Michael rushed up to me just before morning worship, his face alight with excitement and joy. "Guess what?" he gushed. "Annette wants to be baptized!"
My stomach tightened. My friendly grin suddenly developed rigor mortis. This couple had been living together for nearly a year and attending our church for a few months. Now they wanted a full relationship with God through Christ and a full relationship with the church. What should I do about their obvious and continuing sin?
I told them I'd be happy to talk it over with them.
Michael and Annette seemed to step into our church out of a TV drama. They are intelligent, attractive, and accomplished young professionals who quickly and casually decided to move in together, untroubled by moral questions. We soon began a Bible study together and developed a friendship that drove me to learn more about such couples.
Annette and Michael mirror a growing slice of society and an increasing challenge within the church. Young adults are intentionally delaying or forgoing marriage. The average age for first time marriages is 25 for women and 27 for men. Polls show many consider marriage a risky economic prospect, assuming that a quite likely first-marriage divorce will bankrupt them. For such vow-shy twenty-somethings, living together seems a convenient stopover on the way to later, legitimate family.
Michael and Annette came to our church only because we were in their neighborhood. Even though I grew to love them personally, I was not confident about their future. My experiences with such couples did not tend toward optimism.
Smiling tensely at Michael that Sunday morning, I hoped I wouldn't see a repeat of Robert and Kristen.
The ones that got away
We met Robert and Kristen though a church outreach ...