The following response is a bit long, but I prayed and meditated over it before posting as well as having done some additional research for articles and Biblical references because besides answering your questions clearly and completely, I want it to be clear that I am not just replying based on my own opinion, but that I am earnestly trying to bring you God’s thoughts on the matter. Everything I’m saying, I’m saying with the best of intentions, and I hope you receive it in that same spirit. I will also PM you some reading material that has practical recommendations for single Christians trying to remain chaste.
While I understand that in a Christian context, premarital sex is a sin, I don’t see there being much help or support in churches for modern day Christians who are struggling with this.
I’m sorry to hear that you don’t feel you have much support in this area, being that it is so important. And I’m also sorry to say that I have noticed this to be true in my own observation and experience. I think part of the reason for the lack of support is the tacit understanding within some churches that: (1) most young people do not bother to adhere to the God’s commandments regarding fornication so there is no value in teaching about it and (2) they are afraid to “scare people off” by boldly speaking the truth about immorality. Via PM, I’d be glad to point you in the direction of resources in your area.
Back in biblical times, women were married much younger. In today’s times, many women go to college, then do further post-grad studies, then want to climb the corporate ladder. The average age of first marriage is late 20s/early 30s in the western world. The age of puberty hasn’t changed. That means that instead of waiting 2-3 years, people are now waiting 15-20 years from onset of puberty to age of losing their virginity if they did not engage in premarital sex.
This is true and it’s very astute of you to recognize that even though times have changed, our eternal God has not. Stated another way, given that God is unchanging, we should not fool ourselves into thinking that we simply have a pass to ignore certain commandments that modern times make it somewhat more difficult to obey. You are very wise to analyze this the way that you have because, yes, we now need to go to a bit of additional effort to ensure that we keep God’s laws. However, the reward of being viewed favorably in the eyes of the Lord is so worth it.
I don’t doubt that prayer can be effective, but sexual urges ARE biological. We wouldn’t just pray an appendicitis or heart attack away, we would seek medical attention and treatment. Should christians who are tempted to have pre-marital sex take medication to suppress their libido?
Appendicitis and heart attacks are both negative things that result from human imperfection. Sexual urges are not negative at all and were indeed designed by God for a reason. So when we make that distinction, it might be easier to see why the two issues need to be dealt with differently. Your comment about “praying away” sexual urges, reminds me that prayer (in itself) is not usually all that is required to deal with any spiritual issue. Also necessary is, reading the scripture, meditating on it, seeking wisdom and intentionally arranging your life to be in harmony with God’s commandments. If you [the general “you”] live a generally Unchristian lifestyle, then of course, mere prayer (on any subject) is not going to be of much benefit to you. Also, Christians who are tempted to have pre-marital sex needn’t necessarily take mediation to suppress their libido, but what they CAN do is minimize the temptation as much as possible. 1 Corinthians 6:18 says that we need to “flee from fornication.” This means to stay as far as possible from anything that might lure us into immorality. It certainly involves refraining from intentionally feeding our minds with activities specifically designed to heighten our libido (such as sexting, pornography, phone sex, etc.) and avoiding close association with those who ignore God’s principles related to sex. It would be much easier to maintain a commitment (to anything) if you surround yourself with people who value it as well. I saw in another post that you don’t have a strong Christian community to rely on. I can certainly relate to that as I have fended for myself spiritually at certain times of my life, but let me ask you, is your significant other at least on the same page as you?
Even cohabitation is also largely considered a sin. I’ve been looking through a lot of internet resources (I don’t feel comfortable bringing this up with a pastor) and reasons why christians should not live together before marriage. Unfortunately, it was very poorly written. When it came to the point of saving on rent, the author had written something along the lines of “Don’t do it, just don’t. It’s not worth it.”
Cohabitation is not a sin. However, from a Christian perspective, it is a terrible idea because: (1) it creates unlimited opportunities for temptation which in turn leads to sin and (2) it would make observers skeptical that we are living a chaste lifestyle which could be a stumbling block for those who are trying to learn about the God we serve by watching he behavior of His servants. Some people are not comfortable revealing their own experience which has led them to the conclusion that “it’s not worth it” and others would be glad to share but don’t feel that they have the freeness of speech to allow them to lecture others (perhaps based on unwise decisions they have made in the past) so, on this and similar subjects, I understand it can be difficult getting a clear and reasonable rationale besides “ummm, because I said so.” My goal is to provide a bit of that in this post.
