A couple of years ago I was fortunate enough to be in an Old Testament class with a ridiculously brilliant professor. I mean this guy might be the most knowledgeable guy I’ve ever met. At one point we were talking about The Law and I decided to ask a fun question, just to stir the pot.
I asked him, “Does the Bible literally say that I can’t have sex outside of marriage?” Without flinching (have you ever noticed professors never flinch) and he said, “No it doesn’t. But it does say that if you have sex with someone you have to marry them right then.” We all laughed.
One of the things that is hardest about being single is not having sex. I love when married people tell me that sexual temptation doesn’t go away when you get married. I know that’s true but, it’s not the same thing. We have to choose between not satisfying the desire or sin – you have another option.
This is the one thing that the Church is for sure going to tell single people – Don’t have sex. But that is not enough. And the way we tell people can often set us up to fail. It’s shouldn’t be about “waiting for marriage“, making the act of sex unholy, twisting bible verses to make them about sex, making the desire for sex bad, or even pretending that somehow I can crush that desire. It’s about understanding what sex is – biblically speaking.
Our culture has separated sex from marriage. It says the purpose of sex is pleasure and personal enjoyment. It’s something that we do to make ourselves feel better. Now there is some truth to this of course, sex does feel good. God created it to be pleasurable, which is awesome. But that is not the end result.
This view ultimately makes sex less powerful. We’ve had it drilled in our heads over and over that it is just a physical act. And when the Church runs around telling us not to do it, without telling us what TO do, then it just adds to the problem by basically keeping it as a physical act – just one we shouldn’t do.
The message can end up being that It’s just about pleasure and feeling good in marriage (if I get married I get pleasure) but it still sells sex short and could mess up married sex. Worst of all we sometimes paint sex in such a negative light that when people do get married they struggle to enjoy it.
But the Bible talks about sex as much more than a physical act to do or not do.
From the very beginning, right after He creates Adam and Eve, God says that they will leave father and mother and become one flesh. Jesus echoes this later of course when he is asked about divorce. He essentially says, “You don’t get it at all. Marriage is permanent and sex is part of what makes it that way.”
Sex is not just physical. It is meant to be a spiritual act. It bonds two people together in very real, one flesh way. This is why where ever sex is talked about all through scripture it is always either within the context of marriage or the context of sin. There is no in between. But we can also know for sure that the desire for sex is from God. We can’t just throw that out or pretend it away, just because we as singles are not in a position to have the desire met.
We are going to desire sex. A lot actually. Probably even if I’m called to singleness. In my opinion trying to kill that desire is crazy. But here’s the thing, I have all sorts of desires. I don’t get to do them all, I have to submit them to God.
What I can do is not feed it the wrong way. Paul (while talking about this subject) uses food as and example. I can’t just eat what I want all the time. I want a cookie every day, and if I eat that cookie every day, I’ll want it even more the next day. We are not to be controlled by our desires.