What's the problem with cohabitation? For one thing, it is a sin to have sex before marriage, and couples that live together are almost always sleeping together. The Biblical word for this sin is sexual immorality, or fornication. How serious is the sin of fornication?
- The sexually immoral will not inherit the kingdom of God (go to heaven). 1 Cor 6:9-11; Eph 5:5
- The sexually immoral are called "unrighteous." 1 Cor 6:9-11
- Sexual immorality is placed in a list of vices alongside the sins of adultery, homosexuality, murder, and slave-trading. 1 Cor 6:9-11; Eph 5:5; 1 Tim 1:9-11
- Sexual immorality is contrary to the sound teaching that conforms to the gospel. 1 Tim 1:9-11
- God will judge the sexually immoral. Heb 13:4
For this reason, the Bible commands Christians to "keep away from sexual immorality" (1 Thess 4:3); and to "flee sexual immorality" ( 1 Cor 6:18-20). Sexual immorality "should not even be heard among you, as is proper for saints" (Eph 5:3). The Biblical context for sex is clear: Never before marriage; never outside of marriage; and never with the same sex. Anything else is a grave sin against a holy God.
What if the couple are living together, but are committed to not sleeping together? While I appreciate the couple's self-control, this situation is still not acceptable. For one thing, they are putting themselves in an impossible situation. Regardless of their resolve, eventually temptation will win; they will go further than they want to go. A second problem with this situation is that while the couple may indeed be chaste, they do not appear to be chaste. It looks like they are living in sin. And before you say that it doesn't matter what people think, it does matter. We are called to be Christ's representatives; to glorify God by displaying His character. Not only must we avoid sin, but we must not do anything that appears to be sinful and thereby damage God's reputation.
Aside from the Biblical reasons to avoid cohabitation, there are some practical reasons that should be of interest to even non-Christians. The research is abundantly clear that cohabitation is not a good way to prepare for marriage. It is called the "cohabitation effect." Psychologist Meg Jay of the University of Virginia, in an article called "The Downside of Cohabitation Before Marriage," said, "Couples who cohabit before marriage... tend to be less satisfied with their marriages and more likely to divorce than couples who do not."
If you are a Christian and you are shacking up, it's time to repent. God's curse will be on your life and your relationship until you turn from your sin. You don't have to break up; but you must move out. And if your significant other protests, then they are not God's choice for you. "Therefore repent and turn back, so that your sins may be wiped out, that seasons of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord" (Acts 3:19).