I remember a few years ago telling my cousin that I was planning to wait until marriage to have sex and that I didn’t know if I’d ever get married.
He stopped everything we were doing, turned to me very sternly, looked into my face and said, “Promise me you will have sex before you die.”
I know. It sounds ridiculous. Premarital sex makes lots of sense. We all get horny. We can do it pretty safely these days. As long as we’re not cheating or leading someone on, it makes a ton of sense…
It makes a ton of sense, that is, if our goal is to get the most pleasure out of life.
But I think Christians are supposed to abide by a deeper goal. We're supposed to trust that our creator knows what’s good for us better than we do. For some reason God thinks there is something really significant about becoming “one flesh” with one other person, after you have committed to them in marriage (Matt 19:6).
And I think God does want us to experience pleasures, but not merely experience them. He wants to help us not be mastered by them. And if we can withhold from certain pleasures simply because God says to, even when everything else in our body and culture tells us we should do it, we just might grow into something bigger than predictable machines, or impulsive animals. A dog cannot be tamed without a master who knows what he can become.
And our actions are the evidence of who our master is. Do we serve our desires, or the one we call God? And who we choose to serve as master is one half of the crux of Christianity, I think.
But I also understand the ridiculousness of this being taken too far. . . all too well…
A decade ago a friend of mine asked me if I would get ordained online so I could marry him to his fiancé in Italy. I flew out there and delivered an incredibly romantic homily. And as everyone went to bed that night I asked the bride’s cute sister if she wanted to go for a walk. My friend overheard us and said, “You two behave.”
So we walked slowly, side by side, slipping gently between the bulging hills of the Tuscan vineyards. I took her hand and we gazed over cascading rows of burgeoning grapevines, bare and glistening in the misty night. It started lightly sprinkling. We pushed our way into the shoulder-high grass and lay down in it, pressing down a perfect, secluded nest. Our shoulders were touching and our hearts were pounding. My friend’s words sloshed in my head like a bucket of ice water. But right now I could kiss her. I could take her. I could start out my vacation with a bang.
Instead I resorted to telling her poetic metaphors about her body as I kissed her stomach, never actually touching any of the real goods. In fact I think I caught her stifling a laugh. I bet she was rolling her eyes the whole time, and not in the way she wanted to be. Oh, wait. Now that I think about it, she might have been secretly scheming to deflower the preacher. Oof… Wow. Wow.
Well, anyway. The next morning I proudly reported to my friend that we indeed behaved. “I kissed her stomach a little bit,” I admitted, “but didn’t even kiss her on the lips.”
His wife overheard and exclaimed, “That’s even worse!”
Okay, so kissing her stomach because I thought kissing her on the lips was wrong was messed up. Let me be the guinnea pig for you and say, okay, I was a little. . . a lot repressed. Don’t do that. Maybe a tender makeout session under the Tuscan stars wouldn’t have been out of God’s allowances. At least it wouldn’t have given her PTSD for melodramatic poetry forever.
And I’m not sure where the line would be for you, but I think it comes down to this. Who is our master? Are we people that are serving our pleasures, or serving God? If God asked us not to do something we really wanted to do, and which even made a lot of sense to do, would we do it?
But the other half of the crux of Christianity is Grace. If we fail . . . when we fail, if we come back to God He will still have us and love us tons and tons. But if we are consistently doing it our way and not His we have to ask ourselves, is this evidence that I serve a different master than the one I say I do.
God forgive us. And help us. This pull is so strong.
This post was partly inspired by this post by “Jamie the very worst missionary”