Is Premarital Sex Okay For Millenials?

I was taught growing up that premarital sex is bad. In fact, the environment that I was in would shame me if I was involved in any form of sexual idolatry. However, because of my love for the Bible and the beauty that God created in sexual oneness, I agree that it is absolutely best to wait for marriage.

My generation (the Millenials…dare I say ‘woot, woot’?) is getting married later and later. Most men these days aren’t getting married until they’re 29 and most women aren’t getting married until they’re 27. Can we hold this ideal until we are almost 30? My generation is also hitting puberty at the earliest point in human history (some girls hit puberty as early as seven!). Most people’s bodies are physically wired for sex at age 13. Can we honestly ask this generation to endure 15-20 years of repressed sexuality?

Sexual repression often comes with great consequences. It can lead to poor self-esteem, depression, and even things like aggressive behavior or suicidal thoughts. Sexual expression is also healthy for the individual. Sex often leads to reduced stress, better immune systems, cardiovascular health, it helps reduce several types of cancer, and helps you sleep more (among many, many more).

I don’t think the human body is meant to abstain from sex this long (physiologically or spiritually). The question, I believe, is how do we as a church help young adults? Do we begin forming a localized institution of e-harmony and help people get married younger (and help deal with the problems of young married couples)? Or do we disavow our stance on premarital sex? What can the church do to help people find ideal living in non-ideal times?

Thanks to Adam McLane at Youth Cartel  for spurring on my thinking on this topic.


53 thoughts on “Is Premarital Sex Okay For Millenials?

  1. Wow. This is the first time I’ve seen a post on this. I am in complete agreement. I feel the same way you do about sex, it should wait for marriage, but the issues that raises with the way our culture operates needs to be addressed. Now. Loudly. I don’t have an answer. Premarital sex is going to be more likely the more marriage is postponed. I am an advocate of earlier marriage, yet concerned about the potential issues with that. I don’t support premarital sex … yet … I have a tremendous amount of grace for someone who is older than I do for someone who is younger.
    So happy I found you through twitter … subscribing and you’ll definitely be hearing more from me!

  2. As a campus minister this is a huge issue (not just for our students, but also for our staff). Interested to see what you have to say…almost a daily discussion for me!

  3. G says:

    I guess we have to answer a few questions before this can really be tackled:
    1. What does the Bible actually say about pre-marital sex?
    2. In what context is the Bible talking about it?
    3. Based on the actual mentions and actual context, is abstinence in the same category as those principles that stand the test of time (don’t bear false witness, don’t murder) or in the same category as those rules that applied to another time, culture and space (don’t wear mixed fibers, don’t cut your hair)?

    There are a couple points that I think are really relevant to the discussion:

    1. When Jesus was asked what the most important commandment was, He answered that we should love God. Then he added that the second most important commandment “is like it” and said we should love our neighbors as ourselves. Then he goes on to say that “on this hang all the law and the prophets.” Meaning: the other laws, the other things the prophets said…they come back to these principles.

    So, if you want to evaluate any action against the Bible, it seems logical to weigh said action against these principles–is the thing you are doing for, against or neutral to loving God? Is it for, against or neutral to loving others and yourself?

    2. Based on the principles Jesus marks as the basis of the law and prophets, what was God’s (or even the church’s) intent in imposing restrictions on any action? Or is that intent even relevant anymore?

    For example, in this case: if a woman 1000 years ago (or even 100 years ago, for that matter), had sex outside of wedlock, she could run into any number of horrible consequences for herself and her family. Pregnancy and the financial burdens and medical complications that went along with it. STDs. Being an outcast from society. Even dying from pregnancy or STDs.

    Today, that same woman can elude this stuff 99 out of 100 times. We have condoms. We live in a society that doesn’t care. Women work and make their own livings. STD tests, preventions and treatments are highly developed and successful. Etc.

    So, if the intent of the church was to protect its young women…it makes perfect sense back then. But, now…does it?

    • Mike Friesen says:

      How would you go about protecting young women now?

      • G says:

        I guess part of the point is that we’re already more protected now, right? We have condoms. We have birth control that protects at 99.97%. We have STD tests. We have treatments for STDs, should you contract one. They’re not 100% protections, but pre-marital sex rarely has life-threatening consequences anymore.

        I don’t know that this means it is or isn’t right to redefine things for a new generation…but if (big IF) the reason that the church was preaching abstinence was for the sake of protection, then these are the factors that perhaps argue with a change in the church’s push.

