“Flee sexual immorality! Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the person who is sexually immoral sins against his own body.” (CSB – Read the chapter)
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. The Bible is just an antiquated set of restrictive rules that were put in place centuries ago and without any understanding of what the modern world is like. They were hardened by a bunch of prude men who were looking to tell people what they could and couldn’t do with their own bodies. They look to limit our freedom and take all the real fun and joy out of life. The Scriptures often get a bad rap today and the lyrics often run right along those lines. As a result, when people hear that “the Bible” says they shouldn’t do X, Y, or Z, they often roll their eyes and do it anyway because life is better when it’s fun. Besides, modern science has conclusively shown that the Bible can’t be trusted. But what happens when modern research starts to discover that the Bible wasn’t – and isn’t – perhaps so wrong as we’d like to believe? Let’s ponder that question for just a bit together today.
I remember visiting a professor’s office in college. I’m pretty sure he was a Christian from the kinds of things that were up around it. I had several professors who were believers, as a matter of fact, but it is remarkable how few of them felt comfortable acknowledging that publicly. In any event, there was a paper on his wall that told about a group of scientists who said to God, “We have finally figured out how to make life on our own. We don’t need you anymore.” God responded, “Well now, that’s really interesting. Can you show me? I think I’d like to see that.” The scientists said, “Absolutely, we just need to take some dirt, and…” Here, though, God interrupted them and said, “No, you need to make your own dirt first.”
There’s another story I heard one time about a group of scientists and philosophers who were climbing a mountain at the top of which there was rumored to be the secret to the meaning of life. They climbed and climbed for what seemed like days. Just as their strength was starting to reach its end, they finally crested the last hill. When they did, they were greeted by a bunch of theologians who were lazily relaxing at the top and wondering what had taken them all so long to get there.
These stories will typically make the average believer chuckle and the average non-believer roll his eyes in disgust. But the point is clear in both cases. When the world convinces itself it knows what to do without any input from any kind of a higher power wanting to force its (His, his, hers, Hers, etc.) morality on the rest of us, time and time again it finds that the rules religious people came up with a long time ago were typically right all along in terms of leading to the best life outcomes for the most people. To get even more specific than that, the moral boundaries laid out in the Scriptures tend to be right even when we don’t want them to be.
I was reminded of this lately when listening to one of my many daily podcasts. This one, called Breakpoint and put out by the Colson Center for Christian Worldview, was talking about modern research pointing to the worthwhileness of the Biblical ideal of not having sex with anyone until you are married to them or living together before you are married.
Of all of the various “rules” in the Scriptures the modern world hates, the various commands relating to sexual morality are perhaps the most hated of all. One of the most fundamental rights held as sacred by the western world today is that people should be able to have sex with whomever they please as much as they please and however they please. While most folks are still of the mind that there should be some sort of age before which sexual activity isn’t appropriate, exactly when that is keeps getting pushed back earlier and earlier. It is not at all uncommon in high schools in more progressively-minded districts to have sexual education courses focused entirely on teaching kids how to have sex safely and get the most pleasure out of it without a single word cautioning them on the risks of pursuing such a path. I can’t think of a single show on television or a movie that has been out in the last thirty years that offers up any kind of a meaningful moral disapproval of any sort of sexual activity outside the boundaries of a marriage relationship. In fact, the real cultural oddballs today are those few people who aren’t sexually active early and often whether they are married or not.
Furthermore, when it comes to the idea of marriage, no one really expects the couple to remain celibate until they have their knot officially tied. In fact, in the vast majority of cases, the standard expectation is that the couple will move in together and start living like they are married before and sometimes long before they actually get married just to make sure they are really compatible with one another. After all, you don’t want to have any surprises on the other side of the “I do’s” because it’s a lot more complicated (not to mention expensive) to fix things at that point.
And yet, while divorce rates were never terribly low in our culture, and while there were numerous stories of women who were stuck in abusive relationships because divorce was difficult, does it really seem like we’re doing all that well nowadays when it comes to relationships as compared with a few generations ago before we headed off at full speed down this particular path?
The truth that a growing group of sociologists are finally proving with scientific data is that the so-called antiquated position of the Scriptures may have actually been on to something all along. This isn’t just curmudgeonly Christians griping about all the sexual immorality of our sinful world. This is professional research scientists doing the legwork to discover that things like not having sexual partners before marriage, not being involved sexually with your marriage partner before marriage, and even not living together before marriage just to kick the tires, so to speak, are all associated with dramatically lower rates of divorce, and dramatically higher levels of satisfaction with marital sex and being married on the whole.
One study found that women who don’t have sex until they are married have only a 5% chance of divorce in the first five years of their marriage. For women who have two or more partners before marriage, their likelihood of divorce increases by as much as 600%. Another survey of 3700 couples found that those couples who were the most “sexually inexperienced ” (defined as having only one partner in their lives) reported the highest levels of satisfaction with their relationship, stability in their relationship, and satisfaction with the sex in their relationship. A third study found that cohabitation by itself – that is, couples who live together before marriage but don’t sleep together until they are married – leads to a higher risk of divorce among couples who stick with it and get married.
To put a bow on all of this, if you want to get married, stay married, and have a happy marriage, the very best thing you can do to set yourself up for success is to not have sex with anybody or live with anybody except perhaps some roommates of the same gender until you are married. Any deviation from that path (which, just to drive home the point, is something for which the Scriptures have been advocating for thousands of years) will make your path to that end more difficult than it otherwise needs to be.
You may not like to hear that because you are primed to reject anything the Scriptures advocate as out of date and wrong, and that’s okay. You don’t have to listen to the Scriptures. You can just listen to the science…which is increasingly saying the same thing the Scriptures have always been saying. It’s up to you. Or, you can reject both and head off down whatever path you choose. But know well that if you do, you are voluntarily choosing less happiness and less stability and less satisfaction in the most intimate and personal areas of your life. Know well, though, that you aren’t going to receive any judgment from me in walking that path. I don’t have to. Life itself will take care of that.
But wait! What if you’ve already walked the path of the world and are now in a relationship that research says is much less likely to succeed than not? Are you simply doomed to become a statistic? Not at all. That’s one of the other great things about living according to what the various guys who contributed to the Scriptures were inspired by the Holy Spirit to tell us how to live. If you’ve walked a path of sin and are starting to experience its awful consequences, there’s grace for that. That doesn’t mean all of the consequences are going to magically go away. But if you will stop walking the path of sin and start walking the path of righteousness, you’ll start experiencing the benefits of that pretty quickly. Relationships that are headed for a rocky and painful end can be turned completely around and pointed in a much better direction. It won’t necessarily be easy depending on how much sin has been involved, but it is possible.
The Scriptures may offer conviction where we leave the path of Christ, but they also offer grace, redemption, and reconciliation when we are ready to come back to it. When the father of the prodigal saw him come walking back up the path, he went running not to condemn him, but to embrace him and welcome him home. God will do the same thing with you no matter what kind of a path you’ve been walking. All you have to do is turn around and start walking in His direction. He’ll take care of the rest. In the meantime, whatever path you’ve been walking through life thus far, make sure you are calling the next generation to walk this path. Don’t force them to live through the same pain and heartache you’ve had to experience. Point them to the Scriptures – through the lens of science if that’s what it takes – so they can know the life that is truly life.