I’ve been overwhelmed with the response to last weeks first part of this abstinence series. It’s such an important subject and I firmly believe that it’s important we discuss these things. Last week I talked about the concept and importance of abstinence before marriage and it’s Biblical basis.
In part two today I wanted to focus on the reality, rather than simply the ideal. I didn’t and don’t want to present abstinence before marriage as some kind of guarantee of success in marriage.
However much I’d like to, the reality is that it doesn’t always turn out that way. I know Christians who have been abstinent before marriage but the marriage still hasn’t worked out. Others have been abused sexually before marriage.
We live in a less than perfect world and, as all of us know, it often doesn’t work out how we plan.
Personally, when it comes to abuse – and I am only going to cover this subject briefly, as I don’t consider myself any kind of authority on it – I still believe those women – or men – who are abused in that way are still pure sexually in God’s eyes. The intercourse they engaged in wasn’t of their choosing and there was no love, commitment or consent involved – it was in dark, evil circumstances, by force – not the way of God, and without any consent or desire on their behalf.
I believe that God is capable of redeeming all those who have been through those – or any – difficult circumstances, and bringing new life, new purity, and healing and wholeness to those involved, and that includes sexually.
One thing I don’t ever want to do, is over-romanticise sex, pre-marital abstinence or marriage itself. Obviously there’s a place for romance in all three and romance is important, but if we somehow think that it’s all going to be perfect, easy, right or simple just because we keep to the ideal or pursue it, then we aren’t living in reality.
I believe God wants us to pursue His ideal – oneness, abstinence before and until marriage.
I believe that’s how we were designed and its simply the best way to live – its something I really believe in, and would do even without my faith.
However, we must never over-romanticise it. We must never think that because we’re pursuing this ideal, that if we meet that right person, that suddenly everything will automatically fall into place, or that just because our intentions are right, it automatically goes right.
Marriages and relationships take commitment, hard work, perseverance, patience, grace, trust, love – and more. The couple in the picture on the left are Ralph and Phyllis Tarrant, who are the longest married couple in the UK, having been married 78 years - which, in perspective, is 13 years longer than my Dad has been alive. They got married the same year as Adolf Hitler took power in Germany, 1933.
Wow. That just blows me away.
One thing I am certain of is there’s no way that marriage would have lasted as long if it were merely based on sex. Indeed, when interviewed about their enduring marriage, talking about their first meeting, Ralph himself said “There was no thought of sex in those days”. Now that’s not to say there wasn’t sexual attraction, but the culture they lived in didn’t worship or idolise sex as we seem to now, relationships and ultimately marriage were about way more than that.
It’s hard for people of our generation to imagine - purely because of the sex-obsessed culture we’ve been brought up in.
I know several couples who’ve been married for over 20 years (which doesn’t sound quite as long in comparison, but is still a very long time) and they all say to me that marriages go through seasons, and its hard work – not always easy or romantic.
Abstinence before marriage – and these couples all were abstinent before marriage – has in my opinion really helped these couples and strengthened their relationship, which is really my point. Keeping sex for marriage doesn’t automatically mean everything will be guaranteed to work out, but it definitely helps the relationships and ultimately the marriage.
The other area we can over-romanticise is less obvious, but equally important. It’s when we get lulled into the trap of thinking our future – or present – husband or wife is perfect, never going to make any mistakes.
One thing it’s so easy to do with this area of life, especially if you’re single a long time, is to make your future husband or wife the person who saves you, completes you, makes everything perfect. Our culture seems to encourage the idea that the perfect person for you is someone who meets all these standards, and often, on the surface, many of us can easily give the impression – or be drawn to the idea in others – that this is the case.
In the Christian context, we can subtly be drawn to the idea that the person we’re marrying can save us, is perfect, isn’t going to screw up at all – essentially, to be Jesus.
Sorry readers, that’s simply not true.
The person you marry isn’t Jesus.
Sorry to ruin the romantic ideal, but I can tell you now the person you have or will marry isn’t perfect. They aren’t going to be perfect all the time or always do the right thing – and they can’t save you or complete you.
It’s only Jesus that can save you – has saved you – and only relationship with God can complete you in the way that truly satisfies.
The great thing is, that whether you’re single or married, that invitation is always open and available to all. That’s not to say we always have it sorted with God, or we don’t doubt or question our faith, not at all, but ultimately it’s only through God that we can become who we were made to be, and be whole.
Don’t get me wrong – a good husband or wife can be a great partner for the adventure of life and faith in God, but they can’t save or complete you and neither can you can’t do these things for them, not in the way Jesus can. That’s Jesus’ job, we can’t do it for Him (though we do try sometimes).
Part of being in relationship with your partner has to be accepting others imperfections and mistakes – not necessarily excusing them, because discipleship is about growth, forgiveness and ironing these things out – but ultimately we need to accept and know right at the beginning that whoever our partner is, they aren’t Jesus.
They have flaws – just like we do. They make bad decisions, they sin, they have fears and insecurities, just like us – and the longer and more deeply we know them, and the closer we become, the more we are going to see that.
If we try to make our partner Jesus, it will put impossible pressure on them and ultimately doom the relationship. I’ve heard true stories of relationships that have ended for precisely that reason.
So rather than attempting to complete that person or be completed by them, the goal should be instead work together, disciple each other and work with God to grow and mature, have grace to accept the person as they are and try to iron out the imperfections over time.
