Many church-going Christians have heard messages about God’s will for His children to be sexually pure and to reserve sexual expression for marriage. We are taught that sexual activity outside of marriage and sexual addictions are sins that we need to turn away from. If we are asked what a Christian’s stand on sex and marriage is, most of us would probably articulate it this way.
However, do we know why this is God’s will for our sexuality? Have you wondered if there are any compelling reasons for this? And how can we explain this to people with a differing stance?
Let’s first look at what God’s heart is for us. In the New Testament, Jesus affirmed the Old Testament account of God’s design for our sexuality, in which there are only two expressions: lifelong heterosexual marriage, or singleness, whether lifelong or seasonal (Matthew 19:4–6; 10-12, cf. Genesis 2:24).
God, who created us, knows how best to provide for us
because He knows how He has wired us.
God, who created us, knows how best to provide for us because He knows how He has wired us (Psalm 139:14). Therefore, His commandments are good for us. God tells us plainly that when we obey His commands, we will find His blessings (Deuteronomy 28:1-14). Conversely, that means that when we disobey His commands, we can only expect to experience curses (Deuteronomy 28:15-68).
If we choose not to follow God’s ways in the area of sexuality, we would suffer negative consequences for our actions because we would be going against our natural design.
However, this perspective makes sense only to those who are already familiar with the biblical worldview. For those of us who are still learning how to trust God’s heart for us, is there another way to understand this? Or is there another way for us to explain this to our pre-believing family and friends?
The New Testament’s term for all sexual conduct outside of a heterosexual marriage—pre-marital sex, adultery, homosexual sex, incest, bestiality, etc—is “sexual immorality” (e.g. Mark 7:20-23). Let’s look at just one of them, pre-marital sex, and what studies have to say about its consequences.
Depression and Suicide Attempts
A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report revealed that teenagers who remain abstinent are much healthier on many fronts than their sexually active peers. Another analysis from The Heritage Foundation found that sexually active teenage boys and girls are much less likely to be happy and more likely to be depressed and attempt suicide, compared to teenagers who aren’t sexually active. According to the report, the most likely explanation for this is that early sexual activity leads to emotional stress and reduces happiness in teenagers.
Sexually active teenage boys and girls are much less likely to be happy
and more likely to be depressed and attempt suicide.
Furthermore, the CDC report discovered that a majority of sexually active teenagers experienced regret over their first sexual experience and wished they had avoided it.
This doesn’t just affect teenagers. Similar results are also seen in young adults. A study by the Society for the Scientific Study of Sexuality revealed that regret over casual sex has been associated with psychological distress, like loss of life satisfaction, loss of self-worth, depression and physical health problems.
Pre-marital Sex: Poorer Quality of Marriage
The consequences of pre-marital sex spill over into marriage as well. The US-based National Marriage Project found that men and women who had sexual partners other than their spouse experienced lower quality in their marriage. Furthermore, the more sexual partners a woman had before marriage, the less happy she would say her marriage is.
Abstinence: Better Quality of Marriage
The opposite is true: those who reserved sex for marriage are more likely to enjoy better marital relationships. A Journal of Family Psychology study compared couples who had sex in the early stages of their courtship to couples who waited until marriage to have sex, and it reported that the latter group experienced higher relationship stability and satisfaction, better sexual quality of their relationship and better communication processes.
Couples who waited until marriage to have sex experienced higher relationship stability and satisfaction, better quality of sex and communication.
Abstinence: Stronger Emotional Connection and Increased Sexual Pleasure
Christian author and speaker Dannah Gresh discovered in her research on sexuality that “one compelling reason to have sexual self-control is that you're more likely to have a healthy sex life in marriage.” Studies quoted in her article Sexual Self-Control Can Enhance Sex in Marriage found that emotional connection is often better and sexual pleasure often increases (with the highest levels of sexual satisfaction being reported by religiously active respondents!) when people have sex in the context of a committed relationship.
True Sexual Freedom
The world tells us that sexual freedom and happiness depends on our choice to have sexual activity whenever and with whomever we want. It would have us believe that saving sex for marriage takes away our joy and is an outdated notion that doesn’t apply to our lives today.
Scripture and science say otherwise. If we follow the ways of the world, we will not only experience less happiness, we will actually reap undesirable consequences as well. Remaining sexually pure before marriage frees us from these negative emotional, psychological and physical outcomes.
When we follow the ways of God, we will discover that sex within marriage
is the best way to enjoy sex—as He has wired us to do so.
However, when we follow the ways of God, we will discover that sex within marriage is the best way to enjoy sex—as He has wired us to do so. We will then have real sexual joy and freedom, the liberty to enjoy heightened emotional intimacy and increased sexual pleasure. It is the freedom to be truly known and loved in a lifelong and committed covenant of marriage. We will enjoy God’s best for us when we obey His plan for our human flourishing.
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Join us at the Whole Life Symposium 2017: Sexuality reValued — an annual discipleship platform for church leaders, with the focus this year on the intersection between sexuality and worldview, i.e. sexual worldviews. Held on 25-26 Aug 2017, there will also be special tracks for school educators, working adults and tertiary students.