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Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Living together before Marriage: Two helpful articles & a question we should all be asking

Confronting cohabitation before marriage, I'm convinced, needs to be at the forefront of any strategy for healthy marriages over the next 20 years - in every church and for every every pastor, Christian counselor, and indeed every Christian. Whether you tend to be for it or against it, it is happening at an alarming rate and isn't going away. No less here in Cayman. This scenario is all too common among ex-pats in particular: A young single professional moves here and is looking for a roommate. He/she meets another young single professional of the opposite gender - maybe they even start dating or at least engage in a 'good-natured' flirtatious friendship - WA- LA!! "Why don't we be roommates?!" Problem solved.

Here are two articles suggesting that the problems are, in fact, just beginning:

This first one is actually from a secular perspective that was featured in The New York Times in April of this year. It provides very helpful statistics and insight as to why - Jesus and the Bible aside - cohabitation before marriage carries with it tremendous risks that the persons involved sort of unconsciously slide into. I am admittedly disappointed at the author's final conclusion. She almost seems to mount her argument only to 'give in' to the prevailing tide of cohabitation at the very end. Indeed, she fails to see the logical link between her assertion that 2/3 of Americans now see cohabitation as a step toward marriage (which she uses as a positive about premarital cohabitation) and the fact that this 'step' is likely still a 'test.' She seems to ignore that it is a test which no one can ultimately pass because the commitment that bonds together and sustains mutually beneficial living for both parties (ie. marriage) is noticeably absent - see next article.

This second one is from Family Life Today. It actually includes some overlap with the NY Times article (proving that, yes, the Bible does align with experiential, modern data - we should expect it too if it is truly inspired by God and authoritative for life!). However, it also debunks the helpfulness of "the trial run" theory from a biblical perspective. 

I just want to add one thought (okay, with a couple 'sub-thoughts'):

The question every person should be asking - married, single, child, elderly, teenager, potential premarital co-habitor. It comes from an often overlooked verse in the Bible:
Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and the adulterous (Hebrews 13:4).
So two things. First, you may have heard someone say: "Does the Bible actually say not to have sex before marriage? It talks about adultery but that's once you are already married." You can say "yes" and, with a spirit of gentleness and love, point to Hebrews 13:4. The author, rather intentionally it seems, includes two situations that God will judge: (1) the "adulterous" (Gk. moichos), which refers to anyone who is specifically unfaithful to his/her spouse;  (2) the "sexually immoral" (Gk. pornos), which is a much broader term referring to anyone who engages in sexual activity outside the confines of marriage between a man and a woman. Premarital cohabitation, which despite anyone's best intentions and will-power, nearly always includes sex at one point or another falls into this latter category and was probably even an example the author had in mind while writing it.

Second, Marriage is to be held honor among all (ie. not just married people). So this verse is for my 8-year-old and 5-year-old also - Katie and I try to live out our marriage (through respecting one another, serving one another, being affectionate with each other, putting each other before even them) in such a way that they have a high regard for marriage. In other words, certainly any cynical singles who publicly scoff at married couples need to deal with Hebrews 13:4. Furthermore, the way you treat the girl/guy you just started dating, the manner in which you conduct yourself with your long-time boyfriend/girlfriend, decisions that you make with your not-yet-married partner reflects not only what you think about just marriage but also, according to this verse, what you think of the God who commands us to honor this gift He's given. 

So the question all of us should be asking: Will this decision honor marriage among the people around me?

These are people who are still looking for hope, looking for a different sort of life - Does your relationship reflect that difference?

(And now may God give us the grace and discernment to take these truths and apply it lovingly to conversations with our friends or apply it to our own cohabitating lives!)

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