My fiancé and I are planning to marry in June 2014. Until that time, we have made the decision to share a home and other resources with each other. She recently moved from another country and, as young people, we do not make enough money individually to be in comfortable financial situations. Furthermore, as young disciples in Christ, we find it advantageous to spend as much time together as possible in order to help each other to grow in the knowledge and grace of our Lord Jesus Christ (2 Pet. 3:18). I say this merely to point out that our rationale for this decision is an attempt to glorify God (Col. 3:17) and not a spontaneous decision driven by youthful foolishness. However, if what we are doing is forbidden by God, we are willing to repent of such conduct immediately (Acts 17:30).
As we search the scriptures to find out whether things taught for doctrine are correct (Acts 17:11), we find no Bible passages that either condone or condemn two people who are unmarried sharing a home. Of course, we are told that premarital sex is sinful (1 Cor. 6:9; Eph. 5:3; Heb. 13:4) and that we should flee sexual immorality (1 Cor. 6:18). My fiancé and I do all we can to flee such youthful lusts (2 Tim. 2:22). We do this not by attempting to control what is on the outside, such as circumstances and situations, but rather by changing our hearts and conditioning who we are on the inside. As Jesus pointed out in Matthew 5:28, if a man looks at a woman (he is not married to) lustfully, he has already committed adultery with her in his heart. Therefore, to flee sexual immorality, we must condition our hearts to the point that our love for God overwhelms any circumstantial temptations to stumble (John 14:15). My fiancé and I have lived together for the past six months and, because of this conditioning of the heart, have been successful at fleeing sexual immorality and had no temptation to fall into sin. If we are to take 1 Corinthians 6:18 to mean that two people who could potentially commit sexual immortality should not share a home, would we also make the assertion that it is improper for two men to share a home (1 Tim. 1:8-10)?
My fiancé and I understand the importance of shining as a light to the world (Matt. 5:14), not conforming ourselves to the world (Rom. 12:2), and being examples in speech and conduct to others (1 Tim. 4:12). These are three wonderful passages that we attempt to live by in all that we do. What makes such tasks manageable is that the Bible not only tells us to do these things, but also tells us how (2 Pet. 1:3; 1 Tim. 3:16-17). We strive every day to become the kind of Christians God wants us to be by obeying the "how" we are given in the New Testament, and never have we found any commandments that say two unmarried people living together is forbidden.
With that being said, we recognize that some individuals who know we are living together may make haste assumptions and consider it a poor example we are setting. Bearing this in mind, we are quick to explain that we are not engaging in any type of sexual activity because we love our Lord and desire to obey his commandments. We also urge any who view our example as a potential stumbling block of how important fleeing sexual immorality is and how we condition our hearts to do this.
Despite our best efforts to adhere to God's commandments regarding setting a proper example, we recognize that we can't possibly appear righteous to all men. Even Jesus appeared unrighteous to some of the Pharisees (Matthew 12). Some individuals at our local congregation have stated that they do not approve of our living arrangements. The congregation has chosen not to ask me to lead any of parts of the worship service because of our situation. This alone has not been a concern, as our congregation has several qualified men capable of leading the acts of worship and the service has always been conducted according to the example given in the New Testament. What concerns my fiancé and I is that, while we greatly appreciate the congregation's warnings and believe members did the right thing in approaching us (Gal. 6:1), we fear their stance is based on personal preference rather than God's teachings. As the Pharisees found out, teaching commandments that come from men as doctrine is worshiping Christ in vain (Mark 7:7). We fear that the congregation is judging us by our appearance rather than judging righteously (John 7:24). Please note that my fiancé and I are by no means trying to "point the finger" at others rather than accept blame. We are careful not to say with certainty that we are in the right (1 Cor. 10:12). However, no one has used God's Word to convince us that what we are doing is sinful.
Could you please provide biblical insight regarding what to say and/or do in this situation? Any and all help is greatly appreciated.
It isn't that the reasons why what you are doing is wrong hasn't been presented to you. The problem is that you don't accept the arguments and, therefore, mistakenly conclude that the reasons don't exist. I can say this because you list out many of the reasons why what you are doing is wrong, but turn around and dismiss them. See: Is living together, but not sleeping together, a sin? For example, you note Paul's admonition "Flee also youthful lusts; but pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart" (II Timothy 2:22); you claim that you "do all you can to flee such youthful lusts;" and yet you then tell me that you haven't done all at all. Instead, you have chosen to increase the likelihood of lust.
No, you are not setting an example of godly behavior for anyone. That you don't agree doesn't change the matter. You are not avoiding temptation, but instead keep it as an ever present companion.
"Test all things; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil" (I Thessalonians 5:21-22).
One of the major flaws in your reasoning is the artificial demand that what you desire must be specifically mentioned as forbidden before you will consider it wrong. For instance, Paul stated "Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God" (Galatians 5:19-21). Notice "and the like." Paul did not list out every possible sin or their numerous variations. God gave us minds and expects that we can reason out what are things similar to the things Paul mentioned. The whole of the Bible is like this. God gave "us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue" (II Peter 1:3). But He didn't say He told all the things we are not to do. See Reasoning from the Scriptures for more on this topic.
A second flaw is reasoning that it is impossible to meet the expectation; therefore, it is acceptable to not try. That has never been sound thinking. You note that the congregation disapproves; yet, you meet this with arrogance instead of humility. When multiple people point out that there is a problem, then you need to step back. Even if you don't fully agree, there is the requirement "submitting to one another in the fear of God" (Ephesians 5:22). The problem is that you cannot prove that what you are doing is righteous; yet the obligation is on you to do so. You also expect others to know what you do (or do not do) in private. Yes, they have your word, but it is insufficient because both of you have a strong bias. They are making the best judgment they can on the evidence they have available. They are not trying to read your minds or determine your motives. They aren't accusing you of fornication -- if they thought that was what you were doing, you would have been withdrawn from (I Corinthians 5:9-11). Instead, you judge them unreasonably, expecting them to do what people cannot do. You agree that people could make the assumption you are having sex, and then fault those who see the same thing and conclude that this is a danger to the reputation of Christ.