In our fortnightly column “Great Sexpectations” the Woman Alive panel answer your questions on sex, faith and intimacy. Drop us a confidential email on email@example.com and ask us anything. Here, we tackle; What’s the problem with sex before marriage?
Ok let’s take a step back here; the first thing I want to do is to try and understand exactly what you are asking, because if you Googled this, you would have found a least a dozen answers in less than a millisecond. So my guess is, you’re not satisfied with the concept of s_x being “sacred” or “created by God for procreation” or anything else you might have read on page 1 of infinity on Google Search. If you asked this of your therapist they might respond back to you: “Why are you asking this question?” and although it might feel slightly frustrating, this is a good place to start.
As a Christian, I grew up on the “no s_x before marriage” rule and I never really questioned it because it felt like the Bible was pretty clear about it. Hebrews 13:4 reads: “Marriage should be honoured by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral.” I mean, that seems pretty clear as to the instruction, right? But then what does this writer mean by pure? Don’t worry, there’s an answer for that, earlier on in the New Testament, we read: “But since sexual immorality is occurring, each man should have sexual relations with his own wife, and each woman with her own husband.” (1 Corinthians 7:2)
Usually, when we (and I include myself in this) ask questions like yours it’s because we’re doing it, we want to do it or we want someone to say it’s ok so we can do it.
Sexual immorality sounds pretty serious right? 1 Corinthians 7-9 says: “Now to the unmarried[a] and the widows I say: It is good for them to stay unmarried, as I do. But if they cannot control themselves, they should marry, for it is better to marry than to burn with passion.” Arguably, the “control” referred to here is about engaging in physical passion AKA s_x. This passage leads us to understand that the position here is that we’re not meant to burn with passion – i.e. s_xual immorality - it should be enjoyed and if it is to be enjoyed (and not burnt), it should be as husband and wife.
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Now back to your question, which was, what’s the problem with s_x before marriage? And it’s a good one. However, do we ask why we have to love our neighbour (who might be a noise polluter or park across our driveway) or why we should turn the other cheek when others harm us (even when they’re unforgiving)? There are many things in the Bible that don’t seem to make sense and yet we accept them almost unquestioningly. Usually, when we (and I include myself in this) ask questions like yours it’s because we’re doing it, we want to do it or we want someone to say it’s ok so we can do it. And unfortunately for you, this panel member refuses to give you a straight answer because I believe the only way to build strong moral values or grounding on anything to do with God is to make this deeply personal. What is God saying to you about s_x or/and its value and importance?
What is God saying to you about s_x or/and its value and importance?
When I was pondering this question myself a few years ago, I came across this passage in James which is very clear about conversations like these:
“If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them.” James 4:17
So the real question here is, do you think that there’s a problem with s_x before marriage? I might not have given you an easy answer but I hope I’ve given you one which means you have a way to ensure you decide, as I did, based on the sturdy ground of a communicative relationship with God and not based on the potentially uninformed opinion of a stranger on the Internet ;).
Our Great Sexpectations column is written by a number of different contributors who make up the Woman Alive panel.