FAITH: Following the path of glorifying God
On June 4, 2005, at the Church of the Nazarene in Carrollton, Texas, Emily married Brad, and they became Rev. and Mrs. Brad McKenzie! Their 16 years of marriage have included two incredible children, four church assignments, seven different houses, and ONE completely blessed journey! If have ever met this couple or are close with them, you know they deeply love each other, laugh a lot, and are honest about both the joys and complexities of marriage and raising a family. Hopefully, you will also know they depend completely on the Lord as they seek each day to prefer each other over themselves so as to bring God glory through their marriage and family.
Recently, a wonderful couple in my congregation, Bill and Ruth, celebrated 70 years of wedded bliss! It is incredible to realize they have been married longer than my in-laws have been alive. When you spend time with them, they have so many great stories and are always so very sweet to each other. Recently they both went through some difficult health issues, and they were more concerned about the other than their own situation. I have been honored in my time as a pastor to have the opportunity to know and be inspired by folks like Bill and Ruth and so many others whose Godly marriage is an example to keeping vows, no matter what.
The acceptance and normalcy of couples cohabitating before the commitment of marriage is not something new with our current cultural context. In 2016, Barna Research stated a majority of Americans now believe in cohabitation. Their study showed how living together has become the accepted norm as couples delay marriage, choosing to try it out before making a legal commitment. According to their 2016 study, 65% of adults either strongly or somewhat agreed it was a better idea to live with their special someone before marriage, as opposed to 35% of adults who either strongly or somewhat disagreed with this belief. To be honest, I am not shocked at this data, but I am grieved at the shift away from God’s design and disregard for His intended purpose for sex and the relational covenant.
I have counseled many couples seeking to be married. In the past decade more and more of them have been those who are currently living together. There are many reasons for these decisions and situations. Often the decision to live together is an economic one. For those not still living with their parents, it is more affordable to share a living space and expenses than for there to be two separate homes and expenses, especially when spending so much time together. Even though I am able to see the reasonable and logical side of this perspective, it still does not address what God’s word teaches about His intent and design for people becoming one flesh, and how obedience and trust are desired by God, even when we can save money.
I am not the first pastor or columnist to write about this topic, and I won’t be the last. The reason I decided to approach this today is because I still believe the God of Creation desires and requires for His people to have sexual purity and integrity as well as His mandate on the sanctity of beginning of the marriage covenant. We in the church cannot expect the world to follow God’s teaching and design on marriage if the world has not been taught or the world does not regard God’s word to be truth. We can however expect for there to be a continued expectation for those raise in the church, and who confess to be followers of Christ to not only know better, but not give into the whims of the world just because the majority seems to believe something is ok.
I want to challenge the pastors and churches of Orange County to not give up on teaching sexual and marital purity as we help those in our congregations follow the path of glorifying God. It is more important than ever to teach our children and youth what God says about sex, marriage, and commitment. We cannot afford to yield and give in to the cultural norms. Godly marriage is too important to the future our churches, families, and nation. We must though, do all of this in the context of speaking the truth in love, not speaking the truth in condemnation. If we as a community will decided to help and encourage couples to start their live together the way God designed, by abstaining from premarital sex and cohabitation, I believe we will see the fruit of God’s blessings in our children, families, culture, and economy. I hope anything I have said today will be received in the spirit in which I have written it! You are Valued and Loved! Pastor Brad
Rev. Brad McKenzie is Lead Pastor at Orange First Church of the Nazarene, 3810 Martin Luther King Jr. Drive in Orange.