Something vital is missing from the prevailing mindset toward sexual relations outside of marriage.
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Lining supermarket check-out lanes, amid candy bars and breath mints, are enticing headlines in bold, eye-catching letters: “101 Sex Secrets,” “43 Ways to Improve Your Love Life,” “15 Ways to Drive Him Wild”…
Sex is everywhere. It permeates television shows, the Internet, and magazines. Even children’s movies often have thinly veiled sexual overtones.
For more than a century, Western nations have shed every hint of Victorian-era prudery: the “free love” 1960s gave way to the counterculture 70s; standards on sex continued to drop in the 1980s, and even more in the 90s, with a high-profile case involving the President of the United States. In 2012, a similar case involved a top U.S. intelligence leader.
Today, society’s carefree thinking on sex out of wedlock is simply, “Why not?”
Believing that “most are doing it anyway,” school administrators build sexual education programs around this mentality. In fact, the modern adage is true—most are doing it. A 2002 study of 40,000 Americans found that 95 percent had premarital sex. The report by the Guttmacher Institute, a non-profit organization that researches sexual health, stated that 93 percent of them did so before age 30 (USA Today). In another study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), almost 50 percent of high-school students in 40 American states were said to be sexually active.
Is this a bad thing? Most say no. To support this position, some cite the well-documented health benefits of being sexually active. According to WebMD, sex relieves stress, boosts one’s immune system, burns calories, improves heart health, and can reduce the risk of certain cancers. It can even improve the quality of sleep.
But does sex belong only inside a marriage relationship? What is wrong with reaping all the physical benefits of sex outside of wedlock so long as one is “smart” about it?
Undoubtedly, there are dangers for the sexually active person: transmission of diseases, unwanted pregnancies, and potential emotional scarring from a promiscuous lifestyle of multiple partners. Nonetheless, supposed experts assert that if you practice “safe sex,” the benefits could outweigh the negatives.
Obviously, people who live with reckless abandon—getting drunk and waking up not knowing what they did with whomever the night before—practice risky sex. But upon superficial examination, it seems that given the health advantages, using contraceptives wisely, and having only one sexual partner at a time means there is little downside to premarital sex.
Yet something vital is missing from this viewpoint—a void in understanding that can lead to wrong conclusions and result in devastating consequences.
A pamphlet created by the United Kingdom’s National Health Service (NHS) illustrates what Western society generally thinks of sexual activity out of wedlock. The booklet, fittingly titled Pleasure, attempts to foster frank discussions between adults and teens about sex, and the enjoyment it can bring.
The publication was an effort in the UK—where teenage pregnancies are rampant—to meet young people “where they are” and talk openly about sex. Educators hope to arm teens with enough information to dispel the mystery of sex so they can “decide when they are ready” to lose their virginity. Accordingly, it glibly espouses the benefits of sex through feel-good slogans.
“One of the things young people say a lot is that the sex education they get is virtually meaningless, it’s too biological and doesn’t relate to how they are feeling,” said a professor of health psychology in a statement published by the NHS Centre for HIV and Sexual Health in Sheffield, England. He wrote the introduction to Pleasure and advised on its content.
Essentially, educators have concluded they are no longer able to stop children from having sex. The best they can hope to do is teach them about it. We are sexual creatures with an innate sex drive, the thinking goes. This is natural, so why not?
Religious groups have taken offense with what the NHS pamphlet promotes and argue that its approach goes too far.
In general, churches of professing Christianity encourage young people not to be intimate before marriage (in biblical terms, fornication) because it promotes promiscuity, can lead to emotional scarring, may result in unwanted pregnancies—and, most important, tarnishes the sanctity of marriage.
Just as with the sex-for-health-and-pleasure crowd, proponents of waiting until you are married can back up their beliefs with scientific evidence. The CDC maintains that the “most reliable ways to avoid transmission of sexually transmitted diseases, including human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), are to abstain from sexual activity or to be in a long-term mutually monogamous relationship with an unaffected partner.”
Indeed, sexually transmitted diseases have reached an unprecedented level. “An antibiotic-resistant strain of gonorrhea—now considered a superbug—has some analysts saying that the bacteria’s effects could match those of AIDS,” CNBC reported.
‘“This might be a lot worse than AIDS in the short run because the bacteria is more aggressive and will affect more people quickly,’ said Alan Christianson, a doctor of naturopathic medicine.”
