The very word conjures up all kinds of torrid images! For instance: there’s pizza, plumbing fixtures, clothing, brown-sugar-water (Coca-Cola), soap, hamburgers, shavers, tires, cars, valve stems, Old Spice, Valio Fanny pudding and asparagus…(asparagus?). It’s true friends; sex was used to sell each of these items. And that’s just a partial list… We live in a world that is saturated with sex—the wrong use of it especially. Sex is used extensively in marketing (as noted above), entertainment, literature, music, and culture in general. To quote Gallup & Robinson, “Sex sells.” And I believe it’s time that thinking people stopped buying.
But there is something else being sold to us, namely the lie that sex outside of marriage isn’t a big deal! Uh huh... From grandparents to teenagers, moral failure brings some of the sharpest regrets known to man (and woman). As believers, we need to do the utmost to protect young people from the consequences of moral failure and sexual abuse. So let’s dig in.
I’m all about archaeology. Don’t get me wrong; I detest the idea of digging up yet another piece of broken pottery in 114° degree weather in a sun-scorched sand pit infested with camel dung and scorpions. But I like old words and every now and then I dig one up and dust it off so I can say “Just look at that beauty!” Here’s my latest artifact--fornication.
It’s a good word with a lot of Biblical authority. And it is nearly buried under the rubble of our modern sensibilities. Let me be blunt, we updated our vocabulary long ago with the more politically correct term “pre-marital sex.” In doing so, I believe that we ceded Biblical truth to the pop-culture sexual revolutionaries. Strongly implied in the term “pre-marital sex” is that the only problem is timing. This gives the false impression that the main difference between marital sex and pre-marital sex is simply when one chooses to engage in it! And as soon as they “get married”—problem solved, right? Nuh-uh.
My wife and I have worked with hundreds of young people, and helped many of them resolve moral and abuse issues according to the Bible. It is so refreshing to go to a wedding and know that this young couple have confessed every moral violation to each other and invited Jesus to come in and purify their hearts. This allows them to emotionally give themselves to each other, and experience the oneness that God designed for their marriage. If they choose not to resolve hidden moral issues, they will experience a number of consequences in marriage and end with a sexually-tolerant form of lonesome gratification that longs for emotional intimacy. Just getting married doesn’t erase the accumulated consequences of moral failure. Rather, it will bring them to the surface!
I can’t believe that I got this far into the article without humbling myself. Um…I’ve done things that I’m not proud of. For most of my adolescent life, female anatomy was just a rumor that I hoped was true. During the three year equivalent of my “Anabaptist Rumspringa” I did various things that I wouldn’t do again. I resolved those things in Jesus long ago. If I hadn’t, I couldn’t mention it here—I would be trying to conceal them from the fortified bunker of a locked heart.
That brings us back to language. How often do we urge teenagers to maintain purity, to be consistent with their values, and to avoid bad consequences to their health, their future marriages, or their walk with God? These consequences are definitely real, but why would it seem so awkward to say what the Scripture says quite straightforwardly—that fornicators will not inherit the kingdom of God? (1 Cor. 6:9–10). You don’t have to be a wild-eyed “hell-fire” revival preacher to admit that sexual immorality brings upon itself the wrath of God (Rev. 21:8). Yet because of stale political-correctness, we often retreat to the safety of terms like “pre-marital” and “struggling” or “addiction.”
Fornication, quite simply, isn't merely "premarital sex." It isn't only a matter of impatience. It is not simply the marital act misfired at the wrong time. Fornication is both spiritually and typologically different from the marital act, and in fact a mockery of it!
You see, sexual union is not an arbitrary expression of the will of God (much less of random Darwinian processes). It is instead an icon of God's purposes for the universe in the gospel of Christ. Paul's classic text on the one-flesh union of marriage from Ephesians 5 makes no sense if it is presented as it is too often: as a set of tips for a healthier, "hotter" marriage. Instead, this passage is a revelation of the cosmic mystery of Christ.
Fornication pictures a different reality from that of the mystery of Christ. It presents instead a Jesus who uses the Church without joining her in sacred covenant to Himself. It is not just “naughtiness.” To use another word that modern-minded Christians find awkward and antiquated, it is blasphemy--a moral blasphemy with several unique consequences to it. Here are just a few of these consequences; and some of them may surprise you.
Role Reversal If a dating couple gets involved sexually with each other, something strange happens in the relationship. From that point on, the girl becomes more aggressive and the guy becomes more passive. Guilt, shame and fear fill the relationship, and the girl becomes angry from pain and feels unprotected. The guy gives up his leadership as a man. From that point on, he stops caring about the girl emotionally and is interested only in how he can be alone with the girl. She feels unloved and begins trying to "protect” herself by becoming more aggressive—more manly. This sets up a wrong pattern that can be resolved only by the wonderful power of God through repentance and cleansing.
Conflict Within two weeks after a dating couple commits fornication (I wanted to use that word again), they will start fighting. Every time. Unless they Biblically resolve and forsake fornication—guilt, shame and fear causes them to begin blaming one another subconsciously. This leads them to push each other away emotionally, which leads to a loss of communication, which leads to a lack of respect for each other, which leads to… you guessed it—conflict. They will be fighting within two weeks and won’t understand why.
Bad Education Dating couples who commit fornication are teaching each other how to commit adultery. Really? Yes. Fornication and adultery are the same sin—in that they both exist outside of marriage. Sex prior to marriage becomes a mixture of sex & guilt, and after marriage, the only source for that is--adultery.
In order to recover the beauty and the exultation of marital intimacy, we need to speak honestly and bluntly of the ugliness of its counterfeits. In the process we learn not to be ashamed of the Biblical language of "fornication," but instead to be ashamed of fornication itself.
Finally, let us not be afraid to talk about sex to young people, to explain why it is worth waiting for and the consequences of not waiting. I’ve already discussed a few of the consequences; let me throw a positive motivator out there. If you do wait, your sex life will be in the top 2%! Just thought you should know…
Two more. Let us unmask the lie that sex outside of marriage is no big deal. Let us not give people the impression that if they have fallen morally, it will follow them around like a huge black balloon forever tied to their unpardonable midsection. There is hope. Through repentance there is freedom, and through Jesus there is cleansing. God can restore unto you the years that the locusts have eaten (Joel 2:24).
Do you know people who struggle with guilt or lust? Do you know how to help them? Let’s get started.