Got this letter in:
I grew up in a very conservative Christian environment and as I have grown into adulthood I have gravitated away from that view of Christianity in favor of, for lack of a better word, liberal Christianity. Recently I brought up to my parents that my girlfriend and I plan on getting an apartment together (my girlfriend and I are both 25 and have been together for a year now). They reacted like I murdered an entire village of orphan children and vowed to disown me should I “live in sin.”
As a Christian myself I have been doing a lot of research on this topic, but I have struggled mightily explaining my views to my parents. My mom has told me many times that by doing this I am going straight to hell. I find this very troubling because she was there when I sought Jesus as my savior and knows how that event changed my life. She is convinced that I did not mean it at that time and that I have let Satan enter my life and tempt me. I love my girlfriend and we plan on getting married and ideally I would like to have a relationship with my parents, but I am at a loss as for how to reconcile our differences on this issue. I would very much appreciate any insight you could give on this topic. Thanks
Really? Satan? Your mom goes straight to Satan?
Worst debater ever.
How come she couldn’t just talk to you about this? You know: “Well, honey, you might want to think about living together before getting married. Because . . . ”
Anyway, I assume your mom’s worried about you having premarital sex. There’s nothing in the Bible saying that unmarried couples shouldn’t live together; it’s just assumed that doing so means such couples will also be having sex—and many Christians, of course, agree with your mom that having premarital sex is like … having a threesome with Satan, or whatever.
Have you already slept with your girlfriend? If so, maybe you should tell your parents that you have. Because I think that a solid biblical argument can be made in support of the idea that once you have slept with someone, the honorable thing to do is cleave your life to theirs in the way that moving into together does do. It shows how seriously you take the relationship.
Fundamentally, of course, I have no idea how to advise you on this. Because I don’t know your parents. If they’re intransigent dogmatists, then it’s not likely they’ll change their view on this. If they’re just having a knee-jerk reaction to their little boy being all grown up, then they’ll probably come around about … I dunno … six months after you’ve moved in with your future wife. (Or, if they’re hardcore cases, pretty much during the reception at your wedding.)
Lately I’ve had a spate of letters from young Christians asking me what amounts to this same question; namely, “I’ve changed my theology and my parents are freaking out. Help!” And what I’ve been generally recommending to such people is that, if it’s true, they tell their parents that they still believe in Jesus. That’s what parents really want to know: they’re much less concerned with their child getting this or that tenet of Christianity wrong than they are with their child abandoning Christianity altogether. (If they can’t tell their parents that they believe in Jesus, I advise them [again, assuming it’s true] to tell their parents that they believe in some sort of God, and that all they want to do is spend some time figuring out what exactly that means.)
In your case, you do believe in Jesus. If I were you, then, I would (gently, always gently) insist that my belief in and understanding of Jesus, God, and the Bible does not tell me that it’s a sin to live with the woman whom I fully intend to marry. You’re twenty-five. That’s old enough for your reflections and conclusions on such matters to be taken seriously.
You’re reading the Bible differently than they are, is all. Thoughtfully and lovingly present to your parents your case for why you do not believe that it’s a sin for you to move in with your fiancee, and then leave them to their thoughts and convictions. (You said you have difficulties presenting your case to your parents. I would suggest, then, that you first spend some real time carefully preparing what you have to say, and then asking your parents for an hour of their uninterrupted time. Then give them your speech, Bible notes and all. Tell them they need to save their thoughts and objections until after you’re done talking. Fair is fair.)
In life, we have to choose our battles. This battle sounds like one you’re going to fight; that is, wanting to please your parents doesn’t sound like it’s going to be a strong enough reason for you to choose not to live with your girlfriend. If that’s the case, then, as I say, make your best argument for the morality of what you’re doing, and see what happens. Always remain good-natured and respectful: always let your parents know that you love them. Then it’s on them. Because then you’ve done all that you can do to fix things with them. And that makes you free to move on with your life.
Here’s a short thing about my wife Cat and I on the morning following the day of our wedding–which came after some three years of our living together: The First Day of the Rest of Our Lives