Recently I had to endure another tragic wedding. And no it wasn’t because of what the bride chose to wear, it was watching another pastor exercise manipulation and control where there is no authorization in scripture to do so. Let me explain.
My first encounter of this magnitude occurred when I was just starting out in the ministry. A young woman who found out she was pregnant was not permitted to wear white on the wedding day, but beige, or the pastor would not let them get married in the church. How rude!
It wasn’t until 1164 that marriage was established as a sacrament. It was at that point weddings moved from traditionally being held at the groom’s home to the church by the 12th century. So for almost 1200 years no one was married in the church!!! The earliest white wedding dress in western culture did not happen until 1406 English Princess Philippa at her wedding to the Scandinavian King Eric. Does anyone really believe that up until the 20th century no one ever had sex before they got married? Yet pastor after pastor insists they have authority to enforce the white as a symbol of the purity between God and the church:
- 27 so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. [Eph 5:27 ESV]
Yet we must remember we are not pure because we can make ourselves pure:
- 18 “Come now, let us reason together, says the LORD: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool. [Isa 1:18 ESV]
We are only white because:
- 10 I will greatly rejoice in the LORD; my soul shall exult in my God, for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation; he has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself like a priest with a beautiful headdress, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels. [Isa 61:10 ESV] (Ironically it was the male to be decked out in white).
The only reason any of us can wear white is because God gives us salvation. We do not earn our salvation. It is a free gift (Romans 6.23).
How many times have we heard the warning given to young teenage girls that their virginity is like pedals to a rose; once they are torn off, they can not be put back on! Yet there is no such warning to young men. (Yes I realize that a young woman has more to lose because of teenage pregnancy but this is such a huge double standard!) The man can misbehave all he wants and there is no marriage/wedding penalty!
Most recently, I saw this played out by a young couple that due to job transfers and lease agreements they moved in together 12 weeks before their wedding. They were open and honest by stating that even if they had separate apartments, they would most likely still be in each other’s arms at night. And for that her pastor refused to marry them or let them get married in her church. Not because they had or were sleeping together, but that they decided to be honest and for convenience’s sake live in the same apartment. Share the same bed, no problem, share the same living room, no way! How scandalous!!! So, he refused them on both the service and the building. Fortunately, the bride knew enough about forgiveness grace and mercy that if the pastor was not going to marry them white was still the order of the day. Funny, thing was the pastor had no problem accepting her tithe the whole time they lived together.
Do I think that one should wait until marriage, yes. But do I think one should be punished if they did not, NO. There is no place in scripture that ever portrays being sexually attracted to the one you are going to marry as a sin. Sexual attraction is not the same as lust. And the only one that seems to suffer or pay a penalty is the bride.
Our sins our forgiven and washed away for the asking. The unspoken theology is that the pastor has the authority to punish brides on their wedding day by unforgiving them. Such pastors need to cease acting like they are purer than Jesus who forgives us and cleanses us from all unrighteousness.
So as always, love much my friends, for love covers a multitude of sins (1 Peter 4:8) even getting carried away with sexual love before the wedding!