The word is associated with a lot of things. For instance: pizza, plumbing fixtures, airline tickets (think VietJet) clothing, sugar-water (soft drinks), hearing aids, hamburgers, shavers, tires, cars, valve stems, Valio Fanny pudding and cat food…(cat food?). It’s true. Sex was used to sell each of these items, and that's just a partial list.
So, we live in a world that is saturated with sex—the wrong use of it. Sex is used broadly (pun unintended) in marketing, entertainment, literature, music, and culture in general. To quote Gallup & Robinson, “Sex sells.”
And there is something else being sold to us — namely the lie that sex outside of marriage really isn’t a big deal! Huh... From grandparents to teenagers, moral failure brings some of the deepest regret known to man and woman. As believers, we need to do our best to protect young people from the consequences of moral failure and sexual abuse. So let’s dig in.
I’m all about archaeology. Don’t get me wrong, I detest the idea of digging up a piece of broken pottery in 112° weather in a sun-scorched sand-pit infested with camel dung and scorpions. But I like old words and every now and then I dig one up and dust it off so I can say “Just look at that beauty!” Here’s our latest artifact:
It’s a good word with a lot of Biblical authority. And it is nearly buried under the rubble of our modern sensibilities. Let me be blunt, we updated our vocabulary long ago with the more politically correct term “pre-marital sex.” In doing so, I believe that we ceded Biblical truth to the pop-culture sexual revolutionaries. Strongly implied in the term “pre-marital sex” is that the only problem is timing. This gives the false impression that the main difference between marital sex and pre-marital sex is simply when one chooses to engage in it. And as soon as they “get married”—problem solved, right? Wrong.
My wife and I have worked with hundreds of young people, and helped many of them resolve moral and abuse issues according to the Bible. It is so refreshing to go to a wedding and know that this young couple have confessed every moral violation to each other and invited Jesus to come in and purify their hearts. This allows them to emotionally give themselves to each other, and experience the oneness that God designed for their marriage. If they choose not to resolve hidden moral issues they will experience a number of consequences in marriage and end up in a sexually-tolerant form of meaningless gratification that longs for true emotional intimacy. Just getting married doesn’t erase the accumulated consequences of moral failure. Rather, it will bring them to the surface!
(I can’t believe that I got this far into the article without humbling myself.) Here it is. I’ve done things that I’m not proud of. For most of my adolescent life, female anatomy was just a rumor that I hoped was true, but during the 24-30 month equivalent of my “Anabaptist Rumspringa” I did various things that I wouldn’t do again. I resolved those things in Christ a long time ago. If I hadn’t, I couldn’t mention it here—I would be trying to conceal them from the fortified bunker of a locked heart.
That brings us back to language. How often do we urge teenagers to maintain purity to be consistent with their "values" and to avoid bad consequences to their health, their future marriages, or their walk with God? These consequences are definitely real, but why would it seem so awkward to say what the Scripture says quite pointedly—that fornicators will not inherit the kingdom of God? (1 Cor. 6:9–10). You don’t have to be a wild-eyed “hell-fire” revival preacher to admit that sexual immorality brings upon itself the wrath of God (Rev. 21:8). It’s in there. Yet because of political-correctness, we often retreat to the safety of terms like “pre-marital” and “struggling” or “addiction.” It’s time to stop that.
Fornication, quite simply, isn't merely "premarital sex." It isn't only a matter of impatience. It is not simply the marital act misfired at the wrong time. Fornication is both spiritually and typologically different from the marital act, and in fact a mockery of it! You see, sexual union is not an arbitrary expression of the will of God (much less of random Darwinian processes). It is instead an icon of God's purposes for the universe in the gospel of Christ. Paul's classic text on the one-flesh union of marriage from Ephesians 5 makes no sense if it is presented as it too often is: as a set of tips for a healthier, "hotter" marriage. Instead, this passage is a revelation of the cosmic mystery of Christ.
