– Hi there! Can you explain to me what’s so great about marriage and saving myself? Won’t I be missing out on having sex with other people?
– Pastor Park, I am Christian as is my boyfriend. We are older and I have told him from the start that I do not want to engage in sexual intercourse before marriage. He seemed fine with it but every now and then pressures and or guilts me by saying that everyone does it but us. We have friends who are Christian and do it themselves but I cannot bring myself to do it. How can I convince him in a Christian manner that I do not want to because I think it is a sacred act?
Hey dear friends: So this is a very complicated issue that I know the world increasingly pushes away as old-fashioned moralism. I understand that most people will not see eye to eye on anything the Bible has to say about sex, and it’s in fact the very reason that most visitors think the church is an out-of-touch institution that polices our behavior.
But I strongly believe the more we look into God’s plan for us, the more it will make sense at the logical, emotional, physical, and spiritual level. If we can really think through why God would even give us this vision: it will win as the most sensible option.
Before making objections like “What about ___?” — please at least consider that fasting from sex until marriage could certainly work out for the mental and emotional health of the couple. It’s easy to just buy into the societal “norm” about sex and shrug off the Bible on this area, but I’ve seen (and been through) too many miserable sexual disasters to not at least speak up about this. Because I love you.
I know many will disagree quickly and say “Sex and morality are two separate issues.” While I do think sex has a moral dimension, I also believe it’s equally an issue of wisdom. God would only give us these sort of commands for a broken world if He knew the trouble that sex could cause — and if He also knew the best way to find maximum joy through it.
Sex has the power to be the most destructive or most joyful thing in the world. However you feel about the modern state of Christianity, I very much hope we can consider hearing (and following) what the Bible has to say on it. Please consider that most of us already have a predisposed bias to shutting this out as crazy church talk. Whether you admit it or not, you have a vested interest in wanting to have mindless sex. So let’s please drop our biases, even for a moment. God loves you and cares for you in this area, regardless of how the church fumbled the message on it. The heart of God is for you.
So a question upfront:
What else would we expect the God who loves us and knows what’s best for us to say about sex? What would a loving father say to his thirteen year old daughter? What would a loving mother say to her son? In fact: what would a fifteen year old brother tell his twelve year old sister?
A sidenote: If you’re being pressured into sex that you don’t want, whether you’re a Christian or not, please immediately draw safe boundaries and enforce your dignity as loudly as possible. Any unwanted sexual advance that violates your space is classified under sexual assault, and it’s a crime. Please consider that you’ll have to remove yourself from that situation, even permanently.
Another sidenote: I’m not the most qualified person to write on this because I’ve struggled with it my whole life. But by God’s grace, I’ve grown very much in this too.
As always, please feel free to skip around.
1) Premarital sex causes confused intimacy.
Physical sex was designed to bring a husband and wife closer together, to re-create and renew the covenant bond, to be absolutely vulnerable and give-all with one another.
When it’s done outside marriage, it will make you feel closer to the person than you really are. Several pathologies will result. You will bypass the biblical pace of intimacy — discovery, sharing, encouraging, prayer, self-control, honor, respect — and build a false connection on physicality. When you bypass God’s commands, you’ll soon become a half-formed, unrealized, virtual copy of yourself. Because God’s commands are how things work.
Since premarital sex has no guarantee of long-term commitment (and even if it did), any real intimacy is short-circuited by a pride to protect yourself or a desperation to “win” that person. So people break up like disposing trash or they stay much longer in a relationship than they should for the wrong reason. In church we call that bondage.
Objection: “What about trying out a person to see if they’re the right fit?”
Please know that this immediately dehumanizes a person into a shoe or a car. People are not shoes and cars. If a man came home with your daughter and said, “I need to test-drive her for a while, see if the sex is what I want” — how would you respond?
For some reason, women always become the abused property when we have no guidelines for sex. In any nation’s history, this has always been true. That should tell us something about “sexual freedom.” In a place where people leave sex unchecked, inevitably women always end up objectified, diminished, and tossed around like chattel.
If you think you’re “missing out on sex with other people,” I can tell you from firsthand experience that this is a baseless thought with zero grounding in reality. If anything, I regret all the women I’ve slept with. I have also never met one woman who didn’t regret the guys she slept with before she was married. If she says “I’m proud of it” or “I have no regrets,” she has pretty much brainwashed herself into denial about the dignity of her own body.
2) God shapes the vision of your spouse’s beauty on one spouse.
