Thank you for your honesty and bravery to ask the question. I appreciate the opportunity to address it.
We like to believe with some good teaching, we can fit everything God into a simple box and that everything that comes up will have an easy God answer. But the fact is that the western church is largely sexually active ... much more active that we would like to admit. Many of our churches have tailored their services to mimic perfectly the night life that so many are looking for ... instead of teaching why we are to come away from that.
We host worship conferences where men and women lay their hands on each other and sway back in forth in time with the music as they share what they are at the altar for ... and all the while the people with good intention (for many) are giving their bodies over to what they were made to do in that kind of intimacy with people of the opposite sex. Sexual perversion within the house is a common accusation made by people who leave the church. Jessica Alba stated in an interview that one of her reasons for leaving the church was that she was accused of being "too sexy" and things of that nature. In her interview, she testified of older men constantly staring at her and hitting on her.
If we are honest with ourselves ... if we allow our 14 - 30 yr old women of the church to testify without any fear of backlash, the white elephant in the room already would be a dinosaur. We have all seen the old pervs staring at the chests of the young women ... the awkward hugs ... many of our young women have been subject to predatory actions in the very place that is supposed to be the safest place on earth!! It is a very real and dangerous situation. We let young ministers have way too much unobserved influence with the young men and women sitting under their authority. We press people into ministry to sell their story (testimony) long before their character is ready ... and people get hurt. God forgive us. So a question like this is no surprise to me.
But my answer is not subject to flawed ministers or the behavior of men and women who act foolishly.
The words "fornication" and "harlotry" both root from similar words (that you may find very familiar in their Greek pronunciations) ... they both mean to have sexual relations outside of the marriage covenant - as a prostitute, an adulterer, and also as just an immoral person (whore is the word used - literally "to pass oneself around sexually"). The Greek for fornicate is porneia (porn - ee - ya) and for harlotry is pornē (porn - ey). They are where we get "pornography" from. This has nothing to do with saving oneself for a marriage ... it has everything to do with preserving oneself in God. This has no place in a Christian, regardless of the hypocrisy found within the ranks.
God never throws the baby out with the bathwater.
So ... why does a person decide they will never marry? I suggest that the wide variety of reasons falls into just a few categories.
1st - they feel they are not marriage material, whether unable to settle down and commit or deem themselves unqualified for physical, social, or moral flaws.
2nd - They've seen the pain and destruction that happens when marriages fall apart and choose to avoid that from every happening by staying away from marriage.
3rd - They've chosen a profession, either secular or in Christ, that demands sacrifices made ... and the choice to be married is one of them.
If perhaps someone can think of a reason that doesn't fit into those three ... just shove them in the one that works best. Regardless of my success or failure to properly categorize ... there are some things we must always keep in mind.
1st - If you want to hear God laugh ... tell Him your plan. I just love that saying. Marriage vows are made by scores of people that believed they would never find, be found, want, be wanted, or just didn't desire at all to be married. Unlike the persistent myth of 50% of marriages not lasting (http://content.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1989124,00.html), the sobering truth is that marriages are usually successful because people tend to use scrutiny.
2nd - "Premarital sex" is not a Biblical phrase ... it's relatively new. From the beginning of written history until just under a century ago it wasn't even a thought. Young people remained chaste until marriage. That wasn't just a Judaic/Christian value either. It was common place all over the world. Purity is always the choice of the person choosing. Righteousness is the point. Choosing to be sexual outside of the marriage is fornication/harlotry regardless of future desires. This is for sure (and backed up by many studies via CDC) ... sexually active people have much harder times committing later in life even when so many desire to. The studies cannot determine the reasons why BUT the Bible makes it clear. We were not made to be able to share sex like a shirt. Even in the most casual of encounters, bonds are formed no matter how much the individuals lie to themselves. The bubbles always rise to the top.
3rd - Paul states that, in the deepest of service to Christ, it is better not to marry to be free to go where led than to suffer the burdens of family distractions (1 Cor 7 - please do not take out of context). But the choice then not to marry also included the choice not to enjoy the sexual gift of the marriage covenant (which Paul does not speak against unlike many accuse).
In the end, things of this nature ... to choose to go against mainstream sensuality and sexuality (like they have it down) and follow God's plan always starts and continues at choices made against what everything in our nature seems to draw us toward. The choice to turn the mind from easy sexual encounters for whatever reason is rarely easy but always rewarding.
So a person has no intent on getting married. Well, if that person desires to honor God, then the only logical conclusion for that person is chastity. If that person cannot live with that, then that person has to rethink his or her thoughts on marriage and trust God's view.
We still have so much ground to recover when it comes to what we have allowed within our own doors of the church ... Lord help us to right this ship. Your question is a good one ... it inadvertently exposes so much of what the unbelieving world accuses the church of being ... and they are right. Why the leaders today don't speak with the same urgency and hostility the apostles did when sin was in the camp is beyond my understanding ... perhaps they do but their voices just aren't heard.
