Premarital Sex: Not True Love.
Teri looked at her husband, Kenton, her face distraught. Just minutes before, their daughter had dropped the bombshell that she and her college boyfriend were having sex. When her parents had voiced their disapproval, Renee had burst into tears and run from the room.
“What are we going to do?” Teri asked Kenton.
Kenton looked at his wife in surprise. “Don’t you mean what is Renee going to do? Keep sleeping with this guy or honor God’s word on premarital sex, like we taught her!”
“But if we push her too hard, we might end up losing her!” Teri replied. “She says she loves him.”
Kenton put his hands on his hips, clearly angry. “Teri, we have to take a united stand on this. It’s wrong—and you know it.”
Teri wrung her hands. “But if they do love each other, who are we to say they shouldn’t at some point be together?”
Kenton’s eyes widened. “Are you saying that you think it’s okay for them to sleep together, Teri, just because they think they’re in love?”
“Well…if they eventually get married…” Teri blew out a haggard breath. “Yes, I guess so.”
Kenton shook his head in disbelief. For years they had counseled Renee to keep herself pure for marriage. Now Teri was waffling.
“Teri, our daughter is only a freshman. This guy might end up just being the first in a long line of college boyfriends. Are you going to be okay with her sleeping with each of them? What if she gets pregnant!”
Teri cringed at his words, but she couldn’t bear this conflict. “I can’t lose her, Kenton!” Without waiting for his response, she ran upstairs to console their daughter.
Which Parent is Showing True Love?
Let’s take a closer look at the meaning of “true love.”
True love is other-focused. It looks out for the best interests of others. So a parent who truly loves his child is prepared to say, “No!” to keep her from harm. That harm could be anything—from eating too many sweets, to not doing homework, to opening herself to being used by others.
When dating, a guy who respects his girlfriend’s desire to wait for marriage demonstrates true love by helping her to stay pure. A guy focused on self-love, in comparison, is like the single guy who told me that he “only dates girls who put out.” He’s obviously focused on getting his needs met, which makes his “love” untrue, or conditional.
Teri and Kenton are not unlike a lot of parents whose children no longer share their values regarding premarital sex. For Renee, sleeping with her boyfriend is okay because they think they’re in love. For Kenton, premarital sex is wrong because the Bible teaches it is wrong. Period.
While Teri knows Kenton is right, her primary concern is that her daughter might pull away and strain their relationship.Teri has bought into the idea of “culture tolerance.”
Though she is a believer, Teri has been influenced by society to also believe that to be a good parent, she needs to validate her daughter’s lifestyle choices. So Teri is willing to compromise, to keep their relationship intact. Perhaps Teri is banking on God’s unceasing grace. She knows that God will never stop loving Renee, despite her sin.
For his part, Kenton is angry. As the spiritual leader of his household, he likely feels the personal failure of his daughter making worldly choices. Despite his consistent guidance over the years, Renee is now rebelling against God—and him.
On the surface, Teri’s response appears to be the more loving approach. Because she’s all in for her child. On the other hand, thanks to cultural tolerance, Kenton’s position appears to be harsh and unloving. Part of his anger might be due to his fear that Renee will ask for further compromise. Perhaps next she’ll drop the bombshell that she and her boyfriend have decided to live together.
Cultural Tolerance Fails Our Kids
Today’s youth have been heavily influenced by the media—from TV commercials, to sitcoms, to movies, to computer games, to live comedy—to view premarital sex as no big deal. So when Christian parents tell their kids that God wants them to wait for marriage, they’re confused. “Dad,” they might say. “That was the norm back in the Dark Ages. Sex is okay now. Everybody’s doing it.”
But the Bible tells us that God doesn’t change his mind about sin. Nor is he surprised that “everybody’s doing it.” From the dawn of time, man has rebelled. Good going, Adam and Eve! #not
Just because society promotes a behavior as “okay,” that doesn’t make it so. There has always been a sliver of the population more than willing to engage in carnal activities. Unfortunately, because of cultural tolerance, that sliver has widened significantly. Things that were once taboo, are now touted as “okay,” and “normal,” and “your right.”
Remember when being drunk in public was utterly humiliating? Now kids intentionally party to get drunk. The conduct of many college students during Spring Break should shame them. Yet they often boast, “Man, I was soooooo wasted!”
What kind of achievement is that? A monkey could do the same—and get the same terrible hangover. These kids boast about sexual conquests, too. What a tragedy that our youth don’t realize how sacred sex is, when it’s treated like the treasure God intended.
While society glorifies the pleasures of drinking and sex, it totally ignores the emotional and physical fall-out from doing both: disease, unplanned pregnancy, depression, and a host of other debilitating issues. It’s like a drug pusher selling the highs of his products—while conveniently failing to mention that when the user hits rock bottom, it’s really gonna hurt.
Hallmarks of Real Love
Real love isn’t an unlimited endorsement of sinful behaviors. With so many of the behaviors championed by our society being destructive to emotional and physical health, it is unloving to endorse, approve of, or encourage people to engage in them.
As A. W. Tozer observed, “When we become so tolerant that we lead people into mental fog and spiritual darkness, we are not acting like Christians—we are acting like cowards.”
Was Teri being cowardly by compromising her Christian values? Perhaps. What is certain is that she taught her daughter that compromise of her beliefs is acceptable. #againnot
Now, let’s park here a moment to remind ourselves of something important: None of us get to condemn others engaged in sin. We get to point it out, yes, to help lead them back to righteousness. But we do not get to beat people over the head with their bad conduct. Jesus didn’t condemn the people that the Bible tells us he met and healed. But neither did he ignore their sin. He acknowledged it, and lovingly told them to repent.
Take the Samaritan woman, for example. Though Jesus didn’t approve of her adultery, he was kind, gentle, and loving to her. He saw the beauty, the potential, and the innate worth and dignity God infused into her as his child. Jesus loved her as she was, but gave her a vision of who she could be, if she committed to living by God’s standards.
Like Teri, you likely feel the parental tug to accommodate your son or daughter’s lifestyle choices. Or you might feel hurt or angry, and want to lash out. It’s a difficult balance, for sure, to be loving while also not appearing to endorse the sin. We might fail at it. The best we can do is pray for God’s wisdom and guidance. Be gentle in your disappointment.
Let’s us also follow God’s directive in Proverbs 22:6: “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.” God is always working to draw us to him. Sometimes it takes a while for us to cooperate and get on board. Don’t give up hope. God never does.
Discuss “real love” with your family this week. Ask your family members for examples of when they thought you demonstrated real love, even though it meant you said no to what they wanted. Talk candidly about the downsides of premarital sex. Remind your family members that God totally gets our struggle with temptation and selfishness. Remind them of God’s abundant grace. Commit to candidly loving each other, while also staying committed to following God’s teachings on moral truth.
This blog post has been adapted from the book The Beauty of Intolerance, by Josh and Sean McDowell. To purchase a copy of this and other helpful resources, please visit our Store page.