The Sessions on Sex: Where’s Your Starting Point?

purity_ringI’ve come to believe that in North American Christianity, saving sex for marriage does not matter anymore.

There are a number of reasons why I’ve come to believe this.

To begin with, I’ve heard it first hand.

I go to a Christian university and I’ve been around the church scene my entire life. So, I know for a fact that the number of people I meet who are saving sex for marriage is a much smaller number than those who just don’t think it’s a big deal, or who think it’s actually important to have sex with their future spouse to test compatibility, or who have made a “mistake” in their past relationships, and will most likely choose to make the same mistake in their future relationships.

Second, I hear less and less being taught about this issue in Christian environments, including churches.

I can’t remember the last time I’ve been in a Christian service, study, or talk of some type and heard someone talk about the importance of waiting until you’re married to have sex. There has been a strong movement to elevate the importance of singleness but I hear little talk about what it means to be single while still being a sexual being.

Thirdly, we’ve moved the standard.

For a long time, a person’s virginity was assumed on the wedding day. Abstinence was encouraged to the point that youth were chaperoned by adults whenever they were in the presence of one another. Young people were challenged to sign a purity card, pledging to save sex for marriage. Boundaries were the focus of many youth group talks. Perhaps we grew tired of these things and have decided to push back, or perhaps in an attempt to be more culturally relevant we’ve placed the subject of these things to the back burner. Somewhere in all of this, the standard has been moved with only the sole proof that it’s getting harder and harder to meet a Christian young adult who is still a virgin, and who thinks it’s even important.

Fourthly, there’s been a family shift. 

It makes sense that if parents haven’t waited, then they are most likely not teaching their kids the importance of waiting. Like it or not, the kinds of values kids are raised with actually does affect who they are as young adults and adults, whether it be negative or positive. If kids are raised to believe that there is great value in saving sex for marriage, if they are raised to have open and honest discussion around this topic, then there is a good chance they will think long and hard about their choices, when it comes to relationships and boundaries.

Here’s the thing, I don’t believe that having sex before marriage is the unforgivable sin, I don’t think it makes you a bad person. The reason I believe that waiting until marriage to engage in a sexual relationship is important is because I think this shift in Christian culture to not wait actually harms our relationships, our definition of love and our ability to persevere through difficult things. 

So for the month of February, I’ve invited several guests to weigh in on this topic and some themes surrounding it, based on their experiences and personal beliefs. I’m looking forward to engaging with this topic a little bit more, and I hope you’ll consider engaging with it as well. I encourage you to think about where your starting point is. Does waiting to be married to engage in sexual intercourse matter? Are Christians settling when they allow themselves to be sexually involved with multiple partners? If you’re engaged to be married, then is sex ok? What are your thoughts?

As always, my desire is to engage with these topics in a healthy way that promotes positive discussion and thought, so let’s keep any comments in this spirit too.

So with that, where’s your starting point? Are you for or against premarital sex? Why or Why not? Have we moved the bar?

Welcome to February – a month for the sessions on sex!

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8 thoughts on “The Sessions on Sex: Where’s Your Starting Point?

  1. Darcie, great thoughts, as usual.

    It seems to me that “the church” goes in waves about most things… there are seasons of putting a bit push on something, and then, because there is a backlash from the rest of society about that issue, the church backs off. Over history, the church has had a problem finding that balance between making a point and facing the reaction of society. Or perhaps it is more an issue of the church making the point in a way that doesn’t clearly communicate the entire gospel message?

    With the issue of sex and purity, this has definitely been the case. When I was young, and even more-so in the decades prior to my arrival, purity was a big deal and talking about purity was normal. When I started out as a volunteer in youth ministry, I’d say there was a fair bit of discussion about the whole issue. However, what we started to hear from the youth who attended our group was that the church placed too much emphasis on purity and that was a turn-off. It made them feel as though if they happened to have already had sex, they were uncomfortable coming to the group. Also, they hesitated to invite friends who had already had sex because they didn’t want them to feel uncomfortable. The youth group leaders were left to decide whether they wanted to keep talking about sex and purity and God’s plan for that (and have fewer kids attend to hear that message) or take a break from that message and have more kids coming to hear about Jesus in general.

    Clearly though, the leaders missed the point: if they were communicating about sex and purity with a grace-filled attitude and message, then would that message have been offensive to those who had already had sex? I believe a lot of churches and youth groups miss this point (and so has the church world-wide about other issues as well). In today’s society, especially when communicating about sex and purity, there is an opportunity there to communicate the grace and forgiveness and wholeness that is possible through Christ for all who have sinned. If that message was communicated in a way that highlighted the love that Jesus has for us all, then perhaps those kids would still come and perhaps they would still invite their friends.

  2. It wouldn’t let me leave it all in one comment, so here is the rest. Sorry it’s too long!!

    Also, Christians need to communicate why purity is so great and so healthy and so awesome. Why bother? Why would I want to miss out on all that fun? For years the church preached purity but did not really explain fully why it was important. As Christians talk with teens and young adults currently, we can’t just say “don’t do it” but rather we need to say “here is all that you can experience by not having sex before you’re married”. How often do we explain all of that in a way that people can understand? I certainly never heard that message until it was too late.

