A question for acts420: if your fiancee were to have high standards of chastity and desired to preserve herself as completely as possible for after the wedding, would you respect her desires, or would you reject her for someone who was willing to "explore" sexually before the marriage?
A good question Rosehip, thank you, and may God richly bless you.
At this point, my own conscience would condemn me if I formed my marriage in any way other than the way it is formed in the Song about marriage God has handed to us in Scripture, Song of Solomon. So if by "preserve herself completely" until after the wedding you mean "not have any type of intimacy beyond what we would share with a brother or sister" (ie nothing more than holding hands, quick side hugs, and that sort of thing), then I would have to reject her as a marriage partner. That probably sounds cold or cruel, so please allow me to explain why before you judge me.
Ephesians 5:32 says marriages are created to mysteriously illustrate to us, and to the world, the relationship between Christ and the Church. People are to come together as do Christ and the Church in order to show us Christ and the Church. Christ and the church were predestined to be together (Romans 8:29, Ephesians 1:11), to be "perfectly matched", to be one as Christ is one with the Father (John 17:21). I believe people are to marry who likewise are "matched" personally, emotionally, and sexually, as the couple in the Song of Solomon is. That is not a "perverted" or "sex-fixated" thing to say. That is just what marriage is supposed to be, according to both common sense and Scripture.
This is because they are supposed to represent to their children, their church, and to the entire world the "match made in heaven", the predestined, "chosen-before-the-world-began" match between Christ and the church. That is part of the "mystery of marriage and the church." I believe there is a reason the wedding in the Song occurs after patient, careful, slowly progressive sexual and personal
exploration (ch. 1-2) and after a commitment to one another made at the right time and the right person to unite with. See 2:6 (laying together) followed by 2:7 (imploring us all to wait for the proper time and the proper person). Then the ceremony is at the end of ch. 3. I think the reason for this is because married couples are to be matched up well both emotionally, personally *and*sexually. Patient, careful exploration in all of those areas leads to good matches.
Some people hear me say this and immediately say, "I have experienced the pain that 'fooling around' brings," and "the Spirit was convicting me not to do it and I did it anyway, and it hurt me badly." I tell them that I know the pain and heartache that comes from getting too intimate too early in courtship, and with the wrong person. But we must never toss the baby out with the bathwater! "Fooling around", at the right time, with a pure conscience, seems to be holy and celebrated by God in Scripture. In fact, it is one of the things that God's Song seems to say forms, develops, and leads to true marriage! I believe those who say such things to me should realize their mistake was not following the Spirit's conviction. I believe 2:7 in the Song means that God will help us to know when it is (and when it is not) the right time to progress further toward marriage in our courtships.
I myself have experienced conviction to not be intimate with girls I dated, and I have been greatly helped when I have followed them. I have also been convicted to be more intimate with others, to move toward the next level of courting (personally, emotionally, or intimately) at the right time, and I think that was helpful also. That is just me speaking, I have no authority to speak for anyone else. And also, as I have said, right now I believe in reserving intercourse for after the commitment of marriage.
But God help me if I lie to my children about how God forms marriage just because I have been hurt! That would be like telling them, "Driving X mph is always a sin," because I was once in a car accident. The truth is, regardless of speed limit, our conscience will sometimes demand us to drive slower (kids by the road) or faster (driving someone to hospital). We need to tell our children that even though we feel better just giving them an absolute rule. They are better off if we tell them the truth, give them wisdom, and trust them to God.
In the Song, the *conscience* plays a huge part in the timing of the advancement of their sexual intimacy. After more intimacy, they implore us to "wait for the right time" (as in SoS 2:7). There is no formula for that. It is conscience. As much as you want to give your children a "formula" of "rules" to protect them, you have to trust this process of marriage formation is by God's design for a good reason.
