by Jeffrey W. Hamilton
I ran across several interesting studies the other day dealing with the factors that lead teenage boys to engage in sex prior to marriage. One study is titled “The Transition of Adolescent Males to First Sexual Intercourse: Anticipated or Delayed?” The reason for the title is that the surveyed youths were divided into two groups: those who expected to have sex before marriage and those who expected to wait until marriage for their first experience with sex. Not at all surprising, those who expected to have sex before marriage found what they desired. Fifty-three percent of these “anticipators” had sexual intercourse for the first time within one year, compared to thirteen percent of those seeking to delay sex until marriage.
It troubles me that thirteen percent of those wanting to delay sex until marriage gave into temptation within a year, but for now, I would like to focus on the significant difference between the two groups. Jesus warned that impure action starts with impure thoughts. “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 7:21-23). Sin doesn’t just happen, it is anticipated. People think about giving in to temptation long before the opportunity arises.
In fact, another interesting point in this study was the examination of why these boys had not already had sex. Thirty-five percent of the boys who were anticipating having sex before marriage said that the lack of opportunity was the only thing holding them back. Doesn’t this bring home the lesson Jesus gave, “I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:28)? The only difference between the desire to commit sin and the act of sinning is an opportunity. No one can fill his mind with lustful thoughts and expect them to remain only in his mind. “Do not lust after her beauty in your heart, Nor let her allure you with her eyelids. For by means of a harlot A man is reduced to a crust of bread; And an adulteress will prey upon his precious life. Can a man take fire to his bosom, And his clothes not be burned? Can one walk on hot coals, And his feet not be seared? So is he who goes in to his neighbor's wife; Whoever touches her shall not be innocent” (Proverbs 6:25-29).
In discussing why they engaged in sex outside of marriage, I have heard many young men give the lame excuse that “it just happened.” Are they saying that their pants just happened to fall down and that they just happened to find themselves naked in bed together and they just happened to engage in intercourse? Solomon points out the lie in this self-deceit. Sex doesn’t just happen; it is thought about; it is desired. The fact that what was desired became reality is the natural result: just as holding a lump of live coal to your chest will naturally burn your clothing. Those who engage in fornication are not innocent bystanders.
The only way to avoid sexual sin is to make a commitment to stay sexually pure. “I have made a covenant with my eyes; why then should I look upon a young woman?” (Job 31:1). In the study, thirty-two percent of those who expected to delay sexual intercourse until they were married had not yet engaged in sex because of their desire to wait until marriage. It was their advance decision that had kept them pure.
Those anticipating sex before marriage were one and a half times more likely to engage in risky behaviors such as using drugs and alcohol, to engage in sexual foreplay, and express approval of premarital sex. Such would be expected. Drugs and alcohol interfere with a person’s ability to judge a situation. People incapacitated by drugs or alcohol are like to do things that they would hesitate to do when sober. “Woe to those who rise early in the morning, that they may follow intoxicating drink; who continue until night, till wine inflames them!” (Isaiah 5:11). Alcohol will fan the fires of lustful passion. Nor can we be surprised that engaging in heavy petting (sexual foreplay) leads to sexual intercourse. It is the natural outcome of what the body is designed to do. This is why there are warnings against sexual touching outside of marriage. “It is good for a man not to touch a woman” (I Corinthians 7:1; see also Proverbs 6:29). And expressing approval of premarital sex shows what a person has already decided in his mind to do in regards to his own life. As we pointed out before, the only difference between approving of sin and doing sin is the opportunity.
Those seeking to delay sex until marriage were more likely to attend church services and have strict parents. “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. For God did not call us to uncleanness, but in holiness.” (I Thessalonians 4:3-7). People who put God first in their lives will strive to live by God’s rules in all aspects of their lives. Thus they will not engage in arousing passions of lust (literally pornography) – knowing where such evil desires will lead them. Such lifestyle choices are left behind in the pursuit of greater things. “Therefore, since Christ suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same mind, for he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, that he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh for the lusts of men, but for the will of God. For we have spent enough of our past lifetime in doing the will of the Gentiles – when we walked in lewdness, lusts, drunkenness, revelries, drinking parties, and abominable idolatries.” (I Peter 4:1-3).
In another study, titled “When and Where Do Youths Have Sex? The Potential Role of Adult Supervision,” it was found that participation in sexual intercourse and other risky behaviors was directly proportional to the amount of unsupervised time a child had each week. Strict parents understand that children are not equipped to make sound decisions in the face of temptation; hence, they are closely monitored, much to the child’s annoyance. The sad number in this study was the finding that fifty-six percent of those studied were home without an adult for four or more hours per week. Even when a teenager anticipates having sex before marriage, the supervision of strict parents removes the opportunities for fornication to take place. Truly the writer of Proverbs was correct, “The rod and rebuke give wisdom, but a child left to himself brings shame to his mother” (Proverbs 29:15).
Brethren, to combat sexual sin we must encourage our young people to make up their minds that they will save their bodies for their future spouse. They need a love for God that will carry them through the rough seas of temptation. Their parents need to be taught to be strict with their children, not allowing opportunities for sin to take place, and not allowing behaviors that will lead to further sinful actions. Parents, don't fool yourself when you find a beer bottle or pornography in your boy's room. Don't dismiss it as boyhood adventurism. It is a warning that your son is already on the slippery slope to hell. Nip it as quickly and as firmly as you can. You might just save a soul from death. "But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life. And on some have compassion, making a distinction; but others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire, hating even the garment defiled by the flesh. Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy, to God our Savior, Who alone is wise, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and forever. Amen" (Jude 20-25).