Answer by Robert Brow
February 2000 (www.brow.on.ca)
Thank you very much for your response to what is obviously a very controversial interpretation of the biblical view of marriage.
As regards the Samaritan woman in John, it seems to me that she has had five marriages each begun by sexual intercourse and each ended by an official or unofficial break-up (divorce). Currently she is into adultery because she is having an affair with a man who is married to a partner by sexual intercourse, and has not divorced her.
It is interesting that young people who are having sexual intercourse with a partner (but without having a legal marriage) have a strong sense that sex with another person while the partnership goes on is in some sense adulterous. But they do not think it is wrong to have serial "marriages" by sexual intercourse and then breaking up. This to me trivializes sexual intercourse and makes an eventual long term unconditional love marriage (whether common law or legal) very difficult.
My concern is to restore the sacredness, and seriousness of sexual intercourse.
That is what must be honoured, and given its biblical importance, not the
legal document that we have been fixed on. Throughout history there have
been millions of people in every continent who have been "married" by sexual
intercourse without any legal document (betrothal) having been set up,
and they remain faithful to each other as a married couple throughout life.
We should honour that without complaining that they are living in sin because
they never got legally tied to each other.