Question:

I always told myself as I grew up that sexual immorality would never be a problem for me because the consequences scared me too much, but in recent years, the constant exposure to sex being "normal" and "acceptable" I guess have overcome me. I see so many sites that push for birth control and promote their effectiveness. For a few years, I never let things get to the point that I actually fornicated per se, but I would do other things that I knew were wrong ... until recently.

I have been in a relationship with a guy I met in college for about several months. He is not a member of the church but shows great interest in the church and enjoys attending with me as much as possible. We have had many religious conversations about sex, marriage, and other topics. He isn't at all reluctant about changing, and he doesn't force me to do any of those activities whatsoever, but we repeatedly find ourselves falling back into temptation after saying so many times that we would stop.

We have talked about marriage several times as well, acknowledging that we fully intend on marrying each other, but that it would be best to wait until we are finished with school for financial and other reasons. The only issue I have with this is that my sexual urges are extremely hard to fight; I have tried to tell him this many times in conversation, but he wants it to be special and wishes that we wait until he is finished with school, which would be in another couple of years.

How do I handle this situation? I want a nice wedding that I am able to pay for and enjoy, but I also am having extreme difficulty suppressing my sexual urges. What should I do? I would like some help controlling my urges or help on talking to my boyfriend about fixing the problem.

Answer:

"Do this, knowing the time, that it is already the hour for you to awaken from sleep; for now salvation is nearer to us than when we believed. The night is almost gone, and the day is near. Therefore let us lay aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us behave properly as in the day, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual promiscuity and sensuality, not in strife and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts" (Romans 13:11-14).

Sexual acts outside of marriage are sinful and are covered under the word "fornication." In Greek, the word is porneia. It is from this word we get our word "pornography" which literally means acts of fornication depicted in a visual or written way. Many new translations use the vaguer phrase "sexual immorality" or sometimes just "immorality" to translate porneia because they believe "fornication" is an outdated word that people won't understand. As Glendol McClure notes, "The term 'fornication' generally refers to unlawful sexual intercourse between the unmarried, but the term is also applied to include illicit sexual intercourse between two people who are married. The term fornication would include incest, prostitution, lesbianism, homosexuality, bestiality, pedophilia, and adultery" [Living in Adultery]. Thus when Paul states, "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), the word "fornicator" becomes the catch-all for all other types of sexual sins which are not more specifically stated in the other terms.

If we stopped there, people would conclude that as long as you didn't commit the act of sexual sin, anything less than that would be acceptable. That is what the Jews in Jesus' day had concluded. They emphasized the wrongness of the actual act of adultery but ignored what leads up to that act. Jesus pointed out the fallacy of their position. "You have heard that it was said to those of old, 'You shall not commit adultery.' But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart" (Matthew 5:27-28). Sin doesn't start when you actually do something wrong, it also includes contemplating sin, such as looking at a woman and wondering what she would be like in bed. "What comes out of a man, that defiles a man. For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lewdness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within and defile a man" (Mark 7:20-23).

Therefore, acts that cause you or the person you are with to contemplate having sex when you are not married are also sinful. Even though it might not cause you to want to have sexual intercourse, you still share responsibility when you encourage sinful thoughts in others. (This is how manufacturers of pornography try to relieve themselves of responsibility: "We didn't make these people lust. We just provide material. If people abuse it, that's their fault." The reality is that it is both parties' fault.)

To make it clear, in the New Testament, there are discussions of the problem of sensuality -- sins of the senses. It is sometimes translated as lewdness. The Greek word aselgeia means someone who acts without a sense of shame or acts as if they have a license to sin. It is typically tied to acts of a sexual nature because it is such a strong desire in the body. In speaking of false teachers, Peter charges, "For when they speak great swelling words of emptiness, they allure through the lusts of the flesh, through lewdness, the ones who have actually escaped from those who live in error" (II Peter 2:18). In other words, while they speak empty words, they allure followers through sex appeal.

Two other words which also factor into this discussion appear in the following passage:

"For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you should abstain from sexual immorality; that each of you should know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor, not in passion of lust, like the Gentiles who do not know God; that no one should take advantage of and defraud his brother in this matter, because the Lord is the avenger of all such, as we also forewarned you and testified" (I Thessalonians 4:3-6).

Let's first define the terms:

  • Sanctification: Set apart for a holy purpose. Something or someone dedicated to God.
  • Abstain: Hold yourself apart from. Not participate in.
  • Sexual Immorality: This is the word porneia again; that is, fornication.
  • His own vessel: Your own body, viewed as the container for your spirit.
  • Honor: Treating someone in regards to his true value to you.
  • Passion: Strong desire for something, usually unlawful. From the Greek word, pathos, it means a desire that makes you feel like you are suffering because of it.
  • Lust: A longing for something, especially something unlawful.

In other words, chasing after things that arouse sexual passion in you or others is not what God intends for you in your life. This is why pornography is wrong, but it is also why sexual touching, which also called foreplay, is wrong when used by people who are not married to each other. God puts passion and lusts (here translated as "evil desire") in a list along with other sins: "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" (Colossians 3:5-6).

Therefore, if you want to be an example to your boyfriend about the joys of being a Christian and you don't want to engage in fornication, then you have to be consistent. You can't go partway down the path to engaging in sex and think you won't eventually arrive at the destination. What you have been involved in is just as sinful as the actual act of fornication. These things have to stop until the time you and he get married.

If you want to get married now, then that is a discussion that you and he have to have. But you also have to make it clear that you can no longer toy around with sexual passion because God said it is wrong and you know that you'll eventually give into fornication. If you decide that waiting will be best, then make it easier to wait for marriage. If you decide to get married soon, it might make life more difficult, but it won't be wrong.

Response:

Thank you for your help and guidance.

I already know that all the things I've done counts as sin and I am in the wrong according to the Bible, but it helps to hear it from you personally. This was something I was too afraid to discuss with local ministers, but something I needed to discuss desperately.

You are right, it wouldn't be easy to be married now, especially between our parents as well, but it would be much easier for us to deal with our tendencies. Either path won't be easy but with diligence and self-control, I'm sure we can overcome this. I know we both desire to change.

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