Living in Sin. The Great Marriage Debate
Some may not be aware, but marriages haven't always taken place in churches. Centuries ago, the couple used to make their marriage vows in the church porch, with family and friends gathered around to witness. The priest’s role was to be there to register their commitment and then lead the party into church to pray with them.
In the eighteenth century, the whole ceremony moved into the church. Even then, some clergy worried that it would look as though the priest was marrying the couple, where, in fact, the couple themselves are the ministers of their marriage. The role of the priest is to witness, register, pray with and bless them. For me, it’s a great privilege and honour to be part of a couple’s history.
I find weddings aren't just for the happy couple. We often find ourselves thinking about our own relationship, giving thanks or asking forgiveness, mending hurts and renewing vows.
One of the most beautiful life experiences I enjoy is in the celebration of a wedding. For young people, who have truly prepared themselves for this commitment, it is profoundly touching to hear them exchange their vows: They submit to one another; in sickness and in health, for better or for worse, for the rest of our lives, until death do us part. Amen.
And as you celebrate with them, you hear their dreams; their hopes, and plans for how they will live out their lives, growing old together. They receive no guarantee of what may be around the corner, or exactly what ‘for better or worse’ may mean, as the weeks and months melt into years and decades. Yet they celebrate their ‘yes’ with joyful hearts. They give themselves to each other lovingly and for life.
For those who have been married for many years, you may feel it’s their sheer youthful ignorance or lack of life experiences that let them make such a commitment. You could be partly right. But I feel, in most cases, there is something much more.
It’s the conviction that makes our lives real and worth living. And it is that pure committed love that never counts the cost. Real love says ‘we’ll take the risk and pay the price, whatever it may be, because we want a real life and not just a performance or show.’ And that commitment flows over to foster greater trust, security and inner peace. And it extends beyond the couple – providing powerful foundations for children in seeing how commitment supports our lives.
Cohabitation may be just that -two individuals living their lives under one roof. Alternatively, it may be that those two individuals have chosen to make a poignant and indisputable commitment to one another.
I have heard the term ‘living in sin’ much of my adult life. Many would feel it is a sin to cruise through life, living on middle-ground, where commitment, honour, and loyalty are either irrelevant or unnecessary elements to living. Some might simply suggest it’s a fear of commitment, or a more simple thought that ‘yes, I’m committed to you until the going gets rough, or I tire of you, or you no longer become useful to my needs.’
Almost all of us have spoken our key ‘yesses,’ whether it’s at the birth of a child, at the time of a marriage or for any other pivotal moment in our lives. And now most of us stand somewhere in the middle of living out our ‘yesses.’
Doing so can at times be painful, distressing, or just simply boring, and sometimes our ‘Yesses’ can grow faint. That's when we need to remember exactly why we spoke our ‘Yes’ in the first place: because we loved and we knew what the power of that love brings us.
Commitment is demonstrable love. It’s an irresistible life-force and it endures all things, overflowing on us all.
‘Three things last for ever,’ said St Paul, ‘faith, hope and love, and the greatest of these is love.’