5 (or so) reasons to save sex for marriage

A Few Caveats
#1 This isn’t an attempt to make you feel guilty.
This is a post arguing for a different kind of sex ethic. It’s not a post meant to make people feel bad for choices they’ve already made. I work as a pastor, which means I am tasked with announcing redemption and hope to people who’ve made a mess of things.

We are all—religious or not—obligated to help the next generation define and own values that make human life flourish. This is for them.

#2 Caveat emptor! This post is from a Christian pastor. So if you think I’m trying to make a case for Christian morality as a good way to approach sex, you’d be right. But if you think I’m saying you have to agree or you are automatically categorized as ‘one of the unclean’, you’d be wrong.

#3 Christianity isn’t is a message perfect people shout at everyone else about how awful they are. I know what you’re thinking. Some Christians DO make it that. And I hate it because they are wrong–both in content and spirit. The heart of Christianity is ironic. It isn’t for people who have it together, it’s for people who can admit they don’t. So on the subject of sex, I recognize that virtually everyone is broken. I’ve yet to meet a person who is “normal” sexually. This post is an attempt to offer a different sexual norm—one that’s actually several thousand years old.

Related sidebar: An oft-repeated hack argument says the Bible is unclear about what constitutes sexual norms. “Hey, Abraham had multiple wives, ergo, polygamy is cool with the Big Guy.” A quick hermeneutical lesson is fitting. The Biblical authors often report behavior without commenting on behavior. In other words, we are meant to read the broader context to determine if a given act is morally sound.  The lesson of polygamy in the Bible? Pain between humans is always the result.

#4 Sex is a gift from God. Nowhere in the Bible’s message about sex is there prudery, embarrassment or negativity about sex itself (have you read the erotic poetry of Song of Solomon?). But like the hammer my mother-in-law gave me for Christmas, it can be abused. The Bible’s prohibitions are about the badness of the abuse, not the potential of the gift.

So why bother writing about this anyway? What’s the big deal?

Here’s a fact. With the exception of a few religious outliers, our culture no longer feels any guilt about sex. In fact, even the idea that someone would wait–for any reason–to have sex seems silly, maybe even oppressive. Like a girl I worked with during my first job in High School stated as fact: “I mean, if it feels good, who’s going to wait?”

Now it needs to be said that guilt has never actually worked as a long-term sustainable motivator (granted, some people certainly try). But for a good part of the 20th Century, it functioned in a way that kept sex-after-marriage-is-best as the way most people approached sex. And even if it didn’t keep sex before marriage from happening, it was at least the accepted way people knew they should approach sex. I’m not arguing that was good, simply saying that it was. Again, this isn’t an attempt to guilt you.

But that is gone. If you grew up in America of 30 years ago, you might still feel some guilt about sex. But if you grew up today or at a distance from Church culture, you don’t really get what the big deal is. In fact, you might think I’m a bit nuts. I’m asking you to have an open mind.

So I think we can agree on two things.

One, it’s a new day with regard to sex.

Guilt is out. Hooking up is in. Restraint has been replaced with permissiveness. So here’s what I’m asking. Since it’s an act that can give us more than one disease that can kill us, sterilize us or deform us, isn’t it worth questioning if this is a good development? Maybe, just maybe, the current thought patterns of our culture with regard to sex are inadequate to the human experience. Are you open to questioning what you believe to be true about sex?

Two, we’re conflicted about sex.

Here’s what I mean.
On the one hand, our laws say sex is something unique. For example, codified into law is that idea that what an adult male or female does with his or her body parts around small children is a moral issue; Or what an over 18-year-old boy does with an under 18-year-old girl; Or what a military officer does with another person’s spouse.

We even punish–as a society–people who violate those norms.

But at the same time, we are incredibly permissive about sex in general. Anything—literally—goes “as long as you don’t hurt the other person.” Any. Thing.

Here’s what we are saying: “It’s moral, except when it’s not.”
CS Lewis described our confusion 75 years ago: “Now suppose you came to a country where you could fill a theatre by simply bringing a covered plate on to the stage and then slowly lifting the cover so as to let every one see, just before the lights went out, that it contained a mutton chop or a bit of bacon, would you not think that in that country something had gone wrong with the appetite for food?”

