No sex before marriage-When asked what the Bible has to say about sex, most people will have this response. However, when asked to provide exactly where this rule is listed in the Bible, the answer from many Christians is much less confident. My belief that premarital sex is sinful has been shattered.
So what is the truth about having sex outside of marriage?
The truth is that we are having the wrong conversation over and over again. In an attempt to justify what is believed to be common knowledge, we are pulling at any verse that has an inkling of resemblance to premarital sex. We are using these verses, devoid of their context and circumstance, in order to justify a belief that does not have much merit.
Many source the Ten Commandments as a call to wait until we are married to have sex. In particular, the seventh of these commandments.
“Thou shalt not commit adultery.”
The problem here is that adultery and premarital sex are being equated, when in reality, they are two distinctly different things.
“Adultery really is about violation of relationship or violation of contract. It’s about not keeping your promise,” Dr. Colleen Windham-Hughes, a professor of religion at California Lutheran University, said.
An important part about reading the Bible is understanding those circumstances under which it was written and how it can be applied to today’s society. What is written about sex before marriage in the Bible comes predominantly from the book of 1 Corinthians, written by Paul.
1 Corinthians 6:18-20 says “Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body’s a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.”
This verse can be interpreted to mean that God is in control of our bodies. While it is undeniable that glorifying God through celibacy or through your body is a way to honor God, this verse is also getting at the submissive role of women at this time in the world.
“Women were, for the most part, not allowed to have their own personhood or property once they were married. They were attached to somebody,” Windham-Hughes said.
Additionally, the context of 1 Corinthians is important here. 1 Corinthians 7:1-2 says, “Now for the matters you wrote about: It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman. But since sexual immorality is occurring, each man should have sexual relations with his own wife, and each woman with her own husband.”
Paul realizes that celibacy is a great feat for the Corinthians, so he says that each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband when it comes to sexual relations. He says this because he knows a cure to widespread sexual exploitation is necessary for the Corinthians. Paul is not saying this to everybody in the world.
“…You can have sex in ways that are fulfilling, fun, good and generous, or you can have sex in ways that are harmful, bad and dangerous. Marriage is not, and has never been, a way to protect against the harmful, bad and dangerous potential of sex,” Jill Filipovic of The Guardian said.
We are having the wrong conversation. Marriage, in its traditional sense, is not the only covenant we are making with each other. Instead of asking ourselves, “Is it immoral to have sex before marriage?” we should be tailoring the question to fit our unique needs, which depend upon our individual circumstances and commitment to another person. Sex before marriage is not a sinful act.