Fornication pictures a different reality than that of the mystery of Christ. It presents instead a Jesus who uses the Church without joining her in sacred covenant to Himself. It is not just “novitiate naughtiness”, it is something even worse. To use another word that laissez-faire Christians find awkward and antiquated, it is blasphemy— moral blasphemy with several unique consequences to it. Here are just a few of these consequences:
If an unmarried couple gets involved sexually with each other, something strange happens in the relationship. From that point on, the girl becomes more aggressive and the guy becomes more passive. Guilt, shame and fear fill the relationship, and the girl becomes angry from pain and feels unprotected. The guy gives up his leadership as a man. From that point on, he stops caring about the girl emotionally and is only interested in how he can be alone with the girl. She feels unloved and begins trying to ‘protect” herself by becoming more aggressive—more manly. This sets up a wrong pattern that can only be resolved by the wonderful power of God through repentance and cleansing.
This consequence, incidentally, is a major contributor to contemporary confusion in the church about role distinctions between men & women. As our culture gets more immoral, and church members import some of that immorality, there is a corresponding increase in gender confusion. Sexual immorality is a major contributor to the blurring of lines between male & female.
Within two weeks after a dating couple commits fornication (there’s that word again) they will start fighting. Every time. Unless they Biblically resolve and forsake fornication—guilt, shame and fear causes them to begin blaming each other subconsciously. This leads them to push each other away emotionally, which leads to a loss of communication which leads to a lack of respect for each other which leads to… you guessed it—conflict. They will be fighting within two weeks and won’t understand why.
Dating couples who commit fornication are teaching each other how to commit adultery. Really? Yes. Fornication and adultery are the same sin—in that they both exist outside of marriage. Sex prior to marriage becomes a mixture of sex & guilt, and after marriage, the only source for that is...adultery. Couples who get sexually involved prior to marriage are training each other how to commit adultery.
In order to recover the beauty and the exultation of marital intimacy, we need to speak honestly and bluntly of the ugliness of its counterfeits. In the process we learn not to be ashamed of the Biblical language of "fornication," but instead to be ashamed of fornication itself.
When a couple is dating, that is a special time. When someone that you think is terrific--thinks you're terrific, that's awesome (like Nancy & I, 35-years ago). When the couple is dating, they love to talk. Why? The guy want to find out what the girl is all about, and the girl wants to find out what the guy is like. They talk freely, sometimes for hours. They lose track of time "Uh-Oh. I forgot I was supposed to be . . . . And I'm three hours late." Zooooom! They can talk later, and they always will. You see, they are building something special in this communication. A foundation. As they communicate, the foundation gets stronger. This foundation is emotional and spiritual intimacy! When and if you decide to get married, you can set the house (marriage) on top of this foundation, and it will endure the winds and trials of life.
If--during the dating period--this couple initiates sex into their relationship, the foundation stops. Done. No more bricks. No more mortar. From that point on, the whole relationship changes dramatically--for the worse. It messes up (damages) the hearts of both the guy and the girl. They cannot communicate on an emotional level again, unless they biblically resolve the moral failure and commit to stop it. Only then they can work on the wall again.
You would be surprised how many couples place their marriage on a partial foundation. Every wind that comes along shakes the house, and many times the house just collapses for lack of a good foundation.
This is fascinating. When couples choose to resolve the issues in their marriage (including cleaning up past moral issues), all of a sudden, they experience emotional intimacy again. Sometimes they come into my office the next day, and they look tired. Happy but tired. I say "How did you sleep last night?" They say "Pretty good, once we got to sleep. We stayed up talking until 3 AM."
Stop. What were they doing before they got involved sexually during their dating years? They were talking. Deep emotional communication. When those moral violations were confessed and resolved 5-20-years later, they automatically went back to the 'foundation', and began building it again. They didn't even realize they were doing it.
Let us not be afraid to talk about sex to young people, to explain why it is worth waiting for and the consequences of not waiting. I’ve already discussed a few of the consequences; let me throw a positive motivator out there. If you do wait, your sex life will be in the top 2%! Just thought you should know…
Let us unmask the lie that sex outside of marriage is no big deal.
The Good News
Let us not give people the impression that if they have fallen morally, it will follow them around like a huge black balloon forever tied to their unpardonable midsection. There is hope. It will follow you around if you don't resolve it, but through repentance there is freedom, and through Jesus there is cleansing! So whatever is written on the pages of your life, you can take that to God in a special way, and He will cleanse the sin, remove the shame from your heart, and give you a new piece of paper. Then He bids us "Go, and sin no more." Abide in My freedom." If you do that . . . God will restore unto you the years that the locusts have eaten (Joel 2:24).