Dear Bob and Sue,
Congratulations on your engagement! My dear friend John, your grandfather, is excited for you and shared about it this morning at our prayer group. You won’t be surprised to know that he also brought up your plan to live together for the next 2 years as you await your wedding. Since there is so much confusion going around about this nowadays, I thought it might help to get a full biblical perspective from a pastor. I know you didn’t ask for this, but I hope you won’t mind. From my talk with John this morning, the two of you were on my heart.
I don’t doubt that you consider your mom and granddad “old-fashioned” in this matter, and since I don’t know you, I surely can’t claim to know how you’re thinking, but I can take a guess, and that’s what I wanted to write about.
Some years ago, a couple came to me asking that I officiate at their wedding. Happily, we perform a lot of weddings at Edgewood, and our church has a policy that couples need to sign a purity agreement (which I regularly and awkwardly ask about during pre-marital counseling!) and agree not to live together before their wedding. Since this couple was living together and was not interested in moving apart, I had to tell them that I could not marry them.
That was disappointing to me, but especially to them, as the future bride had attended our church for most of her life. All in all it was a hard time. Not surprisingly, however, I moved on to other matters in the busy church life…and yet they kept thinking about it.
It was a few months later that I received an email from the young lady. Her question was along these lines: “We really like Edgewood and want to be a part of the church and eventually raise a family here. You marry all sorts of people at the church, and they are all sinners. And yet, you won’t marry us for this one sin. Why the inconsistency?”
I was so glad to get that communication from her, because it gave me an opportunity to explain something that I hadn’t apparently explained well before. It gets to the very heart of what it really means to be a Christian. Here’s the gist of what I said when I got together with them to talk again:
It is true that we are all sinners. Paul was the chief of sinners, and I myself, obviously, struggle with sin. In fact, all of us who are Christians have sinned in the past, and continue to sin in the present. However the mark of a Christian is not sinlessness – it is, instead, that we fight sin. We live a life of continual repentance for sin. Sometimes we don’t know that our actions are sinful, but when a true Christian realizes it, he or she strives for repentance. In your case, I told the couple, the problem is that you’re not fighting. When you decided to live together even though you knew it was wrong, you made a greater statement about sin –saying in effect, “it’s just not that important.” And in saying that, you also said that repentance was not important.
But the mark of a real Christian is faith and repentance. True faith is always accompanied by repentance. Whenever you run to the light, you run out of the darkness. When you truly realize that Christ has died for your sins, you can’t help but hate sin. After all, it’s what led your Savior to the cross. Anyone who can say, “Jesus saved me from my sin,” must also understand sin as a terrible thing that they needed saving from. Therefore, whenever anyone says, “I know my actions are sinful, but I don’t care,” I assume that they really don’t understand the cross of Christ, and in that…I assume they are not true Christians. Conviction and repentance – these are signs that someone has the Holy Spirit. He is the one who brings these things about.