Is saving sex for marriage actually possible?
I feel that those answering the questions live in a perfect happy bubble and like to point their fingers at those who have had sex before marriage, would like to have sex before marriage, or would like to fool around with a member of the opposite sex in a relationship. They do not understand at all what we are going through.
Do you even know what it is like to be a young adult in today’s world — where many of the men expect some sort of physical intimacy? And I’m not talking about the men one wouldn’t ever be interested in marrying; I’m talking about the men who are truly good people, but have a different set of views but are still very good Christians and believers.
You people seem to think anyone who thinks that sex before marriage is OK is a bad person and un-Christian. But all Christians have sinned … and that includes the ones answering these questions. I get the feeling that the people writing the answers are telling us that we aren’t even allowed to kiss in a Christian relationship before marriage because it might lead to sex.
Maybe you could give us a good workable outline of what a good Christian relationship should look like in all its stages. Has that been done before? And please … be nicer to us and more understanding in your answers. It is much easier to catch flies with honey than vinegar. Just because someone has a sexual urge doesn’t make them un-Christian.
I’m so glad you took the time to write this email to us because it gives me a chance to clarify some of our beliefs here at Boundless. For starters, please know that we do take the emails — and all the questions and concerns they represent — very seriously. Many of them represent very difficult situations, and I feel a weight of responsibility when I contemplate answering one or another of the letters. For that reason, whenever I’m preparing to answer a question in this column, I start by praying for wisdom and asking God to guide my thought processes and the advice I give (Daniel 2: 21b-22, James 1:5).
As much as I’d love to report that life in a perfect happy bubble does exist, and the living is good, I can’t. I’m a sinner saved by grace as are all the other staff members and writers at Boundless. It’s true that we haven’t all had the same temptations and downfalls as those writing the emails, but we’ve certainly made our fair share of sinful decisions and suffered through the painful consequences. It’s from those life experiences — coupled with the authority of Scripture and the counsel of other wise believers — which we speak.
I think you’d be surprised to learn just how many of us did struggle with the same pre-marriage sexual temptations you describe; culture may be raunchier, but things haven’t changed that much. Human nature is what it is and we’ve all struggled against common temptations — illicit sex being one of the main ones — from the beginning.
One of the reasons we return to this issue so often is that it is such a struggle for singles — especially singles who are waiting longer and longer to get married, in the midst of a hyper-sexualized culture. We want to encourage our readers from the other side of the altar, that despite what culture says, sex really is best when it’s expressed within the boundaries God gave it. It may sound cliché to say it, but having been unmarried and tempted and now married and sexually fulfilled, I can say from experience that the more you save of yourself physically and sexually for your husband (and he for you), the better your sex life — and your marriage relationship — will be.
It’s critical to keep this in mind as you measure the character of the men you date. You said that though they pressure you for sex, or some form of sexual expression, that they are still very good Christians and believers. They may believe what Jesus said, but unless they obey His commands, they do not love God. And frankly, if they’re pressuring you to follow them in their disobedience, they don’t love you, either.
These men may say they are good Christians — they may even act in ways we’ve come to associate with being a good Christian (like going to church, giving money to the poor, being patient and kind under pressure, etc.) — but if they’re not striving to be leaders in their relationships, they’re not who they say they are.
You charge that we at Boundless “seem to think anyone who thinks that sex before marriage is OK is a bad person and un-Christian.” I’d be happy to unpublish any article that says that. What we do believe is that, based on the authority of Scripture, sex before marriage is a sin. Anyone who claims to follow Christ who is also engaging in sex before marriage is willfully disobeying God’s law. It’s not about what we think, but what God says:
Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body. Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body (1 Corinthians 6:18-20).
The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God (Galatians 5:19-21).
But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people (Ephesians 5:3).
Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry (Colossians 3:5).
It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality (1 Thessalonians 4:3).
As Scripture shows (and these verses are just a sampling), sex outside its God-given context and design isn’t the only sin or even the worst sin. It just happens to be one that plagues our culture, all the while undermining God’s design for marriage and family. That’s why we talk about it so much.
What’s ironic is that in nearly every area but this one, we live in an abstinence culture. We’re bombarded with “don’t” messages: don’t smoke, don’t drive drunk, don’t eat saturated fats, don’t get stressed, and more. It seems the “experts” believe it’s possible to say no to every harmful thing except one: sex outside of marriage. And yet that’s the only sex that’s truly “safe”: within marriage. The sheer volume of STIs ravaging promiscuous Americans is reason enough to doubt the sense of their message.
It’s exactly because we do understand what you are going through that we bring the topic of sexual purity up repeatedly. We’re trying to equip you and your fellow believers to live godly lives. That doesn’t mean we naively believe you’ll never be tempted — even Jesus was and in every way. Hebrews 4:14-15 says,
Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are — yet was without sin.
You’re right: “a sexual urge doesn’t make [you] un-Christian.” This discussion isn’t about salvation; it’s about sanctification — about letting God’s presence as Lord of your life make a difference in your behavior. What you do with those urges does matter. And we believe that it’s possible to resist temptation — to run away from it, toward the righteous life we’re called to in Christ. Verse 16 of that same passage in Hebrews tells us how:
Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.
I hope you’ll give our columns another look with these principles in mind and pray that God will open your ears to hear from Him. Regardless of what we say, it’s what He says that really matters.
Copyright 2008 Candice Watters. All rights reserved.
About the Author
Candice Watters is a wife, mom, and Bible teacher. She is the author of Get Married: What Women Can Do to Help it Happen, co-founder with her husband, Steve, of Boundless.org and co-author of Start Your Family: Inspiration for Having Babies. They have four children and blog at FamilyMaking.com.