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Relationships: Cohabitation

What do Christians think?

Cohabitation is the term used to refer to an arrangement, where an unmarried couple lives together in a sexual relationship. Because of their different interpretations of the Bible, Christians have different attitudes towards cohabitation.

Why do many Christians disagree with cohabitation?

The Bible does not explicitly refer to or forbid cohabitation. When Christians are faced with this kind of dilemma, they read the Bible and make decisions based upon what they infer from the guidance that is there. In this instance, the Bible makes many references to keeping the body pure, telling Christians not to indulge in sexual immorality, emphasising the importance of marriage.

'But because of the temptation to sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband.' 1 Corinthians 7:2

This leads to many Christians agreeing that cohabitation is unacceptable; they believe that the only place for sex is within marriage.

In the New Testament, sex outside of marriage - sexual immorality - is described as sinful. This means it goes against God’s will for the way he wants people to live.

'Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.'  1 Corinthians 6 18-20. 

Roman Catholic and many Evangelical churches are against cohabitation, believing that sex outside of marriage, whether adultery or pre-marital sex, is a sexual sin. They would also argue that the commitment of marriage is far stronger than that of cohabitation, offering greater security to the husband, wife, and any children they might have. This in turn leads to a more stable society.

Why do some Christians support cohabitation?

Some Christians do accept cohabitation as long as there is commitment, but they will also promote marriage as the best route for couples. For example, certain sections of the Church of England will permit couples to cohabit, but only if the couple intends to marry.

Other Christians believe that love doesn't need a marriage certificate, so they feel cohabitation is acceptable. They would argue that the Bible doesn't specifically make a reference to cohabitation as the wrong thing to do, therefore it must be OK. They also argue that society has changed so much since the Bible was written, that any references to sexual immorality don't apply to 21st-century society.

Counter-arguments

However, many Christians would argue that the reason it is not referenced in the Bible is because it was written at a time when cohabitation was virtually non-existent.

These Christians would also argue that, yes, society has changed, however, humans are still the same deep down: regardless of the cultural context, all human beings have the same complexities and needs. Therefore, the guidance the Bible contains about sexual behaviour is as relevant today as it was thousands of years ago. Similarly, the guidance on treating people well, the importance of social justice, not stealing or killing people is still relevant. The Bible is either true or it's not: you can't pick, choose, and adapt central teachings to justify your life choices.