Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Young adults, sex with "strings," and later marriage

Here is a fairly disturbing article explaining that fewer Christians are actually saving sex for marriage. In some cases, it looks like evangelical Christians and those who don't profess Jesus at all, often have a similar sexual ethic. And it is reminiscent of the Nike command: "Just do it."

Several reasons are given for the numbers of young adults engaging in pre-marital sex nowadays. From the "everyone else is doing it," to the oversexualized culture we live in. However the article concludes with one major reason.

Scot McKnight, author of “The Jesus Creed,” and "One.Faith: Jesus Calls, We Follow," acknowledges that young, single Christians face temptations that their counterparts in the biblical age didn’t face. He  tells Relevant: Sociologically speaking, the one big difference – and it’s monstrous – between the biblical teaching and our culture is the arranged marriages of very young people. If you get married when you’re 13, you don’t have 15 years of temptation.

Is that point relevant? Does it matter that the scriptures were given to a culture when in actuality, it wasn't AS hard to follow? I mean, I can remember being a 13 year old, and I can't say that my temptation for pre-marital sex was even on my top 5 sins radar list. I'd have rather gone fishing than have a girlfriend. At 16, I actually had a girlfriend, but still, I can't say that it was as hard as when I was 25 years old.

So how should we think of the now increasing marrying age discrepancy?

We need definitely don't need a simple answer if we're going to apply the gospel to a very serious, and hard problem. So here are some of my thoughts.

First of all, Jesus actually raises the bar when it comes to sexual fidelity. He says that if we look lustfully upon a lad or lass, that we are actually committing adultery in the heart. His standards are incredibly high. Even lusting is off limits. Wow.

As a result we need Jesus more than we think we do. Fortunately Jesus didn't remove himself from female company, yet he walked without lusting among them-even though, he was fully human. He would have done the same for our culture today where women shower, shave, and smell better, and tend to dress a little more, shall we say, "progressively." He did this for us, and now he empowers us to live as citizens of heaven while here on Earth. While the culture says, "Just do it" in relation to sex; the church can't say, (and its primarily those who are married saying it-which sometimes makes it harder to hear) "Just do it," in relation to remaining faithful until marriage.
In order to be faithful to the scriptures AND gracious with those dealing with this struggle, we do need to lay all cards on the table and be honest with some new difficulties present in our world.

The article ends with a few questions and no answers.

So what should a Christian parent or youth pastor do? How do they convince more young Christians to wait until marriage, or should they stop even trying?

Let me simply continue the discussion-not attempting to "solve" the problem (that won't happen till Jesus returns) but try to honestly reflect on this difficult trend.

Honesty with the difficulty, without being quixotic

People do get married later these days. It is true. Therefore that can present some problems. Obviously. I think we need to recognize and be honest that the struggle is going to be hard. Will it be harder than in previous times? I think in some ways, yes. Simple math tells us that. 13-15 is different than 26.

Nevertheless, if you say, "well people got married earlier then," it doesn't change the situation. Sex did not ever come with "no strings attached" but within the confines of the committed covenantal relationship. No matter what age it is regularly experienced, sex always comes with "strings." For Christians, those "strings" are called a covenant.

But do 13-15 year olds really want to get married? Are they ready for jobs, to be responsible for family? They can't even drive yet. We can lament the age difference, but even with hormones raging, do guys and gals really want to get married in their teens? 

Still, you can argue the command to wait until marriage may in some ways be more difficult today, but that doesn't nullify the command-or the reason for the command. And, some commands were probably harder then than they are now. Whether you like Obama or not, he's a lot easier to honor than Nero, or Trajan, or any other awful emperor that Romans 13 refers to.

There wasn't some golden age to live in, where sexuality was something easy to live out. It certainly wasn't that way with the bible. We need to recognize that it may be harder in some ways to live chastely before marriage now, but in some ways it could have been just as hard then.

Is our Culture worse?

The culture of Jesus' times was no less sexualized than today. I've seen the artwork on pottery when on foreign study in Italy; it's literally pornographic. I saw a mural in Pompeii where a lad was weighing his oversized penis. Seriously. Sex was all around them, just as it is all around us.

Biblical commands have always been counter-cultural. They continue to be today. We still have to affirm God's good design for sexuality. And we still have to affirm God's sufficient grace for our forgiveness (when we fail or have failed) and for our sanctification. I'll try to get to some more thoughts on the latter later.

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