How about living together before marriage
I am aware of the feather-weight lifestyle called “live-in” where unmarried man and woman live together as sex partners without life-long commitment to one another. This practice is no more of the West alone, it can be seen even in the metropolitan cities of India. In the early 70’s young people in the colleges and universities of the Scandinavian countries, stayed together in pairs. The cry for freedom from traditional puritan and societal prohibitions was very strong in the West, unfortunately the East is catching up.
Last June, a couple came to meet us saying that they are on the verge of breaking up their marriage. The husband and wife are working in the different cities of India, they only meet once a while. Since there communication through email, cell phones cannot substitute harmering out day to day problems, they both felt as if they were meeting stranger not their spouse. They have no intention of building and bonding but to seek the easy way out. Is it divorce really the best answer? We have been hearing so many young people living together thinking that this is the new lifestyle they’ve to compromise with it.
According to the 2000 Census, there are currently about 11 million people living with an unmarried partner in the U.S. This includes both same-sex and different-sex couples. The number of unmarried couples living together increased 72% between 1990 and 2000. The number of unmarried couples living together has increased tenfold between 1960 and 2000. Assuming that many of these partners are having sex with each other, the pertinent question in my mind is “What is the Church saying about sex outside of marriage?” In several instances young couples who come to pastors to get married are already living together. It is equally noteworthy that many young peole in the metros of India have decided to end cohabitation before marriage. It’s a kind of fast before the feast.
Once again, according to 2000 data 44% of American adults were living together and yet they’re not legally married. This number has been rising steadily: in 1970 36% of Americans were unmarried; in 1980 39% of Americans were unmarried; in 1990 41% of Americans were unmarried. (See “Marital Status of the Population 15 Years Old and Over, by Sex and Race: 1950 to Present,” U.S. Census Bureau, 2001.) These statistics are troubling. To its credit, the statement does explain why cohabitation does not provide the commitment expressed in and the security provided by marriage.
Living together really is not a good preparation for marriage. One secular book on marriage states that there is “no relationship between whether or not a couple lived together-and how easily they adjust to marriage, how happy they are in marriage, and how satisfied they are with their sex life in marriage” (page 11, The First Year of Marriage, Arond and Parker). In fact, Arond and Parker say that couples who lived together before marriage have significantly lower marital satisfaction than those who did not cohabit before the wedding. It is eye opening to note that during the same time period in which living together before marriage has become acceptable, the rate of divorce has skyrocketed. Living together, instead of helping cement relationships, has taught young people that commitment is optional.
“On Living Together Before Marriage” Mr. Harold S. Martin pointed out that there are a number of social reasons for the rising practice of cohabitation: 1) A general breakdown of personal morality. 2) The changing sexual values in society. 3) Extended adolescence and later marriages. 4) The availability of more effective methods of contraception. 5) Tax laws, which sometimes make marriage a disadvantage financially. The primary factor, however, is related to the general human rebellion against the laws of God.
Committed Christians believe that sharing bed, breakfast, and bills apart from a marriage bond is a violation of the will of God. Therefore I would like to offer five reasons why living together before marriage is wrong.
1. Living together as husband and wife without being legally married is fornication:
What is then fornication? Fornication is defined as “sexual intercourse between unmarried persons.” It is a sin, which God forbids. The Bible says, “Do not be deceived! Fornicators, idolaters, adulterers, male prostitutes, sodomites, thieves, the greedy, drunkards, revilers, robbers-none of these will inherit the kingdom of God” (1Corinthians 6:9-10). And again, God’s Word says, “Let marriage be held in honor by all, and let the marriage bed be kept undefiled; for God will judge fornicators and adulterers” (Hebrews 13:4). It is a sobering thought that “each of us will be accountable to God” (Romans 14:12).
The Bible undeniably condemns adultery and sexual immorality, but is sex before marriage considered sexually immoral? According to 1 Corinthians 7:2, “yes” is the clear answer: “But since there is so much immorality, each man should have his own wife, and each woman her own husband.” In this verse, Paul states that marriage is the “cure” for sexual immorality. I. Corinthians 7:2 is essentially saying that, because people cannot control themselves and so many are having immoral sex outside of marriage, people should get married. Then they can fulfill their passions in a moral way. Sex before marriage is included in the biblical definition of sexual immorality. There are numerous Scriptures that declare sex before marriage to be a sin (Acts 15:20; 1 Corinthians 5:1; 6:13, 18; 10:8; 2 Corinthians 12:21; Galatians 5:19; Ephesians 5:3; Colossians 3:5; 1 Thessalonians 4:3; Jude 7). The Bible promotes complete abstinence before marriage. Sex between a husband and his wife is the only form of sexual relations of which God approves (Hebrews 13:4).
2. God designed sex to be enjoyed by husband and wife within the context of total commitment to each other in marriage:
The union of man and woman in the context of marriage is not design by scientists or by philosophers. God designs it. Any deviation from this model is a violation of God’s law with serious consequences. God, as our Creator, is the author of sex. He made people with a unique capacity to enjoy great sex! Because sex is very powerful, God gave us specific guidelines about it that when followed will yield the best results. Too often Christians allow the world’s take on sex to corrupt their thinking. Somehow things got flipped around and the pornographers, porn stars and tabloids are now considered the experts on sex in our culture, instead of the Creator.
God didn’t create sex to be a free-for-all. God created us as sexual beings. He gave us a sex drive and provided a way for our sexual desires to be satisfied. The Bible reveals God’s provision for sexual fulfillment. He specifically designed sex to be enjoyed between a husband and wife in marriage. It was a special gift of God, to be enjoyed within a special kind of relationship.
