Why is it important to share our pasts with someone we’re considering for marriage? How important is this conversation?
I would like to answer this question in a two-pronged manner. We will first address, in general, the attitude a believer must have when they are seriously considering marriage with someone, and then specifically look at how to deal with persistent and habitual sins in an individual’s life.
We might find ourselves at crossroads in situations like marriage, which involves lifelong commitment. In our earnestness to have a mutually accountable and transparent relationship, we might be eager to know the past of the person being considered for marriage.
In his letter to the Corinthians, Paul is addressing an audience from the Greco-Roman culture, which was a morally bankrupt one. The vile culture gave no honour to women or children and their society was characterised by rampant immorality and even child abuse. It is from this culture that God called out, for Himself, a group of people and placed them in churches that sprouted across the then Roman Empire.
Paul’s writings rebuking immorality and emphasising the sanctity of marriage were path-breaking and revolutionary ideas at that time. I heard a talk recently that spoke of the Bible as the book that changed it all and this was a discussion on the impact of the Bible on Europe!
As you consider marriage, your greatest desire must be for a spouse whose heart is renewed by Christ
With so much depravity behind them, the words of Paul in 2 Corinthians, where he says, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” would have been liberating to these believers. They would have sensed a spirit of liberation as opposed to the guilt trap they were constantly in.
The writer of the Hebrews, in chapter 10:22, assures us that our very conscience has been swept clean. This is unlike in the Old Testament where sacrifices only brought them a temporary reprieve from punishment. Upon putting faith in Christ, you are born again. Every new member of the fledgling church in Corinth was a new creation: born again, conscience cleansed, and their past dealt with on the cross.
The above Scripture portions emphasise the power of God’s forgiveness enabled by the blood of Christ. Our past iniquities have no standing before God our Holy Judge, who justified us by imputing the righteousness of Christ on us. When God looks at His redeemed, he sees them through the righteousness imputed by Christ.
As you consider marriage, your greatest desire must be for a spouse whose heart is renewed by Christ and has experienced forgiveness of sins and is now walking in the newness of life. The question to ask yourself is what do you stand to gain by enquiring into the past of a forgiven sinner? Do you have the authority to judge or evaluate a person based on the past which now stands forgiven through Christ’s atoning blood? Aren’t we all sinners who were destined to eternal hell fire? When the Scripture says, “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God”, it does not make any distinction between people or the kind of sin they were involved in. “All” is all-encompassing, and it includes you.
If the Old Testament law seemed to emphasise adherence to the letter of the law, Jesus emphasised obedience in spirit. At His famous discourse, Sermon on the Mount, He spoke of how hatred towards a brother and looking at a woman with the wrong intent can be tantamount to murder and adultery. Can any of us therefore claim to be without sin?
Often, humans tend to judge a person by what is visible or known on the outside. However, let us remember the words of God to Samuel: ‘Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart’. Let us begin to look at the heart.
We will now delve into the part of persistent or habitual sins in an individual’s life. In most cases, these could be sins that are unknown to people. They could range from pornography, issues with temper, gambling or even fornication.
While none of us are perfect, having an unrepentant sin is akin to a malignant cell in our body that over a period takes root, destroys healthy organs, and impacts life. Even if you have confessed and repented, in the case of a habitual sin, I would urge you to involve a spiritual confidant, a mentor to walk the journey with you until you both are confident the sin has been overcome.
Let us always remember: every saint has a past and every sinner a future, and that includes you
John addresses unrepentant sin in his first epistle in chapter 3:9-10. He says, “No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in them; they cannot go on sinning, because they have been born of God. This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not God’s child, nor is anyone who does not love their brother and sister.”
Friend, seek a life partner who loves the Lord with all their heart, soul, and strength. Seek one who is walking in the newness of light and is in active fellowship with a local church. Seek one in whom the fruits of the Spirit are evident. Seek one who constantly seeks to glorify God through their entire being. Let us always remember: every saint has a past and every sinner a future, and that includes you. As you seek a partner, remember the same standards must apply to you.
Note: I will leave it to the individual to decide how much to share or how much to probe. We cannot draw a definitive line from the Scripture. However, the spirit with which we enter any relationship should be based on the transforming power of the Gospel of Christ which must be evident in the individual, not based on some history whose details can be subjective. The evidence cannot be an occasional occurrence of change, but a lifestyle that is transformed.
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