Shacking up in the Church: Why have we fallen into this habit?
Is it wrong to live together as a modern day Christian couple? Is the Word still relevant? Eleasah Phoenix Louis reminds us of the Biblical realities of this new trend and how Christians can avoid it.
It seems that cohabitation is on the rise in the UK and a trend we are also seeing within our Christian community. It's interesting that in our grandparent’s generation, whilst it occurred it hadn't yet become normalised in our society - so what has changed and why are we doing it? Why have Christians adopted this cultural shift as a part of their journey towards marriage? What does the Bible say about cohabitation and does it need revised for the 21st Century?
In 2013 there were 3 million couples cohabiting
Cohabitation can be justified in various ways; some people believe that it is economically efficient to live together and share expenses rather than to live out on their own. Society holds the belief that living together works well as a test before marriage and this decision could help with answering questions like: can we share and support each other effectively? Are we sexually compatible? Can we resolve conflicts and move forward as a team? On the other hand, for those who might have much control over their living circumstances, people in relationships might move in together as a result of dysfunctional relationships with parents or carers in order to gain stability and security. According to civitas.org.uk (via Evangelical Alliance) in 2013 there were 3 million couples cohabiting and on average the relationship lasts less than two years in comparison to less than 4% of them lasting for 10 years or more. Cohabitation also influences whether the couple will get married later in the relationship and couples living together are more likely to be unfaithful, in addition to those with children are more likely to have a disrupted family life.
Couples living together are more likely to be unfaithful
In a worldly society these statistics may not seem as daunting to those who are aware of Gods ordinances for marriage, commitment and Godly living. The world conditions its inhabitants to be self-serving and to find a partner who serves their needs. As a kingdom of royal priests we are called to marriages that are fruitful, long lasting, selfless and honourable to your spouse and to God. Can that be achieved on your own without having made a commitment with God to build a marriage?
It should be noted here that this feature considers cohabitation with and without the practice of fornication (unlawful lust). The Bible is very explicit about sex before marriage as sin but there seems to be a bit more room for discussion about living together but not having sex.
When we live with our partner with the aim of building a loving, fruitful and economically efficient relationship, even without sex - (for sex is not the only marker of marriage!) we can be seen as saying we can do it without God. Does God bless marriage-like contracts that do not invite his key investments? Whilst we may not have the intention to engage in sexual relations, is it wisdom to dance around a fire? Included in the 3 million couples living together in the UK, are our brothers and sisters dancing around sexual temptation and building relationships without creating a commitment with God from which blessings, wisdom, support, peace, courage, strength, long suffering and selflessness comes from? Building a marriage-like-relationship is like building a Tower of Babel and so takes a group effort. To develop an honourable relationship and marriage requires the team work of the couple, the families and the church.
So what can we do?
Put God's ordinances before your worldly needs because he will provide. To avoid falling into temptation or dooming what could be an incredible marriage under God,don't move in together. Move back home, move in with a friend or press on asking for wisdom in your current circumstance as a 'single' person. Living together before marriage and experiencing the reality of marriage under God, will produce two different results. Moving in together is unlikely to provide a realistic inference of your future covenant with God and your intended spouse.
Do not be confirmed to the worlds ways! Remember Dietrick Haddon on preachers of LA? Having his cake and eating it too, shacking up with his girlfriend, resulted in scandal, two babies and a poor witness of Christian living. Remember your choices affect people around you - whilst you may not end up with an unplanned pregnancy or obviously dramatic incurring events, which may not be the case for those following your example. Be like Jesus.
If your child hasn't formed a covenant union with another person and God they're still a part of your nest!
Even if they've moved out, help them to make wise financial decisions, (even if it means coming back home!) and to observe the Lords guidance for godly living according to the Word of God
Certain responsibilities come with important life changes and shouldn't be encouraged to develop before that! If they're not married they're still a representative of your family team (not the head) and under the parent’s guidance and instruction.
Help unmarried couples to see the vital differences between the world’s relationship goals and God's Holy ordinance
Provide support and resources for single people living out on their own or in need of accommodation.
Keep up with the developments of relationships within the congregation and encourage them to line them up with the guidance and character of Jesus.
Words by Eleasah Phoenix Louis
A Christian and community activist with particular focus on Christian pedagogy for ethnic minority groups and racial justice.