Fellowship of the Parks has discussed sex and sexual sin for the past two weeks. We’ve heard about the danger, destruction and urgency of sexual sin, which includes living and sleeping together before marriage.
But not everyone agrees with that statement.
Based on recent research from the Barna Group, 41 percent of practicing Christians now “strongly” or “somewhat” agree that living together before marriage is a good idea. That means almost half of us in the church now don’t include living and sleeping together before marriage on our list of sexual sin. Less than 10 years ago, I would’ve actually been part of that statistic myself.
And so, what better topic is there for me to dive further into this week?
These ideological developments seem to coincide with other research by the Barna Group, which shows roughly half of all Americans now fitting into a religious category known as “post-Christian.” Many of these are people who agree Jesus was a real guy and may even attend church occasionally. But they have come to distrust the Bible as inspired or even authoritative, especially when it comes to the values and practices our Western culture now celebrates.
“Because the Bible says so” just isn’t good enough anymore for a lot of people, which is why this article uses four purely logical arguments– not Scripture– to talk about why we should want to avoid living and sleeping together before marriage and why it should naturally belong on all of our lists of what constitutes as sexual sin.
Don’t get me wrong– as Christians, Scripture really is the point. But thankfully, anything that is universally true is still true outside of it’s own authority. My hope is to show that, while the Bible may sometimes be contrary to what the world teaches us, it is an amazing and gracious gift for those of us who truly yearn for something beyond what this fallen world can offer us.
And with that, let’s get into these four logical reasons why waiting to live and sleep together until marriage is actually the best way:
No relationship can survive without it. And yet most couples expect it to appear out of thin air.
A healthy marriage doesn’t just happen as the natural result of two hormonal people being set loose to do as they please with each other. “As we please” is precisely what sin is defined by. Likewise, a marriage based on “as we please” is a train wreck waiting to happen. A healthy and trusting marriage, on the other hand, is an intentional effort that takes a specific mindset and protected circumstances.
Consider this not-so-hypothetical example: From the moment many couples meet, they’re like rabbits. Eventually they might get married. But what security does it give her when the only version of him she’s known is the one who quickly does whatever he feels like doing with a woman he finds attractive? Attractive people don’t just disappear when you start speaking your vows, you know. And you’re not the only one who will see them.
Men, wouldn’t it help her relax and enjoy the relationship more if she’s seen for herself that you know how to keep it in your pants? Situations are going to come up where she’s going to have to show trust. A truly protective and loving husband would make the decision to trust him as easy and natural as possible for her. The same is true vice versa. Women, wouldn’t it be great for your man to have witnessed your self-control and know that you won’t give into your impulses whenever some other attractive guy decides to ignore your ring and start flirting with you?
Think of it like a drug addict. Who is easier to trust to not give into their impulses: an addict who’s been clean for two years, or one who is just taking the needle out of their arm when you meet them?
Trust is important, and it’s not all on the other person’s shoulders to ignore all the evidence they’ve seen and pull it out of thin air. We should help each other by showing our trustworthy characteristics. This will make our relationships healthier, more confident, and ultimately much more fun experiences.
2. True Compatibility
Let me give you the spoiler to your little test: you’re not nearly as compatible as you hoped.
You know how I know that? You’re both human and therefore flawed. There will be a learning curve for you both in the beginning. Anyone who isn’t expecting that is pretty much doomed.
So then why can’t you just get it out of the way before you get married? Well… because in 20 years, you are both going to be very different people than you were the day you met, and changing still. That means all your super-important “research” from before you got married will mean very little. If anything, the fact that “they’re not the same person you fell in love with” will only be used as a reason for why it’s over. Just like compatibility was an excuse to live together, it’ll be an excuse to leave.
Relationships are a way of life, not a lottery ticket. They take work, not a one-time jackpot. In a healthy relationship, you have to accept and strive to never stop learning about each other as circumstances and life stages pass by. New habits will be made, broken, and remade. That’s just life. And the most important characteristics to a great marriage are actually revealed and built outside the bedroom, and without a shared lease.
The purpose of your dating relationship isn’t to go wild on each other and hope it works out. It’s your chance to observe with a clear mind each other’s basic character, values, maturity, and most importantly, faith. Those things reveal who someone is at their core and they allow you to truly consider whether you should be willing to spend your life with that person, without the bias of wondering where else you’d live if it didn’t work out.
