My pastor--the pastor of the church I attend down here when I'm not filling in elsewhere--brought up the topic today of cohabitation when I stopped by his study to head to lunch with him. Every pastor has to deal with that in our day and age, and it's not often you see an answer that is both practical and God-pleasing. What do you do about couples who are coming to church to get married when they've been living together already? Some of them are coming to the altar with their children.
It's not often that a couple comes to you in a state of cohabitation and can honestly say, "No, we haven't had sex." That's the extremely rare exception, not the rule. So they're already living together and engaging in the act of procreation. Is it enough that they want to get married and rectify the situation?
No. It's a good step, but it's not the most important thing. If all you want to do is make official what you've already been doing, you can go to a justice of the peace for that . . . or find the local "marrying/burying pastor" who will do any official act for a bit of green in the pocket. For a God-pleasing resolution to the situation, first there must also be an admission that what has gone before is sin. It doesn't have to be rubbed in their faces, but they need to acknowledge before God and each other that they have sinned by their actions and inactions. Pre-marital counseling is a wonderful teaching moment. It's a wonderful thing to be able to tell a couple, "You have confessed your sin. Thanks be to God, your sins are forgiven in the name of the Father and of the Son (+) and of the Holy Spirit. It will be my joy to perform your wedding ceremony." That way, confession and absolution is at the heart of their marriage. When you can say without sarcasm to your husband or wife, "I was wrong; please forgive me," your marriage should be in great shape.
Thanks, Rich. It's great being able to talk shop with a brother.