I was traveling cross-country with a friend when it came out that I was waiting for marriage to have sex. And I added, “and there’s no certainty I will ever get married.” He stopped the conversation right there, turned to me and said very sternly, “Promise me you will have sex before you die!”
I have a Christian friend who debated for the longest time whether to have sex before marriage like his culture was pressuring him to do, or to wait for marriage like his Christianity had raised him to. He couldn’t find adequate reasons why an ancient book would have relevant answers on this. Finally, one day he told me, “You know how I’ve struggled with it so much. Well, I finally just did it.”
These days, even Christians don’t understand why—besides “because an ancient book says so,”—anyone would choose to wait for marriage to have sex.
The Bible establishes the ideal situation for sex. God wants us to have it with only one person—our spouse, only after we are married. In the Garden of Eden, God says this is why “a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24). It says “united to his wife,” which shows they are already husband and wife when they are joined in the flesh.
And then Paul says in 1 Corinthians 6:16, “And don’t you realize that if a man joins himself to a prostitute, he becomes one body with her?” So the Bible says we are united in some deep mysterious way when we have sex with someone. The way I understand this, the physical bond is meant to solidify the verbal commitment we make to one other person for life.
And usually when people in the Bible do it another way, it doesn’t go too well for them. Like when Abraham sleeps with his wife’s handmaiden because they don’t have faith God will provide a son for them (Genesis 16, 21). Or when Solomon marries many women and they become his downfall (1 Kings 11).
But these aren’t very compelling reasons to the modern person who questions the Bible’s relevancy. The answer seems even more unreasonable if you’re dating someone whom you probably will marry.
So I’ve compiled a few reasons that I’ve come across and become convicted of over the years. I hope they can solidify your resolve, and equip you to have a good conversation if someone asks, just as they have done for me.
1. Set yourself apart from this world
In a world where it’s cool to do good, like starting non-profits and instagramming encouraging phrases, it’s hard to show what makes a Christian different. One way to show we’re committed to the God of the Bible, on top of engaging in social good (James 1:27), is by living by God’s design for our lives, for marriage.
In a world that shames those who finish high school without having sex, abstinence can be a brave move to show we mean what we claim to believe. When we stick to our resolve, it shouldn’t be hard for others to say, “Wow, she’s really living her faith; otherwise why would she wait?” And maybe they will even say, “Maybe there is something to that religion if she’d make a decision like that.” We’ll stand out. And that can be a powerful tool in sharing our faith.
2. Demonstrate your commitment to your future spouse
In a world where divorce is commonplace, wouldn’t it be good to have a way to show our potential spouse that we’re committed to staying with them and being faithful? What if, even before we were married, there was a way to show our future spouse that we can be trusted to stay faithful even through temptations or lust for others?
By abstaining before and during an engagement, even when our bodies are telling us otherwise, we offer trust and show discipline to our partner. It lets our partners know in a very tangible way that they don’t have to worry about infidelity. It shows we’re people of self-discipline whose convictions are stronger than our impulses. What a gift to give our spouses as we enter into marriage.
3. Shaping our culture
Of course, there are practical reasons not to have sex outside of marriage. These include avoiding sexually transmitted diseases and unwanted pregnancies. There are also emotional reasons. One is summarized in the old adage that you give a part of yourself away with each person you sleep with. But I want to say that this is much bigger than each person’s own emotional or physical wellbeing.
This has the power to shape society as a whole.
When we look at this modern world’s hookup culture, we see how it often leads to uncommitted fathers. When marriages are based on pleasure more than on commitment, we see they can lead to divorce when things are no longer pleasant. And we see how both situations can lead to single parent homes.
Then, I wonder, if young people explore vices to fill the hole left by broken households. And maybe, because they lack an example of a love based on a commitment, they take their cues for love from the world. And the cycle spreads and continues to the next generation.
I think much of this stems from our culture’s call for us to be people pursuing pleasure instead of purpose. Our culture tells us we each have a right to be happy and live how we want, as long as we don’t step on anyone else’s toes. Some might say that this is moral living. But our God knows we will grow into better, more complete humans like we were meant to be if we live by more than just “not stepping on others’ toes.”
God wants us to be people of internal depth, of fulfilled promises, self-discipline, and of love based on commitment. And when we live by the standards He has prescribed, it is a better plan for a life of peace and joy that the rest of the world tries so desperately to find. Jesus says He has come so we will have abundant life (John 10:10). And the fruit of the spirit include joy and peace right alongside self-control (Galatians 5:22-23).
Millions of joy and peace-filled Christians living lives of integrity, self-control, and commitment can set a refreshing example to our culture, which is overwhelmed by brokenness and pleasure-seeking. And abstinence before marriage at this time is perhaps the most powerful way we can exemplify this for our culture.
Having said all this, this is not about shaming those who are not virgins. But instead, I hope the above reasons serve as an encouragement because each one of these reasons can be reclaimed by non-virgins. In fact, perhaps it is even more impactful when someone, who once lived a life like the world, goes back to the life of commitment and integrity of the Bible. We can choose to set ourselves apart from the world, demonstrate integrity for our future spouse, and shape culture.
I wish I could to tell you that things will be easy if you simply follow the instructions. But I’ll be honest: it won’t necessarily be easy. The bible has many examples of people who have experienced deep fulfillment but it was while travelling a hard road of commitment and dedication. I hope we can live our lives as a calling card for what God can do in our culture.
“Ross, promise me you’ll have sex before you die!”
If I were to give a response to our culture that says this, it would be “I’m promised to something deeper than my own pleasures. I have promised myself to my Creator who has included me in a plan that is building me into a more substantial, fully-formed human of integrity, promise, commitment, self-discipline, and joy. I am becoming a person built to thrive in heaven forever.”