Plenty of studies have proven it.

Living together before marriage doesn’t work. Cohabitation doesn’t make marriages stronger. In fact, it usually has the opposite effect.

Sure, modern society wants to believe that cohabitation makes sense, and plenty of singles assume they’ll be the exception to the statistics. But who has the better track record when it comes to sexual morality: our culture, or God’s Word?

Many Christians wouldn’t personally consider cohabiting, so maybe you’re wondering why the topic is even up for discussion. We know it’s a sin, and we know God’s design for marriage is less about “being made for each other” and more about being true to a covenantal relationship.

But we get lonely, don’t we, and apprehensive about our singlehood. Some of us may be feeling our defenses weakening, especially as the culture around us continues to embrace cohabitation. After all, the popular media that has saturated our lives elevates sex and pleasure over the biblical values of marriage, fidelity, and sexual purity.  It’s becoming ever so antiquated for singles to live apart—and without physical intimacy!—before marriage.

In terms of acquiescing to cultural norms, parts of evangelical Christianity have gotten to look more like the world than the Godly alternatives we’re supposed to represent.  Abortion, for example, has already made its way into our communities of faith, and divorce has been with us now for decades.  How much longer until cohabitation makes its inroads among us single believers?  Taking a firm stand now can help delay—and even thwart—such a likelihood.

Don’t Take Your Cues From Society

First, however, let’s review the statistics. Studies show that today, more than half of all marriages start with cohabitation. Couples who wait until they’re engaged before they cohabitate have the same probability of divorcing as couples who move in together before ever discussing marriage. Indeed, even the degrees of morality on the cohabitation continuum don’t make much of a difference.

It gets worse: if a woman gives birth before she’s married, or a man fathers a child before his first marriage, the chances they stay married are worse than for cohabiting couples who wait until after they’re married to have kids. Since premarital birthrates are rising in the United States, this can only mean that more and more kids will be raised in broken homes in the coming years.

Strangely enough, women who claim to be Protestant now tend to have one of the lowest marriage survival rates, and women who claim no religious affiliation a higher rate.

Many of us know the truth, yet we yearn to dabble in lifestyle patterns that weaken our resolve to abide by that truth. This is evident in far more scenarios than cohabitation, isn’t it? We figure that since grace is more powerful than our sins, we’re pretty much invincible when it comes to flirting with disaster. We’ve grown accustomed to misguided interpretations of the concept of “risk” and we misapply God’s intentions for the role righteous risk should play in our lives.

In other words, we let our culture dictate our appreciation of truth.

For the vast majority of us believers who don’t cohabitate before marriage, do we refrain from the practice because we’re convinced that it’s wrong? Or mostly because it looks bad to our friends in church? We laugh about it when we see cohabitation depicted in movies and sitcoms, but shouldn’t such sexual sin kick us in the gut like some far less acceptable sin would?

As singles increasingly defer marriage so they can establish their careers, and as society continues its return to revitalized—and pricey—urban centers from the cheaper suburbs, it may become easier to rationalize cohabitation as an economic necessity. Relativism always seeks the lowest common denominator, and believers in Christ need to be vigilant against trends that could turn against us.

The Ten Commandments and Cohabitation

But vigilance doesn’t mean legalism, does it? Making rules for the sake of rules may look like we’re doing the right thing, but it’s not the way God uses to preserve his holiness, and it’s not the way he tells us his people should operate.

For example, in a way, the Ten Commandments can be considered rules, but they’re actually a framework for us to model God’s character and identity.

Think about it:

  • “Thou shall have no other gods before me” reminds us that God is supreme.
  • “No graven images” reminds us not to let anything interrupt our sight of our perfect God.
  • “Do not take the Lord's name in vain” reminds us that God’s name is holy.
  • “Remember the Sabbath day” reminds us that God is the creator of everything, including our salvation.
  • “Honor thy father and mother” reminds us that God created the family unit and its unique roles, in part to explain his relationship with Christ.
  • “Thou shall not kill” reminds us that life is a gift from God.
  • “Thou shall not commit adultery” reminds us that marriage is symbolic of the covenant between God and his people.
  • “Thou shall not steal” reminds us that everything belongs to God.
  • “Thou shall not bear false witness” reminds us that God is truth.
  • “Thou shall not covet” reminds us that God apportions his good gifts based on his sovereignty.

And don’t those good gifts that we’re not to covet include love, romance, marriage, sex, fertility, and children? Just because we may not see any of these good gifts happening in our immediate future doesn’t give us the go-ahead to try to bend some rules a bit to jump-start things, does it? Isn’t that a form of coveting? Not to mention adultery.

Take Heart, Fellow Singles!

Throughout the history of the world, whether a married couple were saved or not, what has been the one thing characterizing every marriage that has lasted until death? It’s been commitment, right? And what can possibly be gleaned about commitment through cohabitation, which is a subtle antithesis of commitment?

God knew this essential marriage component before he created Adam and Eve. True, they didn’t have a full-blown wedding with bridesmaids and limousines, but it’s the cultural trappings of weddings that have changed, not the requisite level of commitment. God’s instructions on this subject are not ambiguous, or open to relativistic interpretation. In fact, doesn’t cohabitation betray a lack of trust in God? It certainly supports the illusion that your intimate romances should ride more on your own strengths than God’s truth—hardly the basis for a sound marriage.

Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up (Galatians 6:7-9).

Rather than looking wistfully at our friends who throw morality to the wind, or wondering if maybe some things in the Bible are too stringent for today’s reality, shouldn’t we rejoice that God has told us the best way?

For our good, and his glory!

 

From his smorgasboard of church experience, ranging from the Christian and Missionary Alliance to the Presbyterian Church in America, Tim Laitinen brings a range of observations to his perspective on how we Americans worship, fellowship, and minister among our communities of faith. As a one-time employee of a Bible church in suburban Fort Worth, Texas and a former volunteer director of the contemporary Christian music ministry at New York City's legendary Calvary Baptist, he's seen our church culture from the inside out. You can read about his unique viewpoints at o-l-i.blogspot.com.