Is it harmless to have you fun before you say “I do?” Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.
Recently, at Reclaiming The Mind, Michael Patton posted on the topic of if the Bible condemns pre-marital sex. His idea was “Yes.” Then shortly after that on TheologyWeb someone shows up who in the midst of his posting saying he is a Christian, starts saying Christ has no problem with sex before marriage and that the legalism of Christians on the issue is sickening. (Wouldn’t surprise me from what I saw if the guy was really an atheist.) There are a number of Christians who have questions on this issue. I figured I should throw in my own two cents.
To give a personal background, when I first lived in Knoxville, I had a circle of friends and around me, I saw people getting married. I was in a position of wondering if it’d ever happen to me. Many people I chatted with online knew that this was my perennial question. It was the great sadness I had in my life. When I went to Charlotte and got on Facebook while there, I saw many people I went to high school with had married and were having kids as well.
Ironically, I formed a new circle of friends, many of whom were in my wedding party. As it turns out, this time, I was the first one in my circle to get married. Allie and I have been married for nearly 2 and a half years. I was 29 when we married and she was 19. (I waited a long time. I tell her often she’s fortunate that she got something many girls dream about, a good husband, pretty much right out of high school) Add in that we both have Asperger’s, and that makes things even more interesting.
Sex is definitely an important part of a marriage. Some people might suspect that I’m going to say what some Christians give the impression of. Sex is something dirty and you shouldn’t think about it.
I’m a married man. I consider that practically blasphemy to say that about sex. It’s something special and awesome and wonderful. God created it. It was all His idea. He designed the parts, the system, and even the engine that runs it. The pleasurable aspect of it, He made for us.
Yes. God intends for us to enjoy this.
I also don’t want to say the usual stuff that we get. Most often we are told “You could get STDs,” or “You could get a girl pregnant or get pregnant yourself” or “You will have guilt for what you did.” First off, it’s true that you could get an STD or pregnancy outside of marriage could result, but what if that was eliminated, and to an extent it can be. Does that mean we no longer have an argument? Our stance must be on moral grounds and not just practical grounds.
As for guilt, some people do have guilt. Some don’t. We do a great danger to those who don’t because they could say “Wow. I had a really good time. The church was wrong about this. I wonder what else they’ve been wrong about as well?” After all, if guilt always resulted from doing something wrong, our society would not have the sin problem to the extent that it does. (Note that not feeling guilty does not mean one has not incurred actual guilt before God)
So now, eliminating STDs, pregnancy, and feelings of guilt, is there any reason to not have sex before one is married?
Yes. Yes there is.
To begin with, our society has its view of sex very much wrong. When we watch a TV show or a movie for instance, it’s usually just what every person is thinking about entirely 24/7. The media doesn’t seem to show all the other aspects of sex that can happen. It seems foreign to them that a woman might not be turned on immediately but needs to be loved over time. It seems to forget that men can also want some emotional closeness and that one does not just play the sex card every time as if every man will be immediately subservient to that. Watch just the media and you can get the idea that we’re all just big bundles of hormones walking around waiting for our next fulfillment.
Yet even still there is an inconsistency. One can find a prostitute as a shameful place to have in society, but one does not seem to find that sleeping around personally is. If anything, it would seem at least the prostitute who is just giving out sex could be said to at least be making money out of the deal. When I see this, I just cannot figure out the irony of it all.
Also, there is a tendency to view the person as just an object. For we men, it can be that a woman could be seen as nothing more than a means to have sexual release. C.S. Lewis once wrote about a man with strong sexual desire and how it would be said “He needs a woman.” Lewis responded that’s the last thing he needs. If he found a real woman, he wouldn’t know what to do. He just wants sex and a woman happens to be the apparatus by which he desires that. We men in marriage need to be on guard against this attitude.
Now someone can say “Well you wouldn’t drive a car without taking it for a test drive would you?” No. You wouldn’t, but this gets to the problem as it is treating people as if they were mechanical and dare I say it, treating sex as if it was nothing but a mechanical process. Of course, there is nothing wrong with technique and such, but this is not just two physical objects coming together. This is two persons, persons with wills and emotions and desires.
When you take the car off the lot to test it out, the car is not thinking “Oh my. I’d better do good for this driver.” The car is not worried about its performance. The car has no pressure. If you reject it, the car does not pine away in the dealer’s lot. The car does not have fear for the next person to come along wondering if it will be rejected again. The car is just still right there and neither knows nor cares.
It’s usually interesting that most people see themselves as the driver instead of the car. Implicitly, the other person in that case is being watched to see if they please you.
