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Cohabitation and MarriageJune 29, 2017
Read these results from a recently released study on cohabitation in our culture, “cohabitation before marriage is now what the majority agrees is the best indicator of whether a couple is ready to get married. Sixty-five percent of those surveyed agreed that cohabitation is a good idea. The percentage of millennials who agree that cohabitation prior to marriage is most advisable and wise has skyrocketed to now being 72% of the people in that age group. What has happened and is happening to us in our culture? Are we simply totally blind to the moral corruption and biblical defiance that is seen in such views? Do we not recognize or do not want to see that the data on divorce in relationship to marriages that are born out of cohabitation has not changed in a positive direction for years; it is still true that an overwhelming 85% of marriages born out of cohabitation end in divorce, and usually within the first five years of marriage. I do not suppose there is any area of life in our culture that more clearly or convincingly communicates our spiritual decay and moral corruption than this data about the large number of couples that really do sincerely believe that it is better to cohabit before marriage than not. And it gets worse. What makes it worse? Let me mention three things.
First, this study done by the Barna group asked about cohabitation before marriage; it did not ask about cohabitation with no intention of marriage. This is the larger group. Cohabitation prior to marriage has become so common and so comfortable to the larger culture that many now are simply choosing to cohabit and not marry. It is less burdensome so it is said and carries with it far less weighty responsibilities. Cohabitation prior to marriage and apart from marriage also makes sexual activity prior to marriage and outside of marriage far more acceptable. It is at least one of the underlying reasons for the postponement of marriage or even serious relationships by many until they are in their late thirties or forties, if at all. If sex outside of marriage is not seen as sinful or immoral and if a person can have high degrees of assurance through enhanced means of birth control that pregnancy will not happen, then why not enjoy what was once considered a privilege only for those who are married without having the baggage of marriage. This behavior is rampant in our culture. Few are sad and it seems that increasingly few are ashamed.
Second, and as disconcerting to me; is the number of parents who either gladly endorse cohabitation or at best just shrug their shoulders. Some even plan big weddings for their cohabiting children, and even more insulting to God and others, they plan those big weddings for church settings. Never mind that the character of God is assaulted in such settings even while His Word and Name are blasphemed, the party goes on and the people celebrate with great enthusiasm. There is a price to pay for such behaviors that will only come due on judgment day. But the greatest price is not for those who cohabit and then celebrate without repentance at a huge wedding nor is the greatest price paid by parents and families who join in the gala event, the greatest price is paid by the church and her leaders who conduct and celebrate such events.
Third, here is the greatest offense for me and it is happening all over our culture and all in the name of love. The offense is found when couples cohabit and come to the church for the wedding wanting the pastor of the church to perform the ceremony. The offense comes when the church says “yes” without reservation and the pastor is more than delighted to do the ceremony because otherwise he may lose members and worse, money. So, he dons the hat of love and leaves behind the integrity of the Word of God. What is happening with marriage in our day is serious business for those who cohabit before marriage and those who celebrate with them as if there is no sin. God is greater than our sin. He offers grace to cohabiting couples who will acknowledge their sin and cease cohabitation prior to their marriage. But for those who do not, there is only the hope of the grace of God in time with the assurance of the judgment of God that we can only pray will be tempered by the wonderfully rich and grand mercy of God.
We who love God and His holy character, His Word as absolute Truth, and His Gospel as the only means to be right with Him must not be tripped up by this cultural trap. Cohabitation either apart from marriage or prior to marriage is a vile offense against our holy God. It is no small matter. It is not a matter of indifference to God. It is far worse than spitting in His face; it is cursing His holy Name and His inerrant Word. We must be clear in expressing our genuine love for people as that love emerges out of the clarity and courage of our commitment to His Word. The truth is that to say we love people and then celebrate with them in what is offense to God is to say that we love them more than we love God. And that too is an offense to His Holy Name.