March 24, 2014 | Tom Olago
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Did you know that 76 percent of young American adults below 32 years of age, consider living together before marriage as acceptable? And that 65 per cent of singles who intend to marry-including professing Christians-now live together before marriage?
These shocking statistics are based on a recent national survey conducted by USA Today, of 18 to 31 years regarding ‘cohabitation’ or ‘living together’ or ‘shacking up’ – all convenient euphemisms for lifestyles of fornication.
Larry Tomczak, in a recent report for the Christian Post, outlines some common excuses given by unmarried persons choosing to live together: “Look, times have changed. We have to face certain realities of living in the 21st-century. We’re older… more mature… been divorced… not ready financially… providing parents to a child… benefiting from tax incentives…have peace that God understands our unique situation…after all, look how many celebrities and even ‘Christians’ are doing it.”
Unsurprisingly, one thing that is clearly missing from all these arguments and excuses are Biblical references. Fortunately the Bible leaves no room for doubt or misinterpretation as to what God says about it. A few examples:
– 1 Corinthians 6:9 – Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind…
– 1 Corinthians 6:13 – Meats for the belly, and the belly for meats: but God shall destroy both it and them. Now the body [is] not for fornication, but for the Lord; and the Lord for the body.
– 1 Corinthians 6:18-20 – Flee fornication. Every sin that a man doeth is without the body; but he that committeth fornication sinneth against his own body.
– 1 Corinthians 7:2 – Nevertheless, [to avoid] fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband.
– Ephesians 5:3 – But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints…
The Biblical position is clear beyond doubt; one wonders how Christians would still be so easily deceived or confused into embracing secular practice, culture and worldly standards in the area of sexual morality. Either they are not being taught in their churches or are not reading the Bible for themselves. Most probably both.
The trend over time in the U.S, of the general slide into moral decadence in this area is well illustrated by the numbers. According to a report in the New York Times about a couple of years back, surveys showed that “… cohabitation in the United States has increased by more than 1,500 percent in the past half century. In 1960, about 450,000 unmarried couples lived together. Now the number is more than 7.5 million. The majority of young adults in their 20s will live with a romantic partner at least once, and more than half of all marriages will be preceded by cohabitation.
This shift has been attributed to the sexual revolution and the availability of birth control, and in our current economy, sharing the bills makes cohabiting appealing.
In a nationwide survey conducted in 2001 by the National Marriage Project, then at Rutgers and now at the University of Virginia, nearly half of 20-somethings agreed with the statement, “You would only marry someone if he or she agreed to live together with you first, so that you could find out whether you really get along.”
About two-thirds said they believed that moving in together before marriage was a good way to avoid divorce”. On the surface, all this does sound logical and practical. But does it achieve the desired outcome – stronger, more stable and longer-lasting marriages? Hardly. The New York Times further reports: “…But that belief is contradicted by experience. Couples who cohabit before marriage (and especially before an engagement or an otherwise clear commitment) tend to be less satisfied with their marriages — and more likely to divorce — than couples who do not.
These negative outcomes are called the cohabitation effect… A life built on top of “maybe you’ll do” simply may not feel as dedicated as a life built on top of the “we do” of commitment or marriage”. These are the exact results that could be expected from violating the divine order of God for sexual fulfillment within a Christian marriage. Besides being the sin of fornication, cohabiting effectively tears down the solemnity of the “till death do us part” vows and provides and easy and convenient escape route when things get tough, rather than to focus on solutions as married couples are much more likely to, in view of their stated lifelong commitments to one another.
Nancy Pina in an article titled ‘Does Living Together Before Marriage Increase Chances of Divorce?’ states that from her experience as a Christian Relationship Coach, there are 3 main mindsets that people who fall into the cohabitation trap typically have. She points them out and offers her advice to the affected individuals to help them counter those negative mental predispositions:
1. Fear of not picking the “right one”: To counter this fear, Nancy advises that if you know what you should be looking for in terms of love and commitment, the more confidence you will have in your dating choices — and those you attract.
2. Fear of future divorce. Living together is not divorce prevention, nor it is not marriage preparation. It is divorce training. It does increase the likelihood of divorce if the couple decides to marry. The National Survey of Families and Households found that couples who cohabit before marriage are 50 percent more likely to divorce.
People who have multiple cohabiting relationships before marriage are more likely to experience marital conflict, unhappiness and divorce than people who do not live together before marriage. It is the attitude that living together can be a temporary and easily ended step in love that may make cohabitation more conductive to future divorce.
3. Fear of losing freedom. People who live together show greater tendencies toward individualism, leading to a strong desire for self-autonomy within the relationship. One of the appeals of living together is the increased freedom and decreased responsibility toward each other.
Living together is not empowering for women… (who) generally see moving in together as a step toward marriage, while men tend to regard the relationship as more of a sexual opportunity without the ties and responsibilities of commitment.
The couple who is firmly committed to marriage has a much greater chance of a genuine, lasting relationship than the couple who regards their living arrangement as a trial period subject to termination…Together, you can experience real freedom. You can face challenges and accomplish life’s tasks according to each person’s strengths. Nancy summarises by stating: “Marriage is not simply a piece of paper; it is a public declaration that changes the way you think about yourself.
While the stigma of living together has been reduced, that does not mean it is the correct choice morally, emotionally or spiritually.
Every person who desires a loving, connected, lasting marriage can achieve that goal by preparing for and raising their expectations for lasting love and commitment”. It is indeed alarming that despite the clear guidance and warnings in the Scriptures, so many professing Christians still haven’t been taught, or cared enough to read the Bible to see what God says about about chastity and abstinence before marriage and how to find a lifetime partner and maintain the marriage relationship based on Biblical principles.
Consequently, many have fallen into sexual sin and immorality.
Others have ended up succumbing to having abortions, or ending up as single parents when the relationship breaks up. Those who do end up marrying after co-habiting find that their cohabit experience watered down the quality of intimacy reserved by God for marriage. How sad, given how unnecessary all these issues are – by simply following the Manufacturer’s Handbook. Yes, there is still hope and forgiveness for all who have sinned or failed (1 John 1:9), but how much better the prevention is, than the cure once one has reaped the consequences of fornication, adultery or any of the other sexual sins and improprieties out there.
Larry Tomczak’s advice rings as true as ever: “Here’s the deal: couples who are shacking up, living under one roof as a “pretend” married couple, are violating God’s will for marriage no matter what their rationalization is economically, philosophically or spiritually. It is a sinful pattern of behavior and must be repented of immediately. This includes those who say they are not “going all the way” sexually or “reside in separate rooms,” deceived they are immune to temptation or that neighbors don’t form impressions based on appearances nullifying their Christian witness. To ignore this will bring consequences–if not immediately, eventually.”
That’s telling it just like it is.