No Longer "Living in Sin"
by Jeffrey W. Hamilton
Sometimes you find interesting coincidences in the paper. One article brings up a question and another, unrelated one, supplies the answer. Recently I spotted an article in the June 7, 1995 edition of the Omaha World-Herald that shows the birthrate of children born to unwed mothers has increased 54 percent from 1980 to 1992. The 1992 rate was 45.2 per 1000 births. They noted that most of these births were to women in their early twenties. Another article on the same page stated "U.S. teen pregnancy rates continue to be among the highest of the developed nations."
There are many things which have contributed to the sad state of our society. We went through a period of "free love" during the late 1960s and early 1970s. Instead of teaching the immorality of sex outside marriage, our schools took the attitude that people are going to have sex anyway, so we ought to teach them how to have sex "safely." Today, I frequently run into people who have no idea that sex before marriage is a sin. Few people can define words like fornication or lasciviousness anymore. Even the word adultery isn't often used - people prefer milder terms like "extramarital affairs." Without negative talk and with much positive encouragement, is it any wonder that more and more children are born to unwed mothers? The government demographer, Stephanie Ventura, pegged the cause of the problem when she said, "The rising out-of-wedlock birthrates are related to "a tremendous decline in the stigma" that society once attached to such births."
Of course, the religious world is not immune to these pressures. Instead of speaking as God has instructed, we find another article in the same paper where a panel for the Anglican Church recommends "that the phrase 'living in sin' be abandoned and that unmarried couples, heterosexual and homosexual, be more readily welcomed into Anglican congregations." I guess they must feel that if you can't beat them, you should encourage them. No man, even a religious board, has the right to alter God's Word. The very fact that they feel empowered to recommend such changes tells us why we are in such a mess. We have abandoned truth and now we are amazed at the consequences.
People having sex before marriage (the definition of fornication, by the way) is not a recent phenomenon. I have a small clipping from a paper that pointed out that the illegitimacy rate in England in the 1500s was 4 out of every 5 children! Going to the Bible, we can find that Jacob's daughter, Dinah, had sex with a prominent neighborhood boy (Gen. 34). Due to the wording of this event, I can't be certain if this was a case of rape or not. Not long afterwards, another child of Jacob is mentioned visiting a prostitute who turns out to be his daughter-in-law (Gen. 38). Similar events are recorded throughout the Scriptures. Yet, within this context we find God's attitude toward this behavior is very clear. Under the Old Law, and even before it came into existence, the penalty for having sex outside marriage was death (Gen. 38:24; Lev. 21:9; Deut. 22:21). The condemnation of fornication continues into the New Testament (1 Cor. 6:12-20, Gal. 5:19). Is it not clear that God considers two people living together without being married to one another as "living in sin?"
Rather than instructing people to abandon their sinful relationship, some in the Anglican church wish to welcome them into their midst as they are. A similar thing happened in the congregation in Corinth (I Cor. 5). Here, a man was living with his father's wife and the Corinthian brethren accepted the man as he was! Paul said, "And you are proud! Shouldn't you rather have been filled with grief and have put out of your fellowship the man who did this?" (1 Cor. 5:2 NIV). Sexual immorality has no place within the church or its members. "We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?" (Rom. 6:2 NIV) The panel in the Anglican Church has clearly gone beyond their authority in attempting alter God's Word. As John said, "If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives." (1 John 1:10 NIV)