a temporary solution to deal with a wrong situation. (Matthew 19)
- Each Case Separately – When pagan marriages were dealt with in the books of Ezra and Nehemiah, after they realized the error and repented, they set up a system to interview and examine each case individually. (Ezra 10)
- Judicial Committee – In order to handle each case, a committee of investigation should be set up in each community (or work with the local government if they are cooperative). This judicial committee should serve under the authority of local elders. (Compare to I Corinthians 6 regarding the need for judicial decisions.)
- Protect the Innocent – The law’s purpose is to protect the weak and innocent. In this case, the women and children involved must be protected financially, socially, psychologically and morally. In each case, this must be taken into account.
- Preferred Annulment – If the women and children of secondary marriage can be set free without damaging them, then the polygamous marriage should be annulled, and the women and children are permitted to leave. (Compare to I Corinthians 7 regarding freedom of non-believers to be released from marriage vows if they desire)
- Possible Compromise – If after investigation, no annulment can be arranged without severe damage to women and children; and if the woman knowledgeably prefers and desires to stay, then a compromise continuance can be permitted (Compare to Deuteronomy 15 regarding a slave deciding to stay with family after servitude period finished). Any wife remaining should have full status and not be considered a concubine.
- Written Decision – The judicial committee (or local court) should make the best decision possible and write it out, so as to bring order and stability to the families.
In conclusion, let’s ask the Lord to continue bringing revival among Muslim and African pagan communities, and for wisdom for church leaders dealing with these situations.