“I had sex,” my Christian friend hesitantly told me. “You know how much I’ve struggled with whether I should wait for marriage. But I finally did it.”
He, like so many Christians today, wrestles with the biblical mandate to wait for marriage. Are there reasons besides the fact that an ancient Book from a different culture says it is the rule?
So when he sheepishly asked my thoughts on his decision, I didn’t feel like telling him “because the Bible says so.” I doubted it would really make him rethink anything. To a person (even one who claims to be a Christian) struggling with the Bible’s relevance in this culture, claiming blind trust in it probably isn’t going to change their mind on the issue.
Our culture normalizes and even encourages premarital sex. TV, movies and music teach us to expect it. A series of billboards for a hospital around my town shows different pictures of couples in bed. The billboards proclaim, “Pondering pregnancy? We can help.” In each picture the people’s hands seem almost purposely visible, as if trying to show none of them have rings on.
A few years ago I was traveling through Europe and hanging out with my German cousin. It came out that I was planning not to have sex until marriage and I didn’t know if I would get married. He stopped me right there. He looked me in the eye and said, “Promise me you will have sex before you die.” The look on his face said he couldn’t understand why I would choose not to.
I’m 37 and still a virgin, and it’s not because I haven’t had chances for sex. In a few years I might be a 40-year-old virgin. My situation is rare; but I think that is part of the power of it. Scripture should be enough for the Christian. God gave us His Word for a reason, and to obey it both honors God and protects us from a myriad of consequences. That said, there are a number of perfectly reasonable reasons in addition to Scripture why saving sex for marriage makes sense. Here are a few:
A decision to stand out
I told my friend that my virginity gives me the power to stand out. Everything in culture says not to wait; if we do, we show the world we are different. It’s already hard to tell the difference between committed Christians and simply cultural ones, or even just good people. So this is one way. I’m waiting to have sex, not just because the Bible tells me so, but it’s also my testament to the world of how important my faith is to me, and how sincerely I try to pursue it. I want it to show people that I mean what I say. And I hope it draws them to ask, “What is this thing that so compels someone to move against culture?”
A gift of trust for my wife
I also told my friend that if I’m dating — especially if I’m engaged — and I insist that we don’t have sex until marriage, it shows my future wife that my desires do not govern my decisions. She sees a glimpse of my integrity. Imagine going into a marriage knowing that your partner has proven they won’t have sex out of wedlock even when they feel in love and the desire is at its peak. The trust increases. I would love to gift my wife that confidence in me.
Saving babies for marriage
There’s a practical component to abstaining. If we don’t have sex before marriage, we don’t have to worry about babies out of wedlock. I have a good Christian friend from a Christian family who confided in me that he’d been part of multiple abortions. I wonder how many others silently carry such burdens. And even in pregnancies that don’t end in abortion, research says about half of all non-marital births happen in cohabiting couples. So, whether you like it or not, it looks like one of the things that often comes with living together (assuming they’re having sex) is babies.
A recent study found a correlation that more people who waited to have sex had happier marriages. And especially in women, the study correlated more sexual partners before marriage with being less likely to have a happy marriage.
I don’t want to make any readers feel inferior or guilty if they have had sex outside of marriage, and I don’t want to add guilt and secrecy to an already too taboo topic in the church. It’s not my place to judge my friend for his decision, but instead tell him why I came to the conclusions I did.
My friend claimed he “learned a lot by doing it” and felt it was a good decision for him because it broke down some of the stigmas that growing up in the church had attached to sex. But it wasn’t long after he did it the first time, and he was having sex with another girl. It had quickly lost all of its power to demonstrate faith in God or commitment to his future spouse. I hope he won’t have to figure out what to do with a pregnancy out of wedlock. And I hope it doesn’t mess with his future marriage, if he ever gets married.
What struggles have you experienced around waiting for sex? What are you doing to trust God and His good plan in this season of waiting?