I have the privilege of working with couples during the worst and best of times. The spectrum is broad; the worst is when they come because their marriage is deeply troubled and the best is when they are preparing for wedded bliss, full of hope and wonder.
Most recently, I met with a couple considering marriage. Both professed a personal relationship with Jesus, and both came from homes of divorce. They were considering living together to “be sure” they would stay together. I asked them if they regularly worshiped together. They said they occasionally attended church, but they weren’t involved. It wasn’t too far into the conversation that they shared they were already having sex. I asked how they reconciled having sex, given their relationship with Christ. They responded with a myriad of reasons: “The Bible is antiquated, written thousands of years ago during a different cultural period. We’re committed to one another. We waited for six months, but it just became too challenging; many of our friends are living together.” So how do we respond to self-proclaimed Christians believing God’s Word is out of date and irrelevant as it relates to sexuality and marriage?
The bigger question
In my late twenties, I was blessed to have a close relationship with my pastor, O.S. Hawkins and his wife Susie. O.S. was teaching on Jonah and the whale. While having dinner, I expressed how much I enjoyed his teaching on the book of Jonah, but it didn’t matter to me whether Jonah was swallowed by the whale or not because I understood the point. O.S. slammed his hand down on the table and said it does matter whether or not you believe it. Then he asked me the bigger question: if I couldn’t believe the story of Jonah then why would I believe that Jesus was born of a virgin, lived a sinless life, died on a cross for my sin, descended into hell for three days and rose again. I was somewhat dumbfounded by his reaction. Thirty-five years later it remains a marker in my relationship with Jesus. It was a crisis of faith. What did I believe? If I only believed what was convenient and believable, then what did that say about the Scriptures being God-breathed or inerrant? At that moment, I was no different than the couple questioning the relevancy of marriage and sex.
The answer: trust and humility
Trust: “For we live by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7) Trust by faith is not the same as blind faith. Trust that the Scriptures are God-breathed and inerrant. God tells us if we search for Him, we will find Him. As we seek Him, we begin to know Him. When we know Him, our trust will grow, our faith will grow. As our faith grows, we’ll become increasingly aware that His knowledge is infinite and ours is finite.
Humility before God is acknowledging that He knows best and then yielding our desires to Him. God not only created sexual desire, but he also created the perfect sphere for its gratification: marriage. Marriage is a picture of the covenant between Christ and his Church. Sex points to the covenant relationship and pleasures that await our union with Christ. We save sex for marriage precisely because it is a natural, precious, beautiful gift from God. The Song of Solomon beautifully illustrates the pleasures of sex through God’s creation of nature. So that it doesn’t become common, sordid, manipulative, diseased and emotionally damaging, God sets boundaries. John Piper describes sexual boundaries as the fence of marriage. We don’t put a fence around the weeds of sex such as disease. We put a fence around a beautiful garden to protect it. The fence of marriage keeps it free from disease and shame so that it can be all God intended it to be – precious, personal, sacred and holy.
My decision doesn’t affect anyone else. NOT
Pride is the center of disobedience. We want God to work in our lives partly, not entirely. We follow and obey Him until it’s a sacrifice, until we don’t agree with Him, and it becomes inconvenient. As professing Christians, if we vacillate on the biblical standard of sexual morality, we not only rob ourselves and our relationship, but what do we have to offer the people around us? Living together rather than marrying, having sex outside of marriage demonstrates no reason for the unbeliever to hunger and thirst for righteousness. Jesus asked, “Why do you call me Lord when you don’t do what I say? Why? Because we’ve not integrated God’s word in our lives, hence, we don’t know Him well enough to walk by faith and not by sight.
Get to know him through reading His word.
“The Word is alive and powerful. It’s sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow” (Hebrews 4:12).
Lisa May is the Executive Director of Live the Life South Florida etc. She can be reached at [email protected] or by mail at 5110 N. Federal Hwy. Suite 102, Ft. Lauderdale, FL 33308