(We're All) Living in Sin
Almost ten years ago Allison and I got married at the Mount Vernon Inn in Alexandria, VA. When you think of a wedding at Mount Vernon, the home of our first President George Washington, images of servers dressed in colonial attire comes to mind. We ate on plates with matching dining rooms and period appropriate decor.
Allison and I nervously exchanged vows on the garden patio as our family (a few we met for the first time AFTER the ceremony) and closest friends watched from white folding chairs. My brother was my best man and Allison’s sister was the maid of honor. My two sisters read scripture. We wanted a simple wedding. Not too much churchy-ness but with the right amount of prayer and Bible to reflect the our desire to establish our family inside a church. Any church.
Allison and I both grew up in church. For Allison it was the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America. For me it was the United Methodist Church. Both of us grew up in mainline denominations where the differences were so subtle most, if any lay person, couldn’t tell the difference. Before our September 12th nuptials we shopped for churches. At the suggestion of one of my grandmother’s friends we settled at Aldersgate UMC in Alexandria, a short drive from our home.
Slated to begin premarital counseling with the Senior Pastor, we nervously navigated the church halls on a random weekday evening to begin the process of counseling and wedding coordination. We sat outside the Senior Pastor’s office and waited. Then we waited some more. After 20 minutes we decided the Senior Pastor was not going to show up and decided to leave. Was this a bad omen?
The next morning I called the church office to confirm our counseling session. We were then assigned to the Associate Pastor as the Senior Pastor’s schedule was already overbooked (apparently he was notorious for booking counseling sessions and weddings without first checking the calendar).
Again we nervously navigated the church halls on a random weekday evening to begin the process of counseling and wedding coordination. This time, instead of sitting outside the Pastor’s office and waiting, upon our arrival the Pastor was in his office (a rare occurrence I would come to find out). We were welcomed in and the rest is history.
I tell you this story to let you know that what Jason has written in Living in Sin is the counseling he gave to me and my wife ten years ago, and I would be willing to wager it is the same counsel he has been giving nervous couples wandering the church halls, anxiously waiting outside his office, since.
Jason repeatedly told Allison and I that our wedding was less about us and more about God’s love revealed to us in Jesus Christ. And if I am being honest, what Jason said went in one ear and out the other. I was focused more on marrying Allison, the woman who had loved me for better and worse before she said yes. In hindsight, for me at least, the wedding was more about Allison and I and less about God’s love revealed to us in Jesus Christ. The preacher could think whatever he wanted but I believed, at the time, that the only people that mattered that day were Allison and I.
“Marriage is risky business. Today the two of you are not just saying ‘I do’ to the person standing next to you; you’re also saying ‘I do’ to whomever or whatever that person is going to become- something that is unknown and unseen to the both of you.
That is the risk you take today, but as far as the church is concerned it’s a beautiful risk. It’s an act of faith. It’s your faith in each other that we applaud today. And it’s your willingness to go forward with each other even though the way is not certain that leads us to say: ‘This is what holiness looks like.’
Allison and Teer, the people you will be at the end of your life together will not be the people you are right now.
Today, with vows and rings, you give yourselves over to be transformed by the perceptions of each other. Today you covenant to let the love and perceptions of the other shape you anew so that your marriage will yield fruit different from what you bring to it today.
By the promises you make today you become for us a parable of the love of God. By your willingness to stand up here and witness that you are a delight in the eyes of your delight, we can remember that, in the eyes of God, we are all occasions for joy.”
Living in Sin is not a Christian marriage book. If you order a copy from Amazon thinking you will find three easy ways to live the best Christian marriage you will be disappointed. This book may not help you untangle the mess caused by broken trust, mismanaged finances, or kids taking centerstage in your relationship.
This is a marriage book about Christianity. In Living in Sin Jason pulls back the veil, exposing the vows couples make as they stand before God and family members they have never met, showing how these vows and the two people exchanging them point to the mercy and grace of God in Christ.
This is a book about Love.
This is a book about forgiveness.
This is a book about vulnerability
This is a book about humility.
This is a book about the grace of God.
You will find this is a book more about the love, forgiveness, vulnerability, and humility of Christ and through the exploration of the grace of Christ in the context of marriage, the parable of God’s love for all of humanity takes shape. And that’s just it, we are all in desperate need of God’s unmerited, saving love, because time and time again because we are unable to untangle the mess we have created for ourselves. Jason points out, using marriage as a metaphor, that we are sinners and through covenantal relationships we learn to love one another for better or worse.