Sex is exceptionally deceptive when it comes to compatibility, by the way. The entire purpose of sex is to explore and grow together based on each other’s desires and needs. That is meant to take time, meaning whatever porn star expectations you have on your way back to your place after the second date are unrealistic and honestly, a little ridiculous. Besides, is it supposed to be encouraging how they’ve gathered so much experience before meeting you?
What’s most important to see, you can see with clothes on. And what’s most important to feel has nothing to do with an orgasm. If I’ve learned anything, it’s that sex is a terrible influencer of decision-making. It literally intoxicates your brain with hormones.
If you’re paying attention to the right things and asking each other the right questions, then you will know if the relationship is a good match. You’ll even know if you’re sexually compatible! Be honest—you’re a man, she’s a woman. I’m sure you’ll figure it out together.
Talking to the right people is also incredibly important when it comes to compatibility. Your family, each other’s family, trustworthy friends, and spiritual mentors are all people who can provide insight. If you think it’s none of their business, you’re missing the point about community altogether. These are the people who want to see you succeed and aren’t influenced by your hormones. So suck it up and make it their business by inviting them to speak into your relationship. They might actually know you better than you know yourself in some areas, and will be able to an immensely valuable outsider’s perspective about how compatible you are for each other.
3. Genuine Friendship
Sooner or later, the whimsical feelings of just being near each other are going to fade. Then what? What foundation of genuine friendship will you have allowed yourselves to build before that time comes?
Imagine two couples who each got married a year after they met each other. The first couple lived and slept together at their whim, because that’s what they naturally felt like doing. The second couple showed some patience and waited until they were married. During their dating relationship, when the first couple became bored, it was usually coupled with clothing being stripped off on their way to the bedroom (if they could wait that long). Meanwhile, when the second couple grew bored or noticed an opportunity to get physical before going their separate ways for the evening, they stayed strong. They set up boundaries for themselves. They played games together with friends. They relied on deeper conversations, or worked on projects together that didn’t include baby-making.
Ten years later, when the sparks aren’t naturally flying quite as hot for each other, what will each couple be left with? The man and woman who were living and sleeping together right away will each likely be trying to escape each other—relying on outside relationships and separate lives to bring them satisfaction. When it comes down it, they’re strangers—roommates with kids. They never chose anything except what they felt like doing in the moment. Well, now they don’t feel like they have a very good connection anymore. The concept of choosing friendship is foreign to them and they have a tough hill to climb if they want to make their marriage work.
The second couple ten years later, however, could have reverted back to how they spent their time at the beginning. From their intentional patience before they were married, they amassed a long list of inside jokes and a broad knowledge of each other that offers the last half of their relationship a purpose beyond what their libido allows. Their expectations and love for each other wasn’t an immediate physical foundation, and so they learned enough about each other to know how to genuinely enjoy being around each other, even without soiling the sheets. And just think of the healthy example their kids have to follow.
If this second couple was a man and woman who each enjoyed and pursued a personal relationship with Christ and had a God-centered understanding of who marriage is meant to show love for in the first place, then their marriage would be even stronger and more satisfying. They wouldn’t rely solely on the other person to bring them satisfaction. They would know their marriage with each other is only temporary because in heaven, we are married only to God, which underlines for them how critical it is to first receive their personal fulfillment and security from Him rather than each other. After all, their intimacy with each other would be only a reflection of their intimacy with their God, who is their model of love, forgiveness, and sacrifice.
Couples argue with each other. There’s not a whole lot of avoiding that. And just as a child’s natural temperament is formed at an early age, the first stage of a relationship is when a couple learns how to communicate with each other. This crucial stage is when you should be setting the standard for how to resolve conflict, and observing the other person’s response to confrontation and frustration—both extremely important things to know about. When a disagreement starts, a sexually active couple might start to talk it out, but then halfway through reconciliation, they’ll likely end up expressing their remaining frustrations through make-up sex. Then they might wonder why the same issue comes up later on. They will keep trying to work it out, refusing to admit that things just aren’t right. Their minds are too clouded by sex or the inconvenience of finding a new place to live to make a rational decision about what the relationship is really doing to them.
A sexually active couple will stick it out and keep dating for the wrong reasons, tricking themselves into thinking their constant conflict is normal. And then they get married, because that’s the logical next step. There are just enough happy moments to make them think that maybe marriage will make things better. But they haven’t realized that if you take out their moments in the bedroom, they’re already somewhat miserable and blindly incompatible with each other. (And all of this is ironically a common result of living and sleeping together as a way to find out how compatible they are with each other.)
