What does living in sin mean to you? My wife and I attended the Locals Last Stand event in Watersound, Florida Sunday afternoon May 21. It featured two dozen or so vendors and three local bands. I walked by each vendor and enjoyed conversations with several of the owners. Two vendors mentioned living together before marriage and one of them called it living in sin.
The first vendor started his baking business a month earlier so I congratulated him. A woman joined him behind the table, and I asked her if the baker was her husband. She announced they were not married, but living in sin without a piece of paper, referring, of course, to a marriage license. What was I to say? I immediately replied, “Jesus died for all of our sins.” She then told me her partner was a minister, howbeit, an online one, at which point, I informed them I was an ordained minister.
The second conversation occurred when I returned to a vendor’s table to ask for her business card. Kimberly and I chatted about her business and background. She sold products made by her brother in Arizona. The man behind the table whom I first spoke to was her husband. She told me they were about to celebrate their tenth anniversary. I congratulated them. She explained without any prompting on my part that she was raised in a strict religious home. She and her husband negotiated a two-year trial of living together before they decided to get married. I couldn’t believe she told me about living together before marriage. Let me assure the reader, I know living together before marriage is very common.
The way both women mentioned the topic left me with the impression they believed living together without marriage was wrong. The first woman’s tone sounded like something important was missing from her relationship with her partner. Kimberly’s remark clearly pointed to the violation of her parents’ moral code for marriage.
Jesus talked to a woman at a well one day (John 4:1-42). In the course of their conversation, he asked her to call her husband to join them. She replied that she didn’t have one. He informed her, “You are right…you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you just said is quite true” (John 4:17-18). His revealing comment startled her and led her to think Jesus might be a prophet. The woman had quite a history with men and they with her. Living with an unmarried man apparently was her solution for the disappointing history with husbands.
Living in sin commonly means living together in an unmarried sexual relationship. The woman and Jesus lived in a culture with the ideal of a man and woman living together in a marriage relationship. Living in sin, however, is not restricted to sexual sin. “Do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires” (Romans 6:12), is a general statement that implores us not to live in sin, in other words, not to be controlled by any kind of sin.
Bon Jovi’s song Living in Sin limits the phrase to living together before marriage. The lyrics capture the contemporary attitude about moral codes—don’t impose a moral code on me. Such codes exist in families, religious organizations, businesses and corporations, athletics, and cultures. Part of the human maturation process is deciding how important existing moral codes are. Will we adhere to a code, modify it, or reject it? Bon Jovi’s code was to do what he wanted to do and when he wanted his ‘baby’ to do with him. If she agreed, they would be ‘living in love.’ He rejected her father’s code. If this brief assessment accurately captures Bon Jovi’s mindset, then one can conclude it’s self-centered.
Marriage is God-originated and pre-dates the lengthy history of families and cultures creating moral codes about living together (Genesis 2:20-25). Jesus didn’t have to remind the woman she was living in sin. She knew it. He could let the woman remain as she was or offer her a life-changing gift. He told her he came to give her living water. She could drink it and be changed on the inside where her deepest longings dwelt. The living water would become “a spring of water welling up to eternal life” inside her (John 4:14). The woman hadn’t met a man who cared that much for her while knowing her so well. Then Jesus disclosed his secret to her: he was the Messiah. She went back into town and told her people about him. They visited him and asked him to stay with them. After two days many of them became believers. They concluded he was the Savior of the world (John 4:42).
We know the woman told her people about Jesus and they believed in him because of their conversations with him. But why are we left with the glaring silence about what became of the woman and her partner? Many answers could be given, but the best one might be that the silence leaves us with our own thoughts, our own sins, and our own thirsts. What will we do with them? To whom will we turn to for living water that wells up to eternal life? Like the town folks, we can acknowledge that Jesus is the Savior of the world and accept his gift of living water.
Open your heart and welcome his complete knowledge of you. He died for your sins and rose from the dead to give you eternal life. Call upon his name for the forgiveness of your sins, in whatever way you’re living in sin, and turn from them. Receive Jesus’ gift of living water into your heart, and after you do, tell others who can benefit from his gift. I you want, you can tell me.