Biblical Perspective: Should I agree to be Best Man for my Unbelieving Brothers Marriage?

Hey Friends,

my brother is a nominal Christian, who has been living together with his unbelieving girlfriend (and now fiancé) for some years. They are going to marry next year and he asked me if I wanted to be his best man. I love him dearly and I, obviously, do not want to hurt him. However, I will not make this decision without asking God in prayer and studying the word. Unfortunately, after studying 1 Corinthians 7, I was not able to find answers to my specific case, and I do not know if there are other passages in the Scriptures that speak to this. I am not happy with the situation, for I wish he was a true, faithful, God-loving believer (and her, too), but at the same time, I realize that I am called to love him regardless, and I do. My question, specifically speaking is this:

By agreeing to be his best man, would I sin by condoning this marriage covenant, which is not between believers and not done according to God’s plan for marriage? Additionally, after their civil wedding, they will also have a church wedding which will make it worse, for they would profess something before God that is not true, unless Jesus finds them first and saves them (which would be absulutely magnificent). My brother argues, that, for the civil wedding, I could be his best man regardless of my convictions, because it is ‘just’ before human made law and not before God himself (in contrast to marrying in church). I am not sure if I can agree with this.

Let me assure you that I do not take this lightly, and I love him incredibly, which is why I want to act biblically and protect him as best as I can from heaping up God’s wrath. I do not want to compromise my obedience to Jesus, but the same goes for a biblical loving relationship to my brother.

I assume that this might be a (very) difficult question that grants no straightforward yes-or-no-answer. Nevertheless, I am very eager to read your takes and perhaps somebody will read this, who knows their Bible way better than me.

Regardless, I am incredibly thankful for your time and input in this. I promised him I would give him my reply within this ongoing week. Please pray for this issue, if you feel called to do that.

Thanks so much guys!

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Hope you have gotten some answers or perspective on this question. It’s a tough question, and you want to honor God in all you do. Sam Allberry addressed this issue in “Is God Anti-Gay” so eloquently. Check it out book or YouTube.
In the meantime, your Brother is taking a big step and he is choosing rightly in the face of a contrary and unbelieving culture. He is asking you to guide him by asking you to fulfill this honor and needs a response. You do have a responsibility although none of us can foresee the future of a relationship. Have you warned him about being unequally yoked? and defining that? Are they getting any marriage counseling? Books? Gary Chapman, Things I wish I had known before I got married? Saving your Marriage Before it Starts. Les and Leslie Parrott
If you know your brothers heart, and see the relationship he shares with his girlfriend and see a purity of love and devotion, they have more to go on than most. I am amazed my parents married during wartime in WW2 with very little aquaintance. But it was a 50+ year marriage till their deaths. But they believed in marriage as a covenant with God (although their salvation was decades yet to come) that could not be broken, at least not without death, or severe brokenness and shattering of lives before that end. It helps to understand what marriage is. Beyond just the romantic idea of having a “soul-mate” found in too many movies. Did your parents model a covenant marriage?
Without knowing your situation it is tough to answer.
You want to keep the relationship with your brother so you can help him up when times get hard. This relationship needs some focused prayer, God will provide an answer. Wiser people would counsel to ask him to get clear vision before going forward.

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This is a challenging one, because of the personal sensitivity of your brother and wanting to support him. I’m not sure I have a good answer, but I guess if you and I were hanging out and we are just talking casually, this is how I would honestly approach it:

Go with your heart. You’re going to have to sort this out between you and the Spirit. And if it bothers your conscience, consider that there may be something personal to you that does not govern your brother. It sounds like you’re willing to be a civil-service witness, but there is something bothering your conscience about the church wedding. But then, have they been living together and have you had a conversation about that?

In the end, I would suspect that the pastor or reverend who is marrying them would be the “gate-keeper” and often times would make sure the marriage is under the right pretenses. And if not, some churches just leave their doors open for any wedding service for additional income, which they may not necessarily police.