Let marriage be held in honor (esteemed worthy, precious, of great price, and especially dear) in all things. And thus let the marriage bed be undefiled (kept undishonored); for God will judge and punish the unchaste [all guilty of sexual vice] and adulterous.(Heb 13:4) The Amplified Bible
We honor marriage by keeping the marriage bed “pure”; i.e. by only having sex with our spouse. This verse warns of consequences of judgment and punishment for those who commit sexual sin, such as adultery.
3. Sex without the binding commitment of marriage cheapens oneself and the other person involved:
Love without commitment is not love, but it is lust. Marriage alone provides the security from the fear of being used, and seduced, and then abandoned. Why is marriage so important? Why do we need to receive the church’s blessing and be registered by the state? Why do we encourage couples to save the sexual relationship for marriage? In order for a relationship between a man and woman to continue over the years, both partners must give each other their word completely. That is one of the reasons for a public wedding. Both need the support of the community.
Walter Trobisch in his little book, I Married You, describes the three aspects of a normal marriage: 1) The legal or public ceremony. 2) The personal act of consent and commitment. 3) The physical sexual union. (The sex act alone does not constitute marriage, for if that were true, there would be no such thing as fornication, because as soon as individuals engaged in the act, they would be married.) Marriage is a public vow, which makes the commitment more difficult to break. However, in the individual life, many teenagers fall into the trap of “sex now or else.” The boy says, “if you loved me, you would become intimate with me.” But when the girl gives in and consents to having sex, she often ends up getting dumped and is badly hurt.
4. Violation of God’s standards of morality results in facing the consequences here and there:
Some of the many consequences of cohabitation and fornication are misplaced trust, unplanned pregnancy, venereal disease, and the negative Christian witness, which the cohabiting lifestyle presents to the world. Sex outside of marriage always does some kind of damage. It leaves some people grieving because they can no longer claim virginity. Others carry dark secrets about things they did in the past. Some are afraid of getting pregnant, or getting some disease like AIDS.
Another consequence of cohabitation is the greater likelihood of divorce if the couple later decides to marry. The National survey of Families and Households of US found that couples that cohabit before marriage are 50 percent more likely to divorce. The same survey also found that unmarried couples living together are twice as likely to be unhappy in their relationship, as are those who are duly married. Michael McManus says that cohabitation is not preparation for marriage; instead, it is training for divorce
(Marriage Savers, Zondervan, 1995 edition, page 39). A University of New Hampshire study found that “cohabiting couples show higher levels of aggression than either daters or married people” (Time magazine, September 5, 1988, page 54). A Brigham Young University researcher says, “We find strong evidence that the marriages of those who have cohabited are less satisfying and more unstable than those who didn’t cohabit before marriage” (USA Today, October 7,1993).
The family therapist, Laura Schlessinger, says that people who move in before making a marriage commitment are people who have not learned to practice delayed gratification. They want the benefits of a solid relationship before investing the time and effort to build a solid relationship. Later, when the road gets rocky, these folks won’t invest the time and effort to sustain the relationship either. Schlessinger says, “Having sex too soon, moving in without commitment … are the behaviors of basically immature, let-me-feel-good-now people.”
5. Living together before marriage is breaking God’s law and is an injustice to one’s partner:
God’s original command in creation was that male and female should “cleave” (or “cling”) to one another in covenantal partnership, that is, in marriage (Genesis 2:24). A man shall leave father and mother, and become united to his wife, and they two shall become one flesh. It is quite clear that living together before marriage is based upon the biblical teaching that sexual activity outside of marriage is an offense against God’s law. We are told in Ephesians 5:3, “But among you there must not even be a hint of sexual immorality, or any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people” (NIV).
The Bible has no direct teaching on what should be involved in a marriage ceremony, nor does it tell how the ceremony should be conducted to make it a true transaction. However, marriage has always been a public event. In other words, marriage is not a private affair. It takes place within the community. And the Christian is a member of a special community–the Body of Christ. Our entire life (including our role in marriage) is lived out as a member of this special community. In the wedding ceremony, the couple makes pledges in the presence of family, friends, the church, the state, and God. When this commitment has been expressed–then the man and woman are ready for physical consummation. This pattern is in harmony with the teaching found in God’s Word.
The marriage bond bestows meaning upon the couple’s sexual activity as expressed in the phrase “one flesh.” It highlights the complete interchange of the two selves, as in the bride’s delightful statement in the Song of Solomon, “My beloved is mine and I am his” (Song of Solomon 2:16). Marriage confirms the mutual commitment and bonding of a man and woman by specifying and guarding certain expectations and responsibilities. A Hallmark Card says, “I can’t promise you forever, but I can promise you today.” This is one of the newest love cards for the 1990s–no commitment–just warm fuzzy feelings. And then when the mood changes and the euphoria are gone, the earlier “love” and “respect” begin to fade. Living together without marriage usually does more emotional harm than good. Total commitment is what makes a lasting and good marriage. And yet—commitment is what cohabiting couples are purposely avoiding. Couples, who mate before they are mates, tend to rely on sexual intimacy to keep them together. Strong human relationships require more than that. Couples who share the same roof before the public marriage ceremony often build a shaky foundation for their life together.
H. Norman Wright, a prominent Christian marriage counselor, notes the benefits of waiting until marriage to live together:
1. No guilt (of having offended God).
2. No fear (of having to build a marriage on an unexpected pregnancy).
3. No comparison (of the spouse with a previous “live in”).
4. Spiritual growth (in placing physical desires under the Lordship of Christ, and in developing self-control).
5. Greater joy (in fulfilling that which is saved for the marriage relationship).
Dr.J.M. Ngul Khan Pau