Several months ago, I heard a startling statement from a pastor: “Nine out of 10 couples who come in for premarital counseling are not waiting until marriage for sex.” This statistic shocked me, but I guess it shouldn’t have. I have noticed similar patterns in my own Christian circles. I’ve heard more than one dating couple sheepishly talk about living together. They cite the practical merits of sharing a household and saving money, and often jokingly say, “We’re living in sin.”
According to a recent survey, half of U.S. Christians say casual sex between consenting adults is sometimes or always acceptable. The percentage rises for unmarried couples in committed relationships.
When it comes to sex between unmarried adults who are in a committed relationship, the gap between Christians and the [religiously] unaffiliated is less stark. A majority of Christians (57%) say sex between unmarried adults in a committed relationship is sometimes or always acceptable. That includes 67% of mainline Protestants, 64% of Catholics, 57% of Protestants in the historically Black tradition and 46% of evangelical Protestants.
According to these statistics, many Christian singles are sweeping aside God’s directives for their sexuality. In the past, I’ve written about how I believe my generation overemphasized the act of keeping one’s body pure through virginity ala True Love Waits instead of cultivating a heart that seeks to honor God in all areas of life. The problem with this particular focus is that behavior modification can never bring about lasting transformation.
Consider the words of Romans 12:2, which say: “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” This verse does not say to legalistically follow the rules so you can lord it over other “less perfect” Christians. No, it says that to know the will of God, you must allow Him — not this world — to transform your mind and heart.
Legalism isn’t the solution, but neither is license. Winking at sin and brushing aside God’s commands have serious consequences. In case you’re wondering why it’s such a big deal to not have sex before marriage, here are three main reasons:
Sexual immorality is disobedience to God.
I’m not going to provide every one of the many Scriptures that say sex is to be reserved exclusively for marriage, but consider Hebrews 13:4 just for starters: “Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and the adulterous.” That’s pretty clear. 1 Thessalonians 4:2-5, 1 Corinthians 6:18-20, and 1 Corinthians 7:2 provide more insight into God’s plan for sex.
I find it interesting that most Christians I talk to who are engaging in sex outside of marriage admit it’s wrong. But either they are not motivated to obey what the Bible says on the matter or they have justified their circumstances as some special exception to the rules. Don’t be deceived; God is never OK with sexual immorality. He never allows popular opinion, convenience or even human weakness to justify sin. Instead, He provides a way to reject it.
Sexual immorality drives a wedge between you and God.
Engaging in premarital sex may not seem like a big deal, but living in disobedience in this one area negatively impacts your overall walk with Christ. In “Leaving the Edge” I wrote:
Our culture is full of “empty words” that tell us that sexual gratification is most important. But Paul warns that choosing anything — whether sexual impurity or greed — over God is idolatry. [Ephesians 5:3-6] So our choices regarding “how far is too far” aren’t about the behaviors themselves but about our esteem of God and His commands.
These choices are so serious that we can potentially separate ourselves from our spiritual inheritance — not only the prize awaiting us in heaven but the power in Christ we can have now. One friend described it this way: “Getting too physical just dulls you spiritually. Pretty soon stuff that felt wrong doesn’t feel wrong anymore.”
One Bible college professor said if a young man came to him struggling with his belief in God, the teacher would ask, “Are you sleeping with your girlfriend?” In almost all cases the weakened faith was a result of sexual sin. The sin causes our hearts to become calloused toward God and dulls our spiritual impact.
Sexual obedience leads to freedom and health.
I admit, God’s take on human sexuality can seem restrictive. We live in a sexually permissive culture where reserving sex for marriage can feel unrealistic or even impossible. But it is not only possible, it is beneficial. Saving sex for marriage is part of God’s good plan for His children to experience freedom, joy and peace.
Along with the many spiritual benefits of obedience, studies show that marriages experience benefits when couples wait to have sex. In one study, for couples who waited relationship stability was 22 percent higher, relationship satisfaction was 20 percent higher, sexual quality of the relationship was 15 percent better and communication was 12 percent better. While those statistics may not seem overwhelming, when marriage gets hard, that slight edge can make all the difference.
Seeking a fresh start
Given the statistics I shared at the beginning of this post, many of you have already engaged in sex before marriage. But if these three reasons for choosing God’s way resonate with you, simply confess your sin and seek a fresh start.
Several years ago, a godly husband and dad I admire shared his testimony. He talked about his sexually broken past during high school and college and how God had taken hold of his life. As he talked about meeting and marrying his beautiful wife, he said, “She was the first woman I was pure with … which was really awesome.” That story stuck with me. No matter how I’ve strayed from God’s ways in the past, my loving Father offers to wipe the record clean. Today I can step forward in obedience and experience the freedom and joy that comes from that decision.
Copyright 2020 Suzanne Hadley Gosselin. All rights reserved.