I hope this has not muddled your decision-making too much, but maybe it helps with your pros and cons list at the very least. Given the very limited details I have in your personal life, I’ll say that it’s likely not fair for me or others to make this call, and there may not likely be a legalistic answer for you to lean on. But I would be concerned that you can make a decision in peace with the Lord’s guiding and not feel like a sin on your part. As far as the people in our lives, if they are not truly making Christ the Lord over their life, they are not necessarily going to be following the same righteous living that your fellow Christians may hold to.

Hope that helps, brother. Praying for clarity and peace for you in this.

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@Thoughtful_Inquirer your post clearly indicates that you desire to be in the center of God’s will. And I very much appreciate @sstaple comments in reply.

I think there are some big picture elements to consider in this circumstance and then some smaller picture ones.

Big picture–the world: We are to be in the world and not of it. We are to be salt and light in a culture that with each generation is moving farther from God. To be those things we as Christians are going to be smack dab in the middle of challenging situations. Jesus engaged the culture, in the culture.

Marriage was instituted by God. The marriage will bring your brother and fiance one step closer to being in a circumstance that honors God by entering into a covenant relationship rather than living together without one. It may not be the best 1st chapter, but perhaps it will be the chapter that begins them on the journey toward a saving faith.

Smaller picture–your family: Family situations are especially challenging. Being a faithful witness with unbelieving family members is especially tricky. A key question you should ask yourself and God is what fruit can there be if I am a loving, willing, participant and cheerleader for their future happiness in a covenant relationship? And what potential damage might there be if I feel led to decline this request to be the Best Man? In which circumstance (attending/not attending) will I likely be a better example/witness of a life aligned with the ways of Christ? Are your parents living? Would it dishonor them if you declined to serve in their other son’s wedding? Although God clearly desires us all to love him and follow His ways (and there are consequences if we don’t), I believe that God gives us free will. If God honors that will, then should we not also?

Even smaller picture–you and your heart: I admire your commitment to your faith and to be led by biblical principles. Although I do not think you will find a clearcut answer, because there are scriptures that both guide us to be grace in the world and those that guide us to be set apart. Have you sought the counsel of your pastor or other Christians you consider to be wise and godly mentors? (Especially ones that might even know your brother.) I would also recommend that you ask God to help you examine your motives. Is this about you being right with God? Is it about disapproval of your brother’s path? Or a rejection of his chosen spouse? When we are all grace and not truth we are not acting biblically. When we are all truth and offer no grace we are also not acting biblically. I am often asking myself am I being a Pharisee today? (Am I judging others more than I am reaching out in grace? I am prone to being a judgmental person, so I really need God and others to check me on this.)

Should you ultimately conclude that you should participate in the wedding, perhaps you could offer to pray a blessing over the new couple. Maybe as part of the ceremony or reception, or in private if that’s their preference. Marriage needs all the support it can get, and it will be uplifting for them to know that your heart is focused on them having a flourishing, lifelong relationship in this new covenant that they have entered into.

I pray for God to make his voice clear to you as you seek His will. Blessings.

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I don’t have much to add, as all the answers are excellent. I especially liked Jennifer’s answer as it helps to break down the decision making process into a hierarchy of choices; and then helps weigh the results of a decision when conflicted.

I think if I had to make this decision, my thought process would be;
if my brother is a nominal Christian - perhaps immature in the faith at this stage or perhaps not even saved yet but just participating in church/Christian gatherings loosely; my highest concern would be his eternal state; if I don’t participate in the wedding; am I going to lose opportunity to witness to him further.

For myself, I would participate for a couple of reasons;
I would rather see a couple married, rather than living in adultery. I would also like to maintain a relationship for family reasons so that I may have possible future spiritual input into their lives. If I decide to not participate; both my brother and future sister in law may understandably be less interested in listening to any future spiritual input or questions I could talk about to bring them closer to believing in Christ. They are going to go ahead anyway; regardless of my participation or not.

Your line about trying to help your brother avoid heaping God’s wrath on him; God’s wrath is on all of us, as sinners, and without Christ as Saviour, we are all condemned. I’m not sure it’s our job, even as Christians, to try to be someone else’s conscience. We are all individually responsible to listen to our conscience and responsible for our own choices.

