One of the earliest posts that I ever wrote on this site has been a hot topic of conversation for years. There are dozens and dozens of comments on the article, arguing for and against my position. It used to rattle me before; every once in a while, someone will come through and say something that jolts me and makes me wonder if I should even be talking about this. Even though I work in marriage ministry, those who are unmarried – perhaps like yourself – are seeking answers to the question “What does the Bible say about living together before marriage?” We have studied and found the answer to that question:
It says nothing.
Why can’t I find this in the Bible?
In Biblical times, there was not a need to address this situation because this was not something that was done. The only people having premarital sex were prostitutes.
And their clients, because, they weren’t servicing themselves.
The Scriptures are full of references and laws that tell us to not engage with prostitutes, both male and female.
We have always had laws, both spiritual and legal, that shape the way that we want society to function and operate. For those of us in the household of faith, those laws work in tandem to keep us safe from the pain caused by sin entering into our lives.
Why is living together before marriage bad?
Growing up Southern Baptist, I don’t remember ever getting much explanation on many of life’s questions. Mostly, the response was either “Do as I say, not as I do…” or “…because I said so!” While definitive, those responses are not necessarily defined. As it pertains to this conversation, many of us have been told that living together is a sin. Shacking up is not something that good Christian girls do. (Shaming women in the church, while failing to hold men responsible? That is a topic that I’ll have to discuss in depth another day.)
Being roommates with a person of the opposite sex is not inherently a sin in itself. Nor is living with your dating partner. The post of great concern is the one where I said that living together is not the sin.
And this is where is gets hot.
Many of the comments that I received hon the initial post – while combative, misinterpreted, or evasive to the point – have much basis in truth.
Avoid the Appearance of Evil
One of the rebuttals often cited is 1 Thessalonians 5:22 which tells us to avoid the appearance of evil. In a fuller context, verses 21-23 say this:
“Prove all things; hold fast that which is good. Abstain from all appearance of evil. And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Here’s the problem with that.
It’s very easy to navigate the world in a way that you present yourself as someone who is fleeing from sin and living righteously. It happens all the time. Especially in the world of ministry, we are sidetracked and our faith is shaken when we see our ministers and church members caught up in scandals.
When an unmarried woman shows up pregnant, we are quick to be able to point out her sin. We can clearly see the evidence of the wrong that was being done. But the man who got her pregnant can very easily deny any wrongdoing. Outside of a paternity test or really strong genetics, there is really no way that his sin can be verified.
He can completely avoid the appearance of all evil.
But they both have sinned. Using the avoidance of the appearance of evil does nothing to actually deal with the condition of the heart. If the relationship with Christ and personal salvation is as it should be, there would be no sin of fornication.
As one commenter points out, “We are not to be conformed to the image of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that by testing we are to discern what is the will of God, what is good, and acceptable, and perfect (Romans 12:1-2).” When you are tested – with the temptation to live together before marriage or to engage in fornication and go home – what will you do?
Honor God With Your Bodies
Another rebuttal mentioned by both myself and the commenters is the citation of 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 which says:
“Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.”
Here’s the problem with that.
When we typically speak of honoring God with our bodies, we limit the chastisement to what we do with our genitals. Our genitalia has committed no sin, per se. As paralleled in 1 Corinthians 12:12-27, the human body is made of many parts. Our genitals and sexual desires are only doing what they were created to do.
When we focus on that part of the body and ignore honoring God with all of our other organs – specifically the heart and mind – we are setting ourselves up for disaster. You will not be able to honor God with the lower parts of your anatomy if the upper parts aren’t fully committed to Him.
Whether you’re living with someone or dwelling apart, remember Proverbs 4:23. “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.”
Delete your website. You are UNQUALIFIED.
“These are the kinds of articles that always make me weary of entering into a kind of ministry lest I lead sheep astray and invoke the wrath of God. You are unqualified for ministry, as Paul says that Christians should abstain from ALL APPEARANCES (1 Thessalonians 5:22) OF EVIL…By writing this article you have shared Satanic council in the name of Christ. You have encouraged people to put themselves in compromising situations and you arrogantly imagine that what you do honors God…Delete your website. You are UNQUALIFIED.”
Based off the title of the article and a few snippets of text, one commenter almost derailed me from my ministry. In the 2 years that it has been presented to me, I’ve never addressed it. Some surely agree with her but let me say this:
Because of my honesty, transparency, and calling to be a Titus 2 woman, so many people have been coming forward and are open to discussing their situations. Without judgment and with godly council, I have never encouraged someone to live with their partner outside of the sanctity of marriage.
Admitting a sin isn’t the same as condoning it.
Someone almost made me lose sight of that.
Here’s the problem with this perception of my intentions.
This is a conversation that people are afraid to have. The Bible is too often translated as black and white, leaving no room for application to situations that didn’t exist when it was written. People have found themselves in situations where they need some guidance in what God would have them to do. But because of the risk of being ostracized or condemned, they hide in their sin, hoping for the best.
When people are seeking answers to a modern-day problem within an ancient, living text – whether is it addresses a specific resolution or not – we have to seek the heart of the matter.
The heart of the matter has to always be our salvation in Christ. It has to be the sanctity of our relationship with Him above all else.
We pursue Him with all that we have, engaging in behaviors, situations, attitudes, and actions that glorify Him. Sin – based in bad decisions and misdirection – will have us found in all sorts of entanglements. But we don’t have to remain there. We must learn how to navigate every facet of our lives with salvation in mind.