I’ve been in a relationship with my girlfriend for over 2 years and we haven’t slept together. This may not be a surprise to some who know us or have grown up going to a Christian youth group, but the sad reality is that when I’ve chatted to people at work or throughout education, Lucy and I are in the minority.
Beginning our relationship at 15, this may not have been the case. But certainly now when we tell people we haven’t slept together, the reactions vary from shock, to awe, to a sly wink of disbelief.
Then come the questions - people don’t get it, we are the anomaly.
‘In this day and age why would you wait?’ ‘Surely God wants you to be happy?’ ‘What about if you love each other?’ ‘As long as you are going to get married one day what does it matter?’
However, the one most common reaction that I have found, regardless of the age and stage most young people are at, is simply - ‘But... why?’
The demand is a good one, and it's something I have attempted to explain countless times to believers (many young Christians today would disagree with my stance) and non-believers alike.
My answer has taken some serious thought and prayer. After all, when others our age, even other Christians, talk about how great sex is, how it's so much fun and how amazing it is to share in that level of intimacy with each other, why wouldn’t I want to try? And what better opportunity than in a long-term, loving relationship? A relationship where we share so much of our lives, why not share just that much more?
Quite simply, the deepest desire of a Christian’s heart is to see God glorified. A desire I know Lucy and I both share. So what better way to glorify God in our relationship than to maintain that sex is the highest expression of love that you can physically give to someone, and is a gift from the creator to the created. Why on earth would we then not follow his instructions for its use?
We all have stories of Boxing Days that have ended in a shameful walk back to the previously discarded instruction booklet for that gift that was so promising, yet caused such unnecessary stress and pain, purely because we thought we could make it work on our own.
In the Bible, God outlines His instructions as our creator for this gift of sex, and it’s so clear that it is only acceptable if shared between a married couple. Think about the commandment to not commit adultery in Exodus 20:14, which simply means to not have sexual relations with someone else’s husband/wife.
Lucy is not my wife. I am not her husband. For us to have sex would not glorify God.
Furthermore if we are to be married to other people, then we have genuinely slept with someone else’s spouse. The apostle Paul goes on to further emphasise the fact that God has intended sex to be kept between man and wife in Hebrews 14:4 & 1 Corinthians 7:2.
After explaining that I’m not willing to give the very greatest gift of physical love I can to someone who is not my wife, I’m then usually faced with the challenge of ‘well what can you do?’
I was chatting about this with a friend over a coffee the other day, he had just begun a relationship with a Christian and phrased the issue like this – ‘Where is the line between glorification and fornication?’
So how far is too far? This is the question that there is no remotely easy answer to. The mere fact that this question even gets asked shows that we as humans can have all the best intentions of glorifying God, yet still have the flesh battling for control. St Paul writes, ‘I do what I do not want to do’. This blatantly shows that when we try to honour God in our relationship, and still physically express our affection for one another, the struggle becomes very real.
So some advice: On a brutally practical level, get an accountability group. People who will journey alongside you, support you, and hold your actions to account. Look for people who love you enough to smack out ‘how dare you?!’ when you say you understand what it means to love someone, yet want to sleep with them before marriage.
It may sound obvious, but you have to communicate in your relationship, tell your partner how you feel. Ask how it is you can help each other glorify God in your own individual walks, and then strive to make one another successful.
These will help, but in all honesty its rare that mere practical advice is ever enough.
C.S Lewis says in his book The Screwtape Letters,
“Indeed the safest road to Hell is the gradual one- soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without sign-posts…”
It is too easy to set a boundary, push it, stretch it and slowly see it break under the pretence of setting a new ‘more realistic’ boundary. Then as the opportunity presents itself you convince each other that what you meant when you said ‘boundary’ was actually a ‘guideline’, some slack either way shouldn’t do any harm. And so this cycle repeats.
In a relationship it is so important to express your affection for one another both physically and verbally, it is only natural and healthy to do so. However it is so much more essential to glorify God, and being human we are only going to do this in one way – through the power that God has given us. The Holy Spirit dwells in us and through Him we can be equipped to take up our cross and face daily life. 1 Corinthians 10:13 says that God will not tempt us beyond our ability to endure, but sustains us through the power He has provided for us. So we must spend time with God, absorb ourselves in scripture, immerse ourselves in prayer and petition God to incline our hearts to His.
My prayer as I write this is to honour God, honour Lucy and honour myself. ‘Love is not merely an affectionate feeling, but a steady wish for the loved persons ultimate good, as far as it can be obtained’. So I pray that as you read this, the importance of denying yourself, giving your all, your everything, your life and following Him will weigh on your heart. Journey in the power of the Holy Spirit, in knowledge that through Christ’s death and resurrection we are saved from the Father's wrath and day by day we walk together into eternity.
"No sex before marriage"?