Drew Snider is a pastor at Gospel Mission in Vancouver, B.C., Canada and a reader of my blog. Recently he asked me a question online about performing marriages for those who are living together and I thought it was worth asking here, so I asked him to guest post about it. Here’s Drew’s post:
Ron very kindly offered me a guest shot here, to get some feedback on a puzzle that’s bugged me for some time. What does a pastor do when a man and woman who have been Living Together come in and say they want to get married? I’d been thinking about this ever since my stepdaughter and her fiancé ran into turbulence when his family’s priest balked at doing the ceremony because they were “living in sin”.
Their decision to live together came after they had determined they were committed to each other for life. Moreover, they had also started taking those delightful, positive steps towards discovering Christ, inspired partly by the young man’s spiritual journey and partly by her mother’s return to the Lord; she’d only been water-baptized in the year before. But this feeling of rejection nearly put them off Christianity, which is the last thing one should want. So I started looking through Scripture for the answer to a basic question: where is it specified that the wedding ceremony is required before a couple can live together?
I can’t find it. Maybe I’m missing something.
We’re not talking fornication here. As I interpret the word, “fornication” means the wanton pursuit of fleshly satisfaction, not a man and woman who have found their life mate but have not solemnized that union either before God or under civil jurisdiction. In the absence of Scriptural foundation, are we not dealing with a principle of man, which often works at cross-purposes to God’s word? Consider:
- Do we not run the risk of driving away people who may be about to decide that Christ is the way, but feel judged, rejected or unworthy?
- Does this not go against the principle of Grace? Shouldn’t we rejoice that they want to bring their union under God, and not impose conditions?
- Theoretically, a long-time womanizer who suddenly decides to propose to Miss Right Now has a greater chance of being married in a church.
- In their zeal to find a church, the couple might go “church-shopping” and wind up with a church that makes compromises in other areas that are addressed in Scripture
- What about an older couple in their 40s or 50s, say (I have one in mind), who are finally coming to the Lord?
Which should be the priority: a principle of man, or God’s will that all should know Him? As Ron pointed out in his reply to a comment of mine on this blog, many couples opt for civil ceremonies these days and thus deny themselves Christian pre-marital counseling. I would add that that also denies them the opportunity to learn what their individual roles really are according to the word of God, rather than what they’ve heard second-hand from The World.
So over to you-all: what’s your take on this?