        If the reason the church was preaching abstinence is something else (again, going back to the discussion of what does God actually have to say about it…do you have a list of scriptures you can post here?), then the discussion has to follow a different course.

      • G,

        I’ll start by stating the obvious – sex is different for men and women. I deeply appreciate Mike’s question about protecting young women, because pregnancy and disease are not the only – and not even the biggest – dangers involved here.

        Though I may be more capable of extending grace to those who struggle than the environment Mike and many of us grew up in, I believe there is some truth to the sexual idolatry argument. Sex outside of marriage runs a great danger of doing damage to our hearts. It opens the door, especially in the heart of a woman, for so many lies (about value, self-worth and love, etc) to creep in and cause separation between our hearts and the heart of God.

        I’m not going to disagree with Mike. That 15-20 years is probably a pretty tough challenge for most. But at the expense of creating an opening for separation from God, I’ll wait.

  4. David Prince says:

    Good question and one I’ve been wrestling with for years. Three things seem to be closely tied together: the age at puberty (which, as you pointed out, happens very early today), the age at economic independence (when you can move out and start a family on your own), and the age at marriage. In simpler societies, economic independence came very early — in Biblical times young people could move out and start herding or farming very early, around the same age as puberty (about 15 yrs old) or shortly after. But today many people want a college education and possibly advanced degrees before they feel ready to start a family. Obviously, today’s situation is very different from that found in the Bible. Today’s young people spend a lot longer period when they are “all dressed up with no place to go.” So the question is, how can we apply Biblical principles and God’s love to the situation we live in today.

    • Mike Friesen says:

      there are some huge loopholes in terms of finances for this generation. Many people are going to school later because (a. they want to find what gives them meaning b. they can’t financially afford it because our credit system is screwed up).

  5. I think that the most effective thing to do is to inform and educate people about their bodies, their sexuality, and their choices. While I don’t agree with abstaining until one is married– I do believe in being in a commited relationship and not using sex as a therapy tool. I am glad to be a part of the United Church of Christ that has amazing curriculum on sexuaility that we teach in our churches and at our Bible camps. Being open and vocal about sexuality and giving young people the information they deserve to know only leads to healthier lead lifestyles.

    • Elise says:

      This is such a great point… The Church is often scared to talk about these things (in my experience, anyway), but knowledge is power, and I think it’s a really healthy way to start this tough conversation.

      • I recently joined a new church, The United Church of Christ, and I am surprised at how they treat their youth– they really respect them and don’t ever talk down to them. Their curriculum on sexual health is AMAZING. It’s so upfront and “these are the facts”. I strongly encourage anybody who is looking for a church to check out the United Church of Christ at It’s so progressive and humble!

    • Mike Friesen says:

      What do some of those resources teach? What has been transformative for you?

      • Marie K says:

        Mike, it’s the OWL program… OUR WHOLE LIVES and they have courses from elementary through adulthood… Whether the church teaches all the courses or focuses on pre-teens and teens is up to the individual church. It is a wonderful program though as is the United Church of Christ.

  6. Blake says:

    I understand the tension you’re describing.

    But it seems one of the questions you are asking is “Should we as churches consider ignoring what scripture teaches due to the cultural pressures regarding sexual activity and older ages of marriage?” To that I’d say “of course not”. I assume you’d agree.

    As to how to help the young people living in this culture deal with the pressures, I think it comes to coaching them in seeking God’s will. Is he calling them to marriage yet? Is he leading them to prepare their minds/hearts for it? Are they obeying those callings? Or is he telling them that the time is not now?

    God understands our culture and bodies and minds far better than we do. I’d not think he was ready for us to disavow scriptural callings based on them either.

    • Mike Friesen says:

      I agree Blake,
      Waiting for marriage is ideal. But, we don’t live in ideal times. Another question is that because my generation doesn’t seem to care for the Bible as much as previous generation, how do we get enter into conversation over something they don’t find as absolute as other people might.

      • Blake says:

        Maybe our times aren’t ideal, but I can’t really point to an era in history that we could describe as ideal and perfect.

        I think even Christian millennials know what the Bible teaches on permaritial sex whether they choose to abide by it or not. But is your other question about men/women of your generation who are believers or non-believers? Probably a difference in how to approach the conversation.

