cohabitation

How to Get It Right: Being Single, Married, Divorced, and Everything in Between

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How to Get It Right

Chapter 5: Common Law “Marriage” part I

And those who are in the flesh cannot please God. However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him. If Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, yet the spirit is alive because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you. So then, brethren, we are under obligation, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh—for if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live (Romans 8:8-13).

Two Become One:

For anyone who reasons, “If I become one with someone through sexual intercourse and we are considered as married, what’s the purpose of marriage? I don’t need a certificate to validate my relationship. In the sight of God, we’re already married,” I direct them to Jesus’ response to the Samaritan woman. In John 4:17-19, we read: “The woman answered and said, ‘I have no husband.’ Jesus said to her, ‘You have correctly said, “I have no husband;” for you have had five husbands, and the one whom you now have is not your husband; this you have said truly.’ The woman said to Him, ‘Sir, I perceive that You are a prophet.’”

There are a couple of items that need to be addressed. One, Jesus said that she stated correctly ‘I have no husband’ yet she had five husbands prior to her current common-law husband. If she is five times divorced and Jesus made it known that she didn’t have a husband, she is cleared of still being married post-divorce. Secondly, though she was entering into sexual relations with the one not her husband, Jesus did not consider that as validation of marriage in God’s sight. Her granted divorces were honored by God as no longer married and equally, her common-law husband wasn’t a husband at all.

We see continually that marriage is the place of covenant; the only place that God can and will honor sexual relations between a man and a woman. Sexual intercourse is to be kept holy as God intended. It is not for us to use as a tool to alleviate tension, validate a romantic relationship, or abuse in any capacity. Sex outside of marriage is a sin and extremely dangerous, much like a toddler with a butcher knife or loaded gun.

Biblical Dating?

The next question asked a lot among followers of The Way (Christ) is, “What is appropriate conduct in dating?” Let’s look at the next section of Bible passages:

Now concerning the things of which you wrote to me: It is good for a man not to touch a woman. Nevertheless, because of sexual immorality, let each man have his own wife, and let each woman have her own husband. Let the husband render to his wife the affection due her, and likewise also the wife to her husband. The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. And likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. Do not deprive one another except with consent for a time, that you may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again so that Satan does not tempt you because of your lack of self-control (1 Corinthians 7:1-5, NKJV)

The phrase “to touch a woman” is an idiom referring to “sexual relations.” Apto is the Greek word Paul uses for “to touch.” It has the sense of touch, cling, take hold of; to kindle as in “to kindle a fire.” It can mean any form of physical touch from light caress to actual sexual intercourse.

Paul continues with the word “nevertheless” which connects all that he is saying. Dating is a western practice that isn’t found anywhere in the Bible. This would lead me to believe that dating as we know it in modern western society is invalid. With Paul’s apt “nevertheless,” he instructs men and women to marry and then (as in post-marriage vows) conduct yourselves in any form of touch that is holy in the sight of God.

Many argue that there are numerous things not mentioned in the Bible yet that does not constitute then as sin and that is true for many things such as celebrating birthdays or things of that nature. However, with dating, there are Scriptures that specifically speak to relations between a man and woman that would directly negate the form of dating for which is common today. If “dating” simply meant spending quality time together getting to know one another, that would be acceptable, but all the excessive touching between unmarried couples is indeed sin.

Paul continues to instruct the married couple to not abstain from sex. Within marriage, the man and woman are no longer their own, they belong to each other. We can conclude from this one section of verses alone that touching within the confines of dating is not permitted. We all know that few, if anyone, will uphold God’s way of thinking, sad as the fact is. If you must date, keep your body parts, all of them, to yourself since the more two touch, the more they “burn” and are tempted to forget God and act in the flesh (literally and metaphorically), and will possibly lead to a marriage or some form of improper conduct that God never designed or ordained.

Living-Together Debacles:

Living together, having sex before marriage, merging households without marriage – these are merely common occurrences in the modern-day Babylon in which we live. We’ve set such a low precedence that no one, including Christians, seems to know right from wrong in any given situation, especially in the arena of romantic relationships.

As I’m writing this, I am currently involved with attempting to help two men out of their unholy unions with women not their wives. Both men feel so trapped that they struggle to see a way out. They’re all miserable because none of the four entered their relationships while in right standing with God; Yeshua was not consulted in the least. These men, because they’re living together in sin with their girlfriends, have wedged themselves into a role of father to their girlfriends’ children and husband to women not their wives. These four have basically been playing marriage all the while having no marital covenant – a recipe for disaster!

One fellow and his live-in girlfriend are both married to estranged spouses. He refused to get out of the relationship when it was suggested and, because he hesitated to do what was holy and helpful for everyone, he eventually became aggressive as they both would badger one another mentally, emotionally and physically. As a result, now he’s in jail. If only he’d been obedient to God so as to remove himself from an adulterous relationship, he’d not be in jail. He tried so hard to force something to work that couldn’t and it ended in a worse way than necessary. This guy was too worried about her kids because he was their only support that he missed God’s plan altogether.

Because of his emotional and financial ties to her children, he felt as though he couldn’t leave. So, he remained in an unhealthy, unholy, unhappy relationship and it ended more poorly than if he had just said, “This isn’t working. It isn’t right in God’s sight. We need to separate.” Fear became a factor; afraid of hurting her, hurting her kids, leaving them abandoned, etc. When fear is in play, wisdom cannot prevail. When fear is in action, God’s voice cannot be clearly heard or obliged. Because of placing himself in a situation that was against God, fear became the lead which causes nothing less than chaos and confusion.

The other gentleman has children and his girlfriend has a child; together they’ve lived for many years. He is acting as father to her child and she is acting as mother to his children. Now he’s trying to get his life aligned with Yeshua and feels stuck just like the other guy. He doesn’t hate her but he doesn’t love her. They can’t divorce because they’re not legally married and he feels trapped in his own home. He illegally positioned himself to become something (husband, father) he never was. They are “common law” married but, in the sight of God, they’re simply living illegally due to fornication and lack of covenant. He too is fearful of what will happen when and if he breaks the relationship as she and her child have nowhere to go.

My suggestion to them both would be to align themselves with God and, in so doing, pull the plug on the very unhealthy relationship, stop having sex, stop living together and recalibrate from there. Fear is a terrible thing but always comes into action when lives are not aligned with the God who has already overcome fear. Imagine if they both began to walk in surrender to Christ. They would no longer worry about the outcome, but only that they are living a holy lifestyle in accordance to God’s commands. By recalibrating their thinking from an earthly, fleshly perspective into a heavenly, godly one, all fears would calm and they would have faith to do what is correct trusting that Yahweh will work things out for all involved.

 Those who live in common-law relationships miserable and sometimes volatile are setting a very low bar of life for their kids. They currently worry that the kids will be hurt if they split, but I say that they’ll be hurt worse in the long run if they don’t make an immediate change. Doesn’t everyone want their children to grow in a home where the parent or parents are at peace, joyful, and walking in accordance to Christ’s will? Living together unmarried will always, in time, lead to misery. The only exception is when the couple repents, aligns with Christ and then moves forward.