So my questions are based on practicality:
1. What should a christian couple do when they are struggling with finances, and work far from their parent’s home in terms of renting together? They could rent an apartment each, but it would cost them much more than if they were to live together.
This example is not uncommon and people have found all different kinds of ways of working around it. Even some PPs have mentioned options dealing with renting rooms and staying with friends and whatnot. But again, just because our circumstances might make obedience a little complicated, doesn’t mean we’re excused from the requirement. The simplest way to view it is thus:which is more important? Saving money or pleasing God? It would be great if there were a lot of nuance and loopholes and different angles from which to look at this, but there aren’t. I’ll insert a personal anecdote here. My husband and I lived in different countries while we were engaged and went to tremendous expense to maintain separate households (although, in all honesty, it was no more expense than if we had never met and were just two single people with separate lives) for over a year while we made preparations to get married. Almost everyone we knew (including some Christians) told us “oh, just move in together. It’ll be fine.” But we knew that we owed it to ourselves and our God to do what was necessary to flee from fornication and to continue in our exemplary Christian behavior. Those people encouraging us to ignore the reality that we would very likely fall into serious sin if we were to live together would not have been there to help pick up the pieces of respective relationships with God, would they? Was it hard? Absolutely. Was it expensive? Even more so. But I would not want back a single dollar or trade in a single lonely night if it meant that I would have to trade it for God’s favor.
2. What should a christian couple do when they have dated for many years, are feeling sexual urges, and not able to marry yet for financial reasons? I know you can have a registry wedding for just a few hundred dollars, so is this something every christian couple should consider? Or should they take something to suppress their sexual urges?
If the couple is truly ready to be married (and not merely imagining themselves to be ready because they really want to have sex), then there is no reason why they shouldn’t do so when possible. To your point, getting married costs less than $100 in most places that I know of. If you’re talking about having the funds to have a wedding celebration, well, it comes down to priorities. The couple would have to ask themselves: what is more important at this time? Being married? Or having a wedding? No couple, Christian or otherwise, should over-extend themselves by attempting to have a wedding they can’t afford. Again, sexual urges should never be the primary reason why a couple chooses to marry. But the inability to host an elaborate wedding should not be the primary reason why they choose not to marry. As to the part about taking something to suppress sexual urges: the issue is not to suppress biological urges; the goal here is to get your situation to a point that is easier to control your actions.
3. Christian couples who aren’t married are also urged not to holiday together. However, it is highly likely that when in a relationship for a few years, a couple will take a holiday. Should they sleep in separate hotel rooms, and once again pay more to keep up an appearance of not sinning?
I saw that some PPs made suggestions about taking group trips and whatnot. That is good advice. And at the risk of being repetitive, a dating Christian couple can also ask: what is more important? Taking vacations alone? Or remaining loyal to our commitment before God? I believe my earlier comments fully encapsulated the fact that saving money on hotel rooms is not by any means a worthwhile motivation to expose oneself to unnecessary temptation. However, I want to address the last part of your question regarding “keeping up an appearance of not sinning.” This may sound like it’s not a worthwhile consideration because after all, who cares what people think as long as I’m not sinning, right? Wrong. Jesus called his followers “the salt of the earth.” That is, that we as Christians are the source by which people can “see” God. At 2 Corinthians 5:20, we learn that part of our responsibility involves being “ambassadors for Christ.” We are a model for outsiders and they should be able to judge the God we serve based on the extent to which we reflect His truth. How would you [the general “you”] feel if you learned that a non-Christian friend or relative had decided through their observation of your behavior that Christians are hypocrites because we simultaneously preach premarital abstinence while living with our boyfriends, which obviously means that we are engaging in premarital sex? That person’s conclusion could be incorrect, of course. But it would have been primarily your actions that led the person to that conclusion. That’s a risky way to live and not worth the potential damage to your conscience.
I hope that this is helpful to you in some way. Please let me know if I can clarify anything. And I pray that you can find the strength to abide by God’s commandments regarding premarital sex and maintain your commitment to doing so. Best wishes to you!
since you said you wanted to see my answer, I thought I’d tag you as well.