If I (personally) were marrying a non-Christian young lady, then I (personally) would be not obeying, and therefore sinning ; but I don’t think that by participating in another family member’s decision I’m sinning. Paul, said that he would, if it were possible, be accursed and separated from Christ; if it meant that his fellow Israelites would come to Christ. (Romans 9:1-3) Talk about love; he was willing to be separated from God!?

It’s a difficult decision; I’m only thinking through my own thought process of how to deal with it. As others have said, you need to decide before God and your conscience; no-one else can make the decision for you. A very difficult decision. I pray that regardless of your decision; you will be still able to share in their lives and influence them and point them towards the love of Christ.

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@Thoughtful_Inquirer. You have a situation that requires great wisdom and you are approaching it wisely. Rest assured that God gives wisdom to those who ask and you have received some good counsel already in the posts. A few thoughts came to mind as I read your post.

  • We cannot expect Christian behavior from unbelievers. Your brother’s unbelieving fiancé is not going to approach marriage or the wedding the way you would. Do not be surprised, or even disappointed; she is acting as she believes. May the Lord make whatever decision you reach be as salt and light in her life.

  • Paul tells us to “rejoice with those who rejoice” (Romans 12:15). Contributing to the joy in your brother’s life may help him grow beyond nominal Christianity into the true joy of the Lord.

  • In Luke 14, Jesus is talking about weddings and invitations when He says, “When you are invited, go…” (Luke 14:10). The setting for this teaching is significant because Jesus is practicing his own teaching. A Pharisee had invited Him to dinner, and Jesus went. Jesus did not see eye to eye with his host, and He rebuked Pharisees many times. But He was invited, and went. Jesus had a way of accepting the individual graciously without condoning the behavior. May the Lord grant this to you if you accept your brother’s request.

  • In a dilemma like this, barring any other direction from the Lord, do what you will not regret later on. If you refuse being your brother’s best man, will you regret it later?

  • Let whatever decision you come to be confirmed by two or more witnesses. As God leads you in your search for wisdom, He will confirm the right path in more than one way.

Everyone posting agrees you have a challenging decision. Scripture says “in an abundance of counselors there is safety” (Proverbs 11:14). May the Lord fulfill this promise for you.

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Hi Chris!

I think you should follow your conscience, but keep the lines of communication open. He’s your beloved brother.

Jesus wasn’t afraid to eat with tax collectors and prostitutes. His love for them led many to believe and follow him.

Blessing,
Mui Ling

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Thanks for your insightful reply. You’r right, it’s a good thing in itself that he is willing to marry her in a culture that oozes a very contrary spirit. They’re not getting any councelling and the “unequally yoked”-principle (you’re referring to 2 Corinthians 6:14, right?) is something that I have not reminded him of. But I’m 99% sure that it would be in vain to mention that principle to him, for he is absuletely determined, regardless of ANY surrounding circumstance, including what the Bible says.

I do see a pure love and devotion, without a doubt. This is why I have hope, and our parents have been living a very devoted marriage as well, so the model is and was a good one.

If I declined, I do believe that our relationship would not deteriorate. But I believe that he would see me as legalistic and cold. At the same time I would demonstrate that my faith is more important than anything in my life…isn’t that, at least sometimes, what witnessing to somebody means? Isn’t it the case that people should see that there are believers who listen to Jesus’ words when he says “whoever loves his father/mother/wife… more than me is not worthy of me” and take them seriously ?

However, I know that if I agreed, I would get a once in a lifetime chance to be a light and some kind of “guardian” if you can call it that, and explain to him why I took my time to ponder over it, why I agreed eventually, and how I intend to serve them as a married couple until the very end. Witnessing to them, sending them off in prayer so that God might use their marriage and its circumstances to save them.

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Thanks for your encouraging words. It’s incredible to experience how the bond of faith connects strangers in a place like RZIM.

We haven’t had a conversation about church wedding in particular but about a believer marrying an unbeliever and what the bible says about it (1 Corinthians 7; 2 Corinthians 6). The problem is, if God isn’t an absolute authority in a person’s life, they are always going to put their own desires first. If his desire is to calm his conscience by marrying in church, without it being backed up by true faith and humility before God, he’s gonna do it regardless.

