Read an Excerpt
Why True Love WaitsA definitive work on how to help your youth resist sexual pressure
By Josh McDowell
Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.Copyright © 2002 Josh McDowell
All right reserved.
IF YOU MET DEREK, you would probably like him. He is well-liked and respected by his fellow students and the members of the church college group. And he's a good-looking guy with a great personality. He used to date a lot of girls, but now he has a steady girlfriend. Michelle shares his commitment as a Christian, and in Derek's eyes she is a vision of beauty. They are always together studying, talking about the Bible, or just hanging out. Derek is pretty sure he will marry Michelle someday.
Derek is something of an oddity among twenty-year-old men on his campus. He is still a virgin. He knows that God's Word forbids premarital sex, and he has lived by that standard in the midst of the culture's plummeting moral standards. And it was relatively easy for him to live a pure life-until he met Michelle. Many of their evenings end with long embraces and deep, passionate kisses. But Derek always breaks it off before they go too far. He knows God wants him to reserve sex with Michelle for marriage, but his desire to know her intimately seems to deepen daily.
I was intrigued when Derek told me about an experience he had while sharing his faith with his college friend Colin. During the conversation, Colin asked Derek, "Do I have to stop having sex with my girlfriend in order to become a Christian?" Colin told him how much he loved his girlfriend. She was taking birth-control pills, and they both felt that engaging in sex added a deeper level of meaning to their already good relationship.
This question precipitated a long discussion between Derek and Colin about commitment and the lordship of Christ. "And," Derek said, "Colin's question opened up a fresh dilemma for me: Why am I waiting for sex until marriage?"
For the first time, Derek felt unsure in his understanding of God's prohibitions on premarital sex. "I told Colin what the Bible says, that sex must be saved until marriage," Derek explained to me. "Yet deep in my heart, I began to ask the same question that Colin asked me. Michelle and I are already more committed to each other than many married couples. Why wait?"
In his dorm room after what proved to be a frustrating witnessing experience, Derek began to question God even more. "I had to find an answer," he said. "I argued with God that prohibitions against premarital sex seem a bit archaic in light of advanced birth-control methods and changing views about sex in our culture. Perhaps the apostle Paul's admonitions against fornication need revising."
Finally, Derek realized that God is neither archaic nor blind to twenty-first century practices. "I concluded that I just had to be patient and wait for his answer ... even though I could not understand the reasons." So Derek gamely waited for God's answer, though his mind was filled with turmoil. And his hunger to experience sex with Michelle continued to grow.
Annie is another person you would be proud to claim as a relative or a friend. Even though she's only a junior in high school, Annie's heart is set on serving Christ as a nurse on the foreign mission field. It is what God has called her to do, and she is eager to follow.
Attractive but shy, Annie hasn't dated much in high school. And when she did date, the boy had to be a Christian with a passion to serve God that matched her own. Since there weren't many boys like that in her small community adjacent to an army base, Annie was content to wait for the man God would choose for her. Premarital sex was totally out of the question for Annie. She knew what the Bible said and was deeply committed to remaining a virgin until marriage.
Then Annie met Jeff, a ruggedly handsome Green Beret from the base who kept coming into the card shop where she worked part-time. Jeff was five years older than Annie, and he wasn't a Christian. So whenever he asked her out, Annie declined politely as she had done with many other soldiers who happened into the shop. Instead, she quietly prayed for Jeff's salvation and shared a word of witness when she could.
Undaunted, Jeff kept coming into the store. To Annie's surprise, after a few months Jeff announced that he had trusted Christ. He started attending Annie's church and became an active part in the college-career group. Jeff's life seemed transformed. He couldn't get enough of church and Bible study.
When he asked Annie to go out again, she suddenly didn't have a reason to refuse. Jeff was quickly becoming the kind of guy she had been asking God to find for her. The rush of attention from the new, on-fire believer melted Annie's heart, and she fell in love-and she fell hard.
