“For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” – Matthew 19:4b
Marriage has never been easy. But explaining it used to be pretty simple. Not anymore! I think we all know what marriage “used to” be: the lifelong legal union between one man and one woman. But in recent years our culture has wrestled with the questions: Can we broaden the definition of marriage? Are there alternatives to traditional marriage that could be just as fulfilling, or even more so? Should we give marriage a 21st century update?
There are a number of alternatives to traditional marriage that have begun to grow in popularity. And since God is the creator of marriage, I think it’s only right that we look at the way these alternatives stack up against God’s word. For the sake of time and column space, this week I’m going to focus on just one of them: cohabitation.
First, to make sure we’re on the same page, here’s a quick definition of cohabitation: two unmarried people of the opposite sex living together with long-term or permanent intentions. These days, even within the church, you’ll find a lot of folks who think cohabitation is a good idea. Here are three of the most common reasons people give:
#1: The financial reason. “It’s cheaper!” Most couples who make this argument haven’t really crunched the numbers. Research demonstrates that while couples may move in together with the theory of sharing the bills 50-50, it tends to be more like 60-40—usually with the ladies picking up the heavier end of the tab.
#2: The “kick the tires” reason. People say it all the time: “You’d never buy a used car without kicking the tires first. So, you should never marry someone you haven’t lived with first to see if you’re compatible.” Surprise! Couples who live together before marriage have a 33 percent higher divorce rate. Not only that, but infidelity is twice as common in couples living together. There is also a greater likelihood of alcohol abuse, depression and physical abuse among couples living together compared to couples who are married.
#3: The “stronger marriage” reason. Today most adults believe that living together before getting married improves your chances of a successful marriage. Uh, no. See the higher divorce rate mentioned above. Besides that, most cohabiting couples don’t even get there.
sociologist Pamela Smock writes, “Only about one-sixth of live-ins last at least
three years, and only one-tenth lasts five years or more.” University of Michigan
So if you’re hoping for a marriage that’s strong and healthy and doesn’t end in divorce, the research is pretty clear: living together before your wedding is a terrible idea. Marriage is hard enough when we do it God’s way. You don’t need to increase your likelihood of unhappiness and failure by doing it the world’s way.
Now, let’s look at God’s way. In Genesis 2, God created marriage—the very first human relationship, between the first man and the first woman. This relationship serves as the prototype for every other marriage from that point forward. In Genesis 2:18 God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.” That word “helper,” by the way, is translated from a Hebrew word that is used many times to refer to God Himself in the Old Testament. It doesn’t refer to someone who is underneath another. It speaks of being face-to-face and perfectly complimenting each other so that the two together are stronger than the one by himself. God created Eve as a partner to Adam—not a slave.
And Genesis 2:24 makes it clear that the leaving of our pre-marriage home and starting a new home together is not to take place until a man and woman are husband and wife: “That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.” The Bible does not condone cohabitation. It’s a sin. Period.
So, cohabitation may be wildly popular in
both the scientific research and God’s word agree: It’s a lousy alternative to
marriage. And it’s even a terrible warm-up to marriage. Simply put, God’s
answer to cohabitation is, “Stop it!” Save yourself sexually for your wedding
night. And wait to live together until you both have rings on your fingers and
a marriage certificate signed in the sight of God and human witnesses. God’s
order is this: Get married. Move in together and have sex. Have children. America
As in so many things, society hasn’t improved on God’s word. The old ways are the right ways when it comes to marriage. And when two people enter their life together according to God’s plan, their union is blessed in a way it never could be otherwise.
Dane Davis is the Lead Pastor of First Christian Church in Victorville. For more information,
visit www.fccvv.com and join us for worship Sundays at 10 a.m.