More and more, we are seeing couples living together before marriage… and in many cases… INSTEAD of marriage. Federal, State, and Local laws are extending to unmarried “domestic partners” the same benefits of married couples. For instance, last month, we saw the City Counsel of San Antonio, TX vote to cover with tax-payer dollars the cost of benefits for live-in, unmarried partners of city employees, including both same-sex and opposite-sex unmarried partners. And that ruling was made after the citizens of the city voted, under official processes, to NOT extend these benefits to unmarried partners. The San Antonio City Counsel’s decision is not the first of this kind, and I doubt it will be the last. The influence of homosexual relationships is not to be downplayed. It is a battle from which we should never retreat. But we must also position the watchmen on the wall (Ezekiel 33:1-6) who will look out for impending threats and warn the people of God of the danger fast approaching. Cohabitation – living together before, or in place of marriage, is such a rising spiritual threat to the biblical concept of marriage.
If you have a free moment, check out the website for the “Alternatives to Marriage Project” website (click on the link provided). It is an officially established, government-recognized Non-Profit organization whose goal is to provide resources, advocacy, and encouragement to any couple who is cohabiting outside the biblical covenant of marriage. According to their own website,
“The Alternatives to Marriage Project is not against marriage. But we believe that unmarried relationships also deserve validation and support. People may be pressured to marry by their families, friends, and communities. They may also face marital status discrimination. We oppose this unfair treatment and advocate for the equal rights of unmarried people,” (on the “Who We Are” page).
On the same page, you will find this quote: “We believe that marriage is only one of many acceptable family forms, and that society should recognize and support healthy relationships in all their diversity.”
On their “Statistics” page, they provide some crucial information from the United States Census Bureau among other research organizations. Allow me to relay some of those statistics to you here:
- In 2010, unmarried households were 45% of all U.S. households.
- At least 9,390 employers in the U.S. offer domestic partner health benefits for their employees. Of these, 95% offer the benefits to both same-sex and different-sex partners.
- The number of cohabiting unmarried partners increased tenfold between 1960 and 2000.
- The number of cohabiting unmarried partners increased by 88% between 1990 and 2007.
It is ignorant for the Christian church and its leaders to turn a blind eye to the reality that is before us. Cohabitation before, or in the place of marriage is a present reality. And it is one that poses significant threat to the concept of biblical marriage. EVEN CHRISTIANS often feel like cohabitation before marriage is a good way to “get to know” their partner and to “test the waters” before jumping into a life-commitment. How do I know? Because they sit in my office. And not just for pre-marital counseling… Many times, couples that come to me for crisis-marital counseling are couples that began their relationship by cohabiting. Their plan for “feeling-out” the relationship did not immunize them from real life problems once they were married. And most blatantly, building their relationship on a non-bliblical foundation proved destructive… not beneficial.
I cannot tell you how many Christian couples I have known/counseled over the years who thought of cohabitation as a good idea, instead of extra-biblical. Not only do they think this practice will strengthen their relationship, they do not see it as being in opposition to the Word of God.
For my Christian friends:
Here are 5 biblical reasons that cohabitation is NOT in God’s play-by-play guide to building a healthy marital (or non-marital) relationship.
1. Genesis 2:22-25. The very first marriage was one that exemplified life-long, one-opposite-sex-partner commitment. The standard set was that individuals were to “leave their father and mother” and “be united,” with one another. “The two shall become one flesh.” This points to a solid covenant in which the two parties consciously agree to leave who they have been, and cleave to each other – thereby forming a third, unique entity… a marriage, of “one flesh.” Cohabitation, at least at its beginning, is rooted in the soil of non-concomitance. It is extra-biblical to “test the waters” or to “try this out” before making a solid commitment to enter a marriage relationship. Why? Because without firm commitment, relationships will not work. There will always be a “good” (worldly) reason for me to not get along with my wife, or for her to come to the conclusion that a union with me is not a great idea. Because I am not perfect. And she isn’t either. Without that firm, life-long commitment, we would miss out on the opportunity to work through difficulty and grow together.
2. Matthew 19:3-9. Jesus Christ Himself testified that marriage is between one man and one woman, for the duration of one lifetime. In this passage, Jesus actually quotes the Genesis 2 passage above mentioned. And then He adds, “So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore, what God has joined together, man must not separate.” The marriage of a man and a woman is a spiritual unity. Something that God does. It is not a union that evolves over the course of a trial-and-error period in which the human agents decide for themselves if it is “going to work out” or not. God does the joining. It happens in the marriage – the covenantal commitment – of the two free parties. “So what about divorce?” the Pharisees asked Jesus. It’s not just adultery that is at the forefront of Jesus’ response here. It is a definitive commitment, as signified by the signing of legal documentation. If they are to get a divorce, Jesus said, they are to signify it by a written agreement. Something definite. Something final. But even then… even in the instance of sexual unfaithfulness… it is not required, or even suggested that they divorce. Commitments are best served whole-heartedly. When difficulty arises within a Godly marriage, each partner is able to fall back on that moment when he or she declared in the presence of God and many others, “For better or for worse, until death do us part.”
3. Exodus 22:16-17, Hebrews 13:4. Sex before marriage is not biblical, and if it becomes reality, the two parties must seek to be married covenantally/legally. The Bible does not equate sex with marriage. But it does identify sex as something that is to be enjoyed only inside the confines of a marital relationship. The scriptures above show us the serious relationship between sex and marriage. Let’s not live in a fantasy world. Couples that are cohabiting are having sex. No question about it. But to stand on my soapbox here for a minute – – – it will be impossible for the church to stand firm against premarital sex until we get a grip on our own television, theatre, music, and internet habits which support it. It is not funny. It is not acceptable. And we should never support it. End of story.
4. 1 Timothy 4:1-3. Opposition to biblical marriage is conceived, birthed, and nurtured by the “hypocrisy of liars whose consciences are seared.” Scorched with the inclinations of rebellious sin – “seared” consciences. The worldly individuals who are promoting the extra-biblical agenda of cohabitation, an abomination to biblical marriage, are hypocritical liars whose consciences are burned by the self-justification of their own sin. They not only practice the immorality of their carnal desires, but they also “applaud others” who do so (Romans 1:32). That sounded harsh. I don’t mean to be isolatory here – only to relay biblical truth. Broken down, what this means is that those who are not born again believers in Jesus Christ, those who are not Christians… their consciences are stained by the inclinations of their carnal hearts. They are not filled with the Truth of God, and therefore, they serve their own degrading passions. And the natural course for this kind of behavior is moral decay, and eventually, self destruction.
5. Cohabitation is a distorted picture of God’s design for marriage. Christians, we are guilty of this kind of abomination on many levels… we often desire the blessings of God without conforming to the holiness of God. We want to enjoy God’s benefits without conforming to His character. In the same way, those who are cohabiting before or instead of marriage (especially Christians) are fronting a disfigured representation of what God designed marriage to be. If we are going to act like we are married, we need to be married. Otherwise, the message we send to the world is that it is possible and excusable to be a Christian who serves his own pleasure rather than the purposes and plans of God.
*MORE INFO* For an article published by the Southern Baptists’ Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission on cohabitation, click HERE.
Grace and Peace,