Our culture is losing the understanding of what marriage was designed to be. We live in a world that says we should get what we want any way we can get it. In fact, marriage today is often mocked as an archaic institution that has lost its relevance.
It is important to realize that marriage is not a man-made concept, rather its a God made institution, and as such is relevant today for all people. God created Adam in his own image, giving him everything he needed to be content. And yet, God said, “It is not good for man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him” – Genesis 2:18. So God created Eve and brought her to Adam. The first marriage occurred when God created a woman to complement the needs of the man so that, when joined in covenant, they become one flesh. The idea of “one flesh” implies an unbreakable seal meant to last a lifetime.
The truth is that this covenant relationship brings with it certain privileges that are unique to the marital relationship itself. Even coming from out of the secular academia it doesn’t take long to discover what they are discovering about marriage. Research suggests that the conventional wisdom that married people live longer and are healthier than singles may be true. In fact studies have shown that married people, especially us guys, are less likely to die early and are less likely to die from a heart attack. Yes, us guys are pretty wimpy without our wives.
Other studies have even shown that there’s much less risk-taking and substance abuse when couples marry – even less than if they just move in together.  It’s because marriage brings two people into an intimate relationship who add moral, spiritual, social and emotional support and companionship together into what could otherwise be a lonely and unhappy life. Being unhappy and alone could lead to depression and a neglecting of one’s health. Of course this doesn’t mean single or divorced people automatically are depressed or neglect their health, and in fact can be very happy and balanced in their lives. But it is interesting what these studies are beginning to show and so shouldn’t be dismissed readily.
The benefits continue in a marriage. Marriage can bring faithfulness, companionship, communication, spiritual unity, and a freedom of sexual intimacy, “It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman. But since sexual immorality is occurring, each man should have sexual relations with his own wife, and each woman with her own husband.” – 1 Corinthians 7:1-2. God designed sex to be enjoyed within the boundaries of marriage.
As Christians I think its important to revisit the privileges and benefits of marriage. I began this blog by saying that our culture is losing the understanding of what marriage was designed to be. The sad truth is that the loss of understanding isn’t only happening in the secular culture, it is beginning to be lost in the Christian culture too.
For example, 20-30 years ago it would have been uncommon to hear of unmarried Christian couples living together before marriage or even travelling alone together on vacations. But today it isn’t only common but is at a place where those who speak against it are viewed as old fashioned prudes. But are there any biblical reasons why we need to rethink these ‘freedoms’?
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Should Christians Live Together Before Marriage
I have had a conversation or two over the years regarding the question of (Christian) couples living together (or not) before marriage. I’m not speaking here about living together as room mates – rather I’m talking about living together as a ‘couple’.
The argument has been made that marriage as we know it today is simply an outdated public declaration of a commitment already made before God to love the other member in the relationship so why the need to ‘publicise’ it through a ceremony? A challenge often made is to show where in the bible it says that living outside of marriage is actually living in sin. To be clear, the Bible makes no statement to definitively answer that challenge. Perhaps the reason is that the arrangement of unmarried people living as husband and wife was relatively rare within the Israelite culture of the first century.
Even still, while the Bible seems silent on this issue, we can still glean the principle that any sexuality outside the marriage of one man & one woman is quite clearly sin by looking at the totality of God’s word. Several passages from God’s word declare God’s prohibition of sexual immorality (Acts 15:20; 1 Corinthians 5:1; 6:13,18; 10:8; 2 Corinthians 12:21; Galatians 5:19; Ephesians 5:3; Colossians 3:5; 1 Thessalonians 4:3; Jude 7).
Since the only form of lawful sexuality is the marriage of one man and one woman (Genesis 2:24; Matthew 19:5), then it goes without saying that anything outside of marriage, whether it is premarital sex, fornication, adultery, homosexuality, or anything else, is unlawful, in other words, sin. And living together even as a ‘committed couple’ before marriage definitely falls into the category of fornication – sexual sin.
Hebrews gives us the honourable state of marriage: “Marriage should be honoured by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral.” – Hebrews 13:4
This verse draws a clear distinction between that which is pure and honourable – marriage – and that which is sexually immoral, which would be anything outside of marriage. Since living together outside of marriage falls into this category, it is definitely sin.
Should Christians Travel Together Before Marriage
In the New Testament we read a very telling passage, “But whoever has doubts is condemned if he eats, because the eating is not from faith. For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.” – Romans 13:23. So what is Paul saying here? If you think this is speaking only about a doughnut, then you’re not reading it in its context. The principle here is that if there is any doubt whatsoever whether an activity is right – in our case travelling together as a married couple though unmarried, or even as a couple who may be attracted to each other thus putting themselves in a position of temptation – it should be avoided.
My dad used to say ‘if in doubt – don’t’. Unfortunately it seems that more and more Christians aren’t considering the doubts or for that matter haven’t even thought about the fact that there should be some doubts. Instead they are finding it easier to buy into the non-Christian philosophy of individual freedom trumping moral obligations and so haven’t considered the ‘don’ts’ and instead just go ahead and do the ‘do’s’. However, just suppose for a moment that there might be a doubt or two… if that is true even a little, should that not morally obligate us to at least consider what those doubts are?
For Christians, an unmarried couple who engage in ‘pre-marital’ vacations is a scenario that must be weighed carefully. If it includes travel to a location where they will be alone as couple, then some heart searching questions must be honestly asked: What message is being sent to others? What temptations are being presented? What said or unsaid messages are being passed between the couple themselves? What expectations may be understood or misunderstood between the couple? Are there certain privileges being shared in any way that should be reserved for marriage, even if they are none sexual in nature?
Am I just being an old fashioned prude? I don’t think so because of what Ephesians tells us, “But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people.” – Ephesians 5:3 (NIV).
Ultimately, anything that even “hints” of sexual immorality is inappropriate for someone who claims to be one of God’s holy people. The question then becomes what may be that ‘hint’ in your life or mine? If there is even a hint then we should heed the instruction of Paul, “And flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.” – 2 Timothy 2:22
The goal of a christian marriage is to help the other grow more and more into the image of Christ – the greatest benefit of all. The question needs to be asked then, whether you’re pre-married or have been married for 75 years… Are my actions and decisions getting in the way or are they aiding in making that happen in their life?
 Christopher Fagundes, PhD, psychologist and researcher at The Ohio State University (http://www.webmd.com/sex-relationships/guide/relationships-marriage-and-health)