"Ours is a culture crying out for intimacy, but only able to conceive of accessing it through sex." - Mike Starker, God, Sex and Generation X
Someone with an immoral past can be headed in the right direction, yet they get derailed by spiritual leaders who hammer on what's currently wrong, rather than encouraging the forward movement.
In a post-Christian world, rather than presuming the authority of Scripture on everyone, we must work harder to understand and explain to people why God's ways are truth that lead to life. We must spell out for them why doing things our way instead of God's way destroys life.
Comments on the story of the woman at the well in John chapter 4 - link
Jesus knows how thirsty for love this woman must be, but to tell her to "stop trying to quench her thirst for love with men," before giving her something to satisfy her soul, simply won't work.
Jesus steers back to the real issue - which by the way is not the sexual/ relational mismanagement of her life, but putting God first, heart and soul, in spirit and truth (authentic worship). "God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth," Jesus tells her.
Do not focus on the static situation, but on the dynamic movement. Listen attentively to a person's story, then ask, "Which way forward from here?" Help people move toward Christ regardless of their past.
If you engage the culture as a leader, you can expect over half the single population to think living together is a good idea, and must will have had sex by age 19.
As leaders, we must be prepared to take people from their broken sexual past and help them move heart and soul toward God's plan for sexual wholeness. And we must educate and inspire others, especially teens, to wait. This can actually be a life-affirming discussion, even for sexually active people, when clearly explained. But we must assume that God's way will not make sense to them until explained.
The following comments come for an actual premarital counseling process with a couple living together during their engagement (until the last few months, when they committed themselves to mental monogamy)
Here's what I find with most couples I counsel living together. With so much divorce, you want to insure that your relationship will last before getting married. This is a good thing. And word on the street says the best way to insure that a marriage relationship will stay together is to try it out first.
The real problem is that the current thinking actually hinders us from getting what we really want - in fact it trains us for just the opposite.
Recent research demonstrates that the word on the street is wrong... the only good reason to live together is if you want to increase the already 50% odds of divorce by almost another 50%.
What difference does a piece of paper and a ceremony make?
None. It's not the paper or wedding, it's the commitment that makes the difference.
God's intent from the beginning was for two people to come together in a lifelong commitment toward oneness, becoming one spiritually, emotionally, and physically. It's the picture of loving, trusting, unconditional unity that mirrors the unity and love of Gold. That's why it's sacred. When you give yourself physically without giving yourself heart and soul in committed love, sex becomes something we use for our purposes rather than for God's intended purposes, and it ends up hurting others and us.
Sex doesn't establish commitment or intimacy - it requires them.
Duct tape does a great job of sticking two things together. But when it's used to try to stick