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Counselor's Column: Live together before Marriage?

by Dennis Kaufman

Engaged couple wants to know why church wants them to live separately.

Question: I am a new Christian and I want to do the right thing as a believer in God but there are some things I don’t understand.

My girlfriend and I had been living together and planned to be married in a few months, but the church insisted we separate until we married. We have done that, but I still am not sure I understand the reasoning since we love each other and are in a committed relationship.

Answer: I appreciate your desire to be obedient to Christ and to respect the leadership of the church. Entering the Kingdom of God involves different guidelines than the world promotes, and you have bumped a significant one in the area of sexuality.

Obedience to God is always a good thing and obedience combined with insight and understanding is a more powerful force for righteousness. So I will do my best to explain the reasoning behind the church’s stance.
As a counselor, I have become convinced that sexuality is to the emotional world what nuclear power is to the physical world. It is an incredible gift that has tremendous power for good, but when improperly used the potential for destruction is massive.

I see people whose lives have been deeply impacted by sexual fallout–incest, molestation, rape, infidelity, unwanted pregnancy, homosexuality, sexually transmitted diseases, shame from past promiscuity, pornography addictions, abortion. None of these issues heals easily or quickly.

God obviously wanted to give us an indescribably good gift in the physical oneness of a husband and wife, but this gift comes with numerous cautions.

Think about the government regulation of nuclear material. We have seen the damage that can result from a Chernobyl nuclear accident. We have known the harmful effects of radiation for decades.

Yet with all the emotional destruction of unbridled sexual behavior, the world continues to promote a confusing mixed message about where sexual boundaries ought to be placed.

God is much wiser. He has built into the law, the Gospel and our consciences very powerful containment for sexual behavior. From start to finish, the Scriptures fight for powerful boundaries around sexual expression. It is only within the confines of the marriage covenant that God ordains a sexual relationship.

Jesus even tightened the boundary in the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5:7) When He said we need not only be sensitive to our sexual actions but also our mental attitudes. We need to discipline ourselves to avoid lusting after someone who is not our spouse (Matt. 5:28).

It is easy in our day for two mature people to rationalize that their sexual involvement before marriage is not hurting anyone, including themselves. The world is relentless in telling us that is the norm. However, to bend from God’s standard is to start down a slippery slope of compromise. One only has to look around to see the destruction that is being created.

Therefore, as a church, we feel compelled to hold God’s standard high and to try to protect it as true wisdom.
It is my prayer that you continue to submit to this truth, rather than fall prey to the temptation of thinking God and the church are out of step with current norms.

There is grace for those who miss God’s target, but let’s not think we can change the target and not suffer the consequences.

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If we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord.

Romans 14:8