Recently, I had a long drive to the East coast. As normally happens when I have a lot of windshield time, my mind wanders to strange and sometimes scary places.
On this particular trip, I started thinking about the rite of marriage, as celebrated by the UMC. In the UMC, we do not hold marriage to be a sacrament; meaning (I am told) that we do not expect God to take some direct action to consecrate the marriage. I probably have that somewhat wrong, but this is an appeal for information so I’m sure somebody will straighten me out.
Anyway – I got to pondering the question of a young couple. They graduated from college, started their professional life, and decided they are in love. So they moved in together. At the same time, they are both committed and active Christians, and intend to get married “at the right time”. Obviously, we in the church regard them as “living in sin”, but these days we often don’t do much about it.
Young couple moves forward with their lives, and indeed gets married at their local UMC, where they were members both as children and as young adults. Nothing about their private life has changed. They go back to the same apartment, share the same bed, and do all the same things they did before, when they were living in sin. But somehow, through this non-sacramental rite of the church, we have converted their state of sin to a state of holiness.
My question is, what exactly happened there? What, from a theological standpoint, caused the absolution of their sin, and a conversion to a state of holiness? Can someone explain to me what the theological underpinnings of this are? And are there other ‘sinful states’ to which it could apply?