1. Encourage singleness and celibacy as a strong viable option.
Oh how we’ve gotten this wrong.
There are some scriptures the church just flat out doesn’t like. Case in point, Paul’s exhortation – “To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is well for them to remain unmarried as I am.”(1 Cor. 7:8) Some translations even say “…it is better for them to remain unmarried…”.
Too much of our modern church revolves around the coveted family unit. Our churches host marriage conferences, provide parents nights out, and offer marriage counseling. There’s obviously nothing wrong with any of that, but we’ve got to ask how we’re welcoming, accommodating, and caring for the single person. Singles ministries withing churches need to a place for single people to do kingdom work together and not an easy place to find the last single people to hook up with.
This problem is most glaring when we teach that the reason for sexual purity is because “God has someone for you”. What if he doesn’t?! What if his desire for that kid in your youth group, that 20 something in the your small group, or that widow in your pew is to remain single so that they can be focused on as Paul puts it “the Lords affairs”.
We speak outside of scripture and give promises that God does not give when say or imply that the reward of a sexual purity is a spouse. Furthermore, that is simply an inappropriate motivation for the Christ follower to wait until marriage. Christ himself should be the motivation.
2. The emphasis must be on sexual purity vs. “virginity”.
Way before The Bachelor, the church had it’s own little rose ceremony. If you grew up in the church any time after 1980 then you have probably been subject to The Rose Ceremony. Someone produces a rose and has everyone in the room touch it and feel it, while he/she lists off a laundry list of reasons why sex before marriage is a bad idea. Often times in this laundry list, little or nothing is actually said Gods holistic design and desire for sex in the life of the Christ follower, rather time is spent talking about the dangers of STD’s and how being a teenage mom or dad will destroy your life. Also, bonus points for doing that thing where you hold a role of masking tape and put a sharpie market through it to illustrate the size of microscopic holes in a condom compared to the size of an STD. At the end of the virginity sales pitch the rose has made it’s way around the room and back to the speaker. The speaker then takes the now wilted and decrepit rose, holds up a new rose in pristine condition, and asks the captivated audience “Now, who wants this rose instead of this one?” Fade to black.
Of the myriad of things wrong with this picture, I’ll constrain myself to the most flagrant. Leave it to human beings to replace God’s desire for sexual purity with something like virginity (something that is lost and cannot be recovered). The God of the Bible does not seem to be concerned with virginity but rather sexual purity, and contrary to what some have taught, those are two different things. A person who does not fit the dictionary definition of a virgin, can still be sexually pure through the transformation offered by Christ. On the same token someone can be a virgin and be far from sexually pure.
Obviously, sex even once, outside of it’s proper place is not consequence free and indeed many have endured some hardships because of it, but to emphasize something that is lost and can never be recovered is simply the antithesis of the Gospel. Our hope in Christ is that he can redeem all things, including our sexuality.
3. Talk about sex within the context of a complete life of the Christ follower.
For someone on the outside looking in, it probably looks like Christians are obsessed with sex. We tend to gravitate to one of two extremes. Either sex is a dirty word that we never talk about and when sexual immorality takes place it receives the deepest shame to the point that members of the body feel judged and unwelcome OR in an attempt to show the greater culture that we Christians have just as much super awesome sex as everyone else, we hyper sexualize everything. This over-sexualizing happens in subtle ways, like the pastor who declares that his wife is “smoking hot“. Rather than following cultures lead or simply doing the opposite of culture, we must first follow Christ with our life and then see what that means for our God-given sexuality.