        But I think a key is that I, nor you, will change anyone’s heart/mind. That is completely up to the Holy Spirit. He can use us to plant and water, but the harvest is His alone. So I’d pray that they Holy Spirit changes hearts and minds. Or matures them earlier to “ready themselves” for marriage.

        Good questions that deserve seeking out answers.

    • G says:

      Blake – I think the question really is whether we’re ignoring anything…what scriptures talk about pre-marital sex and in what context? I think we have to talk about that before we can talk about whether it’s okay…yes?

      Do you have a list of scriptures on this? I’ve actually been meaning to look into it.

    • You said: But it seems one of the questions you are asking is “Should we as churches consider ignoring what scripture teaches due to the cultural pressures regarding sexual activity and older ages of marriage?”

      I want to push on that a bit. It’s not that I disagree with the traditional teaching, but I think that there are some assumptions that bear exploration. What DOES the Scripture teach, for example? The Bible doesn’t tend to talk about “premarital sex” per se, but rather about (what we tend to translate as) sexually immorality, a term which, itself, needs unpacking. I’m pretty comfortable saying that the Bible’s trajectory for sexual behavior IS toward marriage, but this is the kind of discussion I’m saying we need to have.

      The next question which I think is essential is WHY does the Bible care about sex so much? WHY does it advocate for sexual behavior only in certain contexts (i.e., marriage, unless our exploration of the above question somehow determines a different answer)? Are those intentions adequately retained in a modern world that expects/requires people NOT to marry at 14 or so, but indeed often expects them to wait about that same number of years ON TOP OF THAT before they get married? If not, what should be done about it? Should we start encouraging people to marry while they’re in middle school?

      I think we too often assume we already know what Scripture teaches, when in fact Scripture tends to be far more complicated that we allow it to be.

  7. This is a great article that many may pass by and not read. I hope that isn’t the case because this is the type of dialogue we need to change our perception and how we address this issue. Thanks for the enlightenment and challenge. I do want to say that our goals as a local church may include teaching about abstaining from premarital sex and sin as a whole, but our main goal has to be to connect people to God in an intimate way. I personally don’t feel like earlier marriage is the answer (considering millenials are also maturing mentally, socially at a much slower pace than previous generations and our divorce rate is atrocious), but it doesn’t mean I am correct. That is just my assessment as a person who didn’t get married till my 30’s. Great Article and a thought provoking response by Kate.

    • Mike Friesen says:

      Thanks Jeremy,
      I agree that connecting to God in an intimate way is the main goal. I think that is the only way to begin have “holy sex”. Sex that regards the other person. You loving Christ in them.

  8. Elise says:

    What about addressing the causes of earlier-onset puberty? Are our bodies not temples, and should they not be treated with more respect? Yet, we put countless chemicals and hormones on them and in them every single day without thinking twice about it, and that seems to be a link to this issue. Therefore, can we ask for cultural grace on the issue of pre-marital sex, if we’re simply choosing to be ignorant to what we are doing to our bodies to get us to that point of desperation? That said, it’s still a very tough issue, as, regardless of the age of puberty, we are generally getting married at an older age. Great food for thought, Mike!

    • Mike Friesen says:

      I agree Elise,
      There are things that we are doing that are enabling puberty at an earlier age. I wonder what that might look like and what the Church should do in terms of not only healthy sexuality but also healthy physiology. You have any thoughts on that?

      • Elise says:

        One thing that’s always bothered me about today’s Church, is our disregard for stewardship of our bodies (and of the environment, etc etc) . We do fellowship really well. I’m not discounting that. That said, though, take church socials for example: styrofoam, and the over-indulgence of food… most of which is the wrong type of food to improve or instill life in our bodies. So, why not take this corporate get-together and use it to teach the body of a more biblical way to do things in this area? Then, to encourage sustainability in the home, offer workshops, meal plan ideas, and support for families who may not have a large budget for the healthy eating ventures (although, there are still ways to do this cost-effectively). But economic problems do, obviously, play a huge role in a family’s eating habits. This is just one idea from the physiological perspective. As for the healthy sexuality issue, I have yet to form ideas on tangible ways to alleviate the pressure in that area, but, in general, I feel the Church needs to start embracing the big issues in our society. We can’t continue to ignore the root causes of some very serious problems. Otherwise what purpose is the Church really serving?