The negative effects of premarital sex do not stop with couples. Even the “safest” sex can result in unintended pregnancies—birth control works only most of the time. This can lead to the tragic decision to end the unborn child’s life through abortion, something a woman will carry for the rest of her life.
If the couple decides to go ahead with the pregnancy, children of unmarried parents are often susceptible to a host of physical and emotional problems. According to research group Child Trends, “…children born to women who did not intend to get pregnant have been found to have lower birthweight, poorer mental and physical health, lower educational attainment, and more behavioral problems than do children whose births were intended.”
Men and women who are products of broken homes often have children out of wedlock as well, which leads to a vicious, multigenerational cycle of unhappiness.
While there are many documented risks associated with premarital intercourse, research has proven that sex within a marriage has tremendous benefits.
One is a decreased likelihood of divorce. For example, a 2010 study based on 2,035 married individuals by the American Psychological Association’s Journal of Family Psychology showed couples who wait experience happier marriages, The Globe and Mail reported.
“A statistical analysis of participants showed that couples who wait…enjoy significantly more benefits than those who had sex earlier: relationship stability was rated 22 per cent higher; relationship satisfaction was rated 20 per cent higher; sexual quality of the relationship was rated 15 per cent better and communication was rated 12 per cent better.”
A healthy, happy marital relationship produces similar relationships in the lives of children who come from them. In short, happy couples produce happy children.
In addition, an attentive parental unit can keep kids from risky sexual behaviors. Reporting on a study of 3,206 teens conducted by Boston College, MSNBC said, “The more attentive the dad—and the more he knows about his teenage child’s friends—the bigger the impact on the teen’s sexual behavior, the researchers found. While an involved mother can also help stave off a teen’s sexual activity, dads have twice the influence.”
This research shows that sex education begins at home. In particular, a loving father’s good example and guidance proves the best way to positively influence a child’s sexual behavior.
It is a parent’s job to proactively teach about sex. Yet parents have to compete with what their children learn from this world’s “sexperts”—the hypersexualized media, permissive sexual education at school, misguided how-to websites—as well as their peers. While these sources may supply some correct information about purely physical aspects, the majority of what they teach includes much error. Add to this the pull on young people to learn by their own experiences, which can be painful.
Because of these factors, many parents, who do not truly understand the purpose of sex, are perfectly happy to outsource the difficult job.
On the other hand, well-meaning parents who seek to discourage premarital sex might simply say: “Because I said so!” or even, “Because God said it’s a sin!” Others, feeling it is inevitable that their child will have sex, may hand their son or daughter a condom and tell them to “be safe.”
In both scenarios, parents merely pass along what they feel is right or what others have told them—without ever proving the truth for themselves. In most cases, this is just easier.
Clearly, what parents themselves are missing is a proven source of sound instruction on sex.
Despite the many disparate opinions about the Bible, this ultimate Instruction Manual holds the answers to mankind’s greatest questions. This includes questions about sex and marriage. Within its pages are the basic principles that demystify the seemingly complicated subjects of human sexuality and marriage.
The following are a few of many references to both topics:
Proverbs 6:32 states, “He who commits adultery [sleeps with another man’s wife] has no sense; he who does it destroys himself” (Revised Standard Version).
Colossians 3:5 names fornication as part of human nature along with “impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness” (ibid.).
Proverbs 18:22 says, “Whoso finds a wife finds a good thing…”
In addition to these principles, the Bible reveals the true purpose of sex. The first few chapters of Genesis include a summary of mankind’s first sex-education class. After God created human beings—including their ability to engage in sexual activity—He instructed the first couple to “be fruitful, and multiply” (Gen. 1:28). The clear context was within marriage: “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife…” (Gen. 2:24).
In effect, God sat down with the first couple and had a thorough “sex talk.” He did not say, “Try each other out first.” Rather, God’s instruction about sex was to a husband and wife. He said they would “be one flesh” (a reference to sexual union) (vs. 24).
It is worth noting that Adam and Eve were “naked…and were not ashamed” (vs. 25).
The Creation account concludes with, “And Adam knew Eve his wife…” (Gen. 4:1). In 1611 King James English, this means they had intercourse.
Even though they had been given this precious knowledge, Adam and Eve soon chose the opposite way. This decision led them to realize their nakedness and become afraid and ashamed.
Yet fear and shame were never part of God’s plan for the first couple. Notice in Genesis 3:11, God asked them, “Who told you that you were naked?” This is because God designed for them to feel comfortable being naked around each other!