In marriage on the other hand, it becomes different. Yes. We men want our own pleasure very much, and to an extent there is nothing wrong with that. We need to know what we like as well so we can tell our wives, but many men will also say, and I would agree, that there is something unsatisfying if we don’t think we’re pleasing our wives at the same time. We’re not just focused on us. We’re focused on making our wives know how much they mean to us, and bluntly, for us, this is one of the best ways we know how to do it. (I understand that Gary Chapman, author of The Five Love Languages, has said that this is the sixth love language every man speaks.)
The difference is we have that trust built in beforehand through the covenant that has been made. There is no pressure to perform. There is, of course, or should be, desire to perform and to perform well. It is not for fear of rejection in marriage, or at least it shouldn’t be, but for a desire to build up that trust.
Besides, how much can someone be trusted when they seek total and complete vulnerability from you, but are not willing to make a commitment to you in marriage. “Well they will in the future!” Okay. If they will in the future, and you’re certain of that, then what’s the harm with waiting for that commitment?
Of course, that is a struggle and a battle. Allie and I dated for less than a year, but it was a battle until then. She knows I was very hesitant about physical touch. I was always afraid to go too far. I am not for a moment denying that this is a struggle for people who are not married and for people who are in a dating relationship. In fact, that’s good and normal. Sexual desire is a good and healthy thing.
It’s just that sex is something incredibly powerful and explosive. It is a little dynamite in a marriage relationship that adds a powerful spark. For my friends who are single, yes, this is something that changes your life. I tell people that the reason I have so much confidence now as opposed to the way I was before marriage, is because of the validation that I have in marriage. It is like nothing else. It is the strongest way I can be told “I love you.” Men and women both want romance. We just want it in different ways, and we men definitely need to realize especially that women are creatures that need and deserve romance and not just objects to turn off and on for our pleasure.
In the marriage covenant, this becomes something that solidifies the relationship and strengthens it. The deeper bond that comes produces love as the man and woman see each other in a different light. They start responding to each other differently than they did before. In public, one can think they know their spouse in a way no one else does.
Because of this, each person then seeks to please the other more and more and put to death their own desires, and that can be a battle. There are many times, for instance, that one can be in an argument with a spouse and think of a “zinger” that one could use to really win the argument. I can think of times that I have held back when it was right there waiting to be said. Unfortunately, I can think of times when I’ve been an idiot and let it out only to sincerely and deeply be apologizing minutes later. (And men, please do make it a point to apologize and seek forgiveness when you screw up, because you will as will I.)
Many women can enter a sexual relationship seeing it as if it is a precursor to marriage. Many men are quite happy with the relationship at the level that it’s at, and why shouldn’t they be? They get to have their fun and they don’t even have to make a lifelong commitment to the woman. This is also why statistically, living together before marriage increases the likelihood that you will get a divorce.
And speaking of divorce, some of you could be thinking that a trust relationship isn’t really there in marriage because there’s always divorce. Note what I am going to say at the start. I am not going to say that divorce is ALWAYS wrong. There are sad times where I think it is highly recommended, such as the case of an abusive relationship that does not end even after separation and counseling. I also think it is justifiable in the case of marital infidelity. Of course, in the latter, it is also possible to work through it, and I would encourage that route first. Divorce can be an option, but it should be a last resort. We set the bar way too low and inevitably, people will hit a low target. Treating marriage as if it can be ended at any time for any reason destroys trust. Realize you are in a lifelong relationship with that person so do what you can to build it up, not to tear it down, and don’t test the other person.
Some of you are also surprised I haven’t been quoting Scripture in this. I don’t think there is an explicit reference in the Bible, but I think implicitly, true sexuality in the Bible is always seen to be between husband and wife. In Jewish culture, when a couple was betrothed, they did everything except live together and have sex, which would mean this did not need to be spelled out. Also, the point of marriage would in many cases be the first time of having sex. Having sex with someone, as Paul says, makes you one with that person. I can look back and be thankful that I’m one with only one other person and she has only been one with me as well. I am thankful to have this in my life now, but also thankful that I waited.
The reason ultimately we guard sex between a husband and wife is not because we are prudes, although some of us are. It is for the opposite reason. It is because this is like the objects one keeps in a safe-deposit box. You don’t keep dirty laundry or old banana peels or your grocery list in there. You keep what is valuable in there. We protect sex because it is so valuable and realize that releasing this dynamite outside of the setting it was meant to be used in leads to disaster. The hook-up culture is a fine example of this.
For further information, I think one of the best books a parent can get their Christian child before sending them off to college is “How To Stay Christian In College” by J. Budziszewski. In that book, he has a chapter with several reasons to avoid pre-marital sex. Also, Lauren Winner’s book “Real Sex: The Naked Truth About Chastity.” For couples who are engaged or about to be, I highly recommend Kevin Leman’s “Sheet Music” and Ed Wheat’s “Intended for Pleasure.”
Go forward and enjoy, but enjoy the way the Creator intended, and you will get the most out of it.