By Josh Reich
Whenever I talk with couples that are dating or engaged, at some point sex and intimacy will come up. When Katie and I do premarital counseling, there are 5 things a couple must agree to for me to do their wedding. One of them is that they won’t have sex from that point forward until their wedding night. Regardless of their background, regardless if they live together, regardless of where they are on their journey with Jesus.
Depending on the situation, this brings with it an interesting follow-up conversation. Many couples don’t care, they’ve already chosen to wait and have stayed with that commitment. Some are excited because while they’ve wanted to wait, the lack of accountability has made it difficult and they’ve fallen back into patterns they wanted to move away from. Others are frustrated because they don’t see a problem with sex outside of marriage.
I remember once talking with a couple who lived together. They weren’t followers of Jesus and he asked me if this was simply a way for me to put my morals onto other people. It was a fair question. Pastors are often guilty of thinking of ways simply to make people behave more godly without changing their hearts.
I told him that was not the point of this. Here’s why we ask couples to do this and what I told him:
- The Bible does tell us to save sex for marriage (Acts 15:20; 1 Corinthians 5:1; 6:13, 18; 10:8; 2 Corinthians 12:21;Galatians 5:19; Ephesians 5:3; Colossians 3:5; 1 Thessalonians 4:3; Jude 7). The Bible promotes complete abstinence before marriage. Sex between a husband and his wife is the only form of sexual relations of which God approves (Hebrews 13:4).
- Sex doesn’t equal intimacy. Many in our culture think they are being intimate simply by having sex. For men, when we think of intimacy, sex is what we think of. Intimacy is much bigger than that. It involves sex, but also involves being open and honest with another person, trusting them completely, not hiding from them. Willing to share our lives, our dreams, our hopes, our failures, our hurts, and pain with that person. Far too many couples think we had sex, so we must be in love. As soon as sex enters a relationship, it changes drastically. By abstaining from sex before marriage, they are able to broaden intimacy in their relationship in other ways, ways that are non-sexual.
- There are seasons in marriage where sex is not an option. Whether that is traveling for a job, health, children, pregnancy, time or energy. Abstaining from sex before marriage helps a couple to prepare for these moments and for the couple to learn they can trust the other. Is a man or woman able to control themselves when they aren’t having as much sex or intimacy as they’d like.
- It builds trust. On some level, usually for women, having sex outside of marriage is a trust issue. For men, sex is mostly physical, but for women it is mostly emotional. It involves trusting the other person. Making a commitment to abstain from sex and keeping that commitment goes a long way of building trust for a couple.
There are other reasons, but these are the top ones. After doing weddings for 7 years for numerous couples who have made this commitment and kept it, I’ve yet to have a couple tell me it was a waste of time or be angry that they made it. In fact, I’ve had almost every couple tell me this was one of the most beneficial things for them in their premarital counseling.
Josh Reich is Pastor of Preaching & Vision at Revolution Church in Tucson, AZ. Revolution Church is an Acts 29 church that dreams of saturating the city of Tucson with gospel-centered church planting churches. You can read more from Josh at his blog, "My World."