MARTIN CHEMNITZ PRESS
A MIGHTY FORTRESS LUTHERAN CHURCH
Pastor Gregory L. Jackson, Ph.D.
6421 W. Poinsettia Drive
LIVING IN SIN, THE NEW NORM
I sent out a news item where it was stated that more than 50% of couples are now living in sin. It was a quaint term that one does not see or hear much anymore. The item was not news to me. I have witnessed couples living in sin as the norm since the 1970s. At first the argument was that engagement was a contract for marriage, so cohabitation could begin at that time. But engagement is not considered a contract today. It is more like going steady.
Even then, engagement is not marriage. If it were, we would not have a marriage license and a wedding ceremony. Even Jesus was born to married parents. Joseph and Mary were married but not yet living together as husband and wife. It was the custom then to have the service first and sharing the same roof later.
One person wrote to me that a relative is now living in sin. What does one say? I think it is important to avoid the common sense arguments, that those who live together first get divorced more often. That is not a Scriptural argument.
I dealt directly with one case. I was baptizing the third child of one couple. The mother was a nominal member of the congregation. The couple was not married. First of all, I did not allow the woman to take communion because, as I explained to her personally, she could not receive the sacrament while living in opposition to God’s Word. Secondly, I visited the father of the children and asked him about God’s Word. He said he believed in God’s Word. So I pointed out that he was living in opposition to God’s Word and serving as a bad example to his three children, whom he loved very much.
In this respect I was fortunate to deal with someone who accepted the Bible as the norm for faith and life. I asked him what was preventing him from being married, since he was serving as a good father, a breadwinner, and a good husband albeit without the blessing of God upon the union. Following Luther, I said, “God created the estate of marriage. We do not have the right to set it aside. If we do, we are against God’s Word, because God created marriage and established it.”
Within a few days the father phoned me, set up a wedding day, and asked to start membership classes. The fact of his taking classes made one leading church member furious with me, since this man “was not from a good family.” The Pharisees are always with us. Oddly enough, the prospective groom freely acknowledged his family’s problems, while the charter member Pharisee seemed to be without sin in his own eyes. I agree with Augustine we are better served with a good confession rather than with an ardent defense.
So when someone asks me about what to say, I suggest doing very little arguing, pointing out that it is against God’s Word. Most people are prepared to argue for the new way by saying everyone is doing it now, etc. The issue is not whether someone is old-fashioned or not. That turns a doctrinal issue into a personal one. If a relative says, “I guess I’m just old-fashioned,” then God’s Word is no longer an issue.
It does make sense that more people who live together without marriage get divorced, because God commands what is good for us. We cannot defy His Law without consequences.
The status of children born outside of marriage is a serious matter. They have no voice in the matter and yet their futures are determined by their environment. Children need stability.
There is little we can do to make society shift significantly toward the Biblical standards of marriage and family. In our own families, however, we can emphasize to our children that God has determined the best way in which we should grow up, with both our parents, married to each other. If both parents show a lot of love toward their children, and spend time with them, the children will naturally follow their parents’ example. If possible, the mother should not work full-time outside of the home. Mothers who stay at home with their children are worthy of double-honor.
Can parents keep their children from running wild with society? The parents can certainly minimize temptations until the children are old enough for self-discipline. It is often this process of fighting with children that teaches the child that love can be expressed with a firm no. Children should be free to do whatever they want…as long as they are living on their own and paying their own expenses. Until then the subsidized child should submit to parental love and correction.
Some parents are worshiping with their families at home and home-schooling their children. Society says, “You should have a REAL church and a REAL school.” I have countered that by saying, “Would you give up the truth of God’s Word for a youth group and building? And what teacher loves your children more than you do?”