A couple who is not yet sexually active will either communicate through the issue and come out with a better and more complete understanding of each other, or end the relationship because they recognize that the issue of the argument is a deal breaker. Maybe it was a small, seemingly insignificant issue. They could have easily distracted themselves from it by having sex, taking a shower, and going to sleep. But instead, they talked through it enough to realize that there was a much bigger underlying issue at hand that they knew could eventually destroy the relationship. Most times, whatever the issue is would be something they could intentionally build from and learn from. But if a break-up happens, it’s because their communication skills have recognized at this early stage that their foundational values, maturity, and characteristics aren’t as compatible as they wanted to believe. They’re honest and self-controlled enough to get out now and give each other a chance to find a relationship that sets them up for a better chance of success. And what’s even better, they aren’t walking away from each other with a piece of their hearts ripped out, casually expecting their next significant relationship to carry their sexual baggage in stride. They chose to defy culture’s recommendations and not to date as if they were already married because they knew their potential break-up would be far more painful if they did.
You might argue that by having sex and living together, you get to know the real person you’re dating, but do you really? Who someone is when they’re “in the mood” is definitely not who they are the other 98 percent of the time. It seems smarter to learn who the 98 percent is (how they treat strangers or people who annoy them will tell you quite a lot) before getting distracted by how much you enjoy that remaining two percent. That smaller, private version of someone will only give you excuses for why you should overlook the big red flags or missing character traits in their larger, much more public side.
Concluding Thoughts (c’mon, you’ve read this far…)
Bad sex and sloppy living arrangements aren’t what cause divorce–issues of character do. Realistically, you have to admit that sex is one of the main reasons why unhealthy relationships keep going when they should have ended after a few dates. That alone shows how we’ve perverted its original purpose. Christian or not, sex is biologically meant to keep a husband and wife close to each other. Allowing lust and impatience to distort what sex was designed to do makes this amazing gift harmfully effective at keeping us in relationships we shouldn’t be in. We stay, even when we shouldn’t.
Although texting, Snapchatting, and dating in general is nowhere in the Bible, we can gain a very good perspective of what it would have looked like by injecting universal biblical truth into this thing our instant gratification culture has created. There are plenty of things in our culture that aren’t mentioned in the Bible, but we can still find direction about them by honestly asking what that issue or practice would look like if love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (the fruit of the Spirit from Galatians 5) were influential players. We may not love the answer we get, but we will feel a lot better about it in the long run. Besides, anything from God must be infinitely better than what is from ourselves.
By arguing that it’s harmless (or even helpful) to have sex with a boyfriend or girlfriend, you’re essentially saying that it’s okay to continuously collect more sexual partners. Carelessly making your list of sexual partners longer will only give more insecurity to your future spouse to overcome. And that’s ironically the person you will care more about than any of the previous relationships.
Sex is meant to represent the beginning of something new and God-honoring. In a Christian sense, it’s supposed to be a celebration of two believers choosing to love and serve Christ together as a team rather than individually. In the Hebrew culture (those “outdated” and “irrelevant” days), sex was the final element of the marriage vows themselves. It sealed the union (hence the word “consummate”). In fact, Exodus 22 explains that a man who seduces a virgin into having sex must then take her as his wife. The deed is done. Ironically, that scripture is in a section of Exodus titled “Social Responsibility”—something we don’t like to think much of these days.
At the same time, John 4 describes Jesus’ encounter with the woman at the well. He makes a remark about her living with a man she is unmarried to, which, in context, was meant to point out a dangerous and disreputable decision.
The times have not changed. God’s Word is not out of date or irrelevant now. In fact, these ideas were just as radical to Roman culture as they are to ours, and it makes no difference because truth is still true. That’s the beauty of it.
It’s absolute madness that we pursue only our own pleasure and convenience, especially when we say we’re doing it all in the name of wanting to make sure we’re going to have a strong relationship. Even if that were really our motive, since when has hedonism ever led to a quality product?
And if this lifestyle of sex and cohabitation is an issue of contentment, meaning you don’t like to be without a romantic partner or don’t feel loved unless someone is sharing their bodily fluids and living space with you, then there’s a much bigger issue at hand. You are the only person you’re guaranteed to spend the rest of your life with. It’s crucial that you are okay with who that person is on your own. Until that happens, you’ll never be content with someone else, and it’s quite unfair to put such pressure on anyone by expecting them to contain the magic formula for happiness that you’ve so far failed to find.
I feel like a “congratulations” is in order. You’ve made it to the end of one of the longest articles I’ve ever written.