Let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath. - Jas 1:19
If you have a friend or family member that is thinking about this, or has already started a plural family, then you are probably feeling some stress. Bigamy has been criminalized in the English-speaking world for just over 500 years, and has been officially 'anathema' in the Christian church for about 600, and after that many centuries we just don't expect to have to rethink this. Life is busy and hectic and stressful enough in the 21st century without having to take time to go back and figure out from scratch how many wives a guy can have. "Everybody knows" the correct answer is one, right? Only some kind of malcontent or rebel or pervert would even question that, right?
Unfortunately, no. We sincerely wish that there were some easy way to do this, to establish quickly and without a lot of muss and fuss the right and wrong of all this, so we could all just get back to what we were doing. The truth is more complicated. The truth is that our culture is experiencing a great upheaval, with a lot of confusion and conflict, leading to uncertainty, insecurity, and defensiveness, as well as more openness to new ideas. The truth is that there are many social and spiritual issues implicated in what seems like a simple question: Is it okay for consenting adults to live together in a polygamous relationship or not? And between the stress of daily living, the emotional loading around male/female issues these days, and the sheer outrageousness of having something as basic as monogamy called into question, it's tempting to rush to judgment. It's tempting to just not want to think about it, and it's tempting to assume that there's something wrong with the person that is asking the question, or daring to live this lifestyle, since "everybody knows" it's wrong. Shut down the person, and you've solved the problem, right?
Unfortunately, no. "Kill the messenger" is never an effective strategy for dealing with bad news (meaning news you didn't want to hear, that makes you uncomfortable). If somebody important to you has called your attention to what the Bible really teaches about marriage, embrace the opportunity to sharpen your understanding, to gain knowledge and wisdom, to test what you believe, to strengthen your relationship with that person who is challenging you.
You'll be glad you did.
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