You probably think I’m going to spend this whole post talking about how it’s wrong to have sex outside of marriage, like any other Christian (hopefully) would. But I’m only going to spend part of it doing that. The other part will talk about how it’s wrong to automatically assume you’re going to get married, or that God wants this for you.
Firstly, let’s establish that sex is very enjoyable because God made it that way. Second, let’s also establish that God doesn’t see it simply as a way to “make babies”; it is the best present He can give to a married couple who wish to show their love for each other in a greater way than they’ve been able to do before. Thirdly: God intends a husband and wife to enjoy this gift very regularly – this is actually one of His conditions for marriage. It’s clear that sex within marriage is very spiritual: it certainly appears positively in the Bible enough times to justify it. If you’re in any doubt, check out the whole of The Song of Solomon, which reaffirms these points – be warned, though; it can be rather explicit.
Outside of marriage, sexual acts become something very different. Many parts of the Bible identify it as ‘fornication’, literally defined as to “have sex with someone you are not married to” in the Oxford dictionary. While it’s true that we all sin daily, God views this particular sin somewhat more harshly, as we can see in 1 Corinthians 6: 18-20: “Flee fornication. Every sin that a man doeth is without the body; but he that committeth fornication sinneth against his own body… (20) For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.” God created your body in His image. You can imagine how He would feel about sinning against it, and about mistreating a very great gift that He intended only to be enjoyed by married couples (“Marriage is honourable in all, and the bed undefiled” – Hebrews 13: 4).
However… Does God bless everyone with the same gifts? This should be the key question in relation to a Christian’s thoughts on marriage, especially when children are taught from a young age that their main aims in life should be to focus on a good career and starting a family. These things represent society’s plans for you. It may not necessarily be what God has planned for you.
Genesis 2: 18 is very literal when it says “it is not good for man to be alone”. Man is susceptible to loneliness. Rather than immediately creating woman, though, God creates the animals, and it isn’t until three verses later that we see Eve being created from Adam’s rib; another human. At that time, there were two of them; Adam and Eve were the only people, a man and a woman. God made it very clear beforehand that His plan for their lives was to “be fruitful and multiply” (Genesis 1: 28).
Nowadays, times are different to how they were in the Garden of Eden. In modern times, we don’t necessarily need marriage to fight loneliness: our Christian friends in the church help us do that. Finding time to be alone, away from the hustle and bustle of society, actually takes quite a concerted effort. We’re constantly surrounded by other people. The world’s population is ever increasing and everyone, including those in the Christian community, states their hope for life as “to get married and have a family”. True, God fully endorses this, but he does not, in fact, say that it is a path meant for everyone. 1 Peter 4: 1-2 challenges us; “Forasmuch then as Christ hath suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves likewise with the same mind: for he that hath suffered in the flesh hath ceased sin: That he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh to the lusts of men, but to the will of God.” Should God not have marriage in mind, it’s not because He wants you to be unhappy. He just has other, perhaps even better, gifts in store for you.
Of course, getting married isn’t the only dream that the contemporary Christian has. Everyone seems to have a desire for God to ‘send them out’ into the world, showing impressively blind faith that God will provide for them, without giving proper thought to what this could mean. Should God ask you to travel from place to place, city to city, then it’s extremely unlikely he would ask you to do it with a family that you don’t yet have. It may involve constantly moving, spreading the word of God as His servant Paul did. In this case, celibacy would be the appropriate stance for a Christian to take. I wonder how many Christians would still pledge unconditional obedience and belief in God to provide for them, knowing this. Should God proclaim that His wishes are for you to remain celibate and never to have sex in your whole entire life, would you still be as enthusiastic? Many Christians assume that God’s ‘plans to prosper them’ mean having a beautiful man/ woman, a family and a career, when in reality God could have something much different in mind for you.
This is where I have a problem with the phrase “no sex before marriage” in modern Christianity. Somewhere along the line, it changed from “no sex outside of marriage” – and I’m guessing this has something to do with the promiscuity and sexual freedom of the 1960s, which no doubt led church leaders to justify their standing on the issue. One could understand why a compromise had to be reached – thus, the promise that sex is indeed for everyone, but God just wants you to wait, leaving out the tiny detail that the waiting God asks you to do could last your entire lifetime.
God’s servant Paul was a wonderful example of this type of obedience. Paul was faithful enough to acknowledge that marriage was indeed the correct path for most Christians who struggle to contain themselves, while also being aware of the spiritual advantages of singleness. In his letter in Corinthians 7, Paul states a personal preference that all men were to be as he was: celibate, so that they could focus on the work that God had for them without distraction (verse 35). However, it’s worth noting that Paul sees this for exactly what it is: his own opinion, rather than God’s (“…I have no commandment of the Lord: yet I give my judgment, as one that hath obtained mercy of the Lord to be faithful” – verse 25). In actual fact, God would not like every man to be single (if He did, He surely wouldn’t have intended the human race to survive for as long as it has).
So, let’s say you’re sure that God has led you to marry another person. This isn’t a signal that you will suddenly be free from the lust of the past – even though now, of course, you are free to enjoy the gift of sex that God always intended to be shared in marriage. Shared is the key word here. Marriage is not about finding pleasure for yourself. God is very clear that your role in marriage is simply to please your partner in any way you can, and this in turn will bring its own enjoyment to you, as it does when we know we’ve pleased God by doing something he enjoys. Marriage is not something to be sought after because you wish to satisfy your own lustful desires and prevent yourself from sinning, but rather, it’s something to be sought after because you wish to satisfy the desires of someone you love very much; above everything else, you want them to enjoy married life. You want to make them happy. Marriage should be viewed like this: God is handing you the responsibility to take care of one of His beloved children, and trust me, He is more protective than any parent you’ve ever known. How’s that for motivation to treat your spouse well?
Whether you marry or not, the Bible’s message is simple: living a life of selflessness, putting others before yourself, is the part of God’s plan for you that does not change no matter the person or situation. There is no greater argument against sex outside of marriage than that, even if it does go against worldly tradition.