Well, it is my fault I asked the question about premarital sex – so now I have to write about it. Now, I have to warn you that I come from a particular background and context so as you read on, know that I share my opinion from within that worldview and framework. This may be convicting? Perhaps. Maybe frustrating and a bit one-sided? Yes. But I hope no one feels condemned. I am simply sharing my opinion and the thoughts of others I have appreciated, giving some of the reasons behind these opinions.
Much of this post will come from the arguments of Greg Boyd (you can read them more in-depth on his blog or listen to his sermon).
As many of you know, I LOVE the show “Friends”. As I re-watched one of the episodes the other day, and Boyd pointed out in one of his blog posts, I was reminded of this topic (well, really, most episodes remind me of this topic but…nevertheless). Monica asked Richard whom she’d begun to have sex with again (after a painful break-up): “Can’t we just be friends that have sex?” “Sure,” he replied. "It’ll just be something we do together – like playing racquetball.”
Greg Boyd puts it well when he says, “I think that pretty much sums up what sex has largely become in our culture. A nice form of pleasurable recreation. It's so pervasive in our culture that to call it into question is to come across to many as moralistic, repressive, Victorian and just down-right unenlightened. But we've got to help people see that sex was designed by God to be the precious sign of the most important covenant two people can make with each other: the pledge of marriage. And, perhaps most importantly, we've got to help people see that the racquetball philosophy of sex is ugly bondage while the sign of the covenant view of sex is beautiful FREEDOM.”
I think the problem we have here boils down to two things. One, marriage is not regarded as highly as it once was. And two, sex is seen as more of a pleasure-seeking individualistic activity. Marriage was once a relationship that people aspired to - now we see many people proud of the fact that they live together, build lives and families together, and never enter into that covenant of marriage. "Just in case" I guess is what you would call today's view of relationships. We have become more and more individualistic thinking that relationships and all that they entail (i.e. sex) are to meet our desires and at the disposal of our pleasure-seeking whims.
Here are common arguments:
We have to have sex before marriage to make sure we are sexually compatible.
They married earlier in the Old Testament days so those rules and regulations are out of touch, no one was really meant to wait this long.
As long as you are in a committed relationship and love one another what is the difference? A piece of paper.
What society will not tell you is how much pain comes from sex out of context. Obviously we are talking more so about rape, prostitution, teenage sex and exploitation. But there can be serious psychological diseases, depression and emotional ramifications for those who go into sexual intercourse without having thought it through. It actually frustrates me how much society tries to deny this. I blogged about one such instance on my other blog just last month – a young woman selling her virginity to pay for grad school. It frustrates me that this is now an instance that young woman around the world can look to and point at for a reason why it is not worth saving your virginity for marriage – it is now a valuable commodity. But what this woman has done is completely devalued the connection between the physical act of sex and the emotional and spiritual.
There is an undeniable connection between the body and the spirit – we can’t just ignore that. And I think that’s something we can’t take lightly. George Hinman from Bel Air Pres. says “God designed sex not for the body, but for the soul – and sex works every time.” If you give yourself to someone in that way, even if you wait until you are sure you love him or her and are committed to him or her, what happens if it ends? You can’t take that deeply intimate joining of yourselves back. As Chap Clark says, “sex only blesses when the beloved is totally safe and secure in the knowledge that the other will be there.”
Many say that the Bible does not really give any evidence that sex outside of marriage is wrong. I’ll admit it can be a little fuzzy, it would be nice if there was a 4 John 3.6 “Don’t have sex unless you are married to someone” but that does not exist. However, there are verses that are pretty clear about the issue. Take 1 Thessalonians 4.3 for example, “Obstain from sexual immorality” (or in other versions it says fornication which, incidentally, means sex outside of marriage).
Now I understand it is one thing to tell a teenager to wait a few years – it is not going to kill them, but what if you are an adult? What if you are in a committed relationship? What if you are widowed? What if you are 60? What if you only have ONE WEEK left to live…
Boyd makes four rather compelling arguments for withholding (granted, they are more compelling if you believe in the Bible):
1. The Bible says that when you have sexual intercourse with someone you become one-flesh. (Matthew 19.5-6) And what God joins together, no one should separate. Intercourse clearly involves much more than two people getting physically intimate with each other. God himself is involved in creating a new “one” out of the two.
2. Paul in 1 Corinthians preaches about the fact that whenever a man has sex with a woman the two become one-flesh…EACH time. “Do you not know that he who unites himself with a prostitute is one with her in body? For it is said, ‘The two will become one flesh’” (1Cor. 6:16). Even when the partners intend sex to be purely recreational – as when one has sex with a prostitute – it still creates this “one flesh” reality! Something profoundly spiritual, metaphysical and foundational is going on, even when the parties are “just having fun.”
3. Intercourse is a sacred sign and seal of marriage. In the Jewish tradition a couple was not considered married until they had engaged in intercourse. In traditional Jewish weddings, the couple would go off to have sex after exchanging vows and the post-wedding celebration couldn’t begin until they returned – until the covenant was sealed with the sign. This is also why in the Old Testament, if a man had sex with a virgin outside of wedlock, he was commanded to marry her (Deut. 22:28-29). Since he’d already sealed the marriage covenant, it was believed he had an obligation to live up to the covenant.
4. And obviously we have to throw in a few statistics…so here's a few of the more obvious consequences. One out of five Americans has an STD. Almost 40% of kids in America are born out of wedlock, which contributes to poverty, crime and violence, especially among young people. Over 40% of all marriages end in divorce. There were 1.2 million abortions last year. Ironically enough, sexual dysfunction is on the rise in America. Millions have emotional and psychological scars from their promiscuous activity. I would argue there’s a connection between the massive promiscuity of our culture and the fact that Americans are more depressed, suffer more psychological disorders and see therapists more than any other country on the planet
I will admit I have my doubts in all of this as well. Marriages fall apart all the time and you seem to get just as burned as you would have been having sex in a committed relationship outside of marriage that ended up falling apart. And I know many people that have come from a very different background than me, and may not have even understood that waiting was an option. There are lots of pressures and perhaps it was presented to you as really the only logical way things are done. But I guess I can’t see the harm in waiting – I avoid hurt, possible disease, I’ve waited this long it won’t kill me to wait longer, and I won’t have the difficulty of comparison in my marriage bed having been with other guys before my husband.
I guess I’m pretty conservative in this regard – but there’s my soapbox two cents on the poll question I never should have asked. Thoughts?