I know the reasons you want me to teach your rules about pre-wedding sex are good; I know your intent is good. ,But, right now, I have to trust God here. I have to trust that He has an extremely good reason for not putting the rule in Scripture that you want me to teach.
I know a couple that were both hurt terribly, in large part by the lies about courtship that I think have infected modern Christianity across all denominations and across many local churches. They did marriage by the "conservative Christian Church's" word instead of by God's Word and then suffered through years of a very confusing, very mis-matched "marriage" as a result. They believed their pastor's word instead of trusting God's pattern in the Song. So, unlike the many hypocrites who teach that premarital sex is a sin and then fill their dating life with the lust for it, they actually *did* treat it like it was a sin. They did nothing with one another besides hold hands.
Because of that, after their wedding, they merely had a "chance" to become lovers. Until after their wedding, they had not even begun one important process that God's story of marriage says is supposed to lead to marriage. It is common sense that not everyone enjoys spending tons of time together, nor does everyone enjoy sexually intimate things with one another. That's why God's story of marriage has the couple begin exploring all of those things early on, slowly and deliberately, to discover if they wanted to marry.
Of course there are typical male/female differences, but besides that, if you take any two people, a man and a woman, they may enjoy 90% of the same things sexually. On the other hand, they may enjoy only 5% of the same things sexually. Again, that is not a "perverted" or "sex-fixated" thing to say. I'm talking about things like intimate kissing, or methods of touching and massage, etc. Everyone has their preferences just like everyone was born with preferences in styles of communication and everything else. We are to marry people we match with, that we enjoy being around. That is just what marriage is supposed to be, according to both common sense and Scripture.
Sexual exploration in dating, at the right time, is no different than personality exploration in my view. God's story to us of marriage formation is driven by both personal and sexual exploration at the right time, constrained by patience and the conscience. The Song's way would never result in a marriage where 95% of what turns one partner on turns the other partner off, and visa versa, either personally, emotionally, or sexually.
In the case of that couple, the flip of the dice didn't turn out well at all. While they were good friends, they each hated what turned the other on, and they never enjoyed sex with one another. This went on for years. They wondered why 'God' had done this to them, but the truth is, they had done it to themselves by believing their local church's word instead of God's Word. Counselors, therapists, the whole 9-yards... all of it did nothing to fix their situation. That is because their situation was just the natural result of when you arrange marriages. While they grew to love one another as friends, their erotic love never developed in the way God's story about marriage describes.
The cold hard truth is that they never would have "married" one another if they had known that would be the case. If they would have simply tried to kiss a few times, erotically, they would have realized the mis-match immediately and seriously re-considered the continuation of their courtship. They both
admit this. And if they had followed God's pattern of marriage, they would have known very early in their relationship that they were not a good match in that respect.
I think that is why God's story about marriage in Scripture is in the exact opposite order of the traditional order. God has *never* promised to take two random people and give them joy from being united personally, emotionally, or sexually, and I think traditional-bound Christians who teach that careful, pre-wedding sexual exploration is a sin are actually damaging marriages and the picture of Christ and the church that marriage is supposed to be.
God's story about marriage is written in its order for a reason. God's children are supposed to marry someone they thoroughly enjoy being with one another on every level: personal, emotional, and sexual. Dating couples sometimes break-up for a variety of reasons, whether personal incompatibility, emotional incompatibility, or sexual incompatibility. I believe the man-made rule that God does not allow "fooling around", the enjoyment of sexual lusts patiently and with self-control, in courtship forces couples who may not enjoy sexual types of intimacy together to get "married" anyway.
I believe that wreaks havoc on a very important aspect of one of the things that God loves most: marriage, that symbol to us of Christ on the church. My conscience, as it stands, will not allow me to form a courtship with someone who would not allow herself to explore intimacy with me. I want my children to see a couple that is matched up in every way, as the couple in the Song is. I think that will give me the best chance to have a successful marriage and to raise children who, God willing, understand Christ's love for the church.
love, joy, peace,