I would argue we aren’t the happier for it. Our new day is creating a tribe of sad, lonely people who get their jollies in fits and starts. We have a generation who believe the Act-That-Will-Complete-Me is just around the corner.

So here is a reasoned offer to rethink how you treat sex and teach it to the next generation. Again, this post is for them. 


#1 You never have to play the comparison game. 

“So was I your best?” “Were you thinking about someone else?” “You like me better, right?”

Great sex with someone you love is inherently vulnerable. You are risking rejection at the most intimate level. Sex is physical and emotional. Save sex for marriage and marry someone who saved sex for marriage, and you never have to worry you weren’t the best. Instead, you learn together, fumble together and learn to make it great together. There’s never the worry they are secretly comparing you to someone else. Like someone I heard say, (a guy obviously) “You can either do 1 thing with a 1,000 women or 1,000 things with one woman.”

Sex inside marriage—that only stays inside marriage–never, ever has to go there. Instead, it becomes a sacred secret that grows in beauty, wonder and attractiveness.

#2 You won’t get any diseases. 

Google images of gonorrhea. Or syphilis. On second thought, don’t. They’re disgusting.
“But that’s why we have modern medicine”, you might say. Maybe. However, it’s worth asking if you want a life-long case of Herpes you have to tell all future partners about. You also never risk your fertility via an STD.

No sex before marriage means no unwanted diseases.

#3 You’ll empower someone to trust you and never be jealous of you.

If you don’t have sex before marriage, your spouse has great assurances that you won’t have sex outside of marriage. Controlling yourself before you were married proves (for the most part) you can control yourself after you’re married.
Saving sex for marriage builds trust. Relationships are only as good as their level of trust.

In 20 years of marriage, my wife and I have never had a fight because my wife was jealous or worried about me spending time with another woman and vice-versa.

#4 You’ll save a million bucks. 

Did you know that the cost to raise a child through High School is estimated at 1 million dollars?

Do you want to avoid becoming an accidental father or mother? Do you want the next 18 years of your life planned for you? Do you want to have to wrestle with whether or not you should have an abortion? Save sex for marriage and you never wrestle with those questions.

In fact, one way to statistically guarantee that you’ll live at the poverty level all your life is to have sex young, get pregnant young and raise a baby by yourself.

#5 You’ll get a better spouse. 

It’s pretty hypocritical of us guys, but we often want to marry the virgin queen while dating the girl who wants to hook up anytime. To be more blunt, we want some girl somewhere to save herself for us, but we want to have our way with as many women as we want right now. Total double standard.

Be the guy (or girl) who saves themselves, and you set yourself up as the gold standard.


#1 You’ll set an example.

We are always passing on something to the next generation. There is no such thing a neutral, value-free ethic wherein we let children choose their own way. Despite it sounding urbane, smart and sophisticated to “let our children choose their way”, it’s stupid and lacks insight into human nature. We are shaped, then we choose.

#2 You’ll be wise.

Who’s wiser than the person who doesn’t give a flying flip about what everyone else thinks? Thomas Jefferson said: “In matters of style, flow with the current. In matters of principle, stand like a rock.”

#3 People will see you as an oddly appealing leader.

Someone who saves sex for marriage and doesn’t give a flip what you think about them is someone people admire (even if they’re afraid to do so publicly). Taking a stand in one area leads you to be able to take stands in other areas. Be that kind of person. Who cares what everyone else thinks? What do they know, actually? Swim against the current and stand out.

#4 You’ll be personally responsible for helping to change the sexual ethic in Western Society.
In a fascinating, best-selling book, Clotaire Rapaille recounts how he helps companies and organizations find a culture’s “code” and market to it. Based on an extensive research process, he articulates with one word or one phrase what encapsulates a culture’s mindset about a given subject with startling accuracy.

Do you know what word he found encapsulates sex for Americans?


I’d like to be part of changing that for the next generation. What say you?

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