A friend of mine, a good guy who loves the Lord, and is a fine pastor, recently told me that in relation to couples living together who present themselves for marriage, that he "wimps out." What he means is that he doesn't tell the couple that if he is going to be involved--as in doing the wedding ceremony--that the couple needs to stop cohabitating, and live chastely until the wedding.
I don't say this to be critical of my friend. It is a tough issue.
A colleague of mine has a young relative involved in a relationship, in other words he is living with his girlfriend. Both he and the young lady make a weak profession of knowing the Lord, but show no willingness to obey the Lord in the matter of sexual chastity. Their pastor, or perhaps more accurately, one of the couple's parent's pastor, figures that by working with them he continues to have a thread of contact and influence. He is quite right in his conclusion that this couple will get married--at least that is their clear and absolute intention right now, and they have made known that one of them won't move out. So, he reasons, this way he has an opportunity for ministry.
I remember several years ago working with some missionaries. We were trying to figure out an appropriate response to news about a couple from the people group we were trying to reach. Was it a good thing that Bobby had moved in with Sue? Both claimed Christ as Savior. Did that mean they were married now? Or was it fornication? The customs related to family life in that culture weren't familiar to us yet. Since then the Christians in that people group have been making clearer distinctions between those who are married and those who aren't. My culture is going the other way.
What should I expect from people of my culture? Is there a point of decline when we get to the place where that developing culture was--where nothing is clear?
What should my response be?
At present my response is that a "Christian marriage" involves more than a preacher saying some "holy" words. "If you want God's blessing you need to go God's way. One of you needs to move out." On some occasions I conclude that an immediate marriage--Virginia has no waiting period--is appropriate.
Chuck Colson has a commentary on the matter. I plan to get the book he mentions.
I'd appreciate the thoughts of others.