I recently read an article in Relevant Magazine about sex outside of marriage. It gave traction to something that I have seen more and more in ministry over the last few years. I’m amazed at how many Christians either don’t know what the Bible says about sexuality or don’t see its value for their life. The flip side of this is how many individuals as well as couples I have met with and tried to help them work through the consequences of these decisions. Most people don’t think twice about living the way the world sees as normal when it comes to sexuality. Even those people who are Christians and seem to be living out their faith. The heartbreaking part is when they realize what that actually means for them in the bigger picture. This realization usually happens a few years down the road during the first couple years of marriage.
The fact is that God’s way may seem outdated to our media dominated culture. But God designed sex and is the only one that knows how to get the most out of it. The Relevant Magazine article showed that according to a study conducted by The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, 88 percent of unmarried adults (ages 18-29) are having sex compared to 80 percent who self identified as evangelical. An 8 percent difference for those who call themselves Christians? Clearly, those who claim to surrender to God sure haven’t trusted Him in this area.
While there is plenty in the Bible to cause a person to be abstinent for obedience in God alone, there is also plenty of stories to back this up.
“Studies have shown if you have multiple physical relationships that then break up, you damage your ability to form a long-term commitment. You train your brain to only do short-term. Those people who are having sex outside of marriage, but still want to have a solid, successful marriage someday, are making it that much harder for themselves.” Joanna Hyatt, director of Reality Check
Don’t Try This At Home
One of the quotes stood out to me in particular,
“What would [happen] if we actually knew that talking about sex wasn’t a bad thing, that it’s not ‘naughty’ and that we don’t have to be embarrassed when we say the word ‘sex’? What would happen if Christians talked really openly and honestly about sex and about God’s intention and design and purposes [for sex]?” Carissa Woodwyk, licensed counselor and author
This reminds me of a sermon that I preached awhile back on rekindling love in a marriage. In it, I mentioned the fact that our small group makes it a regular part of our separate discussion time with the guys and girls to talk about sex in our marriages. The guys can help the guys and the girls can help the girls. My point was that if we aren’t willing to talk about how that area is going, then we cannot expect for it to magically be healthy. And when your sex life isn’t healthy it will have drastic affects on the rest of your life. My point was the same as Carissa’s, namely that as believers we must talk about this and make sure that we are trusting God’s way in this area.
I hoped that my small group example would encourage people to invite God into this discussion. Instead, I learned that collectively people have no tolerance for this discussion. I have never had more negative feedback from a sermon than from that one. I was stunned by this response. I did get a handful of people who found it helpful and liberating to talk about. But the ones who adamantly didn’t continue to leave a mark on me. I can’t think of another area that causes me so much grief and sadness when I look at the decisions that people make.
There were a couple suggestions in the article that I think we should aggressively adopt. The first is an idea for people who have already stumbled in this area. To again quote Joanna Hyatt, “I absolutely think we should encourage ‘renewed abstinence.’ You cannot talk about sex within the Christian community without also [mentioning] God’s grace.” If you are not married but are not a virgin, please don’t give up on yourself and agree to more of the same. Commit to renewed abstinence and save sex for when you are married. While there will be realities that you will work through from the past decisions, God’s grace is unbelievable and He is ready to take you on a new journey of experiencing His goodness from this point on.
The reality is that sex outside of marriage is an indicator that we are looking for something other than God to fulfill us and meet our needs. As the anthropologist and author Dr. Jenell Williams Paris concludes, “Holiness, in its fullness, means living a life centered in our love of God. It means living out our sexuality in the love of God–instead of [through] sexual feelings.” God is love, and it is only THAT love that can fill us.
God is the only thing that can fulfill you and leave you satisfied. Sex outside of marriage is a never-ending quest of disappointment and disillusion. God has something better for all of us if we would only trust Him. Sex within marriage can be one of His greatest blessings and one of the closest parallels to the love that He has for us.