  9. I think we run into problems when we start treating God’s guidance as if it’s subject to a “statute of limitations.” But I don’t think that necessarily means earlier marriage (which is not to say I’m opposed to that, just that that shouldn’t be the solution to the challenge of obedience). Rather, I think the church can work on equipping singles with more than just ideas or convictions. Chastity presents a significant bodily challenge and, as I argue in Books and Culture, it takes embodied practices to form us into people of trusting obedience. (That may sound like a simplistic solution in this abbreviated context; I fleshed my point out more fully in the article.)

  10. Scot Miller says:

    As an old baby boomer, I am delighted that you whippersnapper millenials are asking the questions about sex that earlier generations wouldn’t even ask…. they would just have non-marital sex and feel tremendously guilty and/or have babies (and maybe even abortions), and perhaps even marry the first person with whom they had sex, even if they were incompatible or not ready to be married. Yes, church-going born again evangelicals have been having sex outside of marriage for years.

    I would suggest that a search for “the” biblical answer will not be very helpful, especially when you consider that the Bible offers conflicting messages about sexuality, desire, and marriage. After all, Paul thought it would be “better” if nobody was married (given the proximity of the parousia), whereas polygamy was apparently the normative pattern in the Old Testament, Naomi has pre-marital sex with Boaz in order to get him to marry her, and the Song of Songs celebrates sensual desire (probably) outside of marriage. So there are no “Bible bullets” which nail down the eternal truth about what kinds of sexual behavior is morally permissible or impermissible for Christians. (I strongly recommend “Unprotected Texts: The Bible’s Surprising Contradictions About Sex and Desire,” by Jennifer Wright Knust for the difficulty of finding a single biblical account of sex and desire.)

    I agree with “G’s” important observation about love being the key to sexual morality. In particular, to the extent that two people genuinely love each other and respect each other and do not treat each other as mere objects for their sexual gratification, sex should be morally permissible. Of course, it is much easier to enjoy a mutually respectful sexual relationship in the context of the marriage commitment, and that it is easier to use your partner (or to let yourself be used) outside marriage, but marriage alone is insufficient to make sexual intimacy morally permissible. Wives can be raped by their husbands, for example, so not all sex within marriage is morally permissible.

    The problem with the “traditional” objection to sex outside of marriage is that it is based on fear rather than love. It would be fantastic if the millenials could get rid of the appeals to fear and guilt when it comes to the issue of premarital sex.

    • G says:

      Amen! Scot, thanks for bringing these points up.

      I think a huge part of the struggle is not feeling that the Bible is definitive on the subject–which is why (as with any other gray areas) I have to turn to love. Is having sex with this person love or am I using them? Is having sex with this person going to harm (and thus, not love) another person (if said person is in a relationship, for example)? Am I loving myself, treating myself with dignity as God’s creation?

      Another thing to consider: the Bible constantly talks about doing justice, loving mercy, taking care of widows and orphans, caring for the oppressed. Constantly. The church talks about these things (in my experience) occasionally. The Bible rarely talks about pre-marital sex and it doesn’t ever seem to address it definitively. But the church talks about it constantly.

    • Greg says:

      My longer comment comes well on down the page, but, I wanted to come back to your comment, Scott. I fully concur. Especially your suggestion of what perhaps constitutes “sexual morality.” In general, in my mind, morality addresses the way we treat ourselves and others, with respect, with dignity, with care, with concern, in honestly and full disclosure, with love. To love the other entails this kind of morality and does not “use” the other for one’s own advantage. So, wouldn’t the same apply to our sexual expression? I’m glad to see another geezer here speaking my language! : )

    • Greg says:

      Sorry, I meant to address my agreement not only to Scott, but also to “G”. Well-put, “G”…

  11. Laura Cavanaugh says:

    As a proponent of healthy body theology (and by extension healthy sexuality), I wrestle with issues like this all the time. Before I was married (at 27), I participated in a sexuality group with a number of my close female friends who were also single, and we wrestled together with how to express our sexuality while being single. I love that you are asking this question, and I’m excited to see by some of the responses that people are more willing now than ever to live with the tension rather than give pat answers. I think one issue that clouds the discussion is the tendency for Christians to approach issues with very black-and-white theology, which I just don’t think is helpful anymore.

