What if I told you that you would have to wait longer than any other generation to get married? That’s not the only news. What if I said your generation would need to wait longer than any other generation to have sex?
And then there’s the fact that Christians are taught to abstain from sex till marriage. So what do we do? We become technical virgins. Courting couples kiss all over but claim virgin status. Some consider mutual masturbation as not breaching virginity. It’s interesting how we like to call ourselves “technically virgin” but not “technically rich”.
Singles do desire to reconcile their faith and sexual desires, but have conflicted feelings, understandably. Abstinence messages in church are geared towards teenagers, and once you leave your 20s, it’s all about married life from then on out. Even before marriage, it’s a lot about getting married. BGR seminars. What to look for in a spouse. Just wait for marriage. But what if I don’t get married?
“The goal is not simply to avoid sin but to live a life of worship.”
One mistake we’ve made as the church is perhaps placing too much emphasis on virginity itself. This is not about focusing on what is not ok. This is about honouring God in all things. Asking questions like “how far can we go without sinning?” is like asking “how much poison can we take without dying?” We need to have the correct understanding. Otherwise, we’re at risk of breaching healthy boundaries thinking that only intercourse is sex – or the idea that only premarital sex is sin.
Something else that we can do is to have conversations about sexuality in our churches and homes – because we don’t. As for the question above: Is there a point to waiting for marriage to have sex if I won’t even get married? Abstinence is an incredibly difficult decision and one we make every day. Hollywood may not have you believe it, but scientific evidence does show that married sex is more satisfying than that outside of marriage. Try explaining that to our raging hormones, though. What good is knowing that married sex is better when some of us know – or think we know – that we won’t get married?
That just makes more of a case for a nuanced and holistic discussion on sexuality. People need more than arguments; people need a way of life. We know in our heads to live a life of purity. But do we know in our hearts and in our lives what it looks like in real life?
The goal is not simply to avoid sin but to live a life of worship. Guidance must go beyond “what can I get away with and still be a virgin?’ Instead, we must ask, “What must I do to become who I am intended to be?” There needs to be a discussion of the God of grace for those who have sinned in the past (a.k.a. all of us), but particularly in the area of sexual sin.
There will be consequences we will have to deal with from past actions, but it is important to remember: the past will catch up with us but it does not define us. Instead we can start over again, living a life of holiness together with accountability partners.
Though it may sound strange, we need to live out gender and sexuality in non-genital ways. We often confuse sexuality with sex, but sexuality is ultimately about the innate desire we have for deep connection with another. The experience of sexual desire is often triggered by subconscious needs such as identity, self-acceptance and intimacy. We can live without sex, but we cannot live without intimacy. Let’s learn to differentiate between genital desire and emotional needs.
“We can live without sex, but we cannot live without intimacy.”
Speaking about the emphasis (or over-emphasis) on marriage, it has come to be strongly preferred over singleness in the evangelical church. Many have also embraced the family almost to the extent of idolatry over the Christian community. Over time people perceive that being married should be the norm and therefore many reject singlehood. But is this biblical?
The Old Testament focuses on the extended family, while the New Testament takes it a step further, focusing on the extended family that is the church. If it was bad to be single, why were Jesus and Paul single? If earthly marriage were eternally important, it would exist in heaven-except it doesn’t. Not to say that marriage isn’t of value – it is – immeasurably. Just that singleness matters too, and it barely gets the recognition it deserves.
Congregations and families must affirm singlehood and singles. We should encourage multi-generational small groups and mentoring. Families should include singles in their world-it is much harder for a single to invite an entire family over for dinner! When that interaction happens, both the single and the family will be blessed.
“Singleness matters too, and it barely gets the recognition it deserves.”
No matter how many of us stay single or not, all of us start out that way. Some people including same-sex attracted Christians might remain single even for life. But with authentic Christian community, Christian singles can indeed live strong in a sexualised world.
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How to we engage a culture that is oversexualized? Want to stand for truth and yet communicate in grace? Join us for an authentic discussion about sexuality and worldview at our Whole Life Symposium on 25 & 26 August.