Friday, August 29, 2014

Why Cohabitation is NOT the Way It is Supposed To Be

Now concerning the matters about which you wrote: “It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman.” But because of the temptation to sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband. The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband. For the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. Likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. Do not deprive one another, except perhaps by agreement for a limited time, that you may devote yourselves to prayer; but then come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.
1 Corinthians 7:1-5
            Cohabitation has become a trend in the late 20th and early 21st centuries.  This living arrangement arises as a very viable alternative to marriage life due to the increase of marital problems.  Many sociologists agree on the above 50% rate of divorce that occurs in the North America.  The statistics is troubling because then the imagination of marriage that lasts forever is shattered.  The romantic children stories that can be found in classics such as Cinderella is but a dream that does not correspond with reality.  People grow skeptical of the idea of “till death do us part” kind of marriage.  So some then try to be cautious before finally
deciding to get married.  For these people, the sanctity of marriage is still held in high honor.  But the wave from the world trend influences them and so an idea sparks in the mind: “What about living together first to see whether the couple can get along and then after the “trial” period, they can decide whether they fit together, and thus ready for marriage, or not?”  Some think that such idea is brilliant, for then the sanctity of marriage is preserved, and at the same time they can proceed with their love life.  “No strings attached” mentality soon got developed, and thus very vividly projected in a movie like “friends with benefit” which portrays the degradation of romantic relationship to be at the very bottom, in which love is no longer a requirement for sexual intercourse.
            Cohabitation appeals to many younger people who do not wish to carry the burden of building a family through marriage.  The vow is quite heavy for many of them, that they would avoid it as much as possible.  So there are some who walk the path of cohabitation with their eyes gazing toward marriage later, but there are some who walk the path of cohabitation without any purpose of getting married whatsoever.  They say that marriage will only ruin the good stuff they have in cohabitation.  Marriage is not considered necessary in this kind of scenario.  If they feel they want to walk away from their partner, then they just part ways without going through the messy procedure of divorce as one will get in a marriage.  So convenience becomes one of the factors in deciding whether to get married or not.  For sure there are those who suffered in their past marriage(s) that they do not wish to repeat the suffering.  For sure cohabitation seems to be much better than marriage.  The time for dating-engagement-marriage is now being replaced slowly but sure by dating-cohabiting model.  For sure the era of no-sex-before-marriage is being left behind.  Such route is considered outdated by many young people today.
            What is even more troubling is the fact that this worldly trend has crept into the church.  It is true that the Old Testament does not specifically and explicitly address this kind of living arrangement as sin.  The OT does speak of consensual sex between a man and a maiden that ought to lead to marriage.  Exodus 22:16 records: “16 “If a man seduces a virgin who is not betrothed and lies with her, he shall give the bride-price for her and make her his wife.”  This Law puts its weight on getting the man and the virgin to be married.  It does not come with a sense of delay.  Only in the marriage of the two then the indecent act can be redeemed.  The Law becomes very severe when the virgin is pledged to be married to someone else.  It would be considered adultery.  An act of adultery is punishable by death.  For the context of the OT, engagement is considered as binding as marriage.  And the command as mentioned in Leviticus 20:10 will become the foundation for judgment: “10 “If a man commits adultery with the wife of his neighbor, both the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death.”  This Leviticus 20:10 command is repeated in Deuteronomy 20:22 and applied to an engaged virgin in Deuteronomy 22:23-24: “23 “If there is a betrothed virgin, and a man meets her in the city and lies with her, 24 then you shall bring them both out to the gate of that city, and you shall stone them to death with stones, the young woman because she did not cry for help though she was in the city, and the man because he violated his neighbor’s wife. So you shall purge the evil from your midst.”  Cohabitation is not dealt with explicitly here, but there is a passage that implicitly speaks of sex before marriage that is considered punishable by death.

