Should Unmarried Believing Couples Live Together?
Article by Steve Galt
In pastoral ministry I’ve encountered several couples who were professing Christians who were also living together outside of
marriage. If these couples were involved in the church, they generally recognized that fornication was sin and sought to abstain from sexual intercourse. Perhaps they even slept in separate rooms. But if they abstained from sexual immorality, they would ask, what is the problem with just living together under the same roof?
Here are six reasons why I believing couples who are not married should not live together
1. Cohabitation provides a context for sexual temptation. In 1st Corinthians 6:18, Paul exhorts his readers to "Flee sexual immorality." He then goes on to explain why abstinence from sexual immorality is so critical. The old saying is true, that often times we Christians seem to want to see how close we can get to the edge of the cliff without falling off. But it is much more prudent to recognize that we are sinful and could potentially fall into sin at any moment. Therefore, we should employ wisdom in our decisions so that we do not find ourselves in situations in which we may be unnecessarily tempted. For this reason it seems to
be a wise choice for a Christian couple not cohabitate.
2. Cohabitation further promulgates the idea within our society that sexual intimacy outside of marriage should not be considered immoral. In Scripture, the word "fornication" (a Greek word also translated as "immorality" or "sexual immorality") refers to
a kind of sexual immorality that would include sex outside of the marriage covenant. This kind of sexual activity is presented as immoral in a number of biblical passages (1st Cor 6:13; Gal 5:19; Eph 5:13; Col 3:5l; 1st Thess 4:3). This much is obvious. In addition, our cultural context is one in which it is understood that couples who are living together are also sexually active together. Thus, cohabitation sends a message to the watching world that the couple who is cohabitating is sexually active. This, then, further contributes to idea that fornication is normal and is to be expected. The normalizing effect, then, continues to affect observers' consciences in such a way that the observers become increasingly hardened to the idea that fornication is immoral.
3. Cohabitation sends the message to a watching world that believers are hypocrites. It is widely understood that sex outside of marriage is forbidden within the Christian ethic. Yet because it is understood that couples who cohabitate are sexually active (see above), Christians should be diligent to avoid this kind of situation. When unbelievers observes a Christian couple cohabitating, they inductively reason that this couple is sexually active and, therefore, practicing hypocrisy. This, then, contributes to the already
prevalent idea that Christians are generally hypocritical.
4. The kind of emotional intimacy that is cultivated between a man and a woman who are romantically involved is to be reserved for married couples. Proverbs 4:23 instructs us to guard our hearts. Yet the depth of emotional attachment that is built when we place ourselves under the same roof with someone for whom we have great affection is the kind of unity which is intended to take place within marriage.
5. Believing couples should follow the leadership of their congregation in matters in which they are not being asked to commit a sin. In Hebrews 13:17, the author admonishes his readers to look to the leadership of their church. In our day, many Christians have a me-and-my-Bible mentality that neglects what the Bible teaches about the role and authority of church pastors and elders. Given the authority of church leadership, Christian couples should look to church leadership on this issue.
6. The utter folly of the kind of cohabitation about which we would speak in our culture is something that has been recognized over the course of church history. And while Church history is not the final authority on any matter, when Christians have been in nearly
unanimous agreement on something over the course of church history, the burden of proof lies with the one who would depart from church tradition. And so in order to adopt a stance which would allow Christian couples to cohabitate, one would have to be able to build a clear argument for it from Scripture.