    At the risk of sounding like a relativist (which I am certainly not), I think rather than asking the question “Is premarital sex okay” a better question would be “How do single Christians express their sexuality in a healthy way?” And by extension, how does the Church guide and advise on such issues? I think it’s much more helpful overall to teach people to make responsible, adult decisions about how to experience life, whether it’s going to a bar or club to unwind with friends and meet new ones, participating in Christian communities, engaging in social justice issues, pursuing higher schooling, taking parenting classes, having sex as a single person, discerning a vocation, making wise money investments, etc.

    Life is full of choices, not just about sex but about everything. There are so many things young adults (and by that I define 18-35, which puts me right smack in this category myself) need guidance about, and without the church helping to shape youth into wise and discerning young adults, we are going to keep circling around, asking the wrong questions, and drawing unhelpful boundaries that do not allow for the “new thing springing up” and the very active movement of the Holy Spirit in people’s lives.

  12. Edgar says:

    First of all, you were missing some references as far as “Sex often leads to reduced stress, better immune systems, cardiovascular health, it helps reduce several types of cancer, and helps you sleep more (among many, many more).”… says who?

    now to the question at hand… like other commenters, I agree. the urge to be sexually intimate with another is “argh!!! a killer instinct shall we say?”

    however – one can have great relationships, be intimate, sweet, loving and [other emotions here] without “having intercourse”. Is is that ultimate experience that must be shared with with your spouse. Thoughts?

  13. Patrick O says:

    The early church was, without a doubt, in as much or more of a sexually permissive society in many ways. Early monastic writings are very, very open about the issues and challenges of dealing with persistent temptations towards sexuality.

    Maybe the trouble is that the combination of having early married leaders, or emphasizing marriage early, means that we don’t know how to or don’t want to listen to those of our and earlier generations who really did face the challenges and endured the temptations and had a more Biblical oriented form of sexuality, which only is really conflicted sounding if one doesn’t like its pretty direct message: sex is to exist within marriage.

    I was 35 when I was married and my wife was 33, and we had waited all that time, with all indications suggesting we were both entirely physically, psychologically and emotionally quite healthy.

    That culture wants reality to be a certain way, and we’re convinced by its suggestion of how reality is rather than God’s suggestions, is a compelling argument why we have to deal with this but not entirely a compelling argument why the millenials have any sort of different situation than the rest of humanity has had over every generation. There were those that stood strong and those that fell by the side… who participates in the great movements of God throughout the centuries?

  14. Patrick O says:

    To add, maybe millenials are a generation used to having all their whims instantly satisfied, so don’t know how to wait for what they want. They then apply this to their ethics and think that waiting implies some kind of inherent disaster, wanting God to fix the network issues rather than realizing the wait is indeed a burden and a benefit at the same time, for reasons taught throughout Christian history, not just in the sexually mute phase of Victorian and Fundamentalist eras.

    Does Christianity have a critique for this generation or does Christianity simply baptize whatever any generation wants to do, if they really want to do it. The latter is what Christianity did with violence during the crusades. Now it is doing it with sexuality.

    If this is how it should be, what is the distinctive ethic of Christianity?

  15. Farah says:

    I’ve been thinking about this a little bit, and I’m glad the previous poster (Scot) brought up that last point re: thinking about premarital sex aside from fear and guilt. My perspective is this:

    I am a 26 year old woman, unmarried, a born-again Christian, and I’m abstaining from sex until I get married. I’m also well versed in abiding by Biblical ideals out of guilt. I’m less well versed in abiding by them because they bring blessing (but I’m working on it). I think any rule or exhortation in the Bible should be looked at through the lens of believing that God put them in the Bible for my benefit. The focus should be off me/what I want and on God’s character as a Father. So that means when God says, in the Bible, that I shouldn’t commit adultery and that I should flee from sexual immorality, He says it because He loves me and knows sex outside of marriage hurts my soul. Or it subjects me to STDs, pregnancy out of wedlock, or any number of other things that aren’t good for me. Its not in my best interest to have sex outside a committed, sealed by the committment of marriage, relationship.

    When I look at it that way, there are a few things that shift in my mentality:
    1.) It helps me believe that God doesn’t delight in keeping good things from me (something Satan wants me to think)
    2.) It makes me freer in my current state of purity, because I understand God’s love, rather than more bound in fear of screwing up (something Satan wants me to fear)
    3.) It shifts my perspective toward working and praying and believing UP to increasing purity because I know its brings increasing freedom (Satan hates people who know they’re free)
    4.) When I do cross a boundary (e.g. looking at and dwelling on that hot guy on TV in lust…because lets be honest, it happens), it reminds me that my sin was nailed to the cross by Jesus and therefore my purity does not have to be permanently damaged…I’m not stuck. I don’t have to feel guilty about it, but I repent, ask God to help me, and go on living. (Satan wants me to think I may as well give up and give in now, since I already messed it up)

    Anyway, I could go on, but the point is that its not about me and what I feel like I want. But becaues God’s character is to do good toward me, the blessing that comes from obeying Him is a byproduct of that..

