Are opposite-sex roommates or housemates biblically allowable? Financial and social struggles lead many singles to consider rooming with friends of both genders, but Christians often wonder whether this is wise.
For the purposes of this article, we will refer to “roommates” as those who share the same living space but who maintain a strictly platonic relationship with no romantic or sexual overtones. Sexually involved roommates are clearly in violation of God’s commands (1 Corinthians 6:18). But if a man and a woman enjoy each other’s company, have healthy sexual boundaries, and would both benefit from sharing a house or apartment, is there a clear biblical commandment against being roommates? What if there are more than two people in the house or apartment, does that make any difference? Or what if the living arrangement is only intended for a few months or a year, not for a longer term? How can Christians go about discerning the best way forward in their particular situation?
Living arrangements were different when the Bible was penned, so no clear-cut command exists to address having an opposite-sex roommate in any given scenario. However, that does not mean that there are no biblical principles we can apply. When we know God and seek to please Him, we want to know more than the bare minimum. We want to hear His every whisper and seek to obey it.
In considering the issue of opposite-gender roommates, we should examine the following passages:
1. Romans 13:14 says, “But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts” (NASB). To “make provision” means we put ourselves into situations that our weak flesh may not be strong enough to combat. A 14-year-old boy and girl lying alone in the dark “watching a movie” are making provision for the flesh. They have put themselves in a compromising position where emotions and availability can combine for sinful effect. So when two people of the opposite gender who already enjoy each other and get along well move in together and play house as though they were married, they may be creating a situation neither expected. A girl walking through the house with only a towel wrapped around her may create unwanted desires in her roommate. A friendly comforting hug from the guy when she is upset can easily turn into more in the right atmosphere. A question that all opposite-sex roommates must answer honestly is this: might we be making provision for the flesh in placing ourselves in such an intimate living situation?
2. First Corinthians 10:31–33 says, “Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. Give no offense either to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God; just as I also please all men in all things, not seeking my own profit but the profit of the many, so that they may be saved” (NASB, emphasis added). This is the kind of verse that separates carnal, baby Christians from those who truly desire to honor God. This verse frees us to limit ourselves, not by a list of Do’s and Don’ts, but by the law of liberty (James 2:12). To “give offense” is to be a stumbling block; that is, to hinder someone’s walk with God. The natural questions to accompany this verse are these: by having an opposite-sex roommate, might I be hindering someone’s walk with God? Will those who know I am a Christian believe I am committing sexual sin by living with this person? Would we be “giving offense” to our families, our Christian friends, or our mentors? Are we glorifying God by living together as opposite-sex roommates?
3. An even stronger warning about offenses was given by Jesus in Luke 17:1. “Things that cause people to stumble are bound to come, but woe to anyone through whom they come.” God takes it very seriously when someone causes an unbeliever or baby Christian to turn away from truth and violate his or her conscience, and we should take it seriously, too. God holds us responsible to limit our own freedom in order not to cause others to stumble as they make their way toward Jesus. So the obvious question to ask ourselves is this: might my taking in an opposite-sex roommate limit my effectiveness as a Christian witness?
4. First Thessalonians 5:22 says, “Abstain from all appearance of evil” (KJV). Some translations use the word form or kind rather than appearance, but the basic meaning of the verse is the same. This is a warning to avoid evil altogether. Being aware of our witness to the world and of our duty to support fellow believers, we stay far away from anything that could lead us or others to sin. Suppose a person is walking along the very edge of the Grand Canyon, assuming that he will not fall over the side. But that assumption is foolish because it’s based upon factors outside his control, such as wind gusts, shoe malfunctions, dizziness, and rock slides. First Thessalonians 5:22 instructs us to keep far away from the edge of the canyon so that we won’t be toppled by factors outside our experience or expectation. We should be aware of our own tendencies toward sin. Rather than flirting with what could lead us into sin, we should take preventative measures to avoid sin. Questions we should ask are, is there anything about living as opposite-sex roommates that has the appearance of evil? Will people who do not know us well assume that we are living in sexual sin—and will that hinder our witness?
For those who profess faith in Christ, lifestyle decisions often illustrate the validity of that profession. Culture speaks with a loud voice, but it always has. Believers hear the voices of Culture and Reason and Expediency, but they are more attuned to the voice of God in their lives. Jesus has called us out of the culture, to live extraordinary lives filled with surrender, struggle, and self-sacrifice (Matthew 10:34–39; Romans 12:1–2). When we ask Him to rule our lives, then everything we do must pass His inspection. He does not settle for simply getting a vote in our decisions. Lordship is not a democracy. He is either Lord, or we are (Luke 16:13). When faced with ambiguous situations, we can still find answers in His Word if we truly want to find them.