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Debate: Is Cohabitation Going To Replace Marriage?
Cohabitation is defined as the state of a man and woman living together and having a sexual relationship without being married. Unlike fifty years ago, living with an unmarried partner has increased steadily throughout the world. In the United Kingdom, cohabitation is perfectly acceptable. In the USA it’s quite complicated and the federal government oversees different laws state by state. In US since 1960, the percentage of men and women who cohabit before marriage has increased by almost 900 percent. The law of living together in Canada is very much like the UK, with or without an agreement. In South America cohabitation is on the rise. China is a big on cohabitation, with more couples opting for it than in previous generations. In Australia, it’s a de facto relationship law allowing few rights and not full rights of a legal marriage. In Africa, though couples are living together without marriage cohabitation is not recognized legally. Muslim cultures do not permit cohabitation, due to the strong belief against pre-marital sex. Cohabitation is against the law in Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. India is generally known as a country with strong moral, cultural and traditional values. Nevertheless, recent court verdicts have indicated cohabitation legal in India after several cases came to court hearing on legality of issues arising out of cohabitation, since lot of couples chose live-in relationship throughout India.
We may not be able to believe the fact that in future, cohabitation will be an accepted practice in every country. It’s hard to believe this fact now, like decades ago people would not have imagined about today’s technologies like robots, smart phones, internet, atomic energy and other inventions which we got used to now. Fear of divorce after marriage, and legal obligations to pay huge compensation, make young adults go for cohabitation, which enables them separate in case of disputes, with mutual agreement without any legal obligations. For men, avoiding marriage may free them of some of the responsibilities and financial pressures that have historically come along with marriage. But studies have indicated, married people appear to have better health and live longer than unmarried people. Even people who remarry after being divorced or widowed have better physical and mental health than their counterparts who remain single.
More Christians in the US accept cohabitation even if it doesn’t lead to marriage. Most church denominations see cohabitation as sexual immorality, quoting Hebrews 13:4, Ephesians 5:3, 1 Corinthians 6:18, Genesis 2:24, 1 Corinthians 7:2, 1 Thessalonians 4:3-6, Galatians 5:19-21 and several such verses addressing adultery too. Does the Bible speak about the rules for getting married? Couples who live together in cohabitation argue, they live as married couples. The Bible doesn’t have an explicit verse pointing dating and cohabitation, as neither really existed during the Old and New Testament times.
Does the Bible speak about the rules for getting married? Well, there are no ceremony instructions. There is no mention of government certificates, rules and regulations. No wedding vows suggested. Nowhere does the Bible mention about wedding ring, church service or a function, dress code, or even about a pastor or someone to conduct the ceremony. The Bible seems to give much freedom to individuals and cultures to mandate these things as they will. What if my wife and I got our marriage certificate after a month? Were we considered married during that month? I know some Christian couples, who never had any wedding ceremony and are living together after assuring faithfulness to one another just personally and continue to be more faithful to one another than many who remain completely disconnected in every way despite having all proofs of their marriage. Since there are no specific biblical instructions, I assume that we as Christians need to recognize the marriage internally. There are two things that are not that important, though culturally and legally necessary. The pronouncement that the priest makes at the end of the wedding ceremony that we are married and the marriage certificate issued by the government. I think these do not matter in the sight of God as proof of marriage. You are married if you are living according to your vows. This will include faithfulness, love, commitment to the spouse, mutual care and concern, regular sex, recognition of the marriage, and forgiveness. If a marriage lacks these things, I don’t care how many certificates and pronouncements you have made, you are not really married. In the sight of God, our marriage status is based not on something we did, but something we do, an ongoing process though imperfect.
Based on these argument as to what God sees you as a married person, lot of cohabiting couples believe their live-in relationship is not sexual immorality or adultery as they are married by mutually taking vows in God’s sight, though without church wedding or ceremony or certificate as they live faithful to one another. What do you think? Decide yourself after reading the Bible to know what it says about accepting change in cultures. While reading Acts chapters 15, 17 and 21, we observe Paul respecting the local ethnicity. While the Gentile converts were not required to keep the law and to adopt a Jewish lifestyle, Jewish Christians were not prohibited from living according to the law as long as they understood this did not contribute in any way to their salvation. Consequently, the Jewish Christians, including Paul, continued to observe the law, and in so doing, upheld their Jewish culture. In no way was this contrary to the gospel or the decision of the Council. Also, 1 Peter 2:12 says, “Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us”. So, we must neither be overly optimistic nor pessimistic about adapting to the cultural influence.
Also, while studying the scriptures, before interpreting a verse, we must give due consideration to the context, cultural habits, historical and social background during Biblical times, applying common sense using our knowledge of language and grammar and also understanding the poetic and figurative statements in the Scripture. In view of all we discussed, discern yourself as to how to accept couples who choose a live-in relationship. There are no perfect Christians, as we all live in a fallen world because of sin. Never be judgmental on people’s choice.
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