That's my take anyways ... awesome question. So what are your thoughts?
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I blame pornography, or shall I dare say the availability of. We are no longer in a world of print. Instead we have a world filled with images and videos at the click of a button. Our world is one of instant gratification, literally. It sickens me to think of how much damage these images have done. Colleagues have confided in me about financial issues as well as 'unfulfillment' in their marriages. What's the common factor? Pornography. If these images were not so accessible, married and unmarried people alike would not be as susceptible to the fornication in our present day society. Ultimately, it leads to sin. It's sad to know that we cannot greet someone affectionately.......personally I prefer a handshake or a simple wave. It's much safer and a lot less creepy!ReplyDelete
Yes, there was definitely a lot of good to having to go find illicit material rather than it being piped into your living room. You speak well of the impact it has on marriage relationships ... much of the time the damage is done before the couple has even met. It is also interesting to note that the ONLY connecting characteristic in every serial killer studied is pornography ... our kids are ruined by it. The new game out there ... Grand Theft Auto ... you can apparently hire, and eventually marry prostitutes ... my students were speaking of it today. They get phone calls from these virtual girlfriends ... even get marriage counseling. Virtual sensuality/sexuality is beyond out of control, it has tread into insanity.Delete
I'm with you with the safer and creepy thing. But this is something that we are going to have to deal with ... it's infected the deepest rooms of our houses ... both as a church and as individual families. God help us.
Thanks for your comments ... always enjoy them!
Yes it has infected our houses such as the church and the workplace. When I have to attend a 'creepy' conference, I make sure to have a colleague with me or at least conference with an open door. Interpersonal communication is the worst when in the presence of creepiness. I stick to the 'slightly on fire rule' or perhaps the 10ft radius in which Frank Baronne once mentioned. I guess I became so reserved after an incident when during a class party one of the dads thought it was acceptable to walk in and greet the teacher, affectionately! After my nonverbal reaction, it never happened again. I've learned since to put my hand out to shake hands, say hello, and have the 'don't touch me' look upon my face, simultaneously. It's terrible that we need to sometimes be perceived as rude or unapproachable, but it is sometimes necessary when trying to protect yourself from unwanted gestures.ReplyDelete
The handshake thing ... I often recommend that. When someone gets close, extend one hand palm out and grab for their hand with the other ... a good shake ... proper distance .. lesson taught and received.Delete
I will make a mental note of this lesson, and put it in action next week. Perfect timing!ReplyDelete
So...what about a Christian engaged couple having sex? They "know" they are gonna get married, and rather than burn with desire, they submit to it, is their excuse anyway...ReplyDelete
That is a great question!Delete
The "burn with passion" phrase is another one of the great misquotes/mistranslations of the Bible. Paul meant it was better for them to marry and be done with it than to burn with passion ... not a hell burn for sin but being driven insane withholding oneself ... sexual purity was never the option, it was the given.
The Bible clearly states that a couple who is "betrothed" (engaged) has all of the responsibilities of marriage but not the rights (sexually). They were to remain abstinent.
So if a Christian couple is engaged but unable to maintain themselves even after strictly disciplining their environments and interactions when alone (which should be done), then they should go ahead and get married. Too many Christian couples deny God His commands and too easily write it off as a "slip of the flesh." It is not ... and when seeking God's blessing on a union supposedly in Him, this should not be taken lightly.
If I were to counsel that couple, I would tell them to just get married ... forget about the huge wedding/reception .. just get married. You can still plan a celebration for the family and give them time to make plans ... but don't tell God that He can't be obeyed bc it will make people uncomfortable or angry ... that doesn't fly.
I think I have held off marriage because of ALL 3 of the reasons you listed. But I still have a hard time battling lust, but I don't think marriage necessarily fixes it. That's a heart issue, and there are plenty of married men who can't hold their lust in marriage and act out still too. Ultimately we need to be committed to God. I agree- sex should only be within marriage and if you go single than be chaste. But it's so hard to do some in an increasing secular world where sex is obsessed everywhere.ReplyDelete
You're right on ... marriage does not fix lust ... and a lot of ppl think it will. It is quite the opposite. I have a question waiting to be answered about whether or not waiting until marriage to have sex guarantees a better marriage ... don't want to spoil the soup but ...ReplyDelete
I also definitely understand how difficult it must be to remain chaste in a world that promotes sensuality.
Thanks for your comments.
I've already poped that cherry. I am not dating though, but I agree waiting until marriage would guarantee you a better sex life if you are dating or get engaged. But we ultimately need God to live, not sex.Delete
er ... I was referring to not wanting to give too much info on the answer to the next question ... that's the soup I don't want to spoil.ReplyDelete
A human is the most efficient machine ever engineered ... it is a powerful engine. Like all engines, if it is allowed to run, it builds pressure and heat. If a line is blocked, failure is imminent. The same is true for human sexuality. It is a pressurized system. The engine must not be allowed to run bc if it is ... then physiological and psychological failure is imminent. In short words, if a person entices him or herself sexually and does not allow for some form of release, literal fluids back up where they are not supposed to and can cause pain, even organ and tissue damage over time.