  16. Great topic — we Millenials need to talk about this. Mark Regnerus has some excellent resources on the topic (his books are The Forbidden Fruit and Premarital Sex in America).
    In my view, we should be advocating early marriage, but also emphasizing community support.
    People these days expect too much of marriage, and put stress on themselves to meet needs that too great for just person. We must rely on our whole community, and make sure those communities have support for young couples who are (like myself), pursuing marriage while trying also focus on finishing school and starting careers that will pay for a decent wedding (ridiculously expensive!).
    Josh (and Erin)

  17. Kenny Vandergriff says:

    Mike, I think you have hit one of the quintessential questions of our time. I know that my youth group has asked me on several occasions about sex, the pressures they feel to engage in sexual activity and my thoughts on it. I have been honest with them that I did not wait for marriage to engage in sexual activities and that at their age, while they may feel they can handle the consequences that sex brings, they really can’t. I know first hand about this Andover shared this with them. My wife however shares a different story. She waited until she was 27 to lose her virginity. We were not married yet but we were engaged. It is interesting that she could make it that long with all the pressures but she said that she was waiting for the right person, which then brings the question how do we know when we have met the right person?

  18. Allan Palmer says:

    Great questions, Mike. I have been planning a sermon on sex for some time now; putting it off because I think it should probably be a series with some interesting power points.
    The whole issue is complicated because of the idolatrous nature of sex. It is such a powerful force that religions have been formed on the basis of it. Even the church has formed their own virginity cult/worship.
    For the person struggling to follow Jesus, it is one of the most difficult parts of our nature to deal with and the church really has not helped.
    But, sexual repression is different from not having sex. I never heard of anyone who died from no sex. Most people plan on having sex: it’s just a matter of when, where, and with whom.
    Older people have an interpretation of what scripture says about sex and they just don’t keep it. I would like to know what younger people think the Bible says about sex and how we the older people, can help you remain faithful to that.

  19. […] a fellow friend and blogger posted an article titled “IS PREMARITAL SEX OKAY FOR MILLENIALS?“. I believe that the article was to spur on thought about this subject. Mike does not state […]

  20. Laura Cavanaugh says:

    I’m curious, for all the “waiters” out there, how do you/did you experience “waiting” for sex until you were married (or in a committed relationship)? Personally, when I look back at my “waiting” prior to my experience with my husband, I see more unhealthy sexual repression than healthy waiting. For those of you who waited/are waiting, how did you/do you express your sexuality in a healthy way in the meantime?

    For those of you who didn’t wait, do you regret your choices now? Why or why not?

    • Amy says:

      My husband and I waited, in the technical, literal sense. But we were physically intimate very nearly to the point of actual intercourse. It took me more than 10 years to stop feeling guilty about it.

      Yes, I think that the “ideal” is to wait. But I discovered that it wasn’t the marriage license, ring, or ceremony that was important. What enabled me to let go of my guilt was realizing that the depth of our physical love was directly proportional to that of our emotional and spiritual intimacy with each other. As our marriage has progressed, we have continued to grow deeper. There is no shame in that.

      I don’t buy into the mere need for gratification. Heck, that can be achieved alone. But I do have a more generous view of intimacy, and I think it’s time to throw away the shame and guilt we heap on people.

      • Laura Cavanaugh says:

        Hi Amy! Thanks for sharing. I don’t think you’re alone in this at all. I have known several Christian women who were actually unable to enjoy sex early in their marriages because they had so deeply internalized the message that sex was bad that they couldn’t separate the message from the act even within marriage. I’m so glad you were able to overcome any shame and guilt you felt about your experience. I agree that those feelings were undeserved, both for you and for all of us. Here’s to a healthier sexuality for Christians, both single and married!

