Type “sex and the single Christian” into your preferred bookseller’s search engine, and you’ll find a plethora of titles encouraging everything from chastity to restraint, from celibacy to True Love Waits and the latest Rebecca St. James album. Well-meaning pastors wade in to the topic, encouraging the unmarried to exercise just a little more self-control. But what’s missing from most of these resources is the much-needed reality check that tells us keeping sex for marriage is harder than ever.
Social scientist Mark Regnerus says:
It’s actually become more socially difficult—not necessarily more personally challenging—but more socially difficult to withhold sex before marriage. Why is that? … The price of sex has dropped to an all-time low.
Mark points out in other articles and interviews that because the price of sex is so low, it becomes harder to date and remain a virgin, even in the church. There are fewer social constraints on sex for various reasons: the pill, abortion and HD porn on demand. Back in the day, men had to sheepishly buy a magazine, and women, wanting to avoid public shame, could put up a pretty good reason for not being sexually active. Today, those bets are off.
I’m not advocating that singles should give in and just worry about practicing safe sex, but I am saying that in your fight against sexual temptation, you need to have a battle plan, and a vital part of that plan is knowing the battlefield.
What does the sexual landscape look like today?
- Men hold the cards. We need to wake up and remember this age-old reality—men want sex more than women. Sexual revolution and the pill “liberated” women, which means men don’t have to put the brakes on to avoid unwanted pregnancy. Women once had a cartel on sex—driving men to marriage and commitment—but those days are long gone.
- Men are few and far between. Women outnumber men on most college campuses, in graduation ceremonies, and in churches. In a world where sex is cheap and men are few, women have to put out a lot to keep a man around. Regnerus explains it this way:
Given this unfavorable ratio [of men to women], and the plain fact that men are, on average, ready for sex earlier in relationships than women are, many young Christian women are being left with a dilemma: either commence a sexual relationship with a decent, marriage-minded man before she would prefer to—almost certainly before marriage—or risk the real possibility that, in holding out for a godly, chaste, uncommon man, she will wait a lot longer than she would like.
- Marriage culture is in decline. Between passing “No fault” divorce laws, increasing pushes to redefine marriage, and churches and culture advocating for delayed marriage, our culture has lost sight of the common, stabilizing good that marriage brings to society.
So, what does this mean for your personal battle against sexual sin?
It means we need to:
Be realistic. This is an uphill battle that requires you to be in the Word and on your A-game. The Bible describes Satan as wanting to devour you (1 Peter 5:8), and he’s definitely on the prowl when it comes to sexual temptation. Although we know the war is won and Christ has given us everything we need through the Holy Spirit to face temptation (1 Corinthians 10:13), we have to be brutally honest and unafraid of the reality of the current battle.
Check our hearts. Are you buying into our culture’s sexual economy? You can hardly Google something, watch a YouTube video, or browse the latest headlines without seeing something sexually explicit. Whether it’s a random Pandora advertisement or a commercial you’re screaming through on your DVR, it’s almost inescapable. If you’re not on alert, you can easily absorb the lie that waiting is impossible, unhealthy, not to mention freakish.
Redeem sex. Singles often hear the message that if they can just keep it together until they get married, all bets are off, and your sex life will just rock. The biblical view doesn’t see sex as a reward for good behavior like many in the True Love Waits movement, or as a healthy impulse that shouldn’t be denied. Instead, sex is a marital vocation meant to knit families together. It’s time for a paradigm-altering perspective on our hearts, our bodies and human sexuality.
Stay in community. If you’re single or married, sexual temptation is insidious and pervasive. We can’t fight this battle alone. Find someone who will ask you the hard questions and be honest with you. Be transparent about your shortcomings and temptations with a group you can trust. There is power in confessing our sin to each other (James 5:16).
Keeping sex for marriage may be harder than ever, but we know with confidence that we have more than enough in Christ Jesus, our Lord.
His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us to His own glory and excellence, by which He has granted to us Gis precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire (2 Peter 1:3-4, ESV).