Introduction: One does not have to be a trained sociologist to know there is a growing problem in America involving couples simply living together out of wedlock. This used to be called "shacking up" and those who thus practiced shacking up were looked upon by society as the "lower class." However, society has redefined cohabitation and has now mostly decided to approve of it. However, the biblical consequences and harm to adults, children, and to society shall not vanish simply because society has lowered moral standards. Man, indeed, is shown in scripture to be a social being (Gen. 2: 20, 18). In view of man's social needs, God did make provision (Gen. 2: 24). This provision involved "marriage," no cohabitation as the animal world practices. We wish to do two things in this sermon: show the pertinent teaching of the scriptures and quote extensively from an article that appeared in Rocky Mountain News (Denver, Co.), August 24, pg. 23A, by Terry Mattingly, titled "Religious Community Reluctant to Criticize Cohabitating Couples."
I. All kinds of people attend worship services.
A. The local church is often made up of various kinds of people. Just because one is a member of a local church, does not necessarily mean that they are saved or that they are not practicing sin (cp. Matt. 13: 47-50, I Tim. 5: 24). Terry Mattingly wrote:
"From the pulpit, the typical pastor can see all kinds of people whose ears will burn during a sermon about what used to be called 'living in sin.' There will be a few young adults who are cohabitating, as well as many moms and dads whose children quietly share street addresses with their significant others. There will be smiling couples the pastor married without asking many personal questions. There may be one or two divorced deacons with skeletons in their closets."
B. Cohabitation or even unscripturally being married, is a growing problem among all religions, including churches of Christ (only those who are eligible for marriage may marry without sin, Matt. 5: 32, 19: 9). I personally knew of a couple who lied about their marital status in order to place membership. When the elders discovered that they had lied, they simply placed membership with another local church, no checking was done by their elders as to why the couple abruptly left where they were (cp. I Jn. 1: 7-9).
II. There are different types of preachers in the pulpits.
A. The scriptures indicate that during the first century there were different types of men who preached (Phili. 1: 15-17, 2 Tim. 2: 17-21). Mr. Mattingly wrote regarding preachers and those cohabitating:
"Few ministers have the courage to risk offending these people, said Scott Stanley of the Center for Marital and Family Studies at the University of Denver. Pastors are afraid that if they preach on cohabitation, many people will get mad and that some will hit the exits."
B. Many churches of all types have now become a haven for sin. Instead of men who are dedicated to applicably preaching the truth, many preachers have become corporate businessmen who are trained in public relations. The emphasis too often in some churches of Christ is on simply bringing in and keeping the people without regard to spiritual matters (cp. 2 Tim. 4: 1-5).
C. Many preachers are afraid to preach on needed moral issues (see 2 Tim. 2: 2, 3). Mattingly observes in his article:
"'Pastors are getting very gun-shy when it comes to issues of marriage, family and sex' (Mattingly said quoting Scott Stanley, dm). Certainly, cohabitation would be right at the top of a list of these issues, along with premarital sex. They are so tired of getting beat up because they have hurt people's feelings.'"
D. Often the problem behind the absence of moral teaching is unbelief (cp. Acts 27: 25). Mattingly wrote in quoting Michael McManus, author of Marriage Savers: Helping Your Friends and Family Stay Married:
"Some church leaders have fallen silent on this issue because they no longer believe that sex outside of marriage is a sin. Their silence is understandable." (See I Corinthians 7: 2-5.)
III. The reality of society.
A. The contemporary society of the First Century Christians was often ungodly and immoral (Eph. 4: 17-20). Denying and ignoring prevailing moral issues is not the acceptable way of addressing them. Mattingly statistically observes:
"The Marriage Savers network is active in 163 cities and towns in 39 states and, wherever he travels to speak, McManus said he never sees more than one or two hands raised when he asks, 'How many of you have ever heard a sermon on cohabitation?' McManus is convinced most pastors simply do not know that 5 million unmarried Americans - 60 percent of all couples - are living together."
B. Women, as a rule, used to want the security of marriage before they committed themselves and brought children into the world. However, it appears that women may be some of the leaders in the cohabitation movement. Mattingly's article states:
"The researchers found that deeply religious men are much less likely to cohabit before saying their vows. But to their surprise, they learned that religious women are just as likely to move in before marriage as non-religious women."
C. Involved in being a Christian is not only the matter of the avoidance of the sinful circumstance, but the rebuking and warning of those who are in sin (Eph. 5: 10, 11, Acts 20: 26, 27).
IV. Some dissuading facts about those who cohabitate.
A. God's love for man is seen in the fact that God has given man commandments for man's own good and happiness (Prov. 3: 1-4, Eccl. 12: 13). Part of God's plan for man is marriage as opposed to just living together (Heb. 13: 4).
"Data from the University of Wisconsin provides a painful bottom line: Couples that cohabit before marriage increase their odds of divorce by 50 percent. Researchers found that only 15 out of every 100 cohabitating couples were married after a decade .Pastors do not know that these women face higher levels of depression and lower levels of communication and commitment. They are more than 60 percent more likely to be assaulted, and their children are endangered as well," wrote Mattingly.
V. What the Bible teaches about cohabitation.
A. The scriptures plainly condemn cohabitation under the heading of adultery and fornication (Heb. 13: 4, I Cor. 7: 2, 6: 18, I Cor. 6: 9-11).
B. A society and religion that softens its view against cohabitation has lowered the moral standard. Mattingly concluded by McManus:
"'We need to set a high standard, but we can do that in a loving way. What the church has done is collapse its standards. The modern church is -by its silence - giving young couples nothing to aspire to. They need a higher goal.'"
VI. Children, the silent sufferers of cohabitation.
A. God has not only instituted marriage, but he has also provided the needed structure and organization for a successful family unity (Eph. 5: 11-6: 4).
B. In many cases, those who cohabitate with children are, in the absence of real commitment, moving from one mate to another and subjecting their children to such unstable and changing environments (cp. Heb. 12: 6-8).
Conclusion: Sin is sin (cp. Isa. 59: 1, 2). However, some sins have greater consequences as far as affecting others. Cohabitation on a high scale will weaken any civilization and will ultimately cause its downfall.