Open Relationships and Christianity

There has been a rise in various sexual relationships. Today we see people moving away from what God instituted to what they deem fun. In that way, they end up hardening their hearts and minds and falling into more sins, even inventing new ways of sinning (Romans 1:30). Among the many sexual sins we have today are adultery (Hebrews 13:4, Matthew 5:27-28), fornication (1 Corinthians 7:2), homosexuality (1Corinthians 6:9-11), bestiality (Deuteronomy 27:21), and incest (Leviticus 18:6). Now people have come up with new sinful sexual relationships called open relationships. Open relationships are those where one is in a relationship with a particular person, but they allow either one partner or both of them to have other sexual relationships with people other than their spouses. 

These relationships include polyamorous relationships, polygamy, polyandry, etc. There are open relationships where couples consent that one or both of them can have other sexual relationships, and there are those in which there is no consent. These are relationships where things are not defined, and the two might not even be married or planning to marry. But, still, they have a sexual relationship, and because the relationship is not defined, either can have other sexual relationships. 

Do Open Relationships Bring More Joy?

In 2012, The National Library of Medicine did a national survey on sexual health and behaviour in open relationships, nonconsensual nonmonogamy and monogamy relationships in the USA among adults. Though I’m afraid I have to disagree with their conclusion, I found one of their findings very intriguing: those in open and nonconsensual non-monogamy relationships reported lower overall happiness in primary partners than those in monogamous relationships. So what is making those in open relationships unhappy with their primary partners? Conversely, why are those in monogamous relationships happy with their partners? 

Though the research did not go ahead to find the answers to these questions, another survey was done by Barna Group among practising Christian, non-practising Christian and non-Christian marriages in the USA. They found that 93% of practising Christians reported being satisfied with their marriages, compared to 81% of USA adults, 78% of non-practising Christians and 75% of non-Christians. I surmise that those practising Christians have a happy marriage because their marriage is based on God’s principles. What does the Bible say about marriage? Can Christians be in an open relationship? 

What Was Jesus’ View on Marriage?

Let’s start by looking at what Jesus said. “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female (Gen. 1:27) and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh’ (Gen. 2:24-25, Matt. 19:4-5). Here Jesus was teaching, and his words were precise. Notice the words ‘a man’ and ‘wife’. He is using singular, not plural. One wife and one husband are the ones who will make one flesh. According to Jesus’ math on the marriage relationship, the one flesh cannot be if the relationship involves more partners than a married man and his wife.

The marriage relationship is one binding for life (Mark 10:9). It cannot be broken unless it is broken by death (Romans 7:2). Hence in weddings, the couple ends their vows with the words, “till death do us part.” Because of the hardness of their hearts, Moses allowed divorce, but it was not so from the beginning (Matthew 19:8). God’s designed that marriage should be for one man and one woman for the rest of their lives until Christ comes back or when one loses his spouse through death. Christ does not leave any doubt that any sexual relationship other than marriage is a sin. People in an open relationship think that since they have consent from their spouses, they are now not sinning against God. Sin is not sin because it doesn’t hurt another. Sin is a sin because it’s against God and is contrary to the design God has for us to follow (Psalm 51:4, Genesis 39:8-9). What is God’s design for marriage?

What Was the Old Testament View of Marriage?

God instituted marriage to be between a man and a woman. To be clear, a biological male and a biological female (Gen. 1:27; 2:18). The seventh commandment is a prohibition of adultery; by and large, God condemns any sexual sin that is done outside of marriage (Exodus 20:14). The purpose of marriage we see in its inception is procreation (Genesis 1:28). In his providence God wants marriage to be a place of special intimacy between a man and his wife. He wants both of them to enjoy sex in the right context, to be intoxicated with each other, and in that, they should be satisfied and contented with each other (Proverbs 5:18-19). The Bible discourages sexual relations with anyone other than your spouse; God made sex for biological adult males and females covenanted in marriage (Genesis 1:28, 2:24-25). A married couple should let sex be just between the two of them, no one else, and should not allow strangers in their sexual relationship (Hebrews 13:4).

The New Testament View of Marriage

Marriage is regarded so highly by the New Testament writers. The writer of Hebrews encourages his readers to hold marriage in honour among all things and not to defile the marriage bed. Defiling the marriage bed is to have sexual intercourse with someone other than your spouse through fornication, homosexuality, bestiality or adultery (Hebrews 13:4). Paul considers the marriage relationship a profound mystery. This mystery also refers to Christ and the church (Ephesians 5:32). New Testament theologians consider that the primary purpose of marriage is to mirror the relationship between Christ and the church. He encourages women to be submissive to their husbands just as the Church is submissive to the Lord and husbands to love their wives just as Christ loved the church (Ephesians 5:22-33). 

Paul figuratively calls the church (all believers of Christ) a virgin to be presented to Christ (2 Corinthians 11:2). Christians are considered as one to be joined to one bridegroom, Jesus Christ (Rev. 19:7-9). Therefore, Christ has one wife – the church, and the church has one husband – Jesus Christ (Revelations 21:2). Based on that alone, how can an open relationship mirror the relationship between Christ and the church? The New Testament writers as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:20-21) would not allow any sexual relationship outside marriage. Therefore, when married, one is not allowed to have sexual relationships with anyone outside of his marriage (Hebrews 13:4, 1 Corinthians 7:1-5, 1 Corinthians 6:18-20, Exodus 20:14).

There is no other sexual relationship that God considers right and good in his sight other than marriage between a biological man and a biological woman. This marriage is protected by God and has his blessing. Anyone in Christ should resist being conformed to the patterns of the world (Romans 12:1-2). The world is evil, and it is telling us things contrary to the will of God. Be strong in the Lord and the power of his might (Ephesians 6:10), that you may resist the devil and all his schemes (1 Peter 5:8-9). If you resist him, he will flee from you (James 4:7). If you are in any sexual relationship outside of a heterosexual monogamous marriage, know you are sinning against God and your own body (1 Corinthians 6:18-20). Come to him today and repent; he will forgive you (1 John 1:9), heal you, and make you a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17). Only believing in Christ Jesus will help you from the trap of all sorts of sexual immorality (1 Thessalonians 4:1-8). 

References

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5958351/
  2. https://marriagehelper.com/marital-satisfaction-and-counseling-research-barna/
  3. https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/essay/biblical-view-marriage/

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