Question:

Hi! I'm a 21 year old girl from Iceland and I found this site by accident as I was looking for answers on the Internet about the chance of getting pregnant when using withdrawal as a contraception. I found  the answer here and want to thank you for a good explanation. I have a boyfriend and we are having sex without being married. I want to ask, why do you say that is a sin? We love each other and we only have sex with each other so we are not infecting each other with STD's. Isn't what we feel for each other what matters? Marriage is only a ritual performed by humans. God knows we love each other. Is that not enough?

Answer:

I'm glad you found the information on this web site useful and I'm very happy that you are interested in considering the question of whether sex outside of marriage is right or wrong.

Let me start out by explaining that my duty as a preacher is to help people understand God's will. "If anyone speaks, let him speak as the oracles of God. If anyone ministers, let him do it as with the ability which God supplies, that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belong the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen" (I Peter 4:11). The name "preacher" literally refers to the ancient town crier who would deliver the king's commandments and then stay around to answer questions so the people would understand what the king wanted. In my case, I am one of the numerous town criers for the King of Kings.

One of the falsehoods that has crept into society is the idea that truth -- right and wrong -- is relative. Many people pretend that "your truth may not necessarily be my truth." They then give themselves permission to determine right and wrong for themselves. But this is much like a person telling his government that he wants to decide for himself what he wants to do. We call that anarchy and we all understand that anarchy is pure chaos -- it doesn't work.

Jesus tells us that the source of absolute truth is God. "Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth" (John 17:17). God didn't create the world and mankind and then left them to fend for themselves. He gave us instructions on how to live properly. The laws are not arbitrary. They are carefully designed by God keep His people safe. As ancient Israel was told, "And the LORD commanded us to observe all these statutes, to fear the LORD our God, for our good always, that He might preserve us alive, as it is this day" (Deuteronomy 6:24).

One of the things I try to do is explain to people why God's commands make sense. There are times when there isn't enough time to give a detailed explanation. You don't give a technical discussion to little Johnny why touching the hot pot on the stove isn't good for his health and safety. You scream out "NO!" Details can be given later when the issue is no longer pressing. You'll find both detailed explanations and cries of "NO!" on this web site, depending on the situation.

Why is Fornication a Sin?

Ancient Israel got themselves into trouble in numerous ways, but a major problem was their ignoring God's teachings. God tried to warn them. "Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; who put darkness for light, and light for darkness; who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter! Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight!" (Isaiah 5:20-21). So after the long introduction, the first point is that sex outside of marriage is sin for the simple reason that God said it was wrong. "Marriage is honorable among all, and the bed undefiled; but fornicators and adulterers God will judge" (Hebrews 13:4). The meaning of the word "sin" is breaking a law or acting as if there was no law. "Whoever commits sin also commits lawlessness, and sin is lawlessness" (I John 3:4).

In older English, the word for sex outside of marriage is "fornication." So let's see what God says about fornication:

"Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God" (I Corinthians 6:9-10).

"For I fear lest, when I come, I shall not find you such as I wish, and that I shall be found by you such as you do not wish; lest there be contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, backbitings, whisperings, conceits, tumults; lest, when I come again, my God will humble me among you, and I shall mourn for many who have sinned before and have not repented of the uncleanness, fornication, and lewdness which they have practiced" (II Corinthians 12:20-21).

"Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God" (Galatians 5:19-21).

"But fornication and all uncleanness or covetousness, let it not even be named among you, as is fitting for saints" (Ephesians 5:3).

"Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. Because of these things the wrath of God is coming upon the sons of disobedience, in which you yourselves once walked when you lived in them" (Colossians 3:5-7).

It is God who said the fornication is unrighteousness, sin, a work of the flesh, and disobedience. That answers the question, but I suspect you want to know why God said "No!" when you find it so much fun.

It Can Keep You Out of Heaven

People tend to forget that God decides who enters His domain. "For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad" (II Corinthians 5:10). God has made it very clear that He is not going to tolerate people who ignore Him. We are not in a position to tell our Creator what He will accept. "Surely you have things turned around! Shall the potter be esteemed as the clay; for shall the thing made say of him who made it, "He did not make me"? Or shall the thing formed say of him who formed it, "He has no understanding"?" (Isaiah 29:16). Think about it. Isn't that the line teenagers try to give their parents? "You don't understand! Times have changed!" Isn't that the line you are giving God?

