If you click on the link, you will be taken to a CNN Belief Blog piece about “why young Christians aren’t waiting anymore.” It is an interesting piece and links to a an article on Relevant Magazine, also worth reading.
In modern U.S. evangelicalism, few things seems as “clear” as the basic sexual ethic of “no sex outside of marriage. Period.” This of course means no pre-marital sex.
But as clear as that precept is, what is very unclear is (a) “what is allowed short of sex?” (that famous “how far is too far” question; (b) that many (most?) young evangelicals are not necessarily waiting until marriage; but that (c) some are — and doing so successfully and happily.
I think the underlying assumption/teaching about sexuality is essentially unquestioned by most.
So I want to at least raise the question — and confess that I don’t have a answer to this question and am really interested in different perspectives and thoughts on it.
For a long time now, I have approached this issue less as a sin/not sin issue than a wisdom issue.
I have done this for two reasons. First, as a youth minister being asked by my high school students to point to a verse that says sex outside marriage is sinful, it is not as easy as it sounds. There is not a verse that actually says that. The conviction comes from a construct of a Biblical ethic on human sexuality. Not only is it a bit difficult to explain that idea to a teenager, but i am not sure that we go from “constructed Biblical ethic” to “that is sin.”
The second reason, is I don’t think the sin/not sin discussion is very helpful, especially among teens and others who may or may not be believers. But wisdom is a universal idea and value and makes sense whether you are a believer or not.
So I think the question is about WISDOM — what is the wise thing to do. Which probably means there is not only one answer.
In terms of a Biblical ethic, there are two ways to go about constructing suchh an ethic. The most literal, of course, looks at the Genesis “two-become-one-flesh” statement and builds the ethic from there. We shouldn’t have sex with someone we are not married to because it violates the one-fleshness of a future relationship.
The problem with this approach, I think, is that it is a serious manipulation of the text to fit into our already constructed ethic. The real — and straightforward — reading of the Genesis text is that “when you have sex with someone, you are married to them.” In other words, there is no such thing as pre-marital sex. The problem, then, is not pre-marital sex but essentially polygamy.
While this is probably the best and most straight-forward application of the Genesis passage, for a variety of (wise) reasons, we don’t generally read it that way.
So we must come up with another construct that deals with sex outside marriage (if we want to make the case that it is wrong).
Here, we begin to have to bend and weave verses together in order to arrive at a the conclusion… which may be wisdom, but a long cry from concluding that such activity is sinful.
So what should we counsel single Christians?
Is there a difference between a single 14 year old, 18 year old, 25 year old or 45 year old?
Does the delay of marriage make a difference in our ethics?
Is there a distinction to be made between casual hook ups, “friends with benefits” and committed relationships?
From God’s perspective, does the legal marriage paper actually matter or is it possible that “common law” also works for God?
So lots of questions… searching for wisdom… would love to hear a diversity of thoughts/ideas. Let’s try and have a discussion that doesn’t become ideological or attacking of each other…