Lately, on some of the blogs I read, there’s been a lot of talk about sexual purity.
While I don’t endorse or necessarily agree with all the opinions expressed in them, I think those blog posts offer some valuable insight into what mainstream Christian culture is thinking. And since a good majority of those posts are written by people my age and younger, I think it’s a really good indicator of what the younger generation both in and out of our churches really think about sex.
As a preface to my own thoughts about this all, I should explain my own background. I was a teenager at the height of the True Love Waits movement, which was a campaign to get teenagers to commit to not having sex before marriage. The basis behind it was, of course, honoring God and being obedient to His plan for marriage. Because I was an unchurched teenager until late in high school, I never signed a card or got into the craze. (I had lots of friends who did, and I’m pretty sure only one of them actually ended up waiting for marriage. Which is something I’ll get to later.) Because I was a follow the rules kind of girl before meeting Christ, I was already all on board with saving sex for marriage, even if I only aspired to do so because it was the “right” thing to do. After becoming a Christian and discovering that purity was as much about my heart as about my body, and that abstaining was less about saving myself for a future husband and more about being obedient to Christ’s call to holiness, I was committed to waiting however long true love kept me waiting. And as it turns out? It would keep me waiting for a while.
One of the statistics out there says that 96% of people will have sex before marriage. That leaves only 4% who remain virgins until they say “I do.” I have no idea how scientifically accurate this is, but I think it’s likely close to actuality, even in evangelical Christian circles. As a parent, this just hits me in the gut. Not because I believe sexual sin to be something greater than any other sin that my girls might one day fall into, but because I think it shows, as it pertains to the children and teenagers we’ve raised in the church and taught doctrine to, how poorly we’ve done in the area.
How so, Jenn? Didn’t we have the biggest True Love Waits rally ever? Didn’t we do the ring ceremony with our girls AND our boys? Didn’t we tell them to wait because it was the right thing to do?
Good for you for doing all of that, but if you called young people to a standard rather than to a Savior, you set them up for failure.
When we, as the church, elevate sexual purity as a trait of greater holiness over other choices, and in converse sexual sin as being higher than other sins, we miss the point. When we have more to say about premarital sex than we do about gluttony, which are both equal sins in the eyes of God, we miss the point. When we call people to a standard of living, to a rule to follow, to a moral law to keep, WITHOUT calling them first and foremost to Christ and His salvation, sanctification, and glorification, WE MISS THE POINT. By all means, let’s teach what Scripture says about sex (that God created it, that God blesses it, that God made it for enjoyment) and let’s encourage sexual purity, but above all, let’s teach it in conjunction with the Lordship of Christ over ALL areas of our lives. When we get into teaching any kind of moral behavior or actions, we often miss the heart of the matter. And someone who is living for Christ instead of living for perfection in regards to rules and regulations won’t rely on their own holiness but on the strength of Christ, who empowers us to live as He calls us to.
If I’m being totally honest with you, I would have to confess that my own decision to not have sex before marriage had far less to do with standards than it did with Christ. Standards and rules are all good and well when you’re a single girl with no prospects out there, but when the Lord drops a hot preacher man right into your lap and you’re wearing the engagement ring he put on your finger and literally counting the minutes until he’s all yours to HAVE and to HOLD… well, standards go flip flying out the window, y’all. But praise God that we desired, more than we desired one another, to honor Christ and to believe His words about the sanctity of marriage. Because that was far more of a compelling reason to say goodnight when it was time to say goodnight and get the heck away from one another!
Do we, as the church, do anything else that might set our young people up for failure? I think we do. When we tell them that sex before marriage will lead to dissatisfaction with sex in marriage, (when clearly that can’t be the case with 96% of the population out there) and when we tell them that sex will be nothing short of amazing if they wait for marriage (almost as if we’re trying to get them to wait by offering up to them an almost Hollywood-esque picture of sex, where it’s constant fireworks every single time, even from the beginning), we are lying to them. (And even worse, sometimes in the fight against premarital sex churches paint even married sex in a grim, unflattering light, scaring the wits out of virginal teens and young people, setting them up for frigidity, unrepsonsiveness, and guilt when they finally take to their own marriage beds. What a curse, that we would take something holy and GOOD and amazing that God has given to us for our enjoyment and turn it into something bad, wrong, and evil!) Just as society would like to have us believe that first-time married sex between two virgins with no previous experience is awkward and horrible and that sex between two more experienced partners is always amazing, we as the church tell just as many falsehoods, even with the best of intentions. And in doing so? We become rather obsessed with sex ourselves.
Perhaps the better reality for churches to teach would be to say that sex? Is sex. Good or bad, it’s just that. It’s only one part of who you are in totality. And God calls you to keep your mind, heart, and your body for marriage, not so that the sex can be better but so that YOU can be in greater fellowship with Him, living His will for your life. While I believe that the Lord does care about this part of our being, I sincerely believe that He cares more about the WHOLE person that about just one part. By isolating this issue, we make it more important than it is. We starve other spiritual needs and areas of growth in our constant harping on THIS issue. And in doing so, we also, unintentionally perhaps, make sexual sin unforgivable. If we are to believe the statistics out there, we should be moved to teach better doctrine about the Lordship of Christ and we should be moved to show greater grace to those who feel alienated and outcast because, as a church, we have made this particular sin one that Christ’s blood doesn’t cover. Woe to us, for allowing our well-intentioned Pharisaical minds to hurt and wound brothers and sisters in Christ who are still in His grace, even as they struggle, just as we ALL struggle, in making Christ Lord of all, each and every day of our lives.
When we married, Wes was 23, and I was 26. Statistics alone made it unlikely that either one of us would still be virgins going into our wedding night, but by the grace of God, we BOTH were. And not because we were perfect or more holy or more righteous but because sexual purity for us had less to do with sex and more to do with honoring Christ.
And I can’t tell you how often, not just in regards to sex or even just in regards to marriage, we’ve learned again and again that EVERYTHING in our lives should be more about a Savior than a standard.
Oh, that we would teach our kids THIS truth!