Cohabitation is defined as “the state of living together and having a sexual relationship without being married.” It is commonly referred to as simply “living together” but cohabitation specifically implies the presence of sexual activity.
The trend is that many couples, including Christian couples, decide to live together before they get married. The main reasons seem to be convenience, saving money, and getting more data about the other person to avoid potential divorce. At first, it makes logical sense, in short-sighted human perspective. But instead of improving marriage, a substantial body of evidence indicates that those who live together before marriage are more likely to break up after marriage. One statistic says the chance of divorce is 61% higher for a cohabiting couple, which is staggering.
But the greatest issue at hand is that cohabitation is against God’s will. Firstly, it is sin because the scripture states that “fornication” is sin. (1 Cor 6:9-10,18) To be clear, calling this sin is not to condemn the couple, but to guide them to the correct path of happiness. Sin does not lead to happiness; obedience to God’s will does. (Luke 11:28) Secondly, it goes against God’s plan for marriage. Genesis 2:24 clearly indicates that the couple becomes one flesh through marriage first, then enjoys sexual intimacy. Sexual intimacy is only reserved within the covenant of marriage, which is instituted and approved by God. Someone said, “Outside of marriage, sex is a lie” because it would be acting like a married couple when they are not. Sex does not make the couple one flesh, “marriage” does. Cohabitation reverses God’s sacred order of marriage, reducing the significance of both marriage and sex.
As this is my conviction, I cannot officiate marriage for a cohabiting couple in my church when I fully know that the couple is willfully moving in the opposite direction of healthy, biblical marriage. It would also communicate the wrong message to the church that it is ok to cohabit when it is not.
If the couple still insists on me officiating their marriage, they will be asked to live separately until their wedding day. I know it may sound unthinkable. Yes, it may terribly be inconvenient and expensive. And it may look like a meaningless ordeal to the world. But following Jesus even when it is inconvenient and expensive to do so is not only expected of Christians (Mat 16:24, Luke 14:28), but is always worth it. I’ve seen couples who take this beautiful step of obedience, and they are better for it, not worse. On a practical level, it gives them enough space from each other to build up problem-solving and communication skills necessary to have an enduring marriage. But most importantly, such obedience allows the couple to confidently hope for God’s blessing for their marriage, not just wish for it.