Is Living Together “just another sin”?

In light of what the LCMS Catechism says about the office of the keys, I think every lay person has a right to know whether their pastor knowingly communes those living together, i.e. committing fornication.  Here’s what the LCMS says she confesses about the Office of the Keys:

“I believe that when the called ministers of Christ deal with us by His divine command, in particular when they exclude openly unrepentant sinners from the Christian congregation and absolve those who repent of their sins and want to do better, this is just as valid and certain, even in heaven, as if Christ our dear Lord dealt with us Himself.” So if your pastor is communicating openly, unrepentant fornicators he is NOT excluding them and therefore whom he includes and excludes is suspect.

This judgment would be upon this pastor who has an ingenious, or disingenuous depending on your view, way of dealing with live-in couples.  When they present themselves for marriage he takes them into the sanctuary has them kneel at the altar confessing their sin and then he “spiritually” marries them.  The public, civil, legal ceremony takes place whenever the couple wants and they go on fornicating.  What a genius this man is!  No wonder he occupies a high place in the Confessionals pecking order.  The only problem is he stops at issuing spiritual marriage license.  Why not give spiritual driver’s licenses, spiritual building permits, spiritual medical licenses?

The above judgment goes for another pastor who has for years been communicating a fornicator.  He does so because she is the daughter of a prominent member and he doesn’t want to split the congregation.  John the Baptist was willing to risk a split head to speak against Herod’s illicit marriage, but this pastor, another confessional leader, is no John the Baptist and is not functioning as a called minister of Christ either. You know how he defends his sin?  Living together is just one sin among many; why focus on just that one.  Well it ’tis and it ’tisn’t.

The latest edition of Law and Gospel has Walther quoting the Smalcald Articles III, III, 44: “The Holy Spirit does not permit sin to have dominion, to gain the upper hand so it can be carried out, but represses and restrains it from doing what it wants. If sin does what it wants, the Holy Spirit and faith are not present” (Emphasis in Walther, 236).

The editor’s footnote 19 is very helpful in explaining this.  People often say, “Well I knew I shouldn’t flip that person off and I did it anyway, so that willful sin is just as bad as two people living together.”  Let me quote the footnote at length: “The understanding of willful sin does not necessarily include what one does when the rational will recedes in favor of emotion, such as for, passion, partisan fervor, and ignorance.  Christians may also have sins of weakness, meaning the wicked thoughts that may arise suddenly from the sinful flesh but are not acted upon.  In contrast to this we have the conscious premeditated sins of Judas (Matthew 26: 14-16) and Absalom (2 Samuel 15). One can group together murder, rebellion, adultery, robbery, and any sin that requires planning.  A true believer cannot plan and do evil acts.  Those evildoers stand condemned, each by his own conscience.”

That guy who suddenly curses that driver, that gal who finds herself gossiping again, that other guy who falls into porn, and that other gal who falls into lust are not the same as that guy and gal coming from their place of fornication, sitting through a Law and Gospel sermon, presenting themselves at the Lord’s Table for Communion, receiving the same and then returning to their house of fornication knowing full well what they plan on doing there.  The mere fact that they always tell you “they plan on getting married” is proof that they plan on fornicating right up till then.  (I find it funny that the movies always portray habitual fornicators as abstaining the night before their wedding.)

But this post is not about the fornicators but about the pastors who are communing them knowingly and willingly. The judgment of Ezekiel 3 is upon you. You may be able to dodge this post but you won’t that judgment.



About Paul Harris

Pastor Harris retired from congregational ministry after 40 years in office on 31 December 2023. He is now devoting himself to being a husband, father, and grandfather. He still thinks cenobitic monasticism is overrated and cave dwelling under.
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