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Ask a Seasoned Pastor
by David Osborne

Q: I've been asked to officiate at a wedding -- she's a Seventh-day Adventist, he's an inactive Catholic. What do I tell them?


A: This is a question that we all know has the potential to create an opportunity for a caring, loving, supportive dialogue or a hurtful, hostile barrier between the couple and the pastor who represents the church. All couples believe that "love conquerors all and our relationship is different."


The pastor could begin the dialogue by saying, "You asked me to officiate at your wedding, well, all things are possible." The couple can then be put at ease if the pastor asks them to tell the story of how they met and their courtship. The story almost always will include the statement that the guy was attracted to the girl because of her faith, which made her different from the other girls he had met. He admires, respects, supports her faith and would never do anything to interfere with her worship or her God.


It is good to discuss briefly with the couple that with the all the challenges of marriage, major differences should be kept at a minimum, such as age, education, culture, religion, etc. The goal of marriage is to share daily, a close, loving, intimate relationship. Major differences can be an extra challenge to that relationship. Compatible faith affects almost every part of the home and relationship. It is the "glue" that cements the hearts of love and holds them together. Differences in faith can be a never-ending irritant to a shared loving relationship.


Say to the couple, "I know you love each other and want to do everything you can to be together as much as possible. Let's take the subject of weekly worship attendance as an example. Each week, as a couple, you will have three bad choices. 1. You, (wife), can drag him to church. He loves you and will go for a time but he would rather be home working on his car. 2. You go to church by yourself and feel lonely. 3. You stay home with him and feel guilty to be separated from your church family and worship." This scenario will happen each week for 52 weeks for 50 plus years. If he, husband, is a worshiper he has the same issues each week at his church.  


Other issues that have similar challenges are what you can do on Friday night, Sabbath afternoon, things that are all right for one but make the other uncomfortable, places you go for entertainment, things you eat or drink, family worship, compatible friends, etc. When children come along all these issues are intensified, plus the discussion of Christian education has to be settled. Will the husband be part of the children's faith growth, faith support, and faith example? This means, in the end, the husband respects her faith but does not share her faith. This becomes a constant force pushing them apart rather than drawing them together.


This now presents a golden opportunity for the pastor to ask the man if has studied and knows what and why his fiancée believes what she does. Tell him, "If you are interested, there are some Bible lessons that you could take home a few at a time. This would give you the fun of discussing and answering them together as a couple. It would be a good review for her, you could find out about her biblical beliefs, and strengthen your spiritual bond. Then we could get together to discuss the answers you have found. Additional lessons can be taken until your questions are answered."


The wife-to-be usually points out at this point that she knows of a friend's husband who joined the church after they got married. The sad fact is that the vast majority do not become part of the church family. Would it not be better to take the time in the relationship to settle that issue now before the marriage, than take the chance of lifelong sadness? Maybe this is one clue why the apostle Paul says, "Do not be yoked together with unbelievers,...." 2 Cor. 6:14


Can I marry them? Yes! Should I marry them? The couple needs to be part of the answer.