A Message from Pastor Hale
The sin of cohabitation, living as husband and wife without the public commitment to live that way until death breaks the union, has become the norm. Despite the fact it does not work very well – leaving families broken and children without both parents, it seems easy and without a permanent commitment. But despite its popularity, it is not compatible with living as a Christian. It is still a bodily commitment, and one that displeases our Lord.
This is a simple issue, but what is lacking is biblical conviction and the willingness to speak clearly – even if those living as pagans in sexual immorality get angry. It is not loving to support people in sin. Many worldly people in churches are certainly ignorant, but avoiding the issue is certainly not the duty of a faithful shepherd. The pastor is to call to repentance – which means their lifestyle actually has to change to match God’s Word. To allow someone to think they are Christian, while publicly sinning, to receive Christ’s body and blood while confessing repentance is terrible and unhelpful. The pastoral tact where “the couple would agree to either move into separate rooms” does not address the public nature of the sin. It allows for private repentance for a public sin – while still giving the appearance of doing the wrong thing, which dishonors marriage. It is simply a way to approve of sin, while the pastor can feel good about doing something. The pastoral permission fails to acknowledge the realities of the sinful flesh and the importance of not living in sin. Vowing to technically avoid sin while confessing marriage doesn’t matter practically is a horrendous disparagement of God’s Word and the Christian walk.
There have been conservative pastors marrying couples who do not get legally married. But marriage is not a private, spiritual experience for believers. There is only one marriage. This approach splits marriage in two – denying the public aspect of it. But marriage, in itself, is a physical, public union. There is no private marriage or life together of husband and wife. Marriage is free (or just a few dollars for a marriage license) and weddings are optional, but honoring the vow of marriage will test the Christian who aims to follow Christ, who says only the unbelieving spouse will leave a marriage (1 Cor. 7:15).
Living a Christian life is simple, but not easy – especially today. The command to avoid sexual immorality encompasses all aspects of life – preserving the holy institution of marriage and keeping our bodies according to God’s creation and the Spirit’s direction. This will re-orient everything about a person’s life. It puts marriage before feelings, lust, and romance. It seems impossibly difficult to the pagan. But not all calling themselves Christians are living according to God’s Word. Sexual immorality outside of marriage is not separate from marriage – it dishonors marriage, the natural body, and our God who made them both.
The pressures of the world, what is convenient, and fleshly desires all impel toward living together without the weighty commitment of marriage. But marriage and avoiding sexual immorality is about obeying Christ. Our body cannot be the Lord’s – and simultaneously used how we see fit.
Repentance allows for following the Lord, and receiving His grace, to live for Jesus in mind and body. This is always the safest place to be. Amen.