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by Dr. Ralph F. Wilson
A Case for Chastity
Now before you get all your defenses up, let me tell you a story.
I can still remember the screeching of tires out in front of our apartment. My wife looked around for our toddler and then rushed outside. There he was in the middle of the boulevard, safe and sound, oblivious to the fact that a two ton car had come very close to splattering him across the pavement. Small wonder parents say, "No, no, no," and slap our little hands and build fences with locked gates. Small wonder.
Why wait to have sex until you're married? Is God some kind of cosmic spoil-sport who always says no to fun things? No, but he's a Father, and he's seen too many of his beloved children end up broken from playing in the street. Parents have reasons--good reasons--for saying no.
If God were on the earth in the 90s, and you asked him why, he'd probably give you lots of excellent reasons. Let's try to figure out a few.
Why wait? Because sex is the awesome link human beings have to creating other human beings. Sex is awesome, when you think about it. There's always the chance that from a coupling a child will come to be. You know, the miracle of tiny, little grasping fingers and a red, scrunched up face, and all the parts that work. Babies come from sex. And since we place such a high value on human life, then we don't degrade or devalue what causes human life. We guard and protect it. We build fences around it for the sake of babies. Cute, vulnerable babies.
Oh, yes, I've heard about birth control. But I also know that one fifth of the babies born to Anglo mothers in this country don't have married parents. I also know that one out of every four babies conceived in this country ends up aborted, unwanted. Yes, I know about birth control, and I know that it isn't an adequate fence to keep children from getting hurt in the street.
So if I were God, I probably say, wait until you're married because sex causes babies, and babies do better with two parents who love each other and love their baby.
Condoms are the rage these days. Why? To protect against pregnancy? I suppose, though they're said to be only 70% effective. But the real reason is that condoms are touted as the key to "safe sex." AIDS is now moving into the heterosexual population, and you can be infected and not have symptoms you recognize for years. So can your sex partner, for that matter. Scary. So, if you wear a condom, you protect yourself against AIDS. Seventy percent of the time, maybe. (HIV is much tinier than sperm, they say). There is another way to protect yourself. Get yourself tested for HIV and have your sex partner get tested, and then only have sex only with each other. Monogamy? Marriage? Hmm ... Sounds like something God might suggest.
When people go to the county courthouse to get a marriage license it's terrifying to find out that for every 100 people are getting married, 50 people may be getting a divorce. Why get married, people ask, if the chances of failure are so high? So people live together. They don't usually say, "Let's live together and if we like it we'll get married," but they're probably thinking it--at least the women are. We'll try it out, they tell themselves, and if we don't get along, we can always get out of this without getting hurt so badly. Right.
Do "trial marriages" really improve your chance of a lasting marriage? I wanted to find out so I spent an afternoon in a university library looking up the results of sociological studies. Do you know what I found? Out of a dozen studies, all said living together didn't improve prospects for a lasting marriage, and several found that people who had lived together before marriage had a worse chance of a lasting marriage than those who waited.
I guess God must have studied sociology somewhere along the line.
Kids Aren't Stupid
I remember a young mother--Cynthia, I'll call her-- whose husband left her for someone new. She was devastated, but tried to make the best of it with her two beautiful children. Then Cynthia fell in love with a man she would never marry--he didn't share her values. But she needed someone to love her and hold her. And so he moved into her apartment one day. I understand why Cynthia did it, but I grieve for her children. What is she teaching them about marriage? What is she teaching them about commitment? When they're old enough to be swept along on the tides of passion, can she ever say to them, "Wait"? Not convincingly. Kids's aren't stupid. Just vulnerable. Like Cynthia, only more so.
"I'm scared," a woman considering marriage once told me. "I've never married a man I didn't sleep with first. What if ..." She didn't finish the sentence, but I knew what she meant. What if he's not good in bed? You wouldn't buy a car you haven't taken for a test drive, would you? When you're shopping for cars you go to lots all over town and try scores of cars before you fall in love with "that special car." Cars don't mind. In fact, cars do well getting broken in for the first 500 miles or so. It doesn't matter who drives them so long as they're good drivers.
Yes, but cars aren't people. Sex is not a casual joyride. Our sexuality is part of our core personhood. It's not a game, it's for real. The Bible says it this way: "Do you not know that he who unites himself with a prostitute is one with her in body? For it is said, `The two will become one flesh.'" When we pretend that sex is just an animal instinct that must be fulfilled, we get messed up in our core identity. Sex is part of the real us, and when we keep giving away the real us we end up empty.
Biological sexual function isn't the thing you want to worry about. It works just fine. It's personhood that matters.
Cars thrive on speed. People are intricately made. And fragile. People are like delicate porcelain bells that ring with a clear, distinct tone unless they fall and crack. Handle with care, God would probably say we were talking to him today.
No and Yes
Yes, God would say, wait. But now you realize that he's not just being an old fuddy-duddy. He's saying wait because he loves you, because the chances of anything else working out without hurting you--and your partner--aren't worth taking. But I didn't wait, maybe you respond. What about me? I have been hurt. I am messed up in my head. I have sinned, I guess you'd say. How would God treat me if he knew? (If he knew? you ask?) We have a window into God's compassion when we look at Jesus. One day his enemies brought him a woman they had surprised in the very act of adultery. What punishment does she deserve? they sneered at him, trying to trick him into getting caught between compassion and law. Jesus paused--a long pause. And then he looked up at those angry, self- righteous men. "Let the one of you who is without sin throw the first stone at her," he said. One by one, they faded into the crowd until they were all gone. Then Jesus looked up at the woman with deep compassion in his eyes. "I don't condemn you," he said gently. "You can go now, and ... and don't sin any more." No to what hurts you, but an affirming yes to the real you. Jesus understands. Jesus forgives and gives you a second chance and a third and a fourth. And he heals life's hurts. Jesus, you know, is God.
So parents still put up fences next to busy streets, and say, "No, no," and watch out so their children don't get hurt. Old fashioned? Perhaps. The good kind of old fashioned. The wise kind. Wait.
 1 Corinthians 6:16, NIV
 John 8:1-11, paraphrase
Copyright © 2023, Ralph F. Wilson. <pastorjoyfulheart.com> All rights reserved. A single copy of this article is free. Do not put this on a website. See legal, copyright, and reprint information.
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