I’ve been asked in past days about whether the standard that sex before marriage is wrong – that Christians must wait for marriage to have sex – might not be a cultural standard from biblical times that doesn’t apply in our context today. I don’t believe the argument that this is a cultural thing that is optional for today. I’ll explain.
There is much pressure to have sex these days in contexts other than that for which sex was designed. Allow me to be blunt. God created human beings in his image; male and female he created them. Then he instructed them to be fruitful and multiply, and created marriage as the context within which to fulfill this good command, saying it was not good for us to be alone.
And it is manifestly not good to be alone. Living alone, without a mate, is a special calling and gift that God gives to some that they might be devoted to the special work of this day of salvation. For most, and even for those who have this gift, being alone is a trial. I believe God can carry us through whatever trial we may face; but it is a trial. (There are other reasons that a special calling to be alone for a time, but I’ll leave that discussion for another day.)
Sex is an expression of the oneness, the union, that God creates when a woman and a man marry. As Christ said, “What God has joined together, let not man separate.” The point here is not to complain about the separations that occur so often in our society, but to note that God is the one who joins a man and a woman in marriage. Then, the man and the woman express this spiritual reality in the physical union of sex, having children, and being a family together. Sex between those whom God joins in marriage is an expression of his creative and fruitful image, the two being one and producing more like themselves as God is three in one and created us in his image.
Now, we all know that sex is about more than making babies. Let’s be honest. It is an amazing expression of love and intimacy (in its best expressions) that bonds the lovers together in a sense of intimacy that is deeply satisfying and encouraging. There is really nothing like being loved, and having that love demonstrated by another giving to you of themselves physically is an amazingly good thing. Similarly, there really is nothing like loving another, and giving of yourself to that one in a special way that demonstrates the uniqueness of your love for that person. These days, most Christians and many others understand that being promiscuous is not a good approach to life. But many waver on whether sex should wait for marriage. We have the technology! We can prevent pregnancy! Everyone else is expecting sex, and it seems like something I should want, so why not have sex with that special one that you are with?
The answer is simple. God didn’t make you that way. He did not make you or me for serial monogamy. He made us for the total commitment of marriage. Sex is an expression of that total commitment that naturally carries the potential of having a child. We see the shortcoming of having a child when there is no commitment to the family within which that child will be nurtured. However, when we can make sure there is no child… what’s the harm? Social mores come and go. They waft through the air like clouds in the sun, evaporating and storming here and there. God’s design is not like that. Do you trust him? That’s the question. Do you believe that life as God intended it to be lived is better than some other life that you can construct for yourself? Do you think you can escape the relational consequences of putting the physical expression of a marriage commitment ahead of the marriage?
The world may not end if you fall to the temptation to have sex before you marry. But your life will be less than the life that God intends you to have. Your choices will have consequences, and God will show you that you chose wrongly. Because he loves you. Cultures come and go, and to some extent we express our Christianity within culture. But in every culture, the temptation to use sex in some way that God did not intend it is strong. There are even ways to use sex within marriage in ways that God did not intend…. again, another day.
Do you trust God? When Eve saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. We make that same mistake, over and over again… not trusting God and doing what seems good to us. And we pay the price. Or rather, Jesus pays the ultimate price and we suffer some consequences. You are making a statement about who you trust by how you handle your sex life.