According to culture, living together before marriage is a good thing; after all, it helps you to see if you’re compatible with each other or not. It allows you to give the other person a “test drive,” as if he or she were just another car.
Well, culture is wrong. She’s not a car; he’s no car, either. When two people live together before marriage, having sex along the way, a dangerous cycle is started. The only time sex should occur is within the covenant of marriage (between one man and one woman). A covenant is a self-giving relationship between two people. You enter into a covenant in order to give yourself away for the good of the other person. Both people in the marriage covenant have to do this, by the way. When just one person makes sacrifices, then abuse might result. One person might take away what the other gives, without giving anything in return.
In fact, scientific, secular research has proven that living together before marriage is deadly. Why? Because you are not committing to each other, but you are testing each other. You are committing to whatever your idea of a good partner is, not to the partner himself. You treat each other like products, not people. You’re not giving yourself away, but taking away from the other person. You’re not accepting the person unconditionally, just how he or she is, but you’re seeing if the other person stands up to your criteria. If not, then you’ll find someone else. It’s all about you, in other words, which is the EXACT opposite of what a marriage covenant is. Living together is like a long (or not so long!) interview, where you can’t be yourself, you’re putting on a show, and you’re waiting for the other person to hire you at last. It’s demoralizing and exhausting, not refreshing or life giving.
Sex is supposed to be life-giving, by the way. It’s an expression of unity and commitment to another person, regardless of their “performance.” Sex is a way of showing another person that you’re committed heart, soul, mind, and body. It’s meant to be a way of being both fully known and accepted, just how you are, not a test of who you could be. It’s not meant to reveal who you aren’t but to validate who you are—whose you are.
I am not saying that it’s not possible for people who live together before marriage to have a lasting marriage. You might be one of them. But, it would be beneficial for you to ask yourself the difference between unconditional and conditional acceptance. How do you feel when someone else says to you, “Let me just test you out before I commit to you, to see if you’re worth committing to.” Instead, what if that same person said to you, “I accept you just how you are and I’m willing to commit to you through thick and thin, discovering who you are and loving who you are, even if I don’t know everything in advance. Why? Because you’re worth it to me.”
To live together before marriage is to base your love on performance. It’s cheap love and will not satisfy the longings of our souls. Nobody wants to be loved contractually or conditionally. “I’ll only love you if you do such-and-such, if you weigh such-and-such, if you make such-and-such, if you look such-and-such.” Rather, we long to be loved for who we are.
Jesus told the woman at the well that he could give her water that would leave her without thirst (John 4). When she begged him to give her some, Jesus told her “Bring me your husband.” She promptly told him that she had no husband. But Jesus already knew that she had had five husbands already, and that she was living with a man she was not married to. So why did Jesus talk about sex and relationships in the context of getting a drink?
Don’t you see? We often look to other people to satisfy our thirst, but no person can give us ultimate satisfaction. The woman was looking to men to satisfy her thirst for unconditional love and acceptance. Jesus knew it. Jesus was making it clear to her that she’d only be satisfied with the love that he could give her. All other men would let her down.
If we think that a relationship is all we need to be happy in life, then we’re wrong. God is all we need to be happy in life. When we demand from others that which only God can give, we turn them into a false god, and we become their worshippers. As their worshippers, they use us and abuse us, giving us nothing in return. False gods will only be happy so long as you perform for them, care for them, and sacrifice yourself for them.
Jesus, on the other hand, is the only God who sacrifices himself totally and completely for us. He makes a covenant of love with us, not demanding anything in return. His love is not cheap or conditional, but costly and committing. He takes us just how we are and makes us into who we want to become. That’s what God’s love does for those who drink deeply of it.
© Samuel Kee, 2012