Living Together Before Marriage3
It seems today that nearly all couples who present themselves to the pastor for marriage are already living together. Many have children of their own and/or from a previous marriage or relationship. They are often paying their bills together, and own property in common.
What I say below I address first to the members of my own parish because they are my responsibility. But also to any other Christian who may benefit from it. And, too, to those who do not profess the holy Christian faith, so that they might have opportunity to learn something about our beautiful faith, and consider it for their own lives.
Also I wish to highlight that what I say here is not exclusively addressed to young people, though they are the most vulnerable. But also to middle-aged and seniors as well because "living together" without the benefit of marriage has become the cultural norm in America. But it should not be for the baptized.
Marriage is too big and too important to be entered into lightly, or to engage in a resemblance of it. For the world marriage is but a social institution (of dubious value in our day). But not for the Christian, and indeed not for any human being who is honest. Because every man and woman longs for a spouse who is fully and exclusively committed, constant and true to them. But for the Christian it goes further.
Marriage is not merely a social institution but an image of the relation that exists between Christ and his cleansed-bride the church. The Bride he rendered spotless and unblemished by his sacrificial death on the cross; by the washing of water and the Word. (Ephesians 5:22-33) As such it is a momentous event! One that needs to be entered into not by private decision, but openly, publicly, and accentuated by all the pomp and circumstance that can be mustered.
Let us also keep in mind that sexual intimacy is given by God to be exercised exclusively within the marital union of husband and wife. Its chief purpose is the procreation of children, by which frail mortals share in God's creative power and glory; and not merely to satiate an appetite.
But when couples who are living together come to the church seeking holy matrimony it is the duty of the pastor to do all he can for them. To teach them the fullness of marriage, and of life in Christ. He should instruct them, baptize them if they are not, bring them into communicant membership of Christ's body, and bless their marriage.
Part of his discussion will be that: what started off very wrong, in lust, sin and selfishness will now be made right! What began as a private (and often desperate and confusing) decision will now be publicly blessed because, "Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners." (1 Timothy 1:15)
But let us return to the beginning in order to give solemn warning to young and old alike that, "God has not called us to impurity; but to holiness." (1 Thessalonian 4:3-8). If you desire to have a spouse who is committed to you, and you alone, you desire a good thing! But don't follow the culture, follow the ancient, tried, true and reliable wisdom learned from Sacred Scripture. Come to the pastor. He will lead you and guide you in the paths of righteousness, and bestow God's benediction upon you. If you have already started down the wrong path, come to the pastor, he will help you make all things right.