13 “If any man takes a wife and goes in to her and then hates her 14 and accuses her of misconduct and brings a bad name upon her, saying, ‘I took this woman, and when I came near her, I did not find in her evidence of virginity,’ 15 then the father of the young woman and her mother shall take and bring out the evidence of her virginity to the elders of the city in the gate. 16 And the father of the young woman shall say to the elders, ‘I gave my daughter to this man to marry, and he hates her; 17 and behold, he has accused her of misconduct, saying, “I did not find in your daughter evidence of virginity.” And yet this is the evidence of my daughter’s virginity.’ And they shall spread the cloak before the elders of the city. 18 Then the elders of that city shall take the man and whip him, 19 and they shall fine him a hundred shekels of silver and give them to the father of the young woman, because he has brought a bad name upon a virgin of Israel. And she shall be his wife. He may not divorce her all his days. 20 But if the thing is true, that evidence of virginity was not found in the young woman, 21 then they shall bring out the young woman to the door of her father’s house, and the men of her city shall stone her to death with stones, because she has done an outrageous thing in Israel by whoring in her father’s house. So you shall purge the evil from your midst.  (Deuteronomy 22:13-21)

Pay attention to verses 13-14 and 20-21.  These verses speak of having sex before marriage actually as something unacceptable.  If we summarize the Law of Moses regarding sex before marriage, we will find that sex before marriage is amendable only if the man then takes the virgin as his wife right away.  Thus implicitly, cohabitation is not an option in the OT.
            In the New Testament we find the passage written by the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 7 as the standard for sexual relationship.  It must be understood as well that this passage too does not speak explicitly about cohabitation.  But we will learn from understanding the precise wording used by Paul to be an important guidance for a healthy sexual life.  In responding to what the congregations in Corinth wrote to Paul, which was “It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman,” Paul answers: “But because of the temptation to sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband. The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband. For the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. Likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does.”  The answer that Paul gives is very clear that a man may only have sexual relation with his wife, and a woman with her own husband.  The context of the answer provides no escape, for it speaks within the boundary of sexual relations between man and woman.  Therefore, according to Paul’s answer, sexual relations between man and woman must only occur within the bound of marriage.  The implication for this passage is then that cohabitation is also not an option in the NT.  For in cohabitation the man and the woman are not husband and wife, and so the sexual relations between them are not warranted.
            Wanted or not, it must be admitted that cohabitation is not the way it is supposed to be.  It is never meant to be.  When God first created human beings, he created them man and woman, and bless them within the institution of marriage.  Their relationship is recognized in its exclusivity by God himself.  God is the witness of their marriage.  The blessing in Genesis 1:28 is liturgical in nature.  God says to the man and woman: “28 And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”  Within that blessing alone is the sexual relations allowed.  And such blessing binds the man and the woman in marriage.  This is made clearer as we progress to Genesis 2:24-25: “24 Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. 25 And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.”
            Now, when Jesus is asked a question concerning marriage, his reference point is Genesis 1 and 2, the state before the Fall.  Jesus makes a point that God himself binds the man and the woman in marriage.  Matthew 10:3-8 speaks:

And Pharisees came up to him and tested him by asking, “Is it lawful to divorce one’s wife for any cause?” He answered, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” They said to him, “Why then did Moses command one to give a certificate of divorce and to send her away?” He said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so.”

The institution of marriage as God models from the beginning should become the standard for all the follows after Adam and Eve.

            Clearly it is absurd to suppose that Christianity allows cohabitation.  The wise mind understands that cohabitation has no place in the ethics of the Kingdom of God.  It is not the design of God.  It is the design of something else.  Marriage is the only institution whereby a man and a woman may be united as one and have sexual relations.  Any other model of relationship that warrants sexual relations other than marriage is unwarranted.  This is a serious matter, and Christians must pay attention to this.  If you have fallen into this pit, surely you need to repent.  Do not dwell in it.  Marriage may have many problems, but cohabitation is not the answer to it.  Marriage problems must be dealt with within the boundary of marriage.  Just because of the motivation to avoid the problems in marriage, one must not opt for any other institution.  Such act is cowardice and dishonoring.  Our body may contain many problems within, but that doesn’t mean that we get rid of our body in order to eliminate the problems.  We may have flu from time to time, or we may have more severe disease like cancer, but one cannot then avoid his/her own body in order to avoid the problem.  In the same way, there are many problems in marriage, but we do not avoid marriage just because of that.  There are some principalities in marriage that we need to understand.  Only through marriage a healthy relationship between a man and a woman who become one flesh may be realized.  I will leave it here for now.  Next time I will discuss more about marriage.

The Business of Christian Education LXXXVIII 

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