Evangelical Sex: Why True Love Waits

The truth is out: 44-80 percent of unmarried evangelicals ages 18-29 have had sex. A 2012 study conducted by the National Association of Evangelicals stated the numbers held at 44 percent, but a CNN Belief Blog post cited a 2009 National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy study that came up with 80 percent. These results blew me away, because it means that up to 8 of every 10 of my unmarried girlfriends has “done it.” I’m not saying rounded third base, “almost,” or “everything but,” but this means, all the way – maybe just like Huffington Post religion blogger Emily Timbol did:

“I lost my virginity when I was 19. Despite growing up in a loving Christian home, turning into a young woman who led Bible studies and attended Christian conferences, I messed up and had sex in college. My (worship-leading) then-fiance had convinced me that “in God’s eyes, we were already married.” Afterwards, when he left to take a shower, I cried for a solid hour, watching from my window as the sun came up. When he unceremoniously broke up me with two months later, I felt both the pain of rejection and the terror that I had ruined my chances of ever marrying a Christian man.”

Her 2012 Huffington Post Religion blog post on “Overvaluing Virginity” broke my heart. Of course, Emily did NOT ruin her chances of ever marrying a Christian man by giving her physical virginity away to a man who she trusted and believed she would marry someday, but it’s true that their pre-marital union resulted in physical and emotional consequences that she encourages other evangelical Millennials to avoid:

“1 Corinthains 6:8 is clear when it commands us to flee sexual immorality, and that is hardly the only verse written on the topic . . . Young Christians who want to follow God’s design should wait until they are married.”

Emily is now “married to an amazing man who has never once made her feel bad about her past,” and her husband’s “gracious love led her to see something important; that the most damaging thing from my past was not the sexual sins I’ve long been forgiven of, but the lies I believed told to me by other Christians.” Some of the lies she listed in her HuffPo blog post included:

  • “Your virginity is your most important gift brought to marriage.”
  • “It’s better to get married quickly than risk falling into the temptation of premarital sex.”
  • “If you’re not both virgins when you’re married, your marriage will suffer for years.”

77 percent of evangelical Millennials stick to traditional Biblical ethics and think that sex outside of marriage is morally unacceptable for an unmarried person. So why are they still doing it, especially when only 19 percent of them “feel strongly” that their behavior is morally acceptable? In today’s “do-what-feels-good” culture, it may look a lot like what happened to evangelical Millennial Leigh Kramer:

“The morning after my 24th birthday, I woke up with a parched throat and fuzzy memories. I pieced together what happened between leaving the bar and hanging out at my best friend’s house into the wee hours. I remembered the cute guy. Oh, did I remember him.

Flying high on free drinks and surrounded by a posse of those who love me, the friend of a friend caught my eye. Hours later, we ditched the movie playing in the basement. Innocent enough.

We kissed and then. And then. And then we almost.

And I had wanted it to happen. My body called the shots with a guy I barely knew. I hadn’t had sex because I said no but because he did. After years of hearing about the one thing guys want and how women were the boundary enforcers, it turned out my self-control wasn’t iron-clad. It turned out some guys were actually gentlemen.

The magnitude of what I’d almost done settled low in me, between a pounding headache and churning stomach. This wasn’t the first close call but it was definitely the closest.

And then I wondered how on earth I was going to stay abstinent for who knows how long.”

As Jen Pollock Michel writes in a recent Christianity Today blog post, “God’s purity standard is effectively impossible to meet.” This is a true statement, but the Bible tells us that “we all fall short of the glory of God,” and self-control and discipline are two things we’re called to uphold if we’re serious about pursuing Christ in our daily lives (great RELEVANT Magazine article on self-control and self-discipline here).

As Tim Keller writes, “You can lose your physical virginity just once. If you did it, you did it. You can’t get that first time back again. And the past carries with it physical and emotional consequences. If memories have been etched on your brain, you can’t pretend they’re gone.” But, in Christ, it is quite possible to start all over again, as Emily insists (above) – there are definitely “gracious gentlemen” out there worth waiting for. As Michel wrapped up her her.meneutics blog post:

“Virginity isn’t everything… but it’s still something.”

What do you think – is virginity worth it? Should true love wait?

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