Sex before marriage? Absolutely–and here’s why…

Sex before marriage? Absolutely–and here’s why…

You may be surprised to learn that there are reasons why you and your partner / fiancé should not wait.
Yes, the church–Catholic and Orthodox, Protestant and Pentecostal–has unanimously declared, for the past two millennia, that sex is an expression and consummation of the mysterious and sacred union–the “one flesh-ness”–of marriage.  Nevertheless, if you and your partner find yourselves expressing the following (very common) sentiments, then it makes perfect sense for you two not to wait:

1.  “Our situation is different–we’re not like other couples.”  Under normal circumstances, waiting to have sex until marriage would make sense.  We could go into all the brutal details, but let’s just say it’s complicated.

Really complicated.

2.  “We’re mature enough to decide what’s best.”   If my partner and I agree on something, our opinion should have more weight than Jesus’ commands:  having known each other for several years now, our collective wisdom is a force to be reckoned with.

Here’s the logic:  there are two of us, and only one of Jesus; we can express this mathematically as follows:   2 > 1.

Just as with sex, there will be other important issues in our marriage where Jesus will be overruled.  Take the whole idea of tithing to our church and charitable giving:  we totally care about “the poor and stuff,” but we’re just not into the whole tithing thing.

And we’re not the only ones who think this way:  times have changed.  We are living in a time where cultural sensibilities should be trusted like never before:  we know more than any previous generation–ever.  (Not to be judgmental or anything–in fact, we’re actually two of the most tolerant people we know.)

We get that Jesus said that “broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter by it,” but here Jesus is talking about the mainstream, and sex before marriage is hardly mainstream.

3.  “Our inability to wait is surely a good sign of a healthy future relationship.”  What else could our inability to wait be but a sign of how much we love each other?  Simply because the overwhelming odds are that at least one of us has deep sexual brokenness in our past (e.g., addiction to porn, masturbation, regular hookups, trauma from abuse and unhealthy relationships), we have gotten all that sorted out–for the most part, and it’s not a factor in our present or future sexual relationship.  At all.

Further, just because one/both of us can’t restrain ourselves now, that doesn’t mean that in the future, when there are hard times in our marriage, one of us won’t be able to restrain ourselves with that coworker or sympathetic man or woman in their life.  Lack of control now is hardly an indication of lack of control in the future.  Those are two totally different things.

4.  “Love is primarily expressed (and received) through sex.”  The Bible says as much:  “Love always protects, always trusts, always arouses…”  Or, classically:  “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down with one’s friend.”

In fact, almost all the passages in the New testament that talk about love climax by talking about sex.  Right?

True, the relationships in which we have felt the most loved, the most cared for, and experienced the most growth (e.g., a parent or grandparent, sibling, mentor, teacher, author, friend, et al.) have all been non-sexual.  Nevertheless, sex–or erotic touch–is absolutely essential for deeply impacting and connecting with–i.e., truly loving–my partner or fiancé.

There’s just no other way.

After all, when we recall former relationships that at some point became sexual, we remember the sexual aspect of those relationships with great fondness and use phrases like “true love” to describe the motivation for sex on both sides.  No pain or shame or feeling like damaged goods from all that.  Sex pretty much equaled love.

Ok, so maybe we didn’t really know what we were doing in former relationships, but we definitely know what we’re doing in this relationship.  It’s all under control.

5.  “There are really good reasons why we are putting off the wedding but not the sex.”  Here are just a few:  (i) It is absolutely essential to have our wedding at the right time of year.  (ii) That designer dress will be a 9-month wait.  (iii) The location needs to be perfect.  The perfect food.  The perfect table mats.  The perfect everything.

(iv) We need to date for like 3-4 years (or have an 18-24 month engagement), because, while we obviously love one another unconditionally, we still need…more time.  We need time to know for sure that we are made for each other–i.e., to discover whether we are compatible emotionally, relationally, socially, psychologically, financially, spiritually, recreationally, vocationally, geographically and–let’s be honest–sexually.

Why?  Because a great marriage is almost exclusively about chemistry–not deep personal investment, which is really hard work.  (Almost all other deeply satisfying things in life take hard work–e.g., learning a musical instrument or learning a new language.  But not marriage.)

Hence, we need to take each other on 3-4 year test drive, a lot like one would with a (used?) car.

(v) We put off the wedding but not the sex, because we first need to be completely stable financially and vocationally:  we must have our degrees, our careers, our housing, our pets–the really important things that define who we are–all figured out first.

6.  “We both have taken the time to talk about the issue thoroughly.”  Sex is an absolutely beautiful, intimate, quasi-sacramental act, not some animalistic exchange of bodily fluids (hence, the exclusivity).  And so, given how sacred sex is to both of us, we have been incredibly intentional about really talking through our sexual relationship, both with each other and with those whose opinions we respect the most–especially those whose marriages we most admire.  (And from what we’ve learned, the marriages that have really lasted all involved premarital sex.)  Because of how incredibly special our sex is, we haven’t just fallen into it, so that there’s all this gray area–no confusion, no second-guessing, no manipulation, no power play.

Neither one of us has in any way compromised on any of the boundaries, values, or convictions (about sex) that we had when we first entered the relationship.  Rather, with great sensitivity we have loved each other by asking one another what those boundaries, values, convictions are and respecting them.  The result?  Neither party feels in any way pressured to have sex–who would ever selfishly pressure their partner into having sex?  Or who would ever selfishly use sex as a way of securing the relationship?

Ok, honestly, these kinds of conversations haven’t probably happened like they should have, because, frankly, they would be awkward with a capital “A.”

And true love should never take the risk of being awkward.


We live in a highly sexualized culture.  Sexual abuse and brokenness are pervasive.  Sex is common.  And when something is common, its worth goes down.  That’s why after the very brief high there follows an aching low, an inescapable emptiness:  we feel passed around, cheapened–i.e., common (as Paul says in Romans 1).

But Jesus died for us, forever contradicting the worthlessness that we feel.  “You were bought at a price,” Paul (twice) tells the sexually compromised Corinthians.  Thus, to embrace Jesus is to begin to recognize our worth–our great worth–once more, so that we–my partner and I–begin to wonder:  perhaps we are both worth the wait.

But to embrace Jesus is also to begin to recognize His wisdom, a very counterintuitive, countercultural wisdom, which calls us to lose our lives that we might gain them, to protect the other from ourselves and together to bow our knee before the One who is alone is worthy of our exclusive allegiance in every area of life.

(For reflections on dating, go here.)

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