Question #179

Is finding out you are related a ground for divorce?

If you have a couple who gets married and later finds out that theory are related; is there grounds for divorce or is it OK to stay together? Any comment concern this situation will be greatly appreciated. Love the work that you'll doing. From your Bro. in Christ. Rom. 16:16

The Answer:

There were no restrictions against marrying close kin following creation, nor could there have been. Adam and Eve were the first pair. There was no choice for their children except for brothers and sisters to marry. The practice continued in the case of Abraham who married his half-sister. Genesis 20:11-12.

Under the Mosaic law, however, the marrying of close kin, whether by sanguinity (related by blood) or affinity (related by marriage) was prohibited. Leviticus 18:6-19. The expression “uncover the nakedness” is a euphemism for sexual relations. These verses include six relationships of consanguinity (7, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13) and eight relationships of affinity (8, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18). Some regard the list as all-inclusive while others regard it as illustrative. That need not be decided here. It is enough to understand that the Mosaic code did impose restrictions on marrying kin. There was at least one exception to the restriction against marrying one’s sister-in-law. This levirate law made provision for the married man who died childless, and permitted a brother or the deceased to marry the widow in order to conceive a male child who would continue the line of the deceased brother.

While other comments could be made concerning these restrictions, the present question is whether these or other restrictions are bound under the law of Christ. There is no scripture applicable in the Christian age that imposes such restrictions. The passage that comes the closest is 1 Corinthians 5 where the man who had his father’s wife was condemned and for which fellowship was withdrawn. There is no indication whether the father’s marriage had ended by divorce or death. In fact, it is possible that it had not ended at all. The expression “his father’s wife” is generally understood to refer to a step-mother rather than a birth-mother. In either case the sin was incest, and that has generally been condemned for all time and in all societies. Thus, it may not directly address the issue at hand.

Some churches have placed restrictions upon marrying kin. For example, the Roman Catholic Church has a chart that outlines the extent to which kin can marry. Some such marriages are forbidden. One category of kinship marriages is permitted by dispensation, but dispensation for this category is difficult to obtain. Another category of kinship marriages is permitted by dispensation and dispensation for this category is more easily obtained. All other kinship marriages are permitted. The difficulty to marry relatives by blood or marriage diminishes in relationship to the closeness of the relation.

Finally, the scripture states one basis for divorce – fornication. It says nothing about discovering that the parties are related. Moreover, since that discovery apparently came late in the marriage it is not likely that the degree of kinship is very close.

One last issue may be pertinent – some marriages of those closely related are prohibited by state law. Such prohibitions are generally based on the concept that bodily or mental weakness that may exist in a family line may be increased and exaggerated by the marrying of close kin. Should the discovered relationship be a close one, for example, first cousins, you may want to check state law to determine if the marriage is legal. It has certainly been legally recognized to this point. Only a lawyer can tell you if a marriage that violates state law is void or voidable. If it is void, it is and can be of no effect. If it is voidable, it continues unless the parties seek to set it aside. If not set aside it may be ratified. If void, there has at least been a holding out by the parties that they are husband and wife, as a result of which common law marriage may enter the picture. None of these comments should be taken as legal advice, but only as advice that you may want to consult a lawyer.

If voidable, there would certainly be no requirement for a divorce. If set aside, there would be no scriptural basis for remarrying.

God's Plan of Salvation

You must hear the gospel and then understand and recognize that you are lost without Jesus Christ no matter who you are and no matter what your background is. The Bible tells us that “all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) Before you can be saved, you must understand that you are lost and that the only way to be saved is by obedience to the gospel of Jesus Christ. (2 Thessalonians 1:8) Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” (John 14:6) “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12)

You must believe and have faith in God because “without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” (Hebrews 11:6) But neither belief alone nor faith alone is sufficient to save. (James 2:19; James 2:24; Matthew 7:21)

You must repent of your sins. (Acts 3:19) But repentance alone is not enough. The so-called “Sinner’s Prayer” that you hear so much about today from denominational preachers does not appear anywhere in the Bible. Indeed, nowhere in the Bible was anyone ever told to pray the “Sinner’s Prayer” to be saved. By contrast, there are numerous examples showing that prayer alone does not save. Saul, for example, prayed following his meeting with Jesus on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:11), but Saul was still in his sins when Ananias met him three days later (Acts 22:16). Cornelius prayed to God always, and yet there was something else he needed to do to be saved (Acts 10:2, 6, 33, 48). If prayer alone did not save Saul or Cornelius, prayer alone will not save you. You must obey the gospel. (2 Thess. 1:8)

You must confess that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. (Romans 10:9-10) Note that you do NOT need to make Jesus “Lord of your life.” Why? Because Jesus is already Lord of your life whether or not you have obeyed his gospel. Indeed, we obey him, not to make him Lord, but because he already is Lord. (Acts 2:36) Also, no one in the Bible was ever told to just “accept Jesus as your personal savior.” We must confess that Jesus is the Son of God, but, as with faith and repentance, confession alone does not save. (Matthew 7:21)

Having believed, repented, and confessed that Jesus is the Son of God, you must be baptized for the remission of your sins. (Acts 2:38) It is at this point (and not before) that your sins are forgiven. (Acts 22:16) It is impossible to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ without teaching the absolute necessity of baptism for salvation. (Acts 8:35-36; Romans 6:3-4; 1 Peter 3:21) Anyone who responds to the question in Acts 2:37 with an answer that contradicts Acts 2:38 is NOT proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ!

Once you are saved, God adds you to his church and writes your name in the Book of Life. (Acts 2:47; Philippians 4:3) To continue in God’s grace, you must continue to serve God faithfully until death. Unless they remain faithful, those who are in God’s grace will fall from grace, and those whose names are in the Book of Life will have their names blotted out of that book. (Revelation 2:10; Revelation 3:5; Galatians 5:4)