Let the Lord Build Your House

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In a recent Banner article, a respected psychologist and therapist in the Christian Reformed Church proposed that we revise our traditional ecclesiastical posture towards committed couples living together before marriage, given the older ages at which couples wed these days. Professional counselors work with hurting people who are often crippled by guilt and shame over such things. A softer ecclesiastical stance might seem to present a more helpful approach.

I agree that we need to be a grace-filled community that does not judge and condemn. We must bring and be good news to all whenever they, and we, stray from God’s paths. That includes couples living common-law. I also agree that the Bible does not define specifically what is included in the sin of “fornication.”

Still, my reading of Scripture does lead me to reaffirm the Christian church’s position that a mutual, public vow of unity, faithfulness, and love should precede living together. As a pastor who has learned from couples in the context of marriage preparation, counseling, and milestone anniversaries for some 40 years, I believe that waiting honors God’s will, and God blesses such obedience in key ways.

Building a healthy marriage depends on many different ways of finding each other and growing together. When couples get ahead of themselves sexually or live together to see if they’re compatible, they make it almost impossible to assess clearly whether they are growing the kind of relationship that will allow them to face the challenges of marriage for the long run. Such actions create a dependency that clouds their judgment and makes it much harder to part company should they find they are not right for each other. Sex alone cannot keep a marriage together, so it should never be what keeps couples limping forward when the rest of their relationship is faltering. I’ve seen that all too often.

Common-law couples often tell me that marriage is “just a piece of paper.” That’s precisely the point. If you too quickly start living as husband and wife only to find you are not compatible, your parting will hurt you (and those around you) just as if you had that paper. It’s a divorce all the same because, biblically speaking, when you gave yourselves to each other sexually, you already became husband and wife (Gen.2:24, 1 Cor. 6:16)—even though you and your community weren’t even ready for that commitment.

Scripture offers sufficient warning not to get ahead of ourselves. But my favorite text puts all this in the positive: “Unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labor in vain” (Ps. 127:1). Verses 3-5 clearly show that the psalmist isn’t just thinking of bricks and mortar. God knows how to knit lovers together into a solid household. He’s good at it (Gen. 2:22-25). Couples who build their relationship God’s way can count on it. Allow God to build the foundation first. Let him finish building your spiritual house. Then, by all means, move into the bedroom.

If you really love each other, let your relationship be built to last. Then every new step will bring a fresh blessing to you, your loved ones, and God’s kingdom.

About the Author

Bob De Moor is a retired Christian Reformed pastor living in Edmonton, Alta.

See comments (2)


Bob, thankyou for this article.  Although it perhaps should have been put side by side with the article from the psychotherapist, it is better late than never.  And interesting you added Ps. 127:1, which happens to be the wedding text of my wife and myself, who will be celebrating 40 years of marriage in a few weeks, Lord willing.  

I'd love to add a few thoughts to your excellent article.  For those who may not have started well:   First, it is not how you start, but how you finish that is most important.   This applies to your life as a follower of Christ, and also to your life as a married person.  Second, to those who say, "it is just a piece of paper", I would say that the piece of paper is a demonstration  of committment.    It is your willingness to sign the paper the way you sign a cheque, and your willingness to proclaim publicly your lifetime committment to your spouse.   It is a sign of purpose and committment rather than a life of accidental happenings and hesitant trial periods.   (The title to your house, or the bill of sale for your vehicle, or your income tax return, is just a piece of paper too, but that probably doesn't stop you from signing them, does it?)

Without a purposeful lifetime committment, cohabitation becomes a form of adultery, regardless of whether we call it fornication or not.  The possibility of ending the cohabitation is a form of unfaithfulness to the relationship, and even before it ends, is also in essence a form of unfaithfulness to a future spouse.  For that reason, this committment should be public and open, especially within the christian community, and needs to be distinguished in a clear and unambiguous way from the common practice of "shacking up". 

Let the Lord be the foundation.  Let God continue to build the house that you want to build.  Let your marriage and home glorify God.   It is His gift to you. 


It is good that the Banner Editor published this article.  Respectfully, he should also reconcile this article with his prior article, at: http://www.thebanner.org/departments/2013/06/why-we-dare-not-play-it-safe.  In "Why We Dare Not Play It Safe," Mr. DeMoor defends his decision to publish the article he says here he disagrees with.  Frankly, the objections raised by so many in the denomination (probably most of them NOT in online posts) have more to do with the Banner deciding to publish the article than the article itself.

I'm much more interested in whether the Banner Editor stills believes he made the right decision when deciding to publish the article, and whether the Banner editorial board still supports its Editor's decision to publish it.  Those are the more significant issues here and denominational members and churches deserve a clear answer to those questions.  The answers to those questions would allow denominational members and churches figure out what they might need to do at next year's Synod to make appropriate adjustments.