We usually don't think of our sexual design as being an appropriate factor in getting married. But it is.
I once shocked a group of college students when I challenged the prevailing condescension toward women who go to college with the earnest intention of finding a husband — something I think should be applauded rather than condemned.
"You're spending four or five years to get a degree that most of you will never use," I explained, "and while a degree has more value than simply preparing you for a vocation, the fact is, few of you will show the same initiative for a choice that will have a much greater impact on your life and future ministry: who you marry."
There's a prevailing passivity among many young people who mistakenly think that God will "bring the right person along when the time is right."
After high school, did you wait at home without applying to a single college, "trusting God" to motivate a university to write to you with an offer of admission because "God led them to"?
Of course not!
After college, do you plan to wait at home, "trusting God" that a company will "find you" after hearing about your sterling academic career?
I hope not — or else, welcome to welfare.
So why should we consider passivity to be the "holy" route when choosing a lifelong partner?
Can't Argue With That
Let's consider a few, incontrovertible facts:
- God designed most of us to get married. A few may be called to celibacy, but more than 90 percent of us will experience marriage at least once in our lives.
- You'll never have a larger pool to draw from for a suitable, godly marriage partner than during your university years.
- God made you a sexual being but commands you to restrict sexual activity to marriage (1 Corinthians 6:15-20, 7:36ff; 1 Thessalonians 4:3-7); at a certain point it becomes spiritually dangerous and even unhealthy to deny sexual relations.
Though the average age for a man to get married in this country is now approaching 28, and the average age for a woman is approaching 27, the fact is, you've been created by God with a body that is ready for sexual activity a decade before that. (I don't believe most 18 year olds are ready for marriage — but once you begin climbing through your 20s, it's a good idea to at least begin taking stock toward where you're at.) A cavalier attitude toward this disconnect can result in premarital sexual sin that dishonors God and threatens your integrity, as well as your future sexual satisfaction in marriage.
Sexual Desire: A Motivation to Marry?
A young college student dismissed the biblical teaching that God restricts all sexual activity to marriage as "unrealistic."
"The fact that God made us as sexual beings does mean something," I replied, "and in most cases it means young people should get married much sooner than they do."
"So are you saying that the need to be sexually active is a good enough reason to get married?"
Few people today would question the motivation of a young couple who proclaimed, "We want to get married because we are head over heels in love," even though what they are experiencing is an emotional release of pheromones that neurologists tell us will not and cannot last longer than 18 to 48 months. Sexual need and desire, however, will be a constant for at least the next three decades, if not more. Why should I base a lifelong decision on a relatively temporary emotional disposition, and disregard a God-designed motivation that may never fade?
Not once does the Bible say, "If you're out of your mind with infatuation, by all means, get married!" But it does say, "It is better to marry than to burn with passion [or sexual desire]" (1 Corinthians 7:9, NIV).
We Christians — believing in God as creator — should be the last ones to discount the delight and pleasure of sexuality, or the need to respect God's design for this relationship to take place within a lifelong commitment. In fact, we honor God when we submit to the call to marriage. Marriage is God's creation, not man's, and we should surrender to it as part of our worship. In the wise words of Al Mohler, there is a certain point where delay can become disobedience.
Those of you who may be struggling with sexual temptation, but are still insisting on a romantic "storm of emotion" before you get married should at least realize that you've been culturally conditioned to think this way.
A poll of single people in India asked how many would be willing to marry someone if their potential partner had the right traits, but lacked the "emotional chemistry" of infatuation. A full 76 percent said they would get married anyway, while just 14 percent of U.S. students said they would. In this instance, at least, Indian students seem to have a more "Christian" worldview than Westernized evangelicals!
Don't get me wrong: Sexual desire alone shouldn't lead you into marriage (or lead a woman to accept a marriage proposal) — but it should lead you to take the marriage pursuit more seriously, and perhaps seek a permanent relationship earlier than you might otherwise. Personally, I wouldn't compromise on a future partner's character just so that I could become sexually active within marriage — but if I was feeling regular temptation, I would certainly make more effort to find a person of character to marry.
What About Financial Stability?
One of the most common arguments to delay marriage is financial stability. As one who got married at 22, I have to confess that my wife and I did, indeed, marry ourselves into a financial hole that took years to climb out of. On the other hand, since I got married six years sooner than the average man does today, I also enjoyed 72 more months of guilt-free, God-honoring sex — not a bad payoff, by any means!
Furthermore, I severely curtailed the possibility that my sexual drive might lead me to sin against some of God's daughters. I was able to learn how to use my body to give my wife pleasure and to meet her sexual needs, instead of taking advantage of girlfriend after girlfriend as I stumbled along, only partially containing my libido.
Taking Sexual Sin Seriously
First Thessalonians is pretty clear: "It is God's will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control his own body in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust like the heathen, who do not know God; and that in this matter no one should wrong his brother [or sister] or take advantage of him [or her]" (4:3-6, emphasis added).
Sexual sin is serious business, resulting in severe spiritual, physical, emotional and relational consequences. God's best antidote is marriage. Just because our culture seems to think it's fine to wait until you're nearly 30 years old to take this step doesn't mean you should ignore what you know is obvious: God designed you for sexual relations; God limits all sexual activity to marriage; and if you're finding it difficult to control yourself sexually, He gives clear advice: Find somebody to marry.
Copyright 2006 Gary Thomas. All rights reserved.