Is Premarital Sex A Sin? One Christian’s Take

At middle school church camp, we were given a lesson in abstinence: chewed-up gum, stuck onto a piece of paper. Try as you might, you couldn’t get the gum off. The paper became useless; something you’d toss in the trash. It would never be the perfect, clean, white sheet it’d once been. The wad of gum had defiled it. The wad of gum was your virginity.

I think the analogy was a really inaccurate one, not to mention a damaging one. It emphasized two things: 1) my value is conditional on whether or not I am a virgin, and 2) I am broken or lesser if I am not one.

I am a Christian, and I believe wholeheartedly that premarital sex isn’t something God wants for us. God’s idea of intimacy is one that is foundational in Him and within the boundaries of a committed relationship. Still, as a Christian, I refuse to stigmatize premarital sex. Here’s why:

The Bible never actually forbids premarital sex. (I’m not “bending the rules,” and I’m not trying to find biblical loopholes. There actually isn’t a single verse in the Bible that forbids premarital sex.) It’s true that the New Testament talks a lot about “sexual immorality.” But what is sexual immorality? Unfortunately, the Bible doesn’t give us a clear definition. We’re left to interpret for ourselves, leaving a lot of room for error in our less-than-informed interpretations.

Leviticus 18 is the closest thing we have to a definition of sexual immorality. What the chapter does forbid is incest, bestiality, and homosexuality. Premarital sex isn’t on the list. Even if we consider the 7th Commandment, “Thou shalt not commit adultery,” it’s not so easy to jump to conclusions. By definition, the commandment is preventing lusting after someone if either person is in a relationship. It’s essentially telling us, “Stay faithful, don’t cheat, and be loyal.” We might make the leap that the command implies, “Stay faithful to your future partner by waiting until marriage,” but in a word-for-word translation, it is not saying to avoid premarital sex.

There’s also the idea that biblically, a woman’s value was contingent on her status as a virgin. A man had to pay a woman’s father so that he could take the woman as his wife, and the dowry was determined by her social class and virginity, among other things. If a man slept with a virgin, he was to pay her father money in exchange for having taken her virginity; if he did not pay, it was considered stealing from the woman’s father. So the “sin” of premarital sex had nothing to do with the act itself, but the devaluation of the woman as if the man had stolen from her father (look at Deuteronomy 22:28 for evidence).

Still, even if it’s not explicitly stated in the Bible, we can infer as Christians that God probably doesn’t want us engaging in premarital sex. He made humanity in His image, and He doesn’t want us to be lustful, prone to temptation, or caught up in messy, uncommitted relationships. He wants the foundation of any Christian relationship to be Himself, and He wants us to save the really beautiful moments for the right time and the right people.

But we seem to forget far too often that Jesus modeled love, acceptance, and compassion for people who’d committed every kind of wrongdoing. He hung out with prostitutes, thieves, and the sexually immoral, knowing full well that the things they had done were sinful, but loving them anyway. In fact, he repeatedly preached that the lost, the broken, and the hurt would be the first to inherit God’s kingdom. Our mindset as Christians (which literally means “little Christs”) should not be, “How can I love you when you’ve done this?” but rather, “I love you because and in spite of this.”

We need to stop teaching young girls that their virginities are like crumpled-up flowers, irreversibly damaged once they’ve been crushed. The great wonder of God’s love is that it discards what is damaged and replaces it with something new, perfect, and clean. Aren’t we all redeemed and whole in God’s eyes? Who are we to stigmatize someone else’s sin when we — like them — are sinners, and we — like them — have been forgiven by undeserved grace?

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Remarkable Stories of Courage in Crisis and Two Ways to Partner with God

President Trump will visit El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, later today as political conflict over last weekend’s shootings continues. Politicians and the media are also debating the role of gun control in preventing such tragedies.

In a crisis, a secularized culture looks to the resources it has. Political leadership is obviously vital to our well-being, as is effective legislation.

Few, however, are asking about God’s role in the massacres and their aftermath. Scripture proclaims that “God is the King of all the earth” (Psalm 47:7) and that he “reigns over the nations” (v. 8).

So let’s ask: Where was God in El Paso and Dayton? What is he doing in the aftermath of these horrible tragedies?

WHERE WERE GOD’S ANGELS?
God gives us free will so we can choose to love him and each other (Matthew 22:37–39). When humans misuse our freedom, the fault is not the Lord’s but ours: “God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire” (James 1:13–14).

If God always prevented the consequences of sin, we would not be free. If he had intervened in El Paso or Dayton, or if he protects you and me from the results of our next sins, human freedom would not be real.

ere’s the dilemma: there are times when it seems this is just what he does. For example, King Herod misused his freedom when he imprisoned Peter and plotted his execution. But God sent his angel to free the apostle from his Roman jail (Acts 12:1–11).

It’s natural to ask: Where were his angels in El Paso and Dayton? Why pray for God to protect our children and grandchildren if he allows mass murderers to kill other children and grandchildren?

After Job lost his children, his possessions, and his health, he asked, “Why did I not die at birth, come out from the womb and expire?” (Job 3:11). The psalmist asked God, “Why have you forgotten me? Why do I go mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?” (Psalm 42:9). Even Jesus cried from the cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46, quoting Psalm 22:1).

ELEVEN-YEAR-OLD BOY MAKES A REMARKABLE DIFFERENCE
Here’s what I do know: “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit” (Psalm 34:18). There is no burden we cannot share with him: “Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you” (1 Peter 5:7 NLT).

I also know that evil can be used for good. Consider some of the remarkable stories coming out of last weekend’s tragedies.

“The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.”

—Psalm 34:18
An eleven-year-old boy in El Paso has created the #ElPasoChallenge. Ruben Martinez wants to “challenge everyone to do 22 acts of good deeds in honor of the 22 people who were killed.” His “challenge” has gone viral, reaching people as far away as Germany.

We learned about Glendon Oakley, an Army serviceman who rescued multiple children during the El Paso massacre. He explained later: “That is what the military has taught me to do, and why I am thankful to be in the military.”

And we learned stories of incredible courage, such as the grandfather in El Paso who died shielding his wife and granddaughter from the gunman and the mother who was killed protecting her two-month-old son.

TWO WAYS TO PARTNER WITH OUR FATHER
I know another fact about God: he wants us to work with him. There is a divine-human partnership across Scripture and human history. Noah builds the ark, and God sends the Flood; Moses raises his arms, and God parts the Red Sea; Joshua and the people step into the torrential Jordan River, and God stops the flood.

How can we join God at work in these tragic days?

One: We can be proactive in responding to the crises we see in the people we know.

A grandmother in Lubbock recently took her grandson to a hospital after he told her about his plan to “shoot up” a local hotel and then commit suicide by cop. Officers then searched his hotel room, where they found an AK-47 rifle, seventeen loaded magazines, and multiple knives.

Pray for the discernment to know when you need to intervene and for the courage and compassion to respond. As the hands and feet of Jesus, we continue his earthly ministry through ours (1 Corinthians 12:27).

Two: We can use our gifts and influence to turn others to Christ.

Shortly after the El Paso and Dayton shootings, Max Lucado wrote an op-ed for Fox News that asks, “How are we to respond to this dark season of bloodshed?” After telling the story of Jesus walking on the stormy Sea of Galilee to his disciples, Lucado notes that “the moment they invited Christ into their boat was the moment they reached their destination” (John 6:21).

He then suggests: “Let’s follow the example of the disciples. Welcome Jesus into the midst of this turbulent time.”

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