"But we're engaged."
The Bible defines sexual immorality as any sexual acts outside of the covenant of marriage. But what about those that are engaged? What difference does it make if you're engaged and already committed?
First, I'm going to assume some things. I am going to assume that you agree that sex outside of marriage is sin. I'm going to assume that, so if you want to read something that argues that point you won't find it here. Second, I'm going to assume that you and your future spouse are Christians. If those assumptions don't fit you then you can continue reading, but this post may not speak directly to you.
"But we're engaged."
Before my wife and I were married we were committed to saving sex for marriage. We both were tempted during dating in some fashion in this, but the temptation reached new heights while we were engaged. While engaged the thought, "but we're engaged" came into our minds often. What difference did a ring and a ceremony make? Weren't we already committed to one another?
We didn't have sex before we got married. We weren't perfect and we wish we could have a few do overs in some compromises we made on boundaries we set, but we didn't have sex before our wedding night. We know this is difficult.
Engagement is the absolute hardest period for keeping this specific command of God. If I had to do it again our engagement period would be much shorter. But here's three thoughts that kept us from this particular sin.
1) "Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral." Hebrews 13:4
Do I want to honor my marriage?
Marriage is an institution and a covenant that is to be honored and the marriage bed is to be kept pure. Saving sex for marriage honors my own marriage and the institute of marriage. As Christians our marriage is to be a pointer to the relationship between Christ and the Church. This is a sacred metaphor that we get to enact. How can I honor my marriage if I'm dishonoring it before it begins? Also, "God will judge the... sexually immoral." Why would I want to face God's judgement? If sexual immorality is any sexual acts outside of marriage then pre-marital, even while engaged, sex is subject to judgement.
Also, sexual intercourse is a very important and symbolism filled act that marks the covenant of marriage. The two literally become one flesh as Genesis and Jesus both quote when talking about the seriousness of the marriage covenant. Often (possible TMI moment for some) there is blood involved when two virgins, or at least a female virgin, consummate a marriage and that blood is an ancient and Biblical sign of a permanent covenant being made. These symbols lose their power if done frivolously.
2) "Trust in the LORD with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways acknowledge Him,
and He will make your paths straight." Proverbs 3:5-6
Do I trust God?
Sometimes I just don't get what God's doing. The "but we're engaged" thought is a time when many of us don't know what God's up to with His commands about sex and marriage. This is not so much a time to try and figure out what God really means by what He says, though there's nothing wrong with searching for answers. This is a time to trust in God with all your heart rather than leaning on your own understanding. This is a time to say with your actions that you believe that God does things for His glory and your good. Sex is one more way in which we can acknowledge Him and let Him make our paths straight, let Him take care of us through His good commands.
3) "If you love me, you will obey what I command." John 14:15
Do I love Christ?
The greatest command in the Bible is "Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength." (Deuteronomy 6:5, Luke 10:27, Matthew 22:37, Mark 12:30) Jesus said that if you love Him you will obey what He commands and we are to love God with all that we are. How can we see a command of God and choose to ignore it and still say that we love Him with all that we are? This should be the greatest motivation to save sex for marriage while engaged. Yes, you burn with passion for the man or woman that you love, but how is your love for Christ? This period of engagement is a poignant one when Jesus seemingly often asks us, "Do you love me more than these?" (John 21:15)
Not making love with your fiancé is difficult, very difficult. You know that you will be with them forever, you've made some promises, you're almost there, but you're not there yet. I thought that having a definite finish line would make waiting easier. It didn't. Engagement is hard. Your passion for your fiancé burns strong, and it should. It's a period of my life that I don't want to relive, but I want you to know that it can be done.
"No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, He will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it." 1 Corinthians 10:13
Engagement is not an inescapable trap for those wanting to save sex for marriage. We're all tempted and God will not tempt us beyond what we can bear. But when we are tempted we must look for the way of escape. Sometimes the closer that marriage gets the more searching for the way of escape is necessary, but honoring your marriage, trusting God and loving Christ is worth it.
Engaged friends, stay strong. With God's help you can do it. I pray that God blesses your future marriage and that He does it in part by giving you the ability to wait for marriage today.