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Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. (Gen. 2:24)

Because of sexual immorality, let each man have his own wife, and let each woman have her own husband. (1 Cor. 7:2)

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Throughout history, across all kinds of societies, marriage has been recognized as the bedrock of a civil society. The commitment between a man and woman to work together in a permanent arrangement to raise the next generation promotes social cohesion and human flourishing. When that commitment collapses, whether through widespread adultery, divorce, or casual sex, an orderly society crumbles. 

That's why the rise of cohabitation as an acceptable alternative to marriage in our society in recent years should raise an alarm. Young people are especially open to the idea of a couple moving in together "to see if they're compatible." It seems to make sense: What's wrong with living together before marriage, if it allows us to see if we're "right" for each other? Celebrities who proclaim their Christian faith see no contradiction between their profession of loyalty to Jesus, and shacking up with their lovers. If a couple love one another, isn't that enough? 

Marriage is not just a legal formality. It is a commitment made before witnesses to bind a couple together in a permanent relationship for life--for better or worse, in sickness or in health, for richer or poorer, forsaking all others until death. It is the ultimate example of human companionship, of having a friend who will stick with you no matter what. In marriage, I know that my partner will always be there for me regardless of circumstances. More importantly, I learn the discipline to always be there for my partner, even when it's not easy. Humanity cannot survive in the absence of this bedrock of immutable faithfulness between a parenting pair. 

Cohabitation, on the other hand, is, by definition, based on an implicit understanding that either party can walk out at any time for any reason. There are no strings tying them together. The very refusal to get married is a unspoken testimony to the selfishness inherent in the relationship. Yes, it's satisfying to bed down with my lover at night; but will she/he still be there in the morning? I really can't know, because there is no commitment. 

The difference could not be more stark. In marriage, the relationship is based on sacrifice; each party is committed to making the relationship work, even at great personal cost to themselves. In cohabitation, the relationship is based on selfishness; each party stays in the arrangement as long as they get something out of it; otherwise, they are free to bail.

Which philosophy makes for a happier, more stable society?