One of the struggles many dating Christians face is sexual intimacy.
Our first encounter with our sexuality is probably when we hit puberty. That’s when our hormones start to fluctuate – leading visibly to our bodily appearances changing. It’s normal to start experiencing sexual desires, even in early adulthood, which led me to ponder:
- Why would God create humans to experience sexual desires in the teenage years, which may lead to premarital sex, yet He continues to say there should not be any sexual immorality amongst us (Ephesians 5:3-4)?
- Why does the Bible say no to premarital sex (Hebrews 13:4), when there is almost a 10 to 20 year gap from the initial sexual desire to actually being able to marry?
But before we go any further, let’s begin by thinking why we should even seek to be pure in the first place. Firstly, the Bible says to “Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry” (Colossians 3:5).
1 Thessalonians 4:3-5 also tells us that “It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control your own body in a way that is holy and honourable, not in passionate lust like the pagans, who do not know God”.
In those verses, God calls us to live as people made alive in Christ — who live to please Him. “For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life.” (1 Thessalonians 4:7).
Purity is about more than just giving the most treasured gifts to one’s partner, such as virginity — it is obedience to God’s Word.
Sex is not dirty: it is a gift by God to a man and woman united in holy matrimony.
And sex is not a selfish thing for fulfilling one’s own desires. Since everything in creation was pleasing to God (Genesis 1:31), there is moral and spiritual goodness to be found in sex that honours God.
In the context of a marriage, the sexual intimacy (Proverbs 5:19) God wants us to enjoy must come with servanthood and love. Because I love my partner, I want to fulfil his desires — and he wants to fulfil mine.
God gave us this amazing gift to enjoy together with our partner, because sex was never designed for the self.
The idolatry of sex and obsessive guilt over sex accomplish the same thing – they keep the focus on self, whether it is our of enjoyment or despair.
In his book, Sacred Marriage, Gary Thomas writes, “the idolatry of sex and obsessive guilt over sex accomplish the same thing – they keep the focus on self, whether it is our of enjoyment or despair. Gratitude, on the other hand, turns our hearts towards God.”
I’m not here to condemn anyone who’s struggling in the area of premarital sex, but to share on why I feel that sexual intimacy outside of marriage has its problems.
Many people find it hard to restore their state of mind, after breakups of relationships that were sexual in nature. Ask the scientist or psychologist, they can tell you that sex rewires your brain.
I won’t dive into this, but my point is that sex has immense effects on our mind and heart. There’s definitely a reason why God put the confines of marriage around it.
In the pursuit of sexual purity, we must set healthy boundaries.
Now is there a hard and fast rule for an acceptable level of intimacy in a relationship? Some find kissing to be acceptable outside of marriage while some don’t. I’m leaning to the latter view because I feel sexual intimacy does encompass kissing.
In Gary Thomas’ Sacred Search, kissing is part of sexual intimacy. To take something like kissing out for personal enjoyment is missing out on the “whole package” of sexual intimacy that God has gifted to us.
In setting such boundaries, we must consider the Gospel. It is written in Titus 2:12-13, “It teaches us to say ‘no’ to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Saviour, Jesus Christ.”
Our lives must be good testimonies in every area, seen or unseen.
Left to our fallen nature, we are not inclined to make decisions that honour God or align with His will.
And even as we do our best to be “perfect” Christians (Matthew 5:48), we can never truly be like God.
But there is hope in knowing that God is with us. He gave His word to guide us in our lives. And the very Spirit of God dwells in each of us (Romans 8:9) — there is help from on high!
Commit to walking in the Spirit every day (Galatians 5:25). We walk in the Spirit when the desires of the Spirit are stronger than the flesh, when we no longer seek to gratify the desires of the flesh.
Whatever mistakes we’ve made along the way, let it compel us to live in fear of the Lord. And while we acknowledge our sinfulness and utter need of God, we must also know that no sin is too great for Jesus to bear! God has forgiven us and only He can sanctify us each day.
“The believer who conducts his marriage as in the Lord will seek to make his marriage transcend mere sexuality by emphasising his fellowship with God.” (Otto Piper)
Strive to build a God-centred relationship. Spur each other on to walk in the Spirit and don’t lose hope! Build each other up in love and focus on your relationship with God. Lovers of God will grasp the beauty of His commandments, and that will bear spiritual fruit in the relationship.
And in time, you will also teach your children to seek purity and godly love.
This was originally posted on Stella’s blog, and has been republished with permission.