By Hope Bolinger, Crosswalk.com
Whenever someone asks me this question, I know they have the best of intentions.
I’ve had a number of close friends in my life who fully intended to marry their fiancé or fiancée, but they struggled with the wait-until-you-get-married conviction.
This could’ve owed to the fact that many of them lived together, and so they had a harder time facing that temptation, and others believed that since they’d already committed to a marriage, and didn’t plan on backing out, that waiting an extra year or two for a wedding didn’t make any sense.
With all the love and excitement and hormones rushing around after getting engaged, it can feel like an extra dose of torture knowing that you are so close, and yet so far.
So what happens if we get engaged? Can we have sex if we fully intend to marry this brother and sister in Christ? Or does the wait-until-you-get-married conviction apply in this case?
Know, before we dive into answering this question, that I want to dive into this topic with as much grace and respect as possible. Coming from a limited celibate perspective, I may not have all the answers, and as is the case with many of these articles, you should read Scripture, pray, and consult the advice of a Christian mentor or pastor.
It would also help to consult Christian married couples who have been together for a long period of time and hear about their experiences as well.
But thankfully, God’s opinion about sex before marriage is straightforward. With that in mind, let’s confront this question.
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Is Sex Reserved Only for Marriage?
Let’s dive into what Scripture says about sex.
We have literally over 100 results when it comes to verses on sex, but we’ll discuss a few of them here.
So what does undefiled mean here? Does it mean including other partners outside of a monogamous relationship or something more?
1 Corinthians 6:18 says, “Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body.”
Does having sex outside of a marriage, even when you intend to marry, qualify as sexual immorality?
1 Corinthians 7:1-3, “Now concerning the matters about which you wrote: “It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman.” But because of the temptation to sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband. The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband.”
Let’s address this passage here, because I believe this one best hits the nail on the head for our answer to the above questions.
Paul, here, knows that people have sexual drive, sexual passions. So much so that the Corinthians had written to him about this very matter. Knowing that they faced the temptation to have sex outside of marriage (and to commit other sexual acts outside of the Christian ideal of sex within a monogamous marriage) Paul encourages them to get married.
The Bible makes it rather clear that God designed sex as a gift that comes as a part of marriage.
Sex, in many ways, shows us how to love the other person in a marital relationship and give of ourselves unto them, and vice versa. It is incredibly intimate, and sex outside of a lifelong commitment can lead to incredible hurt once the bond has been broken between ourselves and that person.
But maybe you’re planning to get married in a year, even a month. You know your future husband or wife has never shown any signs of disloyalty before, so why not engage in sex prior to the marriage if it’s coming soon?
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The Difference Between Engagement and Marriage
As stated in this article, “in reality being married is like being pregnant—you either are or you are not.”
Our future husband or wife may show undeniable loyalty, but until we say vows and, “I do,” we have absolutely no guarantee if they will stay by our side for our lifetime here on earth. Of course, with the high divorce rate (a whole other discussion) we have no guarantee afterwards, but marital vows are supposed to last a lifetime, unless someone commits adultery (Matthew 19:9). But we shift our focus of the article back to the main subject at hand.
As stated in this article regarding engagement, “It’s the “handshake” that comes before the actual signing of the papers and the final sealing of the deal.”
If we have sex before marriage, we engage in one of the benefits of the deal without the commitment of the deal.
This not only leads to incredible hurt if the deal breaks off, but it could wave some red flags about our partner.
We may find ourselves asking questions like, “If he or she can’t wait another few months until marriage, what will their character be like when it comes to other commitments?”
This could also shed some light on how your future marital partner handles temptation. Do they give in or resist?
This struggle may also reveal what your convictions about sex are really about. Is it just based on holding out, holding your breath for as long as possible? Or are your convictions based on the peace knowing you are pleasing God?
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Is Sex Bad?
We can probably think of a Christian or two that we know who thinks of sex as a dirty, disgusting thing even after marriage. So is that the point of this article? Do I just want to ban sex amongst Christians?
By no means. The act in itself is created as a gift for marriage. It is a shame that purity can be taught in the church in such a way to scar people about sex, with lasting damage that persists even after getting married.
Sex is not evil. Sex outside of marriage is. But the convictions we come to about sex should be out of a heart to please our heavenly Father, out of trust that in his love, he knows what is absolutely best for us. Our convictions should not just be out of fear.
Take a brief perusal through the Song of Solomon, and you’ll see God has created sex to be a beautiful and wonderful sacrament couples engage in within the bounds of marriage. Take Song of Songs 8:6 for example:
“Set me like a seal over your heart, like a seal on your arm. For love is as strong as death, passion as intense as Sheol. The flames of love are flames of fire, a blaze that comes from the LORD” (ISV).
Abuse of the act is another matter entirely. If we use a gift outside of the gift’s purpose, we tarnish the gift, and can hurt not only ourselves, but the God who gave us the gift in the first place.
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What Happens If I’ve Already Had Pre-Marital Sex?
We should make a very distinctive note here about if you’ve experienced sex outside of your consent. Know that this is not your fault and that God will hold the person who has wronged you accountable, not you, for this terrible thing that has happened.
As for those readers who have experienced consensual sex outside of a marriage, you may wonder what this means going forward. Even if you intend to put an end to sexual relations with your fiance or fiancee prior to marriage, should you take additional steps?
Here are some possible steps to take going forward.
Consult a premarital counselor at your church.
Many churches have a premarital counselor on staff, or the pastor may have premarital duties. Discuss with them about how far you’ve taken the relationship, and about steps for reparation and restraint prior to marriage.
Once we’ve crossed a line, it’s difficult to take a step back, but discuss with your fiance or fiancee boundaries not to cross until your wedding night. Some of these boundaries may look like staying with a friend instead of living together to avoid temptation, for instance. If you’ve crossed a boundary with someone else prior to your relationship with your fiance or fiancee, be open and honest about your past.
Ask God for forgiveness and the will to resist temptation.
Seek forgiveness from God and ask him to guide you going forward. Scripture says if we resist the devil, he will flee from us (James 4:7). Pray that God can help steel you against the temptation of sleeping with your future husband or wife prior to marriage.
It may seem silly to make a big deal about sex before marriage, even after an engagement, but we do have to bear in mind that the first few years of marriage lay the foundation of our relationship. If we engage in the benefits of marriage without the commitment, we can cause a serious detriment to the foundation of that relationship, and the severance of that bond will be ever more painful.
However, if we have already broken the no-sex-before-marriage rule, we know that we have a God who forgives us and can help us repair our relationships. Trust him and his guidance.
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