I believe that would be the case. He already expressed the thought of asking our former pastor but he himself suspected that the pastor would decline his request. Of course, from his self-focussed perspective, to decline marrying him, even for biblical reasons, would be unjust toward him and his fiancé.

Exactly. He’s an adult and responsible for his actions, not me. If I would pull out, somebody else would step in, and that person would probably not try and guide them biblically.

@Jennifer_Judson

This is so encouraging. Thank you for these words. If I communicate my reasons for accepting and my convictions cleary, God might use that for an incredible blessing to all of us. Thanks for your encouraging post in general!

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Oh dear, Chris @Thoughtful_Inquirer, …another contributor to your difficult question. All of the answers have been excellent and wise, and I hesitate to add anything else, except from personal experience.
My brother-in-law, Chris, married three times. My husband was best man at all three.
At the time of Chris’s first marriage, he was not a practicing Christian, although he was raised in a godly home. The first wife was his high school sweetheart. It was just the next thing to do. That marriage became a troubled marriage, but failed mostly because his second wife intruded herself, she said, “to help them.”
After the first marriage ended, my husband and I could not accept this new love into our home when Chris came to visit. (He was still not a practicing Christian.) We didn’t approve of what she had done, nor the relationship she was building with my brother-in-law. Both knew our position.
However, when it became apparent that my brother-in-law was going to marry her, we felt we had to support him, even though we felt the marriage was a mistake. I’m glad we made that decision because a couple years down the road, his second wife became open to the gospel. They started attending church with us and were excited about their growing faith. Unfortunately, my second sister-in-law was like the shallow soil in the Parable of the Sower. She had an affair, left my brother-in-law and her faith. However, my brother-in-law realized his need for God in his life, then, more than ever.
While attending a Bible study, he met his third wife who is a very strong Christian. She encouraged him, and now he is an avid student of the Bible and leads a Sunday School class as well as a home group study. Thank God my husband did participate in his three weddings. We now have that unity of faith between us.

Although there is no specific situation in Scripture identical to yours, there are some truths we can draw from. In Matt. 9: 9-12, Jesus quoted from Hosea 6:6 which says, “I desire mercy over sacrifice.” I encourage you to read that account to see why He said that. Matthew was a hated tax collector and Jesus told him He wanted to have dinner at his house!!!
In 1Cor. 8:9, speaking of eating food offered to idols, Paul warns Christians not to let their freedom cause a weaker brother to stumble. I think God would allow us to use the opposite: don’t let our “legalism” (I’m not accusing you of legalism here) cause our weaker brother to go further from God. Roman 14:19-20 says, “Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification. Do not destroy the work of God…” Again, this Scripture is in reference to food offered to idols, but much can be gleaned from the principle.
Jesus had at least two personal encounters with adulterous women. With both the woman caught in the act of adultery and the Samaritan woman, Jesus never condoned what they did, but admonished them to stop. His love and compassion made a difference. The Samaritan woman’s influence in her town was evident later when Peter was sent there (Acts 8).

OK. So I went beyond my personal experience. Sorry. Am I telling you to be in your brother’s wedding? No. But I am giving you reasons for you to consider to be in it.
I’m sure if you submit your will to God’s, He’ll give you peace about the best decision to make. (Phil.4:6-7)

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Hello, @Thoughtful_Inquirer. There are some very, very good insights and wise words already spoken in counsel to your dilemma, and I do not have a lot to add. However, I am reading your responses to those responses, and, if you’ll allow me, I want to focus on this just a bit:

