Why Loving Churches Tell Unmarried Couples It Is Wrong To Live Together


It has been a burden on my heart for some months now to write a blog post on the subject of sexual immorality in the church. I, like many other Christians, have been grieved in recent years to notice just how prevalent extra-marital sex is among church-attending conservative Christians. Frankly, I have never been surprised to see this kind of behavior in liberal churches that do not accept the Bible as the completely inspired word of God. This is behavior is normal for them because bad doctrine goes hand and hand with bad morals (II Peter 2:1,14).

But unfortunately sexual immorality is spreading rapidly among so-called Bible-believing, gospel-preaching, family-focused churches. Many of the conservative Christians who read this blog probably know about a currently ongoing affair or premarital sex between active members of their own church. They may not approve of what is going on, but neither are they willing to take loving, Biblically-based action to address what is happening and deal with the sin in their midst.

The problem with extramarital sex, (As I explained in more detail in a recent article), is that it mocks the sacrificial love of God by elevating false, temporary love to the same level as real, permanent love. True love is not about satisfying one’s physical needs, but about staying faithful and committed to the one you desire, especially when the going is difficult. This is the kind of love that God has for us. He sent His son to die on the cross for our salvation, and He remains committed to us even when we stumble and fall into sin. God is not going to cast us away the same way Americans cast away their many sex partners once they are done with them. His relationship with His people is permanent.

Those who claim to be Christians and go to church should model the love in their relationships after God’s love. The Bible says: “Follow God’s example… and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God” (Ephesians 5:1-2). The only way to practice this kind of love in a sexual relationship is by taking marriage vows and committing to loving and serving your partner “until death do us part.” That is why the next verse says: “But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people.” (Ephesians 5:3). Notice how this verse makes a link between greediness and sex outside of marriage. Whenever someone tries to have sex with someone they are not married to I can promise you that they are motivated by selfishness. People have sex outside of marriage because they want to make use of another person’s body, money, or personality without sacrificing their future to securing that person’s well-being. They are only “giving” and “offering” themselves to their partner on a limited basis. They are holding back something for themselves, unwilling to put the needs of the person they supposedly love above their own. This is wrong. Anybody who is unwilling to live for and to die for the person they love has no business being involved in a sexual relationship.

I find it very frustrating that many conservative churches today are beginning to accept extramarital sexual relationships in their midst. More and more often churches that teach sexual purity from the pulpit are ignoring serious cases of fornication in their own congregations. While many of these churches would never allow an adulterer to be a pastor or an elder, they encourage those who are actively engaged in these immoral relationships to become deeply involved in church activities, hoping that ministry alone might open the eyes of the sinner and convict him of his error. For example, many churches will allow unwed couples who are living together to serve on stage as part of their praise band, or to take communion or become church members. This is wrong. I have no problem with churches that allow adulterers into their church to observe what true worship looks like (I Corinthians 5:12, 14:24), but they should not be encouraged to participate in activities that the Bible reserves for believers until they have repented of their sins. If you allow a person to participate in the ordinances of baptism or communion while they are still living like a pagan, you are publicly broadcasting hypocrisy in the church. You are very likely helping someone who is not a Christian pass themself off as a child of God. The Apostle Paul says, in the same passage that I quoted from earlier, “of this you can be sure: no immoral, impure or greedy person… has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God” (Ephesians 5:5). This passage is not saying that someone who has ever committed these sins can never be saved, but rather, that they are not true Christians if these sins continue to characterize their lifestyles. Therefore we ought not to assume that these people are our brothers and sisters in Christ as long as they show no more loyalty to the commands of God than they do to their temporary sex partners.

It is easy for me to anticipate that this article is going to make a lot of people mad, including many who claim to believe in the Biblical view of sex. They will probably say that I should be less judgmental of others and quote Matthew 7:1 at me while ignoring the second half of Matthew 7:5 as well as Matthew 18:15-17 and I Corinthians 5:9-13. They will argue that I am not showing love towards unwed couples because I would not allow them to partake of communion. However, I believe that it is more loving to carefully tell someone about their sin than to ignore it and allow them to think that their sin is alright (Ezekiel 33:6). I believe that it is necessary to follow Jesus’ command to help a brother deal with genuine sin, even if it is merely a “speck” in his eye (Matthew 7:5). It is not loving to let your brother continue sinning unharassed when you know that he is constantly offending his God and Maker. Neither is it right for you to give him your implicit approval while he destroys his family and hurts other people. There are many situations where true love requires you to disagree with someone and offend them (Proverbs 27:6).

God, of course, knows that it is very hard for us to be constantly on the lookout for sin in the church and to deal with it appropriately when we see it. Nevertheless, the Bible does not excuse us for taking the easy way out. It is very clear that the sins we have mentioned above must be dealt with, and no amount of misapplied rhetoric about “turning the other cheek” can change this. The Apostle Paul warns us in our primary text not to be swayed by such appeals to our emotions: “Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God’s wrath comes on those who are disobedient. 7 Therefore do not be partners with them” (Ephesians 5:6-7).

So let us, brothers and sisters in Christ, take the words of the Bible very seriously. God loves us very much, which is why He gave us these words to teach us how to live. We need to stop accepting sexual immorality in the church, and we need to do it now, before more families are destroyed. We need to bar fornicators and adulterers from service in Christian ministry for their own good and for ours. We need to show them love by telling them to repent of their sins and come to Christ for forgiveness. We need to teach them how to live lives that are honoring to God and beneficial to their fellow human beings.