  21. Jeff says:

    I don’t think I read the word “Holiness” once here, but would have thought it would have been the foremost concept discussed…. Never mind the legalism, we are encouraged over and over again towards holiness. As far as the current, modern culture goes, we are to be separate and apart from it and trying to find a way to fit in our worldliness with our faith never works. That’s why these concepts are so difficult for our youth – if they spent a little more time serving, studying the Word & praying and a lot less time at the mall, playing video games, dating & clubbing, there would be little need for us to even be having this discussion. Sexual union is ordained by God for marriage – period. It is quite clear and there is no need to “interpret” it. There are many other primal urges we all learn to suppress/repress – greed, lust, violence, avarice – we need not give in to carnality simply because we think it sounds good or makes psychological sense. He knows us better than we know ourselves…
    I didn’t wait until marriage but wish now, years later, that I had…

  22. Mike,

    I think you’ve correctly identified the key dilemmas. I think (as evidenced by some comments), that the most obvious Christian answer would be early marriage. But for a variety of reasons, I think this is a terrible idea.

    I went to a Christian college, in which this push for early marriage was a very obvious phenomenon. It often didn’t turn out well. And even for those that did work out, I wonder if they really ended up settling for a very sub-par situation.

  23. Greg says:

    I grew up in a Wesleyan-Holiness Movement and, like most more conservative groups among Christianity, absolute virginity until marriage was very sternly stressed. I later became a Pastor in this same movement as are many of my family members, including my father and grandfather. I attended this movement’s key University and Theological Seminary as well. For most of my Pastoral career in this movement I served as a key leader, in numerous official capacities, of youth programming. I was directly involved in mentoring a great many young ministers into ministry into this group and other similar Evangelical groups.

    Of course, it fell to me to lead teachings and discussions on this very issue and all issues surrounding sexuality, dating, marriage, relationships, etc. I was fortunate to have been raised by parents (including my Pastor father) who were relatively relaxed on these issues, at least compared to most other Pastors and parents I was aware of in that culture. My parents openly discussed and taught my brothers and I about these things from a very young age, and mostly had few hangups about it and used appropriate scientific terminology when talking with us rather than using weird euphemisms and stuttering and stammering. Even masturbation was viewed by my parents as a normative part of one’s private life, and appropriate nudity was tolerated and no shame placed upon any part of the body. I feel lucky and grateful in that regard. However, I had an extra issue that I privately dealt with that was not even ever considered a possibility or worth any discussion. I am gay.

    I didn’t come out until I was 40 years old, and I fought it and denied it right up until a few years prior to that. This made my youthful years very, very interesting and difficult, sometimes quite painful and frightening to navigate. I was aware that I was different from my guy friends by around 8 years old as I recall, the same time I became aware that I had a strong desire to follow a path to Christian Ministry. Talk about confusing. I share that not to discuss homosexuality particularly, but rather to share what developed within me as a unique perspective on sexual expression. Not having any idea that it was possible to both pursue Christian Ministry and be a gay man, I was faced with a choice: follow a path toward full authenticity and romantic/relational fulfillment; or follow the only path I was aware of into Christian Ministry by suppressing who I was and living into the life expected of me. I chose the latter.

    Still, I was different from many who take this road and become deeply bitter and lash out and become rampant anti-gay campaigners in an effort to cope with their own self-hatred. Because of my own pain I allowed myself to become deeply compassionate about sexual otherness and beyond that developed a very compassionate attitude toward all otherness. So, even as a young Youth Pastor I was never able to tow the party line. I regularly got into trouble for it too. I was expected to tell young people all of the evils of sex outside of marriage and worse. While I certainly did generally advocate for waiting for marriage, I never pushed that. Nor did I ever teach any kind of anti-otherness messages or ideology. This too got me into trouble. Even so up until I came out in 2002 I enjoyed a highly successful ministry career in that movement.

    Of course, now I’m a 50 year old divorced gay man serving in voluntary ministerial roles, and, dating. Over the past decade my thinking has moved even farther away from absolute abstinence until marriage. I won’t go into a discourse on my precise stance on the issue now, but, the reason I’ve lightened up in this area is precisely one of the reasons Mike stated as a reason he still believes it is best to wait for sexual expression until marriage. That being my love for the Bible. A big reason that I have never been able to push prohibition of sex until after marriage is that I’ve never been able to really support it based upon Scripture. I’ve really never found anyone who could produce a worthy argument, based upon Scripture, for absolute premarital abstinence. And, believe me, I’ve tried to find one, for over 30 years! Seriously, what is the reliable Biblical reasoning for this ideology? I’m honestly asking, not just being provocative. Thanks so much for this discussion, Mike!

