Many unmarried couples who have a sense of morality struggle with the issues of sexuality. On one hand, their upbringing, social consciousness, or religious teachings have taught them that sex before marriage is wrong or sinful. On the other hand, they are inundated on a daily basis with sexual images, sexual talk, and encouragement from peers to have sex. Let’s face it; we have become a sex-saturated society. This society puts enormous pressure on couples to have sex and even ridicules them for not having sex.
I applaud the couple who wants to wait. I understand the struggle to figure out “how far is far enough?” it is difficult to place limitations on sexual intimacy while trying to develop a life-long, emotional bonding at the same time.
The purpose of this article is to help engaged couples in their determination to wait for sex until their wedding night. It will offer help in two areas. The first is the moral, intellectual, and emotional side of the issue. The second area will be on the more practical side. If you are not engaged I want to specifically encourage you to read the article Why Did God Place Moral Boundaries Around Sexuality?
I am specifically speaking to the engaged couple right now. Let’s face the most important issue right upfront. Unless you have a moral basis for abstaining from sex until marriage there are going to be few effective arguments for waiting. That sounds a bit fatalistic, but it isn’t that way at all, it is cutting to the chase.
The mantra of the current culture is, “Why do we have to have a piece of paper to make it right.” Or “We love each other, that is all that matters.” While these proclamations of liberation from society’s so-called “Victorian attitudes” might sound good on the surface they basically stem from a good old-fashioned lack of morality. They don’t say it, but the question is there, “who said it was wrong to have sex before marriage?” Who indeed?
The real question then is: Did whoever say, “don’t have sex
outside marriage,” have the authority to say it?
If the idea that sex outside of marriage is just some arbitrary moral code from a bygone era of a sexually repressed society, then your opinion is as good as mine or anyone else’s. The real question then, is: Did whoever say, “don’t have sex outside marriage,” have the authority to say it?
For the couple that is struggling with the issue, the question is one of morality. The question must be settled. Was it some man 500, 1000, 2000, or more years ago who just decided one day that sex outside of marriage was a bad idea and it caught on? If so, that man has no more authority than you or me. We could create our own philosophy and promote it (and many do). Or did the idea that sex outside of marriage was morally wrong come from a different source?
Most people who are struggling with the issue have at least a vague idea that the moral taboo on sex outside of marriage came from God Himself. If that is the case, then does God have the right to tell you to wait? Ah, the $24,000 question. You see, the first question to ask is not, “should we or shouldn’t we,” the first question to ask is, “what do I really believe about God and His Word, the Bible?”
So the question is, “What do you believe about God.” Does He have the right to say, “Thou shall not?” And if He does, does He have the authority and wherewithal to back it up?
If you answer, “No, He doesn’t,” then you are free to stop reading here, because nothing else I say really matters. However if you have to answer, “Yes God does have the authority to say no,” then keep reading.
The reason why you should wait is very simple; God said, “don’t do that.” God was never a cosmic killjoy. Remember that sex was God’s idea. He created it with all the physical and emotional pleasures attached to it. Sexuality is one of the most powerful forces man has to contend with. Wars have been fought, crimes committed, fortunes lost, and lives ruined over this powerful drive common to us all.
God’s moral laws were given to man to protect him, not hinder him. For the man who wants to commit adultery, the commandment, “thou shall not commit adultery,” seems to be interfering with his personal freedom. But to the wife who has committed herself to, and a family that depends on that man, the same commandment is a source of security, love, and protection. God, knowing the destruction that immorality causes, gave man a moral code to keep sex inside of marriage as a protection to us.
The logical conclusion of rejecting the divine authority behind morality is absolute chaos. If it is not morally wrong to have sex with whoever I want, then it is not morally wrong to rape, kill, cheat or steal, because the same source said, “Don’t” to all of them. “Oh but those are different,” we might hear someone say. Are they? How is it possible to ignore the ones we want to and subscribe to the ones we want to? That simply makes morality subject to every person’s own idea. If that is the case we have no right to tell someone not to steal from us because his right to moral interpretation is as valid as ours.
There really is only one legitimate reason to wait. God said it would be detrimental to our souls if we sinned and continued in sin. Although there are many references in the Bible, two verses should suffice to explain God’s position on the issue:
“Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous.” Hebrews 13:4 (Emphasis mine.)
“But people who are cowardly, unfaithful, detestable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars will find themselves in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur. This is the second death.” Revelation 21:8 (Emphasis mine.)
It is not just about sex, it is about
your spiritual wellbeing
The reason people do not want to obey God is that they are more concerned about their temporary pleasures than they are with their eternal souls. I recently saw a poster that puts this into perspective, it said, “We are not human beings going through a spiritual experience, we are spiritual beings going through a human experience.”
Our world concentrates on physical things. However, in the grand scheme of things, our bodies (and the pleasure that is associated with them) are temporary and our souls are eternal. Which part of ‘you’ should you really be looking out for; the temporary part that will die or the permanent part that will live forever somewhere?
The whole message of the Bible is that we focus on the spiritual part of our being. Our physical bodies need to be checked and controlled. We discipline ourselves with diets when our bodies would rather enjoy that extra piece of chocolate cake. We go to the gym and work out, all the while our muscles are screaming at us to stop abusing them. We get up early to go to work day after day when we would rather sleep another hour. We can also say no to our bodies when they want sex.
