What a precious baby girl! …Wait. She belongs to my old college roommate? No way! …Wait. Did I miss her wedding? 

As I curiously stalk my old roommate on Facebook I realize I hadn’t missed anything. Not even an engagement. Just the reality of another friend cohabiting with her boyfriend.

Once I asked a woman close to her due date how many children she would have. She said this one was number 3, that she and her boyfriend were overjoyed, and only blessing could follow. I congratulated her, smiled, and was saddened all at the same time. Other than the obvious reason that these ladies are not married, why is this so disheartening and what does God have to say about it?

According to USLegal.com, cohabitation, or as we more frequently refer to it, living together, can be defined as two people living as if they were a married couple (paying bills, sleeping together, chores, parenting, etc). We live in a society where by age 25 about 55% of women have cohabited. [1] Not to mention that one in five of those women becomes pregnant within their first year of cohabitation.[2] How do we as women of the Lord address this issue with non-believers and even those that do follow Christ?

Jesus commands us to love God and love others (Matt. 26:36-40). When we encounter those that are not walking with the Lord we must remember not to judge her or write her off. We cannot hold those that do not follow Christ to the same standards by which we live – it is foolishness to them (1 Cor. 1:18)! As one young woman puts it: “I have a beautiful baby girl now, so it is hard to say I regret my choice”[3] For her, this decision only brought joy and blessing to her life.

Our society teaches that the pursuit of happiness is a life-long calling, and it is the god worthy of worship. Our first response to ladies choosing to cohabitate before marriage ought not to be a wince of the face, or a gasp of disapproval, but one of compassion. That means when I encounter a woman cohabiting, my goal is to win her to the Lord, not push her away! Speak in love, pray for her in love, live your life in front of her, share the Gospel, and then let the Holy Spirit move in her life.

Remember God is the life-giver, and children are a blessing. To disapprove of a woman bringing a child into this world contradicts God’s perspective on children (Psalm 127). So, first and foremost, love this woman because Christ loved you first in your own brokenness (Rm 5:8; 1 Jn 4:19). Pray for her and ask God for the opportunity to build a relationship with her so that she might be won over to the Lord.

But, what about those that are believers and living together before marriage?

Why is it so bad when they know they will get married at some point? Have you ever wondered that?…me too. But what I’ve found is that questioning why cohabiting is wrong ultimately reveals that we’re asking the wrong question and likely coming from a self-centered perspective.

Let me ask this: what is your purpose in life? If you are a believer, your purpose it is to do just what was mentioned above in Matthew 26:36-40: to love God and to love others. When you love God with everything that you are, you pursue His ways, and you pursue others to show them His love so that they will come to know Him. You are living for His glory. If I truly love the Lord, I will honor His ways in all that I do, and cohabitation is not in line with His ways.

Jesus spoke in Matthew 19:4-6: “Haven’t you read,” He replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore, what God has joined together let man not separate.” From Jesus’ mouth come the directions of when a man and woman are to be completely joined together emotionally, sexually, and spiritually. Living together distorts this original design the Creator set in place! If Jesus’ ways are your ways, then following His design for marriage will bring Him glory!

Some would point out that living together doesn’t always mean a sexual relationship.

But even if I am not sleeping with the man that I am cohabiting with, the danger is riding the line of sin, and a greater danger of bringing dishonor to the Name of the Lord. Dying to ourselves daily is the call on our lives, and that means walking away from temptations that may become so strong that we give in to them.

Bethany, I still don’t see your point, you might be saying. Let me ask another question: What is the ultimate purpose of marriage? Is it first and foremost about your benefit? …Picking up on a theme, yet? There is pleasure and happiness, yes, but God uses the marriage union as a picture of the gospel. Ephesians 5:22-33 might be a familiar passage to you (for many of you it may be exasperatingly familiar!), but Paul discusses the great mystery of the relationship between Christ and the Church and how He chose to paint a beautiful picture of that relationship in the marriage union. Do we dare mess with this picture all because it will make us happy? Or that we can work on our “issues” before tying the knot?

Marriage is a selfless act of a lifelong commitment. If marriage ultimately teaches me to live a selfless life modeling Christ on this earth, then I have no desire to twist God’s intention for marriage simply to satisfy my own wants.

Jesus simply says to His followers in John 14:15, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” Does He ever lay out: “Thou shalt not cohabitate”? No. But, if we are to honor His design of marriage as a tangible picture to the world of who Christ is, then we must do whatever we can to preserve that picture! Again, addressing this issue must be done out of love – especially, to our sisters in Christ.

It is not an overnight change, but a meaningful process of coming alongside another woman in the love of Christ to draw her into a right relationship with Him so that she will reflect her Creator as He designed her to.