After a few weeks of the intense, thrilling romance, Annie went to see the youth minister's wife. "Before I met Jeff," Annie confessed, "premarital sex wasn't even a temptation for me. Whenever I dated, the guys weren't ... well, they weren't anything like Jeff.
"But being with Jeff has awakened all kinds of desires in me. He doesn't understand why the Bible says we should wait for sex until marriage. When he asks me, I tell him God says it's wrong. But when I'm with Jeff, everything and everyone else-including Jeff-says it's right for two people so deeply in love. And in three weeks, Jeff's unit is shipping out for a tour of duty overseas. He'll be gone six months. He says that having sex together before he goes away will help him make it through our long separation. Funny thing. I'm starting to feel the same way.
"I have never questioned God's directives on sex until now. Why did God say wait until marriage, especially when you're so deeply in love? If I can't find a reason beyond `Thou shalt not,' I don't think I can say no much longer."
"WE'RE IN LOVE, SO WHAT ARE WE WAITING FOR?"
Derek and Annie are representative of thousands of Christian young people who struggle with the question, "Why does true love wait until marriage for sex?" Sexual pressures on our kids are at an all-time high. Their friends, peers, and many of their adult role models are succumbing to the pressures of a sex-crazed society that mocks biblical abstinence as puritanical and irrelevant. As one young woman told her father, "When I see how casually sex is treated by my classmates, when they make it all sound so natural and inevitable, there are times when I wonder what I'm waiting for."
Surrounded by a permissive society that accepts and even glorifies casual sex, students today are wrestling with sexual decisions that previous generations never had to face. For many of our kids, those decisions are made with little thought about the consequences. According to one fourteen-year-old high school student, "All they think is that they really want this guy to like them, and so they're going to `do it.'"
Derek and Annie are struggling with the "Why wait?" question in the face of their passions and temptations. But many other Christian students are not struggling much at all-because they are not waiting. Here's what some of them said:
Sure, I'm a Christian, and I know the Bible says no sex until after marriage. But the Bible also talks about not eating shellfish and women not wearing pants in church and a lot of other cultural rules we don't follow today. My girlfriend and I prayed about it, and we feel that sex before marriage is no different in God's eyes than fried shrimp for dinner. It was important in the past, maybe, but doesn't apply to today. We really love each other, and sex is bringing us even closer.
Is sex before marriage wrong for a Christian? It really depends. Sleeping around, one-night stands, just seeing how many people you can have sex with-that's wrong. Playing Russian roulette with sexually transmitted diseases and putting others at risk-that's wrong. Being careless and getting pregnant or having an abortion-that's wrong. But when two people are really in love with each other and committed only to each other, then sex is natural and beautiful. Travis and I were both virgins when we had sex last summer. And we haven't been-and won't be-with anyone else. What's wrong with that?
What is marriage anyway? It's just a legal piece of paper and a formal way of saying "I do." The lifetime commitment, which is much more important, comes long before that. Four months ago, when we were alone at my parents' cabin by the shore one afternoon, Jana and I said our own vows to each other before God. It was our own secret wedding, and we celebrated by having sex. We'll get married the traditional way in a few years, but we love each other and our commitment has never been deeper than it has been these last four months. We're following the spirit of God's law about sex, not the letter of the law. I think the Bible says that's what we're supposed to do.
These are Christian kids who know very well what the Bible says about premarital sex. As parents, pastors, youth leaders, and teachers, we have not failed to lay down the law to them: no sex until marriage. But what most Christian youth are lacking is the why behind the Bible's restrictions on sex. Even those deeply committed to the Lord struggle to find answers about sex that make sense to them. As seen in the previous examples, Christian young people are stumped by two main issues: the antiquity of the Bible and the element of true love.