Many may consider this idea of the Creation account and God “anti-romantic.” Yet this could not be further from the truth. Even a cursory look through the biblical book Song of Solomon reveals that the Creator is neither prudish nor anti-sex.
In reality, what society generally considers “romantic” deserves closer examination. Consider William Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet.” What is so romantic about two paramours who kill themselves? They both die miserable, terrible deaths. Regrettably, this is held up as a standard for “true love.”
In stark contrast, God provided mankind with His prescription for healthy, bond-forming sex within a loving marriage relationship. It is an essential way for husbands and wives to express love—outgoing, selfless concern for each other. This intimacy acts as a special bonding agent that holds a marriage together.
Only marriage, if properly founded according to God’s guidelines, provides the grounds for real love to fully flourish. Following His formula of marriage produces a much more romantic experience and is attached to many blessings.
Notice this biblical reference to the benefits of a marriage relationship and starting a family: “Two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labor. For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow: but woe to him that is alone when he falls; for he has not another to help him up. Again, if two lie together, then they have heat: but how can one be warm alone? And if one prevail against him, two shall withstand him; and a threefold cord is not quickly broken” (Ecc. 4:9-12).
Yet love—outgoing, selfless concern for others—is not what people naturally have in mind when they think of sex. This is because the key to having such love is only revealed through God’s Word.
While a majority of unmarried couples may “make love,” as the phrase goes, it does not mean there is any true love involved. In reality, outside of marriage, a romantic “I love you” really means, “I lust after you.” If people called it what it was, though, it would lose its appeal. Can you picture two teenagers whispering to each other, “I lust after you so much”? How about a famous musician singing, “When I faaaall in luuuust”? Or friends asking each other, “So, how’s your lust life?”
Lust is nothing but a cheap substitute for true love. Yet for so many today, it is all they know!
Sex is a profound and intimate act that holds a place at the pinnacle of the human experience. At the same time, it is widely misunderstood. For its true meaning, one must begin with its Designer—who again defines Himself as “love.”
In the New Testament, the English word love can come from three different Greek words.
One is eros. The word “erotic” comes from it. It springs from the biological structure of the human body and it was built in to fuel physical attraction between a man and a woman.
The Greek word philia is likewise translated as love in the Bible. Philia implies genuine friendship, cooperation and concern. Philadelphia, for example, means the “city of brotherly love.”
A third word translated love in the Bible is agape. While eros and philia are experienced at a physical level, agape is a much deeper, spiritual love. In the Bible, it is a word used to refer to the love of God. When a man and a woman marry according to God’s guidelines, they can experience all three forms of love: from eros to philia to agape—God’s love.
And how important to God is the subject of sex within marriage? In his book, Sex – Its Unknown Dimension, Real Truth Editor-in-Chief David C. Pack explains: “Marriage between a man and woman is also designed to be based on love, as a reflection of Christ’s relationship with His true Church. Let’s read: ‘Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave Himself for it…So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies…For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh’ (Eph. 5:25, 28, 31).
“Stated plainly, the ‘cause’ of marriage is love!
“Also, sex itself is set forth as another cause for marriage—directly interconnected with love—in the Genesis account of the creation of Adam and Eve. Christ confirms this in the New Testament: ‘…He which made them at the beginning made them male and female, and said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they two shall be one flesh…’ (Matt. 19:4-5). The phrase ‘one flesh’ is a direct reference to the sex act within marriage.
“These two causes—love and sex—are inseparable within God’s intended design and purpose. Love between spouses is expressed through the means of sex, and God uses marital sex to ingrain the principle of love!”
Premarital sex is not God’s formula for a successful marriage. It affects individuals in that it opens the door to lifelong consequences. It also removes the God-ordained training element of temperance and character building from the early relationship. In a couple who waits, each party has to ask introspectively: “Am I the person God intends for you?” They must be willing to give themselves to each other for life.
In addition, premarital sex does not allow a man to develop the determination to be responsible for his role as head of the household and eventually a father who will responsibly teach his children the proper purpose of sex. It weakens the God-given family unit, which ultimately deteriorates society as a whole.
God’s way of life brings tremendous blessings, yet sex before marriage is not part of this.
Read Sex – Its Unknown Dimension for the complete biblical picture of what the Creator intends for human sexuality. Those who take God at His word, and wait, can enjoy lasting, happy marriages—and experience sex the way the Creator intended!