A common question asked of Christians is: “If I become a Christian, does that mean I can’t have sex until I’m married?” and the simple answer is “yes”.
But that’s not the whole story. If you read on a little bit you can see why Christians impose such an apparently archaic and unnatural rule on themselves and begin to understand that maybe it’s not so archaic and unnatural after all.
There’s no doubt that many of us are put off becoming Christians because the Bible forbids Christians to have sex outside of marriage. So we think: ‘Maybe I’d be interested in becoming a Christian, but I could never obey the rules. I could never keep it up.’ In other words, ‘There’s no way I can suddenly stop doing things that I naturally want to do.’ We imagine that God does little or nothing to help. Subconsciously, we think God doesn’t really understand what it’s like to be human, and although he’s ever so keen to tell us what not to do, he won’t actually give us any supernatural power to enable us to obey his commands.
But hang on a minute! The only reason we’d ever become a Christian in the first place is because we think God is real, loves us and has a great plan for the rest of our life. It is therefore totally illogical to also believe that God wants us to be miserable! Especially as Jesus says the opposite. He says, ‘I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full’ (John 10:10).
This may come as a shock to some, but God thinks sex is great. He actually invented it. He needn’t have made it as enjoyable as it actually is, so he must have thought, ‘What the heck. I love them so much I’ll make sex fantastically pleasurable. I’m going to make it really awesome.’ If you can dare to believe for a moment that God really does want you to be sexually satisfied, then there must be a good reason why he thinks the best place to enjoy sex is with someone you’re married to. It’s not that God has sexual hang-ups and needs to loosen up a bit. It’s more that he’s seriously thrilled with one of his most exciting creations: Christian marriage (see Ephesians 5:22–33).
Anyone who’s had sex realises that something more than physical penetration is going on. There’s some sort of emotional, psychological and spiritual dimension to it. Jesus said that it’s ‘becoming one flesh – no longer two bodies but one’ (The Message – Matthew 19:5; Jesus is actually quoting Genesis 1:27). God knows that this dynamic, ‘one flesh’ experience is best enjoyed within marriage, and the most recent research surveys back him up!
So far so good. The problem for many of us is that marriage seems light years away. And how do we know we’ll ever get married anyway? Which leaves us feeling we’ve got a mountain to climb, and we don’t even know if we’ll ever get to the summit! Before we despair of the journey ahead, we must remember that first of all it’s not sinful to be tempted. After all, Jesus ‘was tempted in every way, just as we are – yet was without sin’ (Hebrews 4:15). More importantly, once you become a Christian, God’s power comes into you, and the whole deal changes: ‘And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it’ (1 Corinthians 10:13). It’s easy to think that not having sex until you’re married will leave you with all sorts of frustrations and sadness, whereas being sexually active with at least one person (whom you’re ‘in love’ with) before you’re married is the best way ahead. But so many have found that the opposite is the case. Sex before marriage is not all it’s cracked up to be, and both you and others may be hurt in the process. Because God doesn’t want you to get hurt, he empowers you as a Christian to keep yourself for a future marriage partner. If you’re thinking, ‘Well, I’ve already blown it, so what’s the point?’ then don’t worry, because once you become a Christian, the slate is wiped clean. And if we’ve had sex outside marriage as a Christian, then ‘If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness’ (1 John 1:9). This doesn’t mean you’re technically forgiven but really you’re still guilty. It means that you’re totally pure – purified from all unrighteousness. Look at the compassionate way Jesus treated a woman who was having sex outside of marriage in John 8:1–11. Although others condemned her, Jesus did not (verse 10). He empowered her to live a new life.
The whole of the Christian life is an adventure. And it’s impossible to live it without God’s help, but if we will only take the first few steps in his direction, we’ll be amazed at how God will make it more enjoyable than anything else.