Sex and Marriage: Last Questions

As we come to the end of this year, I also will finish up my two-year-long blogging on the biblical teaching of sex and marriage. I have a couple of other questions I’ve been asked by youth, so I want to address them specifically, before I finish. Question: “Would the two of you and my two parents be happy together whether or not the choice to abstain [from sex before marriage] was made?” Yes. Of course. Couples who have sex before marriage can be very happily married. God forgives all sin, and God can create new life again. “With God all things are possible.” But take note: it requires a repairing and healing. It becomes part of the baggage each couple needs to work through together. The more there is, the harder it is. It is kind of like driving to a vacation spot. More detours along the way makes the trip harder, longer, more expensive, more grueling and more taxing. How much better to make the journey the best way possible. The journey of marriage is difficult enough the way it is, without adding further complications! Having sex before marriage makes the marriage more difficult–not impossible or even less meaningful–just harder. The couple must go through a process of repentance and re-commitment to following God in obedience. Many (but not all!) couples I have interacted with who had sex before marriage regret it and wish they could do it over again. Not that they are any less happy, they just wish they had done it right. The consequences can be overcome, and often are, thanks to the empowering of the Holy Spirit. Many couples have shared that their regret is greatest when they have to confess to their own children that they did not follow God’s plan as they ought. How they wish they could be a better example. It is also harder to encourage your children to trust God with their sexuality when your own example doesn’t reinforce it. Question: “Perhaps also given a different set of standards, the social negativity towards promiscuity being removed for example, the decision to abstain or not to abstain becomes less meaningful.” What social negativity toward promiscuity? The culture I live in is negative toward social fidelity! Anyone not sexually promiscuous suffers all kind of negativity (ridicule, shunning, segregation, mocking, friendlessness, avoidance, etc.).  Yet the intention of your question suggests, I think, that sexual values of one’s society play a role in our sexual self-understanding. Well, I hope so! That’s why I am trying to create a social culture for my children that reinforces the biblical and godly values I know to be true. This is one of the key purposes and functions of the local church (the local Christian society). Nevertheless, I also don’t believe that the removal of social negativity frees people from the convicting of the Holy Spirit, or the negative consequences from which God is trying to spare us. I have seen this many times over. So many people who were raised in a sexual freedom don’t understand the deepening sense of guilt they feel. Their sexual experiences haunt them. They sense a being off track in their lives, they sense a lack of peace and feel dirtiness on the inside. They don’t understand it, and most of the time they try to keep right on going so they don’t have to notice it very much. They need to be informed that they are carrying around the consequences of what they have not known to be sinful lifestyle. Even people who for a time think they are fine end up at a later time processing the guilt that they have repressed. It is often like an illness. People begin to notice that something is wrong. For example, a person might begin to notice that they sometimes feel woozy, are tired, lack an appetite and so forth. They don’t think much of it until it begins to get worse, or more frequent. The person may try aspirin for a while, or some other self-medication. Finally, they end up at the doctor’s office. The doctor does some tests and informs the person that they have some disease. Once it is diagnosed, treatment can be administered. The person needs to be diagnosed before the treatment can be received. So too does this happen with people spiritually. Most people are going around with symptoms of their sin and separation from God. Most people don’t think much about it, and continue to get by, until it becomes just too bad. But at this point, most people self-medicate in a variety of ways. It is not until they are finally diagnosed of their guilt before God that they can then seek the treatment of His forgiveness. I would put many people in America in the self-medicating stage spiritually. So, I don’t feel that removing social negativity towards promiscuity would change the reality that it is wrong, harmful and leads to guilt and misery in one’s life. It may remove society’s correction (if any!), but it will not remove God’s.   Question: “Also, are the side effects of choosing to flee sexual immorality potentially just as harmful as the negative effects of promiscuity?”   What negative side effects of choosing to flee sexual immorality? I know of none. Perhaps there is the modest emotional frustration that comes when you deny yourself something you greatly desire (what Paul identifies when he says, “if you cannot control yourselves” in 1 Corinthians 7:9). But Paul’s advice is not to have sex outside of marriage, but to find a spouse to have sex with! (also 7:9) Earlier in that chapter Paul also says, “It is good for a man not to marry. But since there is so much immorality each man should have his own wife, and each woman her own husband.” (1 Corinthians 7:1b-2). Again, the answer is marriage, not sex before marriage. If you mean the oppression and negativity suffered from people who heap societal pressure to be sexually active (the difficulty of dealing with negative peer pressure), then welcome to being a Christian! We are different. We live a different way. What is wrong with sex saved for the marriage bond only? Who is hurt by monogamy? What pain is inflicted by celibacy outside of marriage? What wrong is inflicted by sexual abstinence? Even the most liberal experts of the natural sciences cannot find any negative biological side effects for celibacy and abstinence. At best, there may be emotional discomfort for not being sexually active when your hormones and society say it is normal to do so, or being ridiculed for being a prude, or a feeling of low self-esteem for not feeling sexually “normal.” But there are no negative biological consequences. In abstinence, there are no promises broken, no diseases contracted, no possibility of becoming a parent, no responsibility for a family or a bonded relationship, no child support to be paid, and none of the pain and destruction I outlined in previous blogs. Or perhaps you are saying it is bad to miss out on sexual pleasure. Yet, I would argue that the partial (physical) sexual pleasure that comes from sex outside of marriage is not the sexual pleasure God intends, and actually does more harm than it is worth. Even people who feel they want to have sexual freedom truly don’t experience the full joy and purposes of sex. What is wrong with not having sex outside of marriage? Nothing! What is right with having sex outside of marriage? Nothing! Quite logically simple, really. But then again, people don’t think about sex with their brains, but with their other sexual organs!   Trust/Obedience The basis of all my arguments for biblical sexuality is not really about human sexuality. It is about the greater issue of trusting in Jesus and committing to live for Him. If you do, you will willingly desire to live the way He wants. We trust in Jesus because we truly believe that His way is best and leads to abundant life. We don’t have to see it or understand it completely. What we do see and understand is confirmed in our lives and in our world. Understanding is confirmed in living. I see in my own life and those around me that God’s ways are always right and good. When people don’t practice God’s plan for sex, people suffer pain and heartache. When they do, they experience joy and life.   Marriage  Sex before marriage is also not about sex itself, but about marriage. It is about bonding and commitment. Sex before marriage tears down marriage. The basis for God’s teaching on sexual activity is embedded in the covenant of marriage and summarized in the prohibition against adultery. There is lots of good stuff to be had from the “Why wait?” curriculum, and the whole courting verses dating debate among Christians. See Joshua Harris (I Kissed Dating Goodbye) for example. Check it out!   Purity  The issue of sex before marriage is also about purity. God calls us to purity, holiness, perfection. Sex before marriage thwarts this calling in our lives.   Scripture  The Bible is the record of God’s acting in history for the salvation of people. It is not a rule book, listing dos and don’ts. It shows God’s heart and will, and invites all people into relationship with Him through His Son, Jesus. Yet it does list what a Christian life looks like, and that listing includes trust, obedience, purity, holiness, and sexual abstinence before marriage    Closing Thank you for persevering with me over these last two years. I have tried to answer all of the questions in a way that is clear and direct. Much of the conversation needs to be unmasked of all the wrong assumptions and the selfish bias that wants sex before marriage to be godly. I close with a verse from Hebrews 13:4, “Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral.”  Pursue the greater standard, the higher path, the better road. God’s plan is the best, and it releases the greatest blessing. Let’s pursue that! Happy New Year! Pastor David