People magazine recently published a brief story about Christian singer Colton Dixon. The interview included honeymoon pictures of Colton and his wife, Annie, and explained why the two chose not to have sex until after their wedding.
“I believe sex was designed for marriage,” Colton said, explaining that the Bible teaches this idea and that it is “more meaningful to wait.”
The article is short, but the comment stream is long. A few commenters applauded the Dixons for living according to their values. But most were harshly critical of the idea that you should wait until you’re married to have sex.
I’d like to highlight a few of the comments because they are a good example of cultural antipathy toward Christianity’s distinctive sexual ethic. Most of the criticism fell into three main categories.
1. “Sex has no design.”
When Colton says that sex is designed for marriage, he’s implying that there is a Designer – a God to whom we’re accountable for our sexual actions. He’s also saying that marriage is the only covenant relationship where sexual expression is supposed to flourish.
Naturally, many disagree with both of those notions. So, some reduced marriage to a “human concept” that was “invented” for tax benefits and passing on your inheritance. Others claimed that marriage has “nothing to do with commitment” and is just “a contract for those who need things in writing.”
2. “Sex has nothing to do with morality.”
The next line of criticism focused on the idea that one’s sexual behavior has something to do with “good morals.”
“Right just means right for the individual,” someone wrote. Colton and Annie are no better or worse for waiting until marriage. It’s more important to treat other people nicely, to donate to charities, to be a good friend, etc.
Sex is “just a biological urge,” so there’s nothing wrong with “having sex just for the fun of it” as long as you’re being “responsible” and trying to get “experience.” If there is any meaning to sex, it is something “created by the couple involved and their relationship and commitment.” And if there is a God, he couldn’t care less what you do with your reproductive organs.
3. “They are freaks.”
The most disturbing line of criticism is that Colton and Annie are “idiots” who have bought into “purity crap” persuasive only to a “few freaks out there.” “SO BIZARRE!” one wrote.
Only religious “repression” could “brainwash” people into thinking sex was something more than just pleasure, and only “a moron” would save sex for marriage. The idea is “silly,” “freakish,” and “against nature.”
Who promises to spend their life with someone before knowing if they are sexually compatible? How else can you be sure you’ve sensed the “spark” that lets you know you’ve found your “soul mate?”
The Beautiful Craziness of Marriage
As Christians, we should get used to being labeled “freaks” and “morons” and “silly” for our views on sexuality. The idea that sex outside of marriage is sinful draws cultural scorn.
The temptation for the Church is to fire back, to condemn the world and run down a list of biblical “do’s” and “don’ts.” Instead, if we are to be effective missionaries in this culture, we should try to show why God’s design is not only right, but also beautiful.
We can start by trying to understand why our neighbors see reserving sex for marriage as “silly” and “bizarre.”
Today, more than half the population lives together before getting married. Many millennials have grown up in broken homes and don’t want to repeat the mistakes of their parents. It’s understandable that they would think it’s healthier to assess one’s sexual compatibility before tying the knot.
But the statistics tell a different story: cohabitation is more likely to lead to future divorce. Why is this the case?
Perhaps it’s because cohabitation robs a couple of the security of covenantal love. Premarital sex offers your partner one aspect of who you are (your body) while you are still holding on to all of the other aspects of your independence (social, economic, legal). It is a pale imitation of marital love, no matter how pleasurable it may be in the moment.
In so many cases, when one person says to another, “I love you,” but let’s not ruin it by getting married,” that person really means, “I don’t love you enough to close off all my options. I don’t love you enough to give myself to you that thoroughly.” To say, “I don’t need a piece of paper to love you” is basically to say, “My love for you has not reached the marriage level.”
The Bible upholds sex within marriage because sex is an expression of the covenantal union of husband and wife. Apart from that covenantal promise, sex is diminished, more about one’s “performance” than about selfless devotion. When a relationship becomes a “test drive” or a “try out,” both parties ask themselves either “Am I good enough?” or “Am I settling when I should be looking for someone better?”
Even non-Christians are having second thoughts about our current cultural practices. Consider the questions raised by Aziz Ansari, who critiques American millennials for their “exhausting” search for a soul mate. “While we may think we know what we want, we’re often wrong,” he writes.
Our relationships are fraught with the fear of constant comparison. We wonder if our partners will stay with us as we age, or if they are on Facebook wishing for “what might have been,” or swiping Tinder to see what new options are available. Ansari contrasts this frustrating sift through endless romantic options to his parents’ (arranged!) marriage, a relationship where compatibility and love have grown stronger over time.
Colton and Annie Dixon went against the flow. They were rebels in a world where sex before marriage is normal and expected.
They chose to give themselves to each other fully only after they had made the vow that encompasses and protects the beautiful vulnerability of their marital love. That’s one way they show their marriage is much more than a contract. It’s a covenant designed to inflame and sustain their sexual union – “till death do they part.”