When I think of the kind of person I will marry, I’ve accepted that whoever that is will be someone who isn’t perfect, won’t complete me and isn’t my saviour.
They are someone who will have their own fears, doubts, insecurities and vulnerabilities – and that’s perfectly fine.
But at the same time, that someone could still be my best friend, the person I trust the most, the person I can go on adventures with and makes me feel alive. A person in whom I can see glimpses of God, and who I can encourage, pray with and for, support and champion in whatever adventure God has for them, who I can help discover and embrace the calling and identity God has for them.
Someone who makes me laugh, who challenges me and pushes me to grow, who I can do the journey of life with, with God as our Father, guide and saviour, the one who equips, sustains and supports us through that journey and all it’s ups and downs, valleys and hilltops.
Through both of our mistakes, mishaps, sins, screw ups, fears, doubts and insecurities. Where we both have grace to accept each other as we are, with all those weaknesses, but at the same time challenge each other to deal with them.
That’s more the kind of relationship I’d like with any potential future wife – and one which isn’t dependent on sex for it to work.
Which brings me to my final point. The other problem with pre-marital sex is that the relationship can be tied in to ‘how good’ the sex is. Not having any experience I still struggle to understand what people are talking about when it comes to ‘good’ and ‘bad’ sex, and how people can base their judgement of their partner based on their sexual prowess.
It simply makes no sense to me, and I don’t think it ever will.
Sex, on it’s own, is simply no base for a relationship.
Frankly, I’d rather ‘get good’ as it were with one person over time, than do a ‘dry run’ with lots of women to ‘make sure I was good enough’ before meeting ‘the one’ as it were.
That kind of logic doesn’t make sense to me, and frankly, it seems pretty shallow – and dishonouring to whoever I eventually marry.
I’m sure there are many reading this who disagree with that, and that’s perfectly fine – I totally respect your right to differ, and my opinion is no reflection or personal attack on you. But that’s where I stand.
Will my first time be perfect? Probably not.
Most likely it will be messy, uncomfortable and awkward – and honestly, that’s perfectly fine. I have no worries about that. I would hope however that myself and whoever I marry will probably have a right good laugh about it, even then, because ultimately the relationship won’t be dependent on ‘how good’ the sex is, and because we know we have our whole lives to get it right.
Together, as one. Hopefully, for the rest of our lives.
Surely sex is better when it’s with someone you completely trust, you have a close connection to, who is your best friend, who has accepted you as you are but also encourages and challenges you to grow? Someone who you’re journeying through life with and have made a firm commitment to, in the shape of marriage.
Someone you’re essentially one with.
Don’t you think?
Marriage seems a much safer place to enter into the sacred, Holy – yet initially messy – act of sexual intercourse than just doing it with someone on a first or second date, when you hardly know them, or doing it because you just can’t wait.
That’s certainly what I believe, it’s why I’ve chosen the way of abstinence before marriage.
But if that’s the case then why are people not waiting, when the Bible is so clear on the issue and when it just seems to be a better way to live? I mean that stat I mentioned last time of 80% of US Christians having pre-marital sex doesn’t lie.
Do we really think sex solves our problems, or makes us complete?
Do we think it’s the ultimate high?
Are unmarried sexually active Christians simply more willing to compromise their faith in this area to suit their own desires?
Has culture diluted our faith to the point where it’s to difficult to say no, just thinking God might have changed His mind (and I have heard that used as an excuse), or won’t mind so much?
I personally can’t find one authentic reason for compromising on this, or indeed anywhere where Jesus compromises. It’s pretty clear, from where I stand, how He wants us to live in this area, and to me its simply the best way to live.
If that sounds harsh, let me make it clear, in either of the two posts I’ve written, I’m not here to tell anyone what to do, or judge anyone who disagrees with me and lives differently.
That’s not my job and never will be.
As adults we all make our own choices about how to live and we take responsibility for those. None of us are here to judge anybody else, that’s never been our job, and I have no intention of doing so.
All I can do is model in my life what I believe to be the best way, and show through my conduct and actions, and any future relationship, that the way I believe is God’s way – the way of pre-marital abstinence – is the best way.
I firmly believe the best way to be human is God’s way – you don’t argue with the designer and creator, they tend to know best.
I have no idea what route you’ve chosen, and you’re free to disagree with me.
There, like with any issue, good people who believe different things, who will totally disagree with me, and that’s fine. I’m all for healthy discussion, and would love to understand more why Christians have just seemingly been more willing to compromise in this area.
All I have done in this series is briefly outline my own perspective and shared from my own experience, and I know and am comfortable in the fact that if I do get married, that I will have saved myself sexually for that person.
It may not be perfect my first time, a wife won’t solve all my problems or save or complete me – but we’ll hopefully have the rest of our lives to work with each other, and God, in making it good, in building a marriage, a relationship and sexual intimacy that is amazing, and lasts.
I am trusting God that it will be worth the wait. That He knows best.
Have you? Do you?
So, what do you think? Time for you to join the discussion:
Do you over-romanticise the idea of abstinence before marriage, or over-romanticise the idea of marriage itself?
Have you ever inadvertently tried to make your partner into your saviour?
How can you have a healthier perspective on sexuality, marriage and your current/future husband/wife, which allows for them not to be perfect?
Check out the first part of this series: