“We just need to get married.”
I’ve heard those words spoken by several Christian couples, and let’s be real: I said it myself in my dating days. If I could just get married, this struggle would be over.
Because we’re called to save sex for marriage, Christians spend a portion of their lives delaying sexual gratification. As I’ve detailed in earlier posts, this doesn’t mean we ignore our desires (sexuality should be celebrated and used for God’s glory). Yet too often, we find ourselves looking to marriage as the solution to sexual sin.
In 1 Corinthians 7:7-9, the Apostle Paul discusses marriage and singleness. His oft-quoted passage states:
“For I wish that all men were even as I myself. But each one has his own gift from God, one in this manner and another in that. But I say to the unmarried and to the widows: It is good for them if they remain even as I am; but if they cannot exercise self-control, let them marry. For it is better to marry than to burn with passion.”
In context, Paul speaks on the benefits of both singleness and marriage, acknowledging that “each one has his own gift from God” and that not all will be called to lifelong singleness. He then encourages those with strong sexual urges to marry, as marriage is God’s designed outlet for human sexuality. When marriage is lived according to God’s design (mutual love, respect, and selflessness), it is a refuge from sexual immorality and abuse.
Christ – Not Sex – Conquers Sin
Paul confirms that marriage is the only outlet for sexual intimacy. But Paul is NOT saying that marriage will “fix” a lifestyle of sexual sin. To the contrary, Paul is a hard-hitter on the topic of sexual immorality:
“Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.” (Col. 3:5)
“For this is the will of God, your sanctification; that is, that you abstain from sexual immorality…” (1 Thess. 4:3)
“But immorality or any impurity or greed must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints.” (Eph. 5:3)
Even in these three verses, sexual sin is revealed as earthly, flesh-driven, impure, and at odds with the very nature of God. In fact, the person actively engaged in sexual sin cannot be simultaneously walking in God’s will. Sexual sin is a spiritual issue. Impure hearts result in impure bodies, and no amount of marital “holy sex” makes up for a lifestyle of sin.
Unfortunately, many churches encourage struggling couples to “just get married”, rather than deal with the spiritual root of their consistent failure. Because the idolatry of sex, affirmation, and desire was not rooted out prior to marriage, it will manifest itself again within marriage. Previous porn problems continue or even get worse. Wives turn to erotica when sex and affection are lacking. Bitterness, resentment, and guilt from past sins overshadow this marriage because the couple sought a sexual solution to a spiritual problem.
So, no. You don’t need to “get married”.
You need to conquer sin.
Purity Is Impossible
If you feel like purity is impossible, you’re right. None of us can attain purity on our own strength and will. So if you feel overwhelmed, you’re in good company.
This utter inability to manage desire leaves you at a crossroads. Satan will offer you idols to worship: Sex, marriage, relationships, pornography, or the emotional “porn” of erotica and romance. You can use these things to temporarily satisfy your desires, but they’ll come back more overwhelming than before. And once you do marry, you’ll find that marriage isn’t as satisfying as you thought. Your husband won’t always want to have sex. He’ll fail you. You won’t always feel romanced, loved, or fulfilled. And once again, the Enemy will offer you idols to “solve” a spiritual problem.
Sin is soul-deep, and marriage won’t fix it. Marriage, as beautiful as it is, is no savior. The only solution to sin is the One who conquered it. There is a war going on within you – a war for your soul if you don’t know Christ, and a war for your effectiveness if you do. Every time you turn to an idol instead of to Christ, you weaken your spiritual self.
“For in my inner being I delight in God’s Law. But I see another law at work in my body, warring against the law of my mind and holding me captive to the law of sin that dwells within me.What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?” (Romans 7:22-24)
Paul answered his own question – the question so many of us ask – in the very next verse:
“Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:25)
As my regular readers have heard me say so many times: You are as safe from sin as you are close to Christ.
This is not a quiet-time-in-the-morning “close”. It’s a daily, hourly, absolute dependence on the sustaining power of Christ. It’s crying out when desire is overwhelming, and using your sexuality to declare the supremacy of Jesus. It’s leaving the apartment, getting out of the car, cancelling the date, shutting off your computer, selling your smart phone – whatever it takes to walk in the freedom Christ bought for you.
Being close to Christ is to take up your cross and follow Him. No path you and your boyfriend carve out for yourselves will remove the shame of what is done in dark. But when you acknowledge your inability to solve your spiritual problem, Jesus Christ will be your spiritual solution. His path is the one of purity and peace.
When you make Christ your spiritual Savior, He automatically becomes your sexual Savior, too. With Him, marriage isn’t damage control for a guilty conscience. It is just another step in the journey of becoming more like Him.