I am a forty-one-year-old father, married for twelve years…. I’ve had to live with a huge weight on my conscience all of these years….

Several times I have had the desire to get close to God, but the guilt has been stronger. My pastor has told me that it is because I married my half-sister, a daughter of my father, and that I should leave her….

I fell head over heels in love with my wife as soon as I met her…. We have had a number of problems, but our love has kept us together until today. God’s Word specifically prohibits marrying your sister, but I am already married and we have a family, four children who love me and depend on me. I don’t know if I should get a divorce and leave them. Please help me!

Dear Friend,

You are correct that there are several verses in the Bible prohibiting the marriage between close relatives. One such verse, Leviticus 18:9, specifies that you should not marry a sister or half-sister.

It is believed that this law was not given to Adam and Eve in the beginning because so few people existed that it was impossible to avoid marrying a close relative. But as the earth became more populated, God wanted to prevent negative physical and emotional consequences, so He made rules to help avoid such consequences.

Based on research that has shown a greater chance of birth defects in children born to close biological relatives, many countries of the world have passed laws to prevent the marriages of siblings. You do not say that any of your four children suffer from birth defects, thereby demonstrating that birth defects are possible but not a certainty.

However, emotional and psychological consequences can result even if there is no biological connection between siblings, as in the case of adoption. That is why most countries have laws restricting sexual relationships between close relatives, including those who have been adopted.

In your case, your children are already born and they need your love, attention, and support. While we would highly recommend that you prevent future pregnancies, we do not believe that God would have you separate from your wife and family at this point.

Yes, you broke God’s law when you married your half-sister. However, God can forgive you that sin, just as He is willing to forgive every other sin. His Son Jesus Christ died to take the penalty for all our sins, so we don’t have to live in guilt and condemnation. Ask Him to forgive you for your disobedience, and then trust Him to do it. Sin does separate us from God, but Christ makes it possible for us to be reconciled to Him.

If any of your children do have birth defects, then those are the natural consequences of your sin, not a punishment from God. He doesn’t usually take away the natural consequences, but He does take away the eternal consequences when we ask for His forgiveness.

We wish you the best,