"shacking up": the oxymoron of "trial marriage"
On Sunday, Kyle delivered an awesome sermon on the ethical/biblical and practical problems with "living together" outside of marriage. It's a topic often avoided-- or at least skirted-- given its prevalence in the culture and often, in the Church. (Next week's topic-- divorce-- is in the same category.) And when it's discussed, it's rarely with a good combination of tact and conviction. Kyle brought both on Sunday.
In terms of style/presentation, Kyle used a faux wedding ceremony as the framework for many of his remarks. In terms of tone, he was gentle but firm throughout. In terms of substance, he emphasized marriage as covenant-- and what that means. He always does a great job, but seems especially skilled at handling the most sensitive topics.
Kyle opened by comparing marriage to a game of Russian Roulette with three bullets (given the 50/50 odds of avoiding divorce). Beyond that, he noted that many marriages which survive do not thrive. (As an aside, God's design for marriage is gloriously positive-- a point not often emphasized or lived out often enough.)
His opening point: God defined marriage. At its ideal, it is single, lifetime, "one-flesh" commitment between a man and a woman. (The State can try to co-opt marriage with similar or quite different marriage-like commitments, but the copyright belongs to God.) The ideal can be broached by death, divorce, polygamy, pre-marital, or extra-marital sex.
(As an aside, I remember arguing with a non-theist friend of mine who was arguing that God should intervene to stop evil. Noticing research that children of a parent who dies fare better than the children of parents who divorce, I reasoned that God should strike potential divorcees dead before they can divorce. He didn't have an answer for that...)
An interesting point: Kyle said that sex involves chemical releases that are opioids-- so that one will bond to the person or to the act of sex itself.
On the practical consequences of living together, Kyle cited a bunch of research-- and pointed to an article in USA Today called "Revenge of the Church Ladies" and a Psychology Today article called "The Perils of Playing House". And he quoted Robert Moeller who compared living together and marriage with this question (paraphrasing): how can something temporary, non-binding, and open-ended be a good test of its opposite?
Beyond the practical, Kyle soberly called it sin as well, saying that practical arguments are fine-- but not enough.
Kyle noted that Scripture describes marriage as a covenant-- and that (biblical) covenants have certain features: they are specific and publicly-stated (vs. open and undefined); they are sealed (by giving/receiving of vows); and they use signs as symbols to recognize the pledge.
(Here, Kyle had two great lines. The first was funny. He noted that Noah got a rainbow and Abraham got circumcision: "I'm sure he would have preferred a rainbow!" The second was provocative. Saying "it's just a ring" is like saying a cross is "just two pieces of wood nailed together".)
In closing, Kyle had exhortations for five groups of people:
1.) If you're a Christian and co-habitating, repent from your open rebellion.
2.) If you're a non-Christian and co-habitating, repent and accept God's grace-- and with the Spirit's help, increasingly surrender to God's great and glorious will for your life.
3.) To parents of co-habiting children: love them, pray for them, and hold them to biblical standards when they're under your roof.
4.) To teens: don't buy society's lie and decide now what you'll do (or not).
5.) To those who have sinned in this arena in the past: recognize God's amazing grace and His ability to spectacularly redeem.