    • Jeff says:

      Basically all of 1 Corinthians 7 deals with this issue quite clearly and in some detail, though the essence of the ideology is apparent throughout scripture. It didn’t take me 30 years to look it up, only about 3 minutes. 🙂
      With regards to homosexuality and this issue, it is the same concept: we cannot always control our orientation or our desires but we can always control our behaviour and with prayer and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, victory is ours if we seek it in faith.

  24. Ale says:

    Hello guys,

    This conversation is interesting. Thanks for sharing.

    I am 33 years old happy single girl and love God whole heartedly. I’ve let Him guide my way and show me the path of life and freedom every step of the way. I have dated 15 different great men (believers and non believers), had a blast with them and enjoyed the window if time we shared together. I’ve learned the good and the bad of relationships.
    I have experienced loss, pain, joy and wonder, butterflies and sexual desire…I have discovered my body and the dynamics between men and women.

    Today I stand content that I have not become ONE with any of my boyfriends.

    Not becoming one is the key here. Like Jesus said it. I believe the power of sex and intimacy lies on this true: when we have sex we become one flesh with the other.
    This oness is meant to be pure and in love (holy) and provide a foundation for the generations= family, and provide the foundation for the beauty of true intimacy with one another= marriage.

    I believe this is the original heart of God for his creation. Even if humanity, in biblical times or now, have go about their sexual behavior in different ways.

    I believe living in victory and freedom and in the path of life is doable no matter the times.
    I believe the church should continue to encourage waiting till marriage but focus on showing these kids the wonderful path of serving God. Stop being defensive and become offensive. Show the world the beauty of freedom and grace.
    Sex should not be the most important issue in our lives…it should be one of them.

    When you have God in your life you eyes open up to a million possibilities. Adventures that bring amazing satisfaction and that our generation is able to experienced because they are getting married later. School, travel, social justice, sports, fashion, music, carreer, etc…

    Successful christians to me are the one that LOVE God with all their hearts and understand His ways, His vision for life, sex, and the generations…by alllowing Him to walk them through in freedom not in fear, every step of the way.



  25. Joe says:

    Good questions being posed here. An earlier comment really echoed my thoughts when it questioned whether we really know what it is that Scripture “says” about sex, particularly pre-marital sex. Many passages and stories from Scripture give considerable weight to the connection between sex and marriage. As Mike states, its worth asking what the benefits and liabilities in the ANE were for that connection. But that connection only shows us that even more than sex, the conversation should be about issues of family and companionship. Let’s revisit our theology of family and perhaps that will give us some clues about how to approach premarital sex. What is Scripture and Christ leading us to do about family? Why is it not right that man or woman should not be alone as Gen. suggests? On the other hand, why is it worth forsaking parents or perhaps becoming a eunuch for the sake of the Kingdom? One hunch is that there is a physical/spiritual needs satisfied in sex is really fulfilled in something more comprehensive.

    I would also caution against too confidently aligning sex with physical or spiritual health. That could potentially imply that its absence brings the opposite of health: sickness. The monastic traditions in Christianity and other faiths provide plenty of counterexamples to the sex = health correlation. What kind of health are we seeking?

  26. Janell says:

    I think this is a great conversation to be having, especially with teenagers and young adults. As a 29 year old virgin (gasp), I feel like I have a little bit of wisdom to impart, and for me it’s simple:
    Is it hard to stay pure in the midst of a culture like today’s? Absolutely. Is His glory greater than my own desires? Without a doubt.

    At the end of the day, there are a lot of areas in my life where I struggle to live according to His will. It’s a daily battle against my flesh, whether that is in the area of sexual purity, my speech, the way I treat others, or a plethora of other things. I don’t think this issue is any different, I think we just want it to be because we want an excuse to have sex.

  27. Adrienne says:

    Could the prohibition against premarital sex be a result of a misinterpretations of scripture? The Bible discusses sexual immorality but doesn’t go into specifics. How could intercourse a loving and committed relationship be immoral? Doesn’t Christianity stress respect, love and commitment in human relationships? Repressing sexuality is both physically and emotionally unhealthy.

    Moreover, how can the Church remain relevant when growing numbers of young Christians reject prohibitions on premarital sex. Very few of my single friends in the Church are not sexually active, and they are not afraid to hide the fact. The Church needs to wake up and address the modern world and modern women.

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