It seems like you feel this passage is in conflict with your participation in your brother’s wedding. Lets take a closer look at this passage in context. I think that will help. So in Matthew 10, Jesus is sending out his disciples and exhorts them not to be afraid of those wishing them harm, reassuring them of their Father’s great love and care for every fiber of their being (vv. 28-31). But on the other hand, he also warns them that anyone who disowns Him in front of others will be disowned by Him before the Father (vv. 32-33). He wants to confirm that spreading the good news about Himself will inevitably cause conflict, as members of one household will even be divided among themselves and turn against each other as some reject the Lord and some accept and follow Him (vv. 34-36). It is within this context that Jesus then gives the warning that anyone who loves father, mother, son, or daughter more than him is not worthy of him. Verses 37-39 is a book end of sorts to vv. 32-33. Jesus starts in verse 32-33 with the general truth that whoever disowns him before others will be disowned by him before God, and after explaining what the disciples could expect to result from Jesus’ coming and the spreading of the news of who he is and what he will do, he focuses back in on what he said in 32-33 in more specific terms. So this passage is speaking of disowning or refusing to acknowledge Jesus as Lord and Savior before others–especially those we may be more apt to try to please. It is talking about an outright rejection of Jesus before others out of fear of losing relationship with them or losing their love and respect. So it really is not referring to a situation like this one. You’ve made it quite clear who the Lord of your life is, and so long as you are living that out in your own life and your own marriage before others, participating in your brother’s wedding does not, in my opinion, conflict with this passage.

In light of all the excellent counsel you have already received, this is all I found I have to offer, and I hope it helps and eases your mind in regard to the Scripture verses you gave.

Looking forward to hearing back from you. I will be praying for and over you as you move forward in making a decision.

In Christ,

Lindsay

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Thanks for the inquiry and I believe you’ve received some insightful responses.

Your participation is not an endorsement. It might create opportunity to discuss how important a commitment marriage is from a Christian perspective.

If we as followers of Christ can’t interact with folks that are lost, how effective can we be as fishers of people.

Warmest regards

Mike

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Well said, Lindsay @psalm151ls Excellent analysis of that passage in Matthew and its correct interpretation and application for Chris. Hopefully, Chris will make a wise decision based on all the counsel and this explanation of Matthew.

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Oh my friends, I pray, I hope and trust, that there comes a time when the spirit of the law is written so deeply on our hearts that His love, His Spirit pours out on us when we need to spread the love of Christ so openly, so honestly, so truthfully, whereas we are carrying around others hearts so that we carry their burden and whatever difficultly they wrestle with, we are happy to wrestle with it to and plead that if any wrong be done, that it is charged to our account (Philemon 1:18).

Go to your brothers wedding! Rejoice with him all the while praying that God grant him mercy, grace, peace and love to begin to have his heart changed to allow Christ to reign in his heart.

All have shown understanding and love, thank you for your care of your brother!

Jennifer and Dennis I perceive that your hearts have been pierced, I shall continue to pray for all here that the spirit of the law be rooted and grounded in a love that is so awesome, so encompassing, so beautiful, that as we demonstrate it, the world reacts like 1 Peter 3:15, asking us what is this amazing hope that we demonstrate and with that query, we gladly tell of a love never ending, that they too can share! :slight_smile:

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Hi Chris. @Thoughtful_Inquirer In the process of studying for something else today, I just came across Corinthians 9:19-23 that I think addresses your concerns about compromising your faith. I scanned others’ responses and didn’t come across this references (forgive if it was already mentioned and I missed it.) But this passage reveals Paul’s strategy when in situations that were contrary to his faith in Christ. Read it and see if you get confirmation about what you should do.

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@Thoughtful_Inquirer. I meant 1Co. 9: 19-23.

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I just looked up the reference. It’s a good word for all of us. Guess that’s why Paul gave it to the ages! :heart:

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Hi Sharon. This passage is very enlightning for sure. Thanks for pointing us toward it. I have not been aware of it - I just love how relatable Paul can be in what he writes and this passage feels so real and I can almost taste his craving to save some, not matter what he has to endure for himself.

I have decided to do it and be his best man and as you can imagine he was happy and also relieved. Yesterday we hugged each other and now I’m excited to get together with him and talk about what’s coming up and serve him with God’s wisdom and grow in gentleness myself as we talk and hang out.

Heartfelt thanks to all of you for your counsel and your sincere willingness to help out a stranger and a brother in the Lord. Blessings to you all!

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