Some weeks ago, I was asked about the appearances of evil. One young Christian asked, “Is it wrong for one to live with a member of the opposite sex even if you are not committing fornication?”
The Bible warns of fornication and the fact that it condemns a person (Heb. 13:4, Matt. 19:9, Gal. 5:19-21). To put the question into context, this discussion would not include people who are related, living together in the same house. This question considers those individuals who are betrothed, living together as a precursor to marriage, also girlfriends/boyfriends living together as roommates, even people of the opposite gender who are not together but living together as roommates.
In some situations, a man and woman living together would not lead to sex. Unfortunately, in American culture, cohabitation with the opposite sex often manifests in sexual immorality and fornication. According to the survey released in April 2013 by the National Center for Health Statistics, which is a part of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly half of American couples between the ages of 15-44 years of age live together before marriage. Of the 50,000 couples interviewed, nearly 20 percent became pregnant and gave birth after only one year of co-habitation. According to the report, the statistics of pregnancy and birth increased the longer a couple co-habited. The lead demographer with the National Center for Health Statistics, Casey Copen, affirmed in a U.S. News and World Report article written in April of 2013 just after the statistics were released, “As you cohabit longer, there’s more of a chance to become pregnant.” The report suggests that living together implies sexual relations, and in the current U.S. culture, living together and having children does not imply that one is married, but it does imply sexual relations. In American culture, when two people of the opposite sex live together, people may reasonably assume that sexual relations happen, or at the very least, lusting in their minds happen, which could easily lead to fornication.
God condemns sexual relations outside the marriage bed and warns that no fornicator “shall inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Cor. 6:9-10). No Christian should knowingly put themselves in a position that would damage his/her influence and cause implications of living in sin, or even advocating the sin. If a Christian man or woman lives with a member of the opposite sex, it implies that the person advocates and endorses living with the opposite sex, which in American culture implies sexual immorality. “A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches, and loving favour rather than silver and gold” (Prov. 22:1). The wisdom of God goes further to state, “A prudent man foreseeth the evil, and hideth himself” (Prov. 22:3a). Christians should avoid that which clearly leads to sin.
Christians confront a difficult balance between leading people to believe they are sinning and knowing people do not have a right to judge based solely on appearances. Jesus says that Christians should not judge on appearances (John 7:24), and if people do not know for sure if a couple is having sex, then they should not assume they are just because they are living in the same home. However, if a Christian couple knows that couples who live together often have sex and people commonly make that assumption, they should not put themselves in a situation where people would think badly of them (Rom. 14:13-16). Again, Christians should not hurt their reputation unnecessarily, a couple does not have to live together before marriage, and a person can usually find a roommate of the same sex.
Paul met a similar situation in Corinth (1 Cor. 11:1-16). It was a custom and tradition in the culture of ancient Corinth that women wore veils to represent their submission to their husbands (vs. 3, 5). Women without veils were considered to be harlots and rebellious (vs. 5-6). Christian women in Corinth viewed their liberty in Christ as a reason to not wear a veil, but Paul explained that because their culture deems uncovered women to be shameful and rebellious to their husbands, the wearing of veils should be honored because it represents Christian principles. Paul did affirm that God speaks of no command to wear veils universally, but he also explained that Christians should endorse and honor cultural representations of Christian principles (1 Cor. 11:10-16). Just as living together in American culture implies sexual relations, Christians should abstain from living together and upholding the practices of not living together before marriage because it honors and reinforces sexual purity.
Basically, if people are single, they should live like they are single. If they are married, then they should live like they are married. Let Christians not feign the life of what they are not (Eph. 4:1; 5:1-4).