    And finally I’ll end with this point… talking about sex and purity needs to be a conversation – not a 1 or 3 week series. It needs to come up on a regular basis, both with our youth group kids and with our own children (if we’re at that stage of life). It’s not just “a talk”, it’s a monthly conversation – maybe even weekly! We started this conversation with our oldest son just this past year when he was 9 years old. We’ve opened the door for the conversation to keep going. He is going to know the truth about sex and purity and why it’s worth the wait. Maybe opening up the conversation with our youth kids and with our friends can help to create an atmosphere of questions and answers rather than just a one-sided informational talk. I think this is the way to go.

    Great job starting the conversation Darcie!

    • Thanks for your thoughts Erin. I think you make some excellent points…many of which I also really identify with. I feel like there is such a tension with this topic…in determining how we can effectively communicate the importance of purity in a way that doesn’t bring shame and guilt to those who have made other lifestyle choices. I think talking about it in an open and honest way is so important and not just doing the whole yearly talk thing is bang on! I’m really interested to read what several of the guest bloggers that are lined up for this month will have to say. I hope you will continue to dialogue on here….as I really appreciate the perspective you bring! Thanks so much! 🙂

  3. This was very interesting! I currently attend a large church that meets on one of the largest college campuses in the US and in my year and a half of being here, I have heard 3 different sermons regarding the importance of all sorts of sexual purity (not only sex, but also “sex alternatives” [yes, the term masturbation was used in church] and the deeper importance of a pure thought life). Also, the small groups that meet throughout the week also have had multiple conversations regarding the importance of sexual purity. This also agrees with my interactions with fellow Christians at the church I attended growing up, as well as the one I attended during my years of undergraduate study.

    So now, a possible question to ponder is, “Are these views on sex held by Christians who are giving over every area of their life to honor and glorify Christ?” or is the willingness to explore the world of sex before marriage being verbalized by Christians who have not yet solidified all of their views on the standards in the Bible?

    I think a possible cause for the view you have shared here is due to the growth of social media and the ability to share all of your thoughts without censorship. When a person becomes a Christian, not all of their views and ideologies will align perfectly with the Bible, especially those that culture gives a very strong argument regarding. So, topics like having sex, may take a little bit longer for a Christian to process through. But in the meantime, they may be verbal about their sexual endeavors via social media. And, when people see “Christians” and “not waiting to have sex”, those are topics that cause some level of controversy amongst readers, thus, increasing the chances of those articles to be spread around the internet. An article written by a Christian giving reasons why Christians should abstain from sex would not be terribly interesting for the average person to read, so those articles are not nearly as popular.

    Those are just a few of my thoughts and experiences on this matter!

    • Thanks so much for your thoughts! I’d be very interested to know what part of the States you’re from, as I tend to find there are some big culture differences between certain part of the US and Canada (where I’m from). Interestingly enough, in my experience I’ve found that many of the Christians who are engaging in sexual activity outside of marriage are what you would call “full fledged” believers with a professed personal relationship with Jesus. When discussing this topic with many of them, many say that they just don’t think it’s a big deal and do not find a strong enough case presented in the Bible to lead them to believe that it really matters all that much. Not only this, but they also don’t really buy into the belief that this type of behaviour can lead to struggles in future relationships. I think there are many local church communities who shy away from these topics because of such mixed opinions among believers and also from a lack of being able to effectively communicate an alternative message. I’m sure there are some churches who are choosing to take on these big topics, in fact I’m glad to hear that, but unfortunately I don’t hear about it often and I find the topic of less and less importance with many Christians, at least in my spheres. I’m glad to hear that you’ve had such an open and positive experience though…I hope that this will spread to more places!

  4. Great post! One of my pet peeves about this topic is how the idea that “it’s worth the wait” is used to justify staying pure. Shouldn’t it be about honouring and obeying God, not about what’s in it for us?

    As well, I’m afraid that telling people that “it’s worth the wait” might set Christian virgins up for disappointment. Just because you stay pure, that doesn’t mean the sex will be great. In the same way, I think we should admit that people who don’t wait, be they Christian or atheist or Wiccan or whatever, can still have amazing, wonderful, intimate sex. And that’s fine. Obedience to God shouldn’t depend on whether or not we feel like we’ve got a special prize for obeying.

    Not to get too left-brained, but there’s no way of proving that virgins end up having better sex, because they don’t have anything to compare it to. In the same way, people who have had premarital sex can’t really know for sure what it would have been like if they’d waited!

    One other factor in these discussions is that it seems like unmarried people are the ones who are most interested in the idea of purity, promise rings, keeping their lips sealed, and other “sentimental” versions of obedience. If you ask married ladies whom you are close to, I think you might find that real married sex is often less spiritual and sentimental and more emotional and physical, with all of their ups and downs and details. It is difficult to “admit” this is public, though, which detracts, I think, from the conversation.

    Whoops, I think you’ve hit a nerve!

    • Love your thoughts Daniella….I think you’re right on when you talk about how we set Christian virgins up for disappointment and I think this is a big problem. How we talk about waiting, purity, abstinence and all that stuff needs to change. I’ve found that so often people are trying to convince others to wait because the sex will be better….but I don’t think that’s why you should wait and I don’t even believe it’s always true. There’s so much more to the discussion than that. Great points here….thanks so much for weighing in!

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