If a person is going to live chaste and not go insane, that engine must not be allowed to run ... so extreme discipline is vital. For a person who has been sexually active and now is trying to obey God, this can be an extremely difficult undertaking .. bc the memory of the pleasure is a constant temptation. Therefore, even more discipline is necessary.
Put away anything that could entice you ... everything ... and it is very possible.
After going through my own upheaval in regards to marriage- It lead to a great deal of revelation and insight- & a year + "together" but each focused on our relationship with Christ. (yet relationally separated). My question, is before people defined and ritualized marriage with a legal paper and choice of various officiators- what was the original model that was performed to define 2 people as married?ReplyDelete
What I learned was- even though I went through the formalities (and no- I wasn't "Chaste" before- so is that why things went awry? I tend to see now that things were awry from the beginning but hindsight is 20/20 and I've just come to see my life as progress- not perfection with some BIG learning curves. It came to light that we both married for not the most honorable reasons or truly LOVING I would say. Only time uncovered all that though. Also- an indwelling spirit of lust made true "marriage" an impossibility- Again though- not fully seen until years later. AND God is working it out. But- how did people marry back then? Because what I learned was regardless of the ritual and our words, a great percentage of marriages these days fall far short of Godly and many are not even aware of it. And I have met people who have no legal paper- are clearly committed to each other- and express a precious love relationship/friendship for each other. And the "burning desire" in the bible- to me that is lust much of the time. Not love. That wears off for many time when our instinctual child bearing hormones slow down. So the key- also- is really getting the concept of marrying a FREiND- and if- if we only knew what to "love one another" really means. It can take a life time to learn that. Thoughts?
Wow ... this could be it's own question ... the most primitive Hebrew roots of where we get the words "marry" and "marriage" are literally translated "to commit a woman to a man" or "to be given as a woman to a man." They root and are synonymous with virginity ... the word marriage itself as we know it today roots from the words "mary and iage" .. to be given a Mary .. to be given a virgin. All known archaic forms of the ceremony (dating back to the first "marriage" ... better defined "union" was Adam and Eve. God brought Eve to Adam and gave her to him ... setting several precedents and what I call the standard for a holy marriage.ReplyDelete
Precedent 1: God gave Eve to Adam ... and ultimately Adam to Eve. Marriage should always involve being given ... not just stealing away. This doesn't exclude eloping ... ultimately, it's the person conducting the ceremony that truly does the giving ... in other words ... a marriage must include a person conducting the ceremony, regardless of what or how long it is. Someone outside of the couple with the authority to do so given by whatever governing authority the couple are submitted to (hopefully God's) must pronounce the the couple as united.
2nd Precedent: The ceremony must be witnessed by someone ... hopefully the community ... but a proclamation of some sort must be made in a way that the community can recognize it.
Standard of Marriage: Two individuals, before some authorized agent, are given by someone to each other as an officially recognized union.
I have not seen any written history of any marriage that predates Adam and Eve ... it is God's covenant between a man and a woman who wish to merge their lives.
Couple who call themselves married ... as I have witnessed many times ...but refuse to allow someone to marry them have no basis in God for that to be accepted since 'BY THE MOUTH OF TWO OR THREE WITNESSES EVERY WORD MAY BE ESTABLISHED.' (Mat_18:16b).
It's not that I don't want them to be married ...but a covenant does not exist without a witness to it. That's the basis of all contract law ...
Hope that helped.
3rd Precedent (sorry); people are supposed to value the purity of the covenant ... not to give themselves to another ... to be given ... to be pure. Giving oneself away sexually, immorally, or in any intimate way is wrong and a serious indicator of the value a person places on themself.ReplyDelete
Does having sex outside of marriage mean that God will not honor the marriage, or that the marriage cannot be blessed? Well, it really is not so much about God as it is about you...any permission we give the enemy by sinning, whether willfully or not, is a serious thing to consider.
The good news: God has granted repentance! Accept it as wrong ... confess it as wrong ... ask God to forgive and to heal and to cleanse ... and let Him. God loves His children ... pain and hurt are tools He uses, but so are pleasure and prosperity ... they are all tools. He is only concerned with your good .... that's it.
To me, that is good news.
Thank you! That was very informative and heavy news to swallow in many ways- but lastly, wonderful news in light of His forgiveness and healing. And- I have more questions now. But out of respect to your topic, I am not sure it would be appropriate to post here on this thread. So, I will email it to you!Delete
Everything is appropriate if it is a legitimate concern. While I don't want to entertain pointless arguments ... the purpose of the sight is to establish a forum ... hopefully get several viewpoints ... so questions can be answered and more importantly the questioners can find information ... not just mine.ReplyDelete
I would like to use this question as a future topic ... is that ok? I have the next three weeks of qu's already stacked but after ... think it's a good post that is very relevant.