I started this blog (about ministry with college students) — in its original form — three years ago.
Since that post went live, it has far and away received the most traffic on my site — accounting for more than 13,000 views.
Daily — DAILY — I’ll get numerous visits to my blog from people who have used some variation of the following terms in search engine searches:
- sex before marriage
- sex before marriage sin
- is sex before marriage a sin
- is sex before marriage really a sin
- why is sex before marriage a sin
And I think I know why…
People — young and old — really want to know what God thinks about this.
And in most cases they’ve heard what the Church has to say — and yet they head online in search of more answers. Or different answers.
Why? I believe there are five distinct reasons.
#1 They don’t really know what the Bible says about sex outside of marriage — and they want answers
This percentage of the population has heard — probably from quite a young age — that sex outside of marriage is sin.
And that’s it.
They’ve never been told why it’s a sin, or what the Bible actually says, or even that sex is a good thing — in the right context.
They’ve only been told that sex is bad. Or trouble. And that they shouldn’t do it.
Yet now they find themselves in a place where this position on sexual activity — and the lack of supporting argument or evidence they’ve been given — has them in tension.
It could be that they’re wanting to have sex, or they have friends having sex, or they’re dealing with raging hormones that seem to be urging them towards sex — and they just don’t know what to do.
And the Church — for the most part — has failed to have this conversation beyond “don’t” or “wait.”
So they go searching.
#2 They want to support (or reaffirm) their choice to wait
This percentage of the population tends to fall in line with the Churches stance that sex outside of marriage is not a good idea. It’s wrong. It’s sin.
And yet what they see and hear in our North American culture leads them to believe that they are in a small minority of people who believe this — especially among college students.
So they search for those key biblical passages, or statements from strong, convincing Christian leaders, that will further help to support and encourage them in their decision to wait on sex until they are married.
#3 They want to see if there’s a loophole for their situation
This percentage of the population wants to honor what they believe God wants.
But they’re also feeling the strong urge to engage in sexual activity.
This group often knows what the Bible says — or where the Church stands on this — and have even done some study on their own. And this study has left them wondering if maybe — just maybe — there isn’t a “loophole.”
Maybe, they wonder, sex is permissible for the “long-term” or “committed” relationships.
Maybe the Bible is just talking about not having sex outside of marriage — if you’re married. Which means that sex before marriage is permissible. Or sex after divorce, or death, is OK too. Just don’t cheat on your spouse.
They want to do what’s right, I believe, but they also want to parse out the details of the law to see if there isn’t something there that would allow them to have their cake — and eat it too.
#4 They want to justify (or rectify) their past (or present) actions
I think this percentage of the population tends to take one of two forms.
They either want to justify their past (or present) actions — meaning that they have some level of faith, but don’t believe that it should get in the way of their lifestyle choices. In this case they want to prove that the Church is wrong in saying that sex outside of marriage is wrong, and therefore justify their choice to engage in it.
Or, maybe they’ve engaged in sexual activity in their past (or recent present) and they are now feeling some level of guilt or remorse about their actions and want to make things right — with God and/or others. In this case they go in search of Truth and a path of repentance and restoration.
#5 They want to justify their future actions
Similar to the first group in #4, this group is about justifying their actions.
They have not yet engaged in sexual activity — but they want to — and want to prove (to themselves and/or others) that it is OK.
They don’t want God to get in the way of their good time — and if they can prove that the Bible really doesn’t say what the Church says that it does — then they can engage without feelings of guilt or remorse.
In each of the cases mentioned above, I believe that those who are searching for answers are — at some level — concerned with what God really thinks about this issue.
They likely feel at odds with God, the Church, their parents, their peers, or themselves — in some way, shape, or form.
There is a present tension with one or more (or all) of these entities — and they want to alleviate it.
It’s a big deal — and most of these people seem to recognize that — so they’re searching for answers. And we — as people who walk with college students — need to be willing to have these important conversations with them.
We also need to recognize that when they come to us — if they come to us — that they likely come for one of the above reasons — all of which deserve our listening and discerning ear, as well as a distinct and measured response.
What do you think?
What do you see on your campus?
Where do you see the tension within your students?
Do your students see you as a “safe person” to have this conversation with?
How do you respond to students who come to you with this tension?
What wisdom or insight do you have to share?