Stuff Christians Believe That Really Aren’t True (Cohabitation), Part 2
I know Christians aren’t the most “sexy” types, but it’s important. In fact, it’s critical to interpreting biblical passages related to divorce and remarriage. In part one I revealed, historically, how we arrived at these conclusions and set the stage to answer the burning questions: Is divorce a sin? Is being divorced living in a state of sinfulness? Many Christians believe so.
But I think not. And sex has a lot to do with it.
Let’s begin with a critical question: When is a couple “officially” married? In man’s eyes the answer’s simple: it’s when the judge or preacher makes the pronouncement (“I now pronounce you husband and wife”). Everybody then claps, heads to the reception and enjoys the bubbly and cake. It’s Mr. and Mrs. Husband and Wife from this point forward. And yet there’s another obvious step: consummation (sex). Historically, various cultures have viewed the honeymoon as the “sealing” of the deal. In fact, a marriage isn’t a marriage without consummation.
Sex is the glue God uses to “join” two people who have committed to live together “until death parts.” It’s been that way since Adam and Eve. God knows human sexuality is best explored within monogamy (that’s His Purpose). Any perversion of this ideal and you miss the mark (which is a good working definition for “sin“). God’s desire and purpose for man and woman is to enjoy themselves–naked and unashamed.
The problem is sex has been perverted. The Greek word for “sexual immorality” is porneia. It’s basically “sex for sex sake” or wanton, selfish and lustful sexual activity. The biblical writers, writing under Divine Inspiration, will define porneia as any sexual activity outside the norm of heterosexual monogamy (adultery, homosexuality, incest, bestiality, among others). I know that’s not popular today, but I didn’t make the rules. God created humans and designed us (physiology) for monogamous heterosexual expression. Marriage was ordained as the sacred expression of God’s Design and Desire.
Sex can be experienced (or defined) in two ways: either animal or Godly. Animal sex (porneia) is non-committal, promiscuous and driven by lust (“having sex”). Godly sex is rooted to faithful binding commitments–spoken or even unspoken–and driven by love (“making love”). By this definition, you don’t even have to believe in God to express Godly sex. Furthermore, even the most righteous saint can fall prey to lust and animal sex. Godly sex can also happen without human endorsement, approval or certification and porneia can happen with it.
For hundreds of years, if a man wanted a wife he just went and got one (ex. Isaac). Jacob earned his wife through hard labor. Samson went through his parents. Solomon married multiple wives for political reasons (I Kings 2:17; 9:16). Most ancient weddings were reserved for the rich and royal (and lasted a week with plenty of wine, song and food). The average ancient couldn’t afford such matrimonial celebrations and the hoi polloi got hitched privately with a few witnesses, prayer and blessing. No certificates signed. The state was not involved. In fact, the state stayed out of marriage until the mid-centuries. The church didn’t even show interest until the fifth century. Marriage was a private affair.
Promiscuity is the real problem. Sex for sex sake is what’s condemned. Jesus once met a Samaritan woman by a well. She had a history that included five former husbands and a current live-in boyfriend. In Jesus’ discourse with this thirsty woman not once did he challenge her lifestyle as “sinful,” condemn her past divorces nor tell her to change (like he did the woman caught in adultery). Jesus could read hearts (and minds). Perhaps his silence on this Samaritan woman’s current relationship (which many Christians would tag as “living in sin”) was because she had finally settled into a committed relationship. No, she wasn’t married to the guy, but she was committed and that’s all that mattered.
I know this is a hard one to swallow (I struggle to type the following conclusion and fear plenty of criticism). Clearly fifteen centuries of Catholic guilt and Protestant shame have colored our thinking and jaded our feelings, but truth is truth. Perhaps cohabitation (even with sexual relations) is not the sin. After all, cohabitation suggests something deeper than promiscuous porneia. Cohabitation implies a commitment to do life together. The relationship may have started as lust (sin), but love bloomed and a relationship exists. Maybe it’s not “until death do us part” yet, but its on the way.
Am I encouraging cohabitation? By NO means. Marriage is like a castle with a mote. There’s security inside it. I think every couple should (and must) marry. If you’re a Christian the idea shouldn’t even be entertained or engaged (to avoid even the slightest hint of evil). But I do think the Church has bigger social sins to criticize than “living in sin.” Jesus didn’t condemn cohabitation and he could have (probably because it was rare inside Israel). Nevertheless, Paul encouraged the sexually active to get married (cohabitation was more common in the Greco-Roman world) and this Corinthian church, not to mention culture, was wrought with sexual dysfunction.
You see, sexual immorality is the real sin…not so much living together…and neither, as we’ll now discover, is getting divorced or being divorced.
TO BE CONTINUED…