Monday, September 17, 2018

Is PreMarital Sex Really Sinful?

The following post is from a Christian perspective. You are welcome to read it if you are not in this camp, but be aware of that leaning. This is primarily directed at the Christian community. However, it is my contention that this secularized view of "premarital" sex is one of the root causes of a lot of adultery and cheating committed in today's society, both inside and outside the Church. That is why I'm putting it here.


Teen camp. Just the mention of those words can send shivers down some ex-camp councilor’s backs. Some love it, others dread it.

I was probably somewhere in between one year in the nineties when I, out of duty as a pastor, offered myself to be a sacrificial lamb on the altar of teen salvation and holiness. One of those nights Tom, my pastor friend on the district, asked me to come and give a devotional to his teens as a “guest speaker.”

I can’t recall what I had chosen as my topic, but I made the statement that premarital sex was sinful. One of the teens raised their hand, and asked the question, “Why is premarital sex sinful?”

It was then I realized, I didn’t have a good answer. I said something about how it drastically affects your married life in ways they couldn’t understand right now. True, but it was not much for a sincere teen to hang his hat on. I knew it wasn’t sufficient. I made a commitment to have a better answer to that question. I discovered that answer in the traditional understanding of Christian marriage.

The secular values bombarding us have so influenced our views on marriage that many sincere teens do not find it easy to grasp. Many, even in the Church, view marriage as society's legalization and the church's blessing toward the enjoyment of a sexual relationship, with responsibilities. While they may see the value in not cheating on one’s spouse, until they make that commitment, what’s wrong with a little fun? Until then it is just one way among many to have a good time. Right?

What the secular view has obscured is the reality that the sexual act isn’t just a way to have fun. It has a sacramental function that God ordained from the beginning. “Do you not know that he who is joined to a harlot is one body with her? For ‘the two,’ He says, ‘shall become one flesh.’” (1Co 6:16 EMTV)

A person becomes one flesh with every person to whom they unite in the sexual act. The sin results from treating what should be for a holy purpose as common. For those who engage in premarital sex, the goal isn’t to join with that person, to live their lives with them, to have kids with them, nor is there any concrete and binding commitment to do so. Otherwise, they would be getting fully married. Rather, it is an abuse of God’s created purpose of the sex act.

St. John Chrysostom in the third century makes this point especially clear in his twelfth homily on Colossians:

“Therefore to wit He said with accuracy of expression, not ‘they shall be one flesh’ but joined together ‘into one flesh’ (Genesis 2:2, Sept.), namely, that of the child. What then? When there is no child, will they not be two? Nay, for their coming together hath this effect, it diffuses and commingles the bodies of both. And as one who hath cast ointment into oil, hath made the whole one; so in truth is it also here.”

Even in today’s “liberated” society, people shy away from thinking of such an act as “holy.” Yet, that is exactly why we don’t treat sexual union with more reverence and fear, because we use it in common ways and so abuse its proper God-uniting sacramental value. We treat it as a way to have a good time, a way to sell products, a way to increase ratings, a way to show your love before you take on the responsibility of a binding commitment, or as a way to take a person out for a test drive before buying.

Boiled down, we treat marriage as a means to have sex, instead of engaging in sex to consummate a marriage. So, when a teen asks, “Why is it sinful?” they are thinking “What value is it really to get married in order to have sex? What does that license really confer that I don’t have the ability to enjoy right now?” If they saw the reality that this act produced, a real union with their partner, the question answers itself. How can you join with a person as if married when there has been no real commitment to maintain that union before God, spiritually, legally, or physically?

The problem is how to convey that in a convincing way to the teen(s) in your life, and no doubt not a few adults. Some teens are genuinely looking for solid reasons to combat the secular views society attempts to sell them daily. Explaining this will give them a handhold to remain faithful to their future spouse. Many, unfortunately, need a more direct jolt to get the message.

Jesus, if anyone, knew the value of a good parable to get through to the harder to reach. Perhaps that proves the best chance of success here as well.

Premarital sex is like a teen who gives their friend one of their favorite CDs to enjoy. When he returns the CD, the teen finds it scratched and worthless. “Why did you mess up my CD?” the teen asks. His friend responds, “I decided it would work as a cutting board, and it did indeed keep the cabinet from getting cut up.” What will the owner of the CD think of this answer? He will never lend anything to that teen again. Then how can you take the gift of sex, designed by God to unite two people into one flesh, and use it for purposes it was not designed, destroying the purpose for which it was intended? What will God think when you show Him the fruit of your use of His gift?

As a Christian community, we need to gain back the holiness of sexual union if we are to combat the secular view that debases it as something common and therefore, shared by everyone. It starts with teaching the teen in your life this traditional view.

And/or, the teen inside of each of us.