Sincerely,

Your Brother in Christ,

Daniel Schilling

PRIMARY TEXT:

1 Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children 2 and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

3 But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. 4 Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving. 5 For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person—such a person is an idolater—has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. 6 Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God’s wrath comes on those who are disobedient. 7 Therefore do not be partners with them. (Ephesians 5:1-7) NIV

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15 Responses to Why Loving Churches Tell Unmarried Couples It Is Wrong To Live Together

  1. Don’t judge lest you be judged.

    • Don’t take that out of context. That verse deals with unrighteous and unfair judgments based on what people think is right while ignoring their own wrong. If a person is not involved in an adulterous or fornicating relationship they is no “beam to remove before the speck.” Christians are commanded to make judgments when neccesary.

      1 Corinthians 5:11- “But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolator, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat.” Also with the context of this verse in mind there is 1 Corinthians 6:5 – I speak to your shame. Is it so, that there is not a wise man among you? no, not one that shall be able to judge between his brethren?

      John 7:24 – “Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment.”

      1 John 4:1 – “Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world.”

      Matthew 18:16,17 – But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican.”

  2. schildan10 says:

    David: God is the judge of all people. It is His rules that we are obligated to follow.

    Eugene: Thanks for backing me up on this! I appreciate the support when I get it.

    https://sheboygancanknow.wordpress.com/2011/02/09/why-a-nonchristian-should-not-judge-sin/

  3. john says:

    well spoken (sorry for the first illegible post..lol)

  4. Fred says:

    Thank you for the confirmation, I recently had a situation similiar where I was ministering to a young lady who was living with her boyfriend and wanted to become a member of our church. I shared several common scriptures that ministered to cohabitation, and we rejected her request citing that it was immoral for her to continue in sexual immorality without being married. Please pray for us.

    • schildan10 says:

      Thanks for sharing Fred. Saying “no” can be very hard, but if we truly love the young couple we should tell them what they need to hear, not what they want to hear. I’ll pray for your church–and I hope the young couple will take the necessary steps so that you can welcome them into fellowship with a clear conscience 🙂

  5. Shelby says:

    What if the couple is living together but is abstaining from sex? Is that sexual immorality?

    • schildan10 says:

      No, that’s not sexual immorality if they haven’t had sex. But it is not wise, because they are putting themselves in a position where sexual immorality is very easy.

  6. Jan says:

    in the old and new testament engagement was in the teenage year and arranged marriage while you were young. if you read the old testament carefully you see that women were part of a dowry system, this didn’t change much in the new testament, polygamy was common and so were concubines.. Remember the passage when Jesus is asked about the woman who has had 5 husbands and now is living with a man she is not married to? He does not condemn the woman. All of her marriages would have been arranged.
    If the church is so concerned about marriage why doesn’t it set up a semi-arranged marriage system? Why are we not allowed polygamy and concubines?

    • schildan10 says:

      Jan,
      Thanks for your comment. I think if you reread those passages you are referring to you will see that polygamy and arranged teen marriages were not commanded by God. Rather, they were part of the fallen human culture of the day. The Bible presents the polygamous marriages of Abraham and Jacob as a disaster. The Old Testament does not sugar-coat the problems that result from having multiple wives/concubines. Unlike the Quran, it does not hold it up as an ideal. Humans were not intended for polygamy. When two people are married they become one flesh, and they should not share their bodies with others. God’s plan for marriage is between one man and one woman (Titus 1:6).

      As far as the woman at the well is concerned, the reason why Jesus is not harsh on her is because he doesn’t need to be. She knows her sin. Jesus, by treating her with respect, shows her that there is no sin that cannot be forgiven. She may have been looked down upon by her society, but she was not looked down on by Jesus, because Jesus loves sinners like her, like you, and like me.

      In Christ’s name,
      -Daniel

  7. Belinda says:

    so if I live with my partner and kids and getting married in feb 14 can the church still judge us it hurts

  8. schildan10 says:

    Thanks for your comment Belinda.

    It is not really the church who “judges” what is right and wrong, it is God. He created us and He tells us how we are to enjoy sex. His plan has our best interests in mind, and we should obey Him.

    I know it hurts when someone tells you that you are doing wrong, but sometimes a little bit of pain can help you avoid bigger pain later. Breaking God’s rules puts you in a situation where it is very easy for someone to abuse and misuse your love.

    I really do wish the best for you. I hope that your marriage will be blessed, and that your new husband will love you completely and sacrificially, with the same absolute and total commitment with which Christ loves the church (see Ephesians 5:25-33).

    Take care.

    -Daniel

  9. Write-ups says:

    Thank you for this well-written article. It is sad that some churches turn a blind eye and bide by the opinion of man and the sinful world than by the Word of God, which is clear about the forbidance of fornication for believers. I have seen it destroy relationships in a church where a couple is allowed to live together for years now, and would not get married. The results for that church are devastating – God cannot move, and many people have left there.

  10. Anonymous says:

    I belong to a Baptist Church, the only one I have ever been a member of, because I am think joining a Church is serious business. Recently the Church let a women who lives with a man and they are not married. How can this be?

  11. schildan10 says:

    I agree that it is innappropriate for a couple that is living together unmarried to join a church or be baptized. It is alright for them to visit and be treated warmly, but they have to understand that if they become Christians they have a responsibility to follow God’s plan for sex. I would suggest talking to your pastor or leadership team about it first; hopefully you are misinformed about their status. maybe there is a wedding in the works? If the leadership team claims to be ignorant that they are living together, then you will have to lovingly talk to them yourself to voice your concern (See Matthew 18:15). I know this is very difficult, potentially embarrassing, but perhaps they will respond well to you in private.

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