1 Corinthians 7:3-4 touches on this. As one pastor said, Adam only had one spouse and one vision of beauty: “It’s either Eve or aardvark.” Adam didn’t practice physical prowess with anyone else, nor did he have a catalogue to compare. When you have multiple pictures of so-called beauty in your life, it’s almost impossible to be satisfied with one wife or a million.
It’s only the tragic person who can never be satisfied with consistent stability. This is why porn is so destructive to marriages: it destroys a man’s desire for his wife if he has a buffet-mentality. The culture still celebrates fifty year marriages for this very reason: because the husband and wife dedicated themselves to one wonderful vision.
Objection: “What if I don’t want to get married and I’m just fine sleeping around the rest of my life?”
I’m just wondering if we’re all okay with settling for a cheap imitation of the real thing. I know: sex is hard not to do because it’s good. Of course it’s good and God knows that.
This is where we must look forward instead of looking back. I could tell you all the reasons why premarital sex is immoral, but let’s instead see God’s better plan.
When you have the covenant blessing of God, a commitment made in front of all parents and friends and family, a legal union made public to the world, a heart promised to your spouse forever, a bed that will only have one lover for life, a mind that is full of your spouse’s body as the standard for your desire, and the loving devotion of your spouse to sanctify and encourage and rebuke and know you as you really are — imagine that sort of sex. It’ll be the best sex imaginable. Anything else is a low budget, laughable, poorly assembled knock-off.
I also think celibacy is a great viable option if you’re called into God’s mission on something. But it’s very rare. Saying “All men are scum” and declaring celibate status won’t work well. It’s really for those commissioned for something unique, like Jesus or Mother Teresa or Shane Claiborne. *edit: Mr. Claiborne has a Mrs. Claiborne now.
3) There are psychological ramifications of premarital sex that are impossible to ignore.
If you’re having premarital sex, whether with a random person or your fiancé, this shows a lack of self-control and discipline. A lack of control now only explodes in marriage. You’ll bring all your sins into it, including that one. If you’re not good at budgeting, don’t clean well, raise your voice a lot, punch walls, and don’t like children, that doesn’t suddenly get cured by marriage. Neither does a lack of discipline with your body.
Also: If you have had premarital sex, you immediately know that sex becomes “part of the package.” You open a floodgate that God designed for marriage. When you choose against that, it’s easier then to throw away your body to half-known people or to strangers. The world calls this “freedom” but it’s really just slavery. You feel like you “have to” since you already did it anyway, or else the other person will leave you or dislike you.
Objection: “I already gave in so I might as well keep doing it.”
Here’s what so awesome about the God of the Bible.
He never, ever, ever calls it too late to turn away from unwise decisions and to trust in His goodness for you. God never says it’s too late to turn from your sin and trust in Him.
Certainly there will be some consequences for choices we have made. But that’s true for everyone: no one walks around with a baggage-free life, and God can work with that.
I’ve talked with so many people (including myself) who regret so many past grievances in their sexuality — and I’ll go as far to say that most peoples’ major regrets in life have to do with their bodies and expressions of sexuality. They feel hopeless, dirty, beyond redemption, used up, with a give-in sort of resignation.
But this is where God always meets us with grace and restoration and the gift of a new start. You might have tons of guilt and shame over this: but Jesus died for that very reason, to offer grace and healing for all the ways you’ve messed up. When you believe that, God calls you clean when no one else will. God calls you pure and new when the world says otherwise, when even you say otherwise.
This is where we begin to understand that purity is not something you fight for, but a gift that God gives you so that you’d fight from it. God can rewire your old patterns of thinking, and much of that begins by simply knowing you are now an adopted, re-created, bought-with-a-price child of God in Christ. It’s hard to think how you did before when you know the price that was paid on the cross and how much God sincerely wants you to be free from anything that hurts you.
You’ll also discover the sanctity of really getting to know a person beyond their physical chemistry.
If you’re a dude, I can almost guarantee that your girlfriend would be absolutely thrilled if you told her, “Babe, I want to save ourselves for marriage now. I’m really sorry about before. I respect that you’re a God-created human being and not just a body. I want to get you know you for who you really are.”
If you’re a girl, I can almost guarantee that if your boyfriend told you this, then you found a keeper, and every other dude would look like a scrub.
My friend, I encourage you to please keep seeking the answer on this one for yourself. For those who are committed to wait: I know it’s tough and it won’t be a perfect process, but please don’t let that be an excuse either. God will give you the grace to fight for your dignity. God will restore your purity from the past too. I’ve barely scratched the surface on this, and I pray you find that sex within marriage is the best possible sex you could ever have. Anything else by comparison, is no comparison.