Let me set the stage for you.
I’m twenty — my sophomore year of college. I sit in an introductory literature course.
Professor: We’ve now read six plays from Shakespeare. I’m curious to know which play you like the least and which play you like the most. Oh, and be sure to tell me why.
Several students speak. Unanimous dislike falls upon Measure for Measure. That is, until the metaphorical microphone reaches me.
Me: I actually prefer Measure for Measure to the others.
Guffaws and various forms of “What?” fill the room.
Student: “How could you be interested in a conflict so . . . archaic?”
The conflict he dubbed “archaic”? Whether or not to abstain from sex before marriage.
Me: “It’s not archaic for everyone.”
Student: “Well, what’s the big deal? It’s just sex.”
An ‘Archaic’ Conflict
Sadly, he speaks for much of the unmarried masses. As society increasingly celebrates sexual ‘freedom,’ sex has been reduced to an act of casual gratification. It has become like any other noun that we preface with the word just: inconsequential. This societal nonchalance has, in step with the question above, made sex a very small deal. As John Piper puts it, “[The world has] torn sex from its God-appointed place in the orbit of marriage.”
With sex torn from its place in marriage, so has purity been torn from its place in singleness. Purity is now labeled as outdated — so much so that Christian singles practicing abstinence are constantly pressured by those around them to “get with the times.” As if purity is the flip phone of middle school, and the meaningless hookup the newest iPhone.
God Is Worth the Wait
Before marrying, I often felt pressured by both nonbelievers and ‘believers’ alike to give purity an expiration date. The temptation sparkled. I would be lying if I said it didn’t.
Groundless platitudes like “Your future spouse is worth the wait”did not deliver me. God promises no such person, and even if he plans for one to come into being, that person does not often stand directly before us. Sexual temptation, on the other hand, floods our lives.
What I had to realize is that God hardwired humans to connect . . . with himself. He alone could satisfy my desire to be seen and known and loved and delighted in. But, I needed to live in constant submission to his will — through the power of the cross and by the work of the Spirit — in order for this relationship to flourish. “Be holy, for I am holy,” he tells us (Leviticus 11:44; 1 Peter 1:16).
So, although I knew purity would bestow a sweet gift upon marriage, it wasn’t that my now-husband was worth the wait. That’s only a drop of blood pulsing through the heart of the matter. It’s that God is worth every last moment of self-denial on this earth.
Ultimately the question is not, Will I wait for my future spouse (that God does not promise to grant me)? One thousand times over the question is, Will I glorify God with my body (1 Corinthians 6:20)? Will we be holy, as he is holy, and so draw nearer and nearer to the One who truly satisfies our souls?
Obedience Has No Expiration Date
If we will, we must fight sexual temptation. We must see and practice love-making as God intends for it to be seen and practiced — as the physical unification of a man and a woman within the context of marriage (Genesis 2:24; Ephesians 5:31). Here are a few practical thoughts that I pray arm you in the daily battle for purity.
- Recognize that the Bible was not merely a product of its time. While discussing Paul’s statements in 1 Corinthians 7 on the fine option of celibacy, Tim Keller writes within The Meaning of Marriage that “[t]here was no more radical act in that day and time than to live a life that did not produce heirs.” Scripture is filled with concepts and commands such as this, ones remarkably countercultural to the time in which its writers put pen to paper. The more you study such instances, the firmer the ground for your purity (and faith) will grow. You will come to see that what God said, he said for all of time.
- Dislodge worldly modifiers, allusions, and jokes from your view of sex. As I mentioned, many people have come to place the word just before the word sex. We must uphold our Biblical conception of sex in the midst of degrading connotations, whether contained within adjectives or locker-room conversations. Don’t be deceived by the laid-back, easy-to-swallow, fleshly arguments that the world extends regarding premarital sex.
- Remind yourself that what God commands is for your joy. People told me that I was “missing out” by waiting to have sex until marriage. Sometimes I was tempted to believe them. But in those moments, when we see the hookup culture smiling and laughing from afar, may we hold fast to the belief that only God provides fullness of joy (Psalm 16:11). And, thankfully, he gave us commands to expedite our trip to himself, to this joy, right here on earth. In times when you feel vulnerable to worldly passions, you might consider asking yourself, “Am I smarter than the God of the universe?” The answer is always no, so we must trust that what he asks of us in this life is truly for his glory and our good.
May God give us eyes to see that the momentary pleasure of sin, in any form, is not comparable to the eternal pleasure of pleasing God.