Jun 17, 2009

Christians and Cohabitation

Chuck Missler

By Chuck Missler

We hardly hear the term "living in sin" anymore. It's become culturally acceptable for the young and old alike to live together without bothering with the formality of a marriage commitment. In fact, moving in together is now considered a good way to test run a relationship before tying the knot. Yet, because cohabitation requires much less of a commitment, couples who live together are far more likely to break up than married couples, and serial cohabitation is very common among young people.

Part of the problem with cohabitation is that men and women haven't changed over the centuries. Women are still more likely to commit to a relationship with or without the marriage label. Women tend to see cohabitation as a step toward marriage, while men tend to consider cohabitation a precursor to commitment. Along the same lines, men who marry their girlfriends after a long cohabitation tend to be less committed to the union than men who wait until after marriage to live with their brides.

And of course, a lack of commitment hurts the kids. According to findings from the National Fatherhood Initiative's (NFI) Father Facts:

"Compared to children born within marriage, children born to cohabiting parents are three times as likely to experience father absence, and children born to unmarried, non-cohabiting parents are four times as likely to live in a father-absent home."
The US Census Bureau reported that 4.85 million cohabiting couples existed in the United States in 2000, up from 439,000 in 1960. That's a 1000 percent rise in just 40 years. More than half of couples live together for a little while before marrying, but a 2000 study published in the journal Population Studies in 2000 found that 40 percent of unmarried couples had split up within five years. The average live-in relationship lasts two years, leading either to marriage or a split.

In the meanwhile, the marriage rate is not 50 percent, as urban legends often state. An average of 65 percent of marriages last past 10 years for those who have no college degree, and for those who have graduated from college, a good 84 percent of marriages survive the first decade. (Perhaps they experience fewer money problems?) Since most divorces occur during those first 10 years, marriages that get past the 10 year mark have a good chance of going the duration.

The surprise is not that large numbers of human beings are treating their sexual relationships loosely, but that Christians are doing it too. Not only are plenty of Christians sleeping and living together outside of a marriage relationship, but many think it's perfectly okay to do so. Yet, while nobody wants to live a life burdened by legalism, the Bible is very clear about the importance of self control and of one man and one woman committing to each other for life.
"And he answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female, And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh? Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder." - Matthew 19:4-6

"Flee fornication. Every sin that a man doeth is without the body; but he that committeth fornication sinneth against his own body. What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's." - 1 Corinthians 6:18-20

"For this is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication: That every one of you should know how to possess his vessel in sanctification and honour; Not in the lust of concupiscence, even as the Gentiles which know not God:" - 1 Thessalonians 4:3-5

"So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church: For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones. For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh." - Ephesians 5:28-31
While we are saved by grace and not by works (Eph 2:8-9), Jesus unapologetically called his servants to greater holiness, to a higher morality. It is good to not commit adultery, but even more important, Christ's servants are to avoid even lusting after women in their hearts (Matt 5:28). Women are called to honor and reverence their husbands and men are called to lay down their lives for their wives, just as Christ lay down his life for the church (Eph 5:21-33). That's heavy stuff, and it would be pretty much impossible to accomplish if not for the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives as we walk day by day with Him.

Hormones are powerful forces that help keep men and women together. God designed us in a brilliant way that leads to one of the most fantastic relationships ever – the bonding of two people. Then, He made it even more fantastic by using that bonding to create the miracle of new life. However, a great deal of pain in this world has been caused by a failure to properly manage those hormones and the passionate desires they cause. We need great wisdom and love and self sacrifice to develop our marriage relationships to be what they were meant to be. And we'd all be better off if we learned what God says on the matter of love and marriage and followed His direction. We'd have fewer broken hearts, and more whole families and healthier lives.

Related Links

Divorce Rate: It's Not as High as You Think - The New York Times
Cohabitation Facts and Statistics - About.com
'Cohabitation is Replacing Dating' - USA Today
Statistics - Fatherhood.gov