The Antiquity of the Bible
Christian youth accept the Bible's authority on many issues but struggle when it comes to morality and lifestyle choices. They are aware that the Bible places clear limitations on sexual activity, but they consider these limitations merely old-fashioned, overly strict rules for a different time and a different culture. They may believe the rules and moral precepts God laid out in the Old Testament had a purpose for that particular time and place, but they have a hard time accepting that God would intend these same precepts to apply to them in the twenty-first century.
To answer their objections, we must help our youth understand the reason surrounding God's rules. Behind every negative commandment in the Bible, there are two loving motivations. One is to protect us, and the other is to provide for us. The "thou shalt nots" of the Bible come not from a tyrannical ruler who wants to spoil our fun but from a loving Father who has our best interest at heart.
For example, when God says, "Thou shalt not commit adultery," he is not being a cosmic killjoy. He is being a cosmic lovejoy. He is saying, "I don't want you to do something that will bring you and others pain. I love you, and I have better things planned for you."
Likewise, God does not prohibit illicit sex to spoil our fun. He knows the devastating consequences of extramarital sex-consequences such as guilt, pain, unwanted pregnancy, and even death and disease-and he wants us to avoid those heartbreaking consequences. In talking to our young people about sex, we've got to help them see that the precepts of the Bible were given out of purest love. Beyond that, we must make it clear that these same precepts are still relevant today for all the same reasons. God says no to premarital sex because he loves us enough to protect us from harm and provide for our good. (You'll find more on the protect and provide principle of God's love in chapter 10.)
GOD'S DESCRIPTION OF TRUE LOVE
Most Christian youth have a moral standard. They agree that promiscuous sex with anyone, anytime is wrong. But sex between two people in a committed relationship who really love each other somehow seems different. We saw that Derek believes he and his girlfriend are deeply in love and are more committed to each other than many married couples. And all of the examples above expressed "true love" as their justification for engaging in or considering premarital sex. Does true love make sex right? When young couples are truly in love and plan on getting married someday, what's to stop them from having sex now?
I shock many parents and church leaders when I say that I agree, in a way, with today's young people-I believe that true love does make it right. Now, before you put the complaint letter in the mailbox, hear me out. True love is the biblical standard for sex. The problem is, most youth are working from a counterfeit standard of love-one that says love permits sex without boundaries, outside of God's definition of love.
What is God's definition? In 1 Corinthians, the apostle Paul gives a good description of what love does and does not do. "Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. Love does not demand its own way. Love is not irritable, and it keeps no record of when it has been wronged. It is never glad about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out" (1 Cor. 13:4-6, NLT).
Paul also wrote that "love does no wrong to anyone" (Rom. 13:10, NLT). Instead, we are to treat all people as we would like to be treated. Remember the Golden Rule? "Do for others," Jesus commanded, "what you would like them to do for you" (Matt. 7:12, NLT). Again, Paul put it this way: "Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others" (Phil. 2:4).
With these verses and others as a guide, we can derive a concise statement defining love. Love is making the security, happiness, and welfare of an-other person as important as your own. It is really an imitation of God's love, the kind of love that protects the loved one from harm and provides for his or her good. True love is giving and trusting, secure and safe, loyal and forever. And because its priority is to protect and provide for the loved one, true love will not do things that are harmful to the security, happiness, and welfare of another person.
Throughout this book, we will provide comprehensive evidence of how waiting to have sex until after marriage provides for the spiritual, relational, emotional, and physical health of a person, and how such waiting can protect a person from a host of negative consequences. You will be able to demonstrate and document to your young people that anyone who uses love as a justification for premarital sex is not speaking out of love at all. You will be able to teach your young people how living in harmony with God's loving prohibitions is for their ultimate good.
PREMARITAL SEX AND YOUTH: THE DISTURBING FACTS
Without solid reasons for saying no to premarital sex, today's kids are vulnerable in times of temptation, doubt, and questioning from their friends and peers. Many are responding by getting involved sexually, as evidenced in the following survey results from the Journal of Youth and Adolescence.
Excerpted from Why True Love Waits by Josh McDowell Copyright © 2002 by Josh McDowell
Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.