And then after doing as they please, people think that God will be there to welcome them in with open arms. Yes, God is love, but God is also just. "But in accordance with your hardness and your impenitent heart you are treasuring up for yourself wrath in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, who "will render to each one according to his deeds": eternal life to those who by patient continuance in doing good seek for glory, honor, and immortality; but to those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness--indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish, on every soul of man who does evil, of the Jew first and also of the Greek; but glory, honor, and peace to everyone who works what is good, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For there is no partiality with God" (Romans 2:5-11).

It Degrades Relationships

Sex without a marriage bond lowers the importance of a relationship to little more than an animalistic bond. Without a spiritual target to make men reach higher, they tend to act as animals. "But these, like natural brute beasts made to be caught and destroyed, speak evil of the things they do not understand, and will utterly perish in their own corruption" (II Peter 2:12). But as Peter warns, people tend to disparage what they don't understand.

Notice what you said: "Marriage is only a ritual performed by humans." I could turn that around and say that sex is only an act performed by two animals. Two hedgehogs can do what you and your boyfriend are doing. But Jesus tells us that marriage is greater than the people involved because the bond is overseen by God. "Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning 'made them male and female,' and said, 'For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh'? So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate" (Matthew 19:3-5). The marriage may be done before men, but the bond is created by God.

How? What makes a marriage is the covenant given between the man and woman. "She is your companion and your wife by covenant" (Malachi 2:14). Hiding in our marriage traditions are the elements of forming a covenant:

  • The vows of faithfulness
  • The human witnesses to the vow (the groom's men and bride's maids, as well as the audience).
  • The physical reminder or witness that the vow exists (the rings)
  • The feast of fellowship (the reception)
  • The sacredness of the proceedings -- God being witness

It Doesn't Last

When people decide to live together or to have a relationship, but without marriage, the emphasis is on sex -- the sensual feelings. I can detect this in your note as well when you said, "Isn´t what we feel for each other what matters?"

  • Gary Chapman, in his book The Five Love Languages, states that that the average sensual relationship lasts about two years.
  • According to Bumpass and Lu in their 1998 Cohabiting Couples Survey, the median duration of cohabitation is 1.3 years.
  • VanGothem in 2005 concluded that the average length of a cohabiting relationship that does not lead to marriage is 12 to 18 months.

Unless something replaces the sensuality, the relationship comes to an end. Feelings are unstable. They don't last.

Think about it. How many unmarried couples can you name who have been together for fifty years? How about twenty-five years? Even in this age of "no fault" divorce, I know many couples who have been married over fifty years. I know numerous marriages that have last over twenty-five years (my own included). It isn't that these marriages were lucky and didn't face difficulties. No, every one of them will tell you they had some rough times, but their commitment to the relationship kept them together long enough to get the problems dealt with.

  • According to Bumpas and Sweet in 1989, long-term cohabiting relationships in America are far rarer than successful marriages.

That is something you and your boyfriend are missing and don't realize. It is easy to be together right now when nothing is going wrong and you are focused on your senses. Sadly, reality is going to eventually intrude. Because feelings are so important, you will seek to recreate those titillating early feelings for each other -- but they will be gone because they exist in part because of the newness of the relationship. What then happens is that you go looking for those sensual feelings elsewhere. You conclude that you fell out of "love," but now you are really in love with a new person.

  • Bumpass in 1994 stated that within the first two years approximately 29% of cohabiting couples separate compared to only 9% of married couples.
  • Cohabiting couples have a rate of separation that is five times that of married couples, and, in the event of separation, cohabitors have a rate of reconciliation that is only 33% as high as married couples (Binstock, 2003).

Contrast this to description of married love in Song of Solomon 8:6-7, "Set me as a seal upon your heart, as a seal upon your arm; for love is as strong as death, jealousy as cruel as the grave; its flames are flames of fire, a most vehement flame. Many waters cannot quench love, nor can the floods drown it. If a man would give for love all the wealth of his house, it would be utterly despised." But in describing an immoral woman -- a woman willing to have sex outside of marriage -- Solomon warned, "Her ways are unstable" (Proverbs 5:6).