The real issue is that sex is very powerful, and it is fed constantly by the society we live in. Isn’t it funny about peer pressure? Society encourages and applauds our efforts to discipline our body with diet and exercise, but indulges in much more destructive behavior. However, the stakes are a lot higher, spiritually speaking. God didn’t exactly pronounce judgment on the extra piece of chocolate cake, did He? Is not your soul be worth the extra effort? It is, and if you didn’t think so you probably wouldn’t be reading this article.
Violating your own moral code produces
emotional and spiritual turmoil
If you start with what you believe about God and look there for answers you will be a lot happier person. The reason for this is because every person has a built-in moral code and a conscience that tells us when that code is violated. When you violate your own code you feel guilt. Guilt produces emotional stress and causes you to act and react in certain ways; usually not good ways either. You can not have a belief system and live contrary to it for long. Your belief system or your conduct will have to change. The tension is just too great.
The next thing that happens, if you continue to violate your built-in moral code, is that you will have to stop doing what you know is wrong or you will start to shut out your conscience to the point where it no longer bothers you. The Bible calls this, “hardening your heart.” When this happens it opens the door to other conscience-violating behaviors (sins).
Spiritual turmoil and devastation also come with violating our own moral code. First, from a religious standpoint if you believe what you did was sin you are going to feel legitimate guilt. You will need to repent and stop sinning or else your spiritual experience will come to a grinding halt. If you think God is upset with you about the issue, you will probably start to shut Him out. Nobody wants to hang around someone they are at odds with. Bible reading, prayer, and church attendance slow to a halt; usually not all at once, but over a period of time. You will begin to feel that “people are judging you,” when in fact it is your own conscience that is the culprit.
I can not even count the number of people who have told me that they started out with a good relationship with God and then “fell away,” “drifted off,” “got into sin,” “backslid,” (their words) only to return to God years later with broken marriages, addictions, dysfunctional families and more problems then they can handle. While God certainly forgives, there are also painful consequences to disobeying God’s express commands regarding morality. Many couples have sabotaged their own spiritual lives by failing to wait for sex until their wedding night.
Another reason God placed sex within the bonds of marriage is because of the spiritual covenant that was created by the wedding vows. For more on the ideas behind the spiritual marriage covenant read the article Why Do We Make Marriage Vows.
From a practical standpoint here is some advice I give unmarried couples:
1. Talk with your fiancé about these issues. Waiting until the pressure is on, the lights are low and the clothes start coming off is not the right time to have a discussion about how far to go. Discuss your beliefs and commit to each other to wait. Pray about how far is too far and determine with each other and God to draw some boundaries in advance.
2. If you really love the other person you will not want to jeopardize their spiritual life and eternal wellbeing with your own need for sex. So the old manipulation, “if you loved me you would,” just doesn’t fly. If they loved you, they wouldn’t pressure you to do something that violated your conscience and could potentially destroy your soul.
3. Sex before marriage is like any other sin. God has promised you the power to overcome any temptation. You need to continually pray for God’s power and will in your lives.
4. Develop your spiritual relationship as well as an emotional one. Pray, study the Bible, and go to church together. Get involved in ministry opportunities. Understanding one another spiritually and getting on the same page spiritually are two of the greatest assets to a healthy marriage there are. Many marriage problems are caused by a lopsided spiritual relationship. Spirituality should be central to our lives, not secondary. Don’t wait until you’re married to deal with this important issue. Grow together spiritually as well as emotionally for a long and successful marriage.
5. Develop accountable relationships with one or more key individuals or couples. Your pastor, church leaders, or other solid Christian friends can help you with your determination to stay sexually pure until your wedding night. Share with them your commitment to remain pure and give them the right to ask you how well you are doing. The temptation is more easily overcome when you know someone might ask you tomorrow what you did last night.
6. Don’t be embarrassed or intimidated by the opinions of peers or co-workers. You have a right to make the right choices and you have nothing to be ashamed of by deciding to wait. I am sure a lot of people wished they would have waited.
7. When a couple gets engaged they are likely to spend more alone time together. This is somewhat natural as emotional bonding, planning for the future and personal intimacy starts to increase. Sex seems like a natural part of the process, and it is, but still only within the bounds of a spiritual covenant. Couples will need to understand that the more intimate time they spend together the stronger the temptations will be to have sex. Kissing and cuddling easily leads to fondling, foreplay, and intercourse. If you are having trouble in this area you will need to purposely create some boundaries. You may want to limit the amount of “alone” time you have. One way to do this is to go to public places where you can talk and have fun. Quiet restaurants, parks, a sidewalk cafe, or other similar places can create a romantic and semi-private atmosphere for intimate, non-sexual conversation while providing enough “exposure” to keep things from becoming sexual.
8. If you slip, stop and ask for forgiveness and spiritual strength to remain disciplined. Don’t give up. Recommit, get some accountability and keep going.
God created marriage and sex. He totally understands the issues; talk to Him about it. God is not a cop with a nightstick waiting to catch you doing something wrong. He is your loving heavenly Father who wants the very best for you and is willing to help you any way He can. He gave you guidelines and boundaries so you could enjoy life to the fullest and He offers His own grace and power to help you remain faithful to Him.