Cohabitation in the church

By Staff
Aug 14, 2013

Many of us would like to think that the church is immune to the growing trend of cohabitation prior to, or instead of, marriage. Unfortunately, this cultural trend has crept into the pews as fewer church members recognize cohabitation as a violation of biblical sexual ethics.

Scripture is clear in its condemnation of fornication (a KJV-style word for a pre-marital sexual relationship). Fornication and fornicators (as well as adulterers) are described as evil, subject to judgment, and not heirs of the Kingdom of God (Matthew 15:19; Acts 15:20, 29; 1 Corinthians 6:9; Hebrews 13:4).

Beyond the clear scriptural statements regarding fornication, cohabitation presents another breach of biblical ethics. God established the sexual relationship between a man and a woman in Genesis 2 as a sign of the covenant of marriage.

Just like the rainbow serves as a tangible reminder of God’s covenant with Noah that He will not destroy the earth by flood again, the sexual relationship between a husband and wife demonstrates the exclusive, permanent union of marriage. It is so intimate that Genesis 2:24 says the man and woman “shall become one flesh.”

Those who cohabit participate in the “pleasures” of the relationship without the covenantal commitment. This stands in direct violation of God’s plan for marriage that He established in Genesis 2 prior to the Fall.

So how do we address the issue of cohabitation in the church? First, remember that cohabitation is not the unpardonable sin. After Paul gives a vice list in 1 Corinthians 6:9–10 that says certain people, including fornicators and adulterers, will not inherit the Kingdom of God, he states, “Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God” (1 Corinthians 6:11).

We need to work with cohabiting Christian couples to help them confess and repent of this sin. Ideally, this confession and repentance should have a public element to it within the church. This does not necessarily mean that they air their dirty laundry before the church on Sunday morning, but it should at least include their families and those in their circle of influence who are aware of the situation. Depending on the church, it may also include the entire church body.

Second, we need to help these couples separate from their sinful lifestyle. Many couples use cohabitation as a “test drive” for marriage, but it is actually a recipe for disaster. If a cohabiting couple is heading toward marriage, then we need to encourage them to change their living arrangements. If it means a woman moves back home with her parents, or a man moves in with some friends for a period of a few months, then so be it. If the couple is not willing to do this for the remainder of the time leading up to the marriage, then they are not interested in honoring God with their marriage.

We simply cannot turn a blind eye to the issue of cohabitation. The biblical covenant of marriage is too important to God’s design for mankind to adopt the world’s preferences for pleasure without commitment.

This article was authored by Evan Lenow, who serves as assistant professor of ethics at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. This article was originally published in The Alabama Baptist. It also appeared in Baptist Press August 14, 2013. For more on the topic of cohabitation, see Trillia Newbell’s piece The moral dilemma of cohabitation.

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Elizabeth Bristow, 615-782-8409
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.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

NASHVILLE, Tenn.—During a recent interview on CNN’s Erin Burnett OutFront, Russell D. Moore, addressed the criticism that Phil Robertson, star of A&E’s Duck Dynasty, is receiving for his comments on homosexuality in a recent article for GQ magazine.

“Suggesting that people who hold to what every branch of the Christian faith has held to for 2,000 years is somehow bigoted or hateful is not productive for speech,” said Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, on CNN.

In response to the controversy, A&E announced that it has put Robertson “on hiatus,” an action that Russell D. Moore calls “ridiculous.”

“Silencing views one doesn’t agree with, rather than engaging them, is hardly open-minded,” Moore said on Twitter tonight.

Moore expounded his position on his blog, Moore to the Point.

“Admittedly, A&E didn’t hire Robertson to be Charlie Rose or George Will. They hired him to be comedic and sometimes shockingly homespun. Now, I thought his reported anatomical comparisons were ill-advised and crude. But that doesn’t seem to be where the controversy lies.

“The comments that seem most offensive to people are his moral assessments of sex outside of conjugal marriage, which were more or less just a recitation of the Apostle Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 6. As Christians, we believe that Jesus is lord over sexuality, and he says that sexuality is expressed rightly only in the marriage of a man and a woman. That’s not new. We also think we’re all sinners, and that God calls us all to repentance. That’s not new either.

“We’re a divided country on sexual issues. That’s why every news cycle brings more controversy. Why not engage one another, and have the debates in a civil fashion, without attempting to silence one another. I don’t agree with David Letterman’s views on divorce and cohabitation, but I don’t want him suspended for voicing them. I’ll bet I don’t agree with MTV’s Nev Schulman of the popular Catfish show on sexual ethics, but it wouldn’t put me in the fetal position under the table to hear him voice them.

“Let’s have the sort of cultural conversation that allows us to seek to persuade each other, not to seek to silence one another with intimidation. That’s what real diversity is all about.”

The full text of Moore’s blog can be found at russellmoore.com.

The Southern Baptist Convention is America’s largest non-Catholic denomination with more than 15.8 million members in over 46,000 churches nationwide. The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission is the SBC’s ethics, religious liberty and public policy agency with offices in Nashville, Tenn. and Washington, D.C.

- END

To request an interview with Russell D. Moore
contact Elizabeth Bristow at (615) 782-8409
or Daniel Darling at (615) 782-8413,
or by e-mail at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).
Visit our Web site at http://www.erlc.com.
Follow us on Twitter at @ERLCPressRoom.

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