It Prevents Love from Developing

Sex creates a bond between the man and woman, but when such a bond is formed outside of a stable relationship, it actually causes damage to the person's ability to form and retain a relationship. Paul warns about this in dealing with prostitution. "Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a harlot? Certainly not! Or do you not know that he who is joined to a harlot is one body with her? For "the two," He says, "shall become one flesh." But he who is joined to the Lord is one spirit with Him. Flee sexual immorality. Every sin that a man does is outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body" (I Corinthians 6:15-18).

This fact shows up in statistics:

  • According to Seltzer in 2000, within five years from the beginning of a cohabitation relationship more than half of these relationships will end even if the couple had married during that time.
  • The risk of divorce after living together is 40 to 85% higher than the risk of divorce after not living together. In other words, those who live together before marriage are almost twice as likely to divorce than those who did not live together before marriage (Bumpass and Sweet, 1995; Hall and Zhao, 1995; Bracher, Santow, Morgan and Russell, 1993; DeMaris and Rao, 1992; Glenn, 1990).

The point is that sex without marriage damages a person's ability to truly love. Oh, we call sexual feelings and sexual acts "love," but these are the by-products of real love in a marriage. Sex is too shallow for the love described by God. "Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails" (I Corinthians 13:4-8). Notice there isn't one mention of butterflies in the stomach, sexual arousal, or sexual acts in this description.

When people focus on physical feelings and physical acts, they don't spend the time needed to create a deeper lasting bond. After all, you can get sex anywhere, but it is hard to find someone willing to commit their lives to you.

Because of the shallow nature of the relationship, people break up frequently. They then form new relationships which also don't last. After a while they become calloused to bonding because they "know" it isn't going to last anyway.

It is Selfish

At its roots, having sex without marriage is a selfish act. People who engage in fornication want the benefits of marriage without the responsibility. If that sounds like the way most teenagers live their lives, you are right. It demonstrates a lack of maturity. You illustrate this in part when you expressed concern about finding a way to have sex without producing children. I suspect that deep down you realize that you are not ready for the responsibility of children, nor do you have a man you can count upon to be there for the next 20 years to help you raise those children. "But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever" (I Timothy 5:8).

Yet, children are the natural consequence of sexual intercourse. Married couples will attempt to control the spacing and number of children, but if a child comes unexpectedly he is seen as an blessing instead of a disaster. Far too many unmarried couples see children as "cramping their lifestyle."

Couples who have sex without being married have a strong desire for self-gratification. It is a relationship of convenience. Such couples have less tolerance for unhappiness. They won't put up with difficulties -- not when there is no consequence to just walking away from the problems. Marriage hinders this by putting penalties on leaving.

It Causes Unhappiness

It seems strange that something people engage in for their personal pleasure results in unhappiness. It sounds so odd that I'm sure you're inclined to dismiss this point. But Solomon warns that the immoral woman, "In the end she is bitter as wormwood, Sharp as a two-edged sword" (Proverbs 5:4). It doesn't start that way, but it does tend to end in bitterness.

  • "Cohabiting couples report lower levels of happiness, lower levels of sexual exclusivity and sexual satisfaction, and poorer relationships with their parents."
  • "Annual rates of depression among cohabiting couples are more than three times what they are among married couples. And women in cohabiting relationships are more likely than married women to suffer physical and sexual abuse."
  • 6% of married couples with children are living in poverty in the United States, 31% of cohabiting couples with children are living in poverty, and 45% of single mothers are living in poverty.

The reason is simple. In a marriage you have someone to depend upon to help you through hard times. "Two are better than one, Because they have a good reward for their labor. For if they fall, one will lift up his companion. But woe to him who is alone when he falls, For he has no one to help him up. Again, if two lie down together, they will keep warm; But how can one be warm alone? Though one may be overpowered by another, two can withstand him. And a threefold cord is not quickly broken" (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12).

 

I realize that this is probably more than you wanted to hear and more than what you had asked, but I wanted a chance to show you a better way for your life, and the life of your boyfriend. I hope you will think seriously about these matters.