- 5 years ago
- Wedding: September 2013
The way I see it, as a Christian who believes sex is for marriage only, you cannot be for long courtships and you must promote young marriage. This becomes a dilemma for me.
Many Christians I know feel this way, however I have never wanted this for my life. I wanted to complete my education, travel the world, learn myself fully and develop a full and mature relationship with God before I got married. I was also committed to knowing my partner very well prior to marriage because I do not believe in divorce except under the most extreme of circumstances. And I did exactly as I desired. I was married at age 28 after an 18-month courtship a mature Christian with 2 degrees, a lucrative career and 25+ countries under my belt. I’m not trying to hold myself up as a shining example or anything, but my point is that with God’s help, all things are possible.
Situation A: What do I say to a fellow struggling Christian friend, who has dated her Christian boyfriend since they were 16, and are now 20, studying at college with debts to pay off, and still maturing as adults? Do we advocate for young people to marry while their frontal cortex is still not fully developed and while they struggle with student loans, studying and working?
You tell her that marriage is for mature people. Even in Bible times, at 1 Corinthians 7:36 the Bible writer was inspired by God to write that one factor for determining whether someone is ready to marry is that they are “past the bloom of youth,” that is, that they are both mature enough spiritually and old enough chronologically that they are past the period of life when they are ruled by sexual feelings and romantic emotions. However, much more than age, a dating couple should review the Biblical requirements for marriage mates and determine whether they are ready to carry them out. For example, a capable Christian wife, should be able to conform to the following from Proverbs 31: She delights to work with her hands…providing food for her household. She prepares herself for hard work…she extends her palm to the lowly one, and she opens her hands to the poor. She is clothed with strength and splendor, and she looks to the future with confidence. She opens her mouth in wisdom. The law of kindness is on her tongue. She watches over the activity of her household and the bread of laziness she does not eat. Charm may be false, and beauty may be fleeting, but the woman who fears Jah will be praised.
If she is not willing or not able to meet this standard, she’s not ready for marriage, regardless of her age. However, if this text does describe her, perhaps she is quite ready–even if she’s only 20.
FYI, similar guidelines for Christian husbands can be found at: Ephesians 5:25-29, Colossians 3:19, 1 Peter 3:7, 1 Corinthians 13:11, 1 Timothy 5:8 among others.
I’ll also add, that this type of scenario is exactly why many Christian parents do not approve of their teenagers dating. Some people feel that dating/courting is the first step toward marriage and should therefore only be undertaken by people who are of age to marry. Personally, I find that this approach has plenty of merit.
Situation B: What do I say to a fellow Christian who is a 27 year old virgin, who has just found a suitable Christian partner and been dating for 9 months but feeling strong sexual urges? Should they marry now, while practically they are also paying off college debt and just establishing their careers, and just getting to know their partner (it’s only been 9 mths!)
You reassure her that sexual urges are natural, but they are no reason (in themselves) to rush into a marriage. Then you refer her to some of the scriptures above that will help her to determine if she is ready to take such a step. If they are both in their mid-late twenties, feel that they know each other very well, are spiritually mature and have a strong track record of making godly decisions, perhaps nine months of dating is enough time. That is a decision that each couple needs to make (perhaps along with the advice of mature Christians they trust such as parents or mentors). You also remind her that marriage is meant to be forever and, if after an honest assessment of their situation, they determine that they are not ready for marriage, then…they hold off on getting married. Does that mean they’ll also have to hold off on having sex? Yes of course. But that’s just the way it is. In my previous post, I mentioned some strategies for avoiding temptation, but there’s really nothing to say beyond that. If you serve God and want to please Him, you refrain from engaging in premarital sex and you maintain that commitment for as long as needed. I will say, though, that while the existence of student debt or the fact that careers are not fully established can be challenges, they are not insurmountable for a couple whose marriage is centered on God (rather than on finances, for example).
And lastly, what constitutes as “sex”? From my understanding, anything leading to temptation is wrong, so that includes deep kissing, handjobs, oral etc which can feel “unnatural” in today’s world. It is almost unheard of to meet a couple who have dated for a few years who have not done any of those things. I don’t even think there is ONE Christian male who doesn’t watch porn.
Some people are surprised to learn that the Bible actually does contain explicit guidance regarding what is considered “fornication.” The greek word “porneia” which is translated as “sexual immorality” at 1 Thessalonians 4:3 refers to all forms of intimate conduct outside of marriage, including intercourse, oral sex, anal sex, and masturbating another person. To be as clear as possible, unmarried Christians should not avoid oral sex and handjobs because they lead to fornication. They should avoid them because they ARE fornication. Further, when discussing immoral sexual practices, the Bible mentions not only fornication but also sexual “uncleanness” and “loose conduct.” (2 Corinthians 12:21) These concepts involve behavior which does not qualify as fornication and is not necessarily sinful, but which is inappropriate for servants of God to engage in. Clearly, there are various forms of sexual intimacy that are offensive to God when performed outside marriage, even when there is no intercourse. The overall message of the Bible regarding sex is that sexual intimacies are restricted to a man and a woman who are married to each other.
Also, there are Christian men who are dedicated to living a clean life that does not involve pornography. I’m certain I did not marry that last remaining one, lol. Your comment about this combined with your note that it is “almost unheard of” to meet couples who don’t engage in unclean or loose behavior, lets me know that you could benefit from increased association with Godly people. In that environment, being committed to maintaining chastity is normal and one finds lots of support for their struggles in this area.
(side note: a friend who dated (and had sex with) a non-believer brought him to church and they were both turned away and told to never return for she had brought deep shame!)
Yikes! It always hurts my heart to hear stories like this. Your friend knows that she was wrong to even attach herself romantically to an unbeliever let alone have sex with him. But it is the role of the congregation leaders to help her and encourage her to repentance so that she can be forgiven, not shoo her away for the rest of eternity. They are supposed to imitate Christ, the fine shepherd by giving loving counsel as at John 13:12-15. Can you imagine Jesus condemning Mary Magdalene or Rahab the prostitute?
I can say that the percentage of Christian doctors is probably <10%. You will almost never meet a pro-life, anti-euthanasia doctor.
I don’t know about this; my mother is one. A friend from my previous congregation is one. And another friend will become one this year. The Bible writer Luke was one. I understand how you feel. I’m an attorney, and for a long while, I felt a extremely isolated because I assumed I was one of the only people in my profession who took Christianity so seriously, and especially of my particular denomination. Perhaps that was true in the area in which I was living at the time, but once I branched out more, I realized that there are all sorts of people who serve the true God. I was once invited to attend a special meeting for Christian doctors and lawyers (not nurses, not dentists, not court clerks, not paralegals. Just straight up MDs and JDs) and there was standing room only in the hall! It was reassuring to learn that I wasn’t alone. I’m sure you aren’t either.