Odds are that many of you who are reading this blog right now have either had premarital sex, are having premarital sex, or are thinking about having premarital sex.
Just look at the statistics:
- A 2002 government survey reported that 94% of American women and 96% of American men engage in premarital sex–as one article concluded, almost EVERYONE has sex before marriage
- According to a poll conducted by Time Magazine 10 years ago, 61% of frequent church attenders do not believe that it’s wrong for an adult to have sex outside of marriage. A recent Barna study confirmed this statistical range, also citing that over 60% of born again adults believe that co-habitation before marriage is also acceptable.
- In 2003, researchers at Northern Kentucky University showed that 61 percent of students who signed sexual-abstinence commitment cards broke their pledges. Of the remaining 39 percent who kept their pledges, 55 percent said they’d had oral sex, and did not consider oral sex to be sex.
- According to statistics in the book Forbidden Fruit: Sex & Religion in the Lives of American Teenagers (Mark Regenerus), Evangelical teens are actually more likely to have lost their virginity than either mainline Protestants or Catholics. They tend to lose their virginity at a slightly younger age—16.3, compared with 16.7 for the other two faiths. And they are much more likely to have had three or more sexual partners by age 17
Now statistics can be unreliable–we have no way of knowing just how the terms “evangelical,” “born-again,” or even “Christian” are defined in these studies. But even considering the margin of error, premarital sex is a big problem in the Church today. Just ask any pastor who does premarital counseling. I, personally, have a number of friends who are professing Christians but have no problem with it and don’t believe it is in conflict with their faith.
That said, I thought I should write a blog about a seemingly obvious truth that is not so obvious anymore: why premarital sex is wrong. And just so you know where I’m coming from, this is a point on which I have no room for argument. If you say you’re a Bible-believing Christian and you think it’s ok, you are wrong. There is simply no way around that fact. Scripture is clear.
(And if you don’t believe me, just go to biblegateway.com and search “sex.” Or if you’ve got the KJV version, look up fornication. That’s the old school word for premarital sex. It appears pretty frequently, and you’ll get the idea pretty quickly.)
However, for a lot of you it’s not enough to hear “because the Bible says so.” You need to be convinced that this is more than a matter of rule following. And I sympathize. Sex is hard to resist because, simply put, it’s awesome. We wouldn’t want to do it so badly if it wasn’t.
But what feels good now is not necessarily good later. My 6 year old self thought that my greatest good was to eat all the cookies that I could get my hands on in one sitting. My parents knew better. They knew that I would enjoy the cookies at first, but I would get horribly sick, and eventually horribly obese. But at the time, I was blind to the ways in which that instant gratification could make me sick, and we do the same thing with sex.
That said, we need to redefine our categories. Instead of thinking in terms of just right and wrong, we need to also think in terms of healthy and unhealthy, or spiritual life and spiritual death.
And that is what’s at stake here–your soul. Sure, it seems like a bunch of harmless fun, or maybe you really do care about the person you’re sleeping with and this is one way of showing them how you feel.
But God says otherwise. God cares about what you do with your body. And what we do with out bodies is very much connected to our souls.
Sex is not just a benefit of being married. It is an integral part of the way God designed marriage and our function within marriage. The reason being that marriage, as a whole, reflects the relationship between Christ and the Church. And what do we know about that relationship? That it’s defined by two things: intimacy and sacrifice.
Sex within marriage is the only perfect picture of the Christ-Church relationship because it incorporates both of those elements. In the same way that we only achieve intimacy with God as a result of Him first sacrificing His Son for us, intimacy between spouses should only come as a direct result of their sacrifice for one another, their willingness to lay their lives down for one another.
And this idea of laying yourself down for one another is not mere lip service. God didn’t casually mention one day, “Hey, I’ll be there when you need me. Just shoot me an e-mail.” No, He didn’t just tell us with words, He died.
Similarly, it’s not enough to claim, “But my boyfriend loves me and he WOULD do anything for me.” No, he needs to show it, just like Christ. And he needs to make this sacrifice in 2 ways:
1. He needs to sacrifice having sex with you before marriage. Scripture tells us that we are bought at a price, and this verse reminds us that anything worth having comes at a price. That said, when a man sleeps with a woman without “paying the price” of laying himself down for her in a marriage covenant, then he essentially cheapens her asking price. He wants the pleasure without the commitment.
And we do the same with Christ–we “pray the prayer” but we don’t want the commitment and the sacrifice that true discipleship entails. And when we do this, the intimacy we claim to have with Christ, or another, is nothing but a sham. Even if you and your boyfriend have lived together for years and you really love each other, you’ve still sold one another short, because he simply wasn’t worth waiting for.
2. He needs to sacrifice by standing before God, your pastor, your family and your church community, promising to lay himself down for you. In addition to this, he must subject himself to the continuing accountability of those witnesses, who will push him to put you before himself, to take on your finances, your debts, your cares and your hardships, even when he doesn’t want to. In so doing, he lays down his own interests and puts yours first. Only then, having gone through the sacrifical marriage ceremony, does he have the freedom to engage in full intimacy with his wife in a way that mirrors Christ’s relationship with the Church.
With all of that in mind, we come to the key reason why premarital sex is not just wrong, but spiritually poisonous: IT TELLS A LIE ABOUT GOD. It proclaims the lie that intimacy, as God has defined it, is not worth sacrificing for.
That said, you cannot build true, long-lasting intimacy upon a deception about the nature of intimacy. What you have with your girlfriend or boyfriend might be special, but that does not mean it reflects the heart of God. Even if you get along great and never fight and you think that you’re soulmates, you are sewing seeds of destruction into the relationship when you have sex before marriage–you are sewing seeds of impatience, lack of self-control, disrespect, lust, and idolatry. And even though you don’t see it now, those seeds WILL come to fruition.
And that is why I plead with you, not as someone who is lily white in this area, but as someone who has seen the destruction that sexual immorality leads to in my own life–flee from it! Run as fast as you can! Your life might be good now and you might think you’ve got it all figured out–maybe you even think you’ve pulled a fast one on God, that you’ve figured out a way to work the system and get what you want without the consequences. But you will be shocked and regretful 10 years down the road to realize the ways in which your decisions have corroded your soul, your relationship with God, and your relationship with your sexual partner.
Remember, sex is an act of worship because it reflects the character of God. But it is not a thing to be worshipped, something worth compromising your beliefs and your lifestyle just to attain. I know the rationalizations and the justifications because I’ve used them myself, but they are all ultimately lies. There is only one foundation upon which you should build your future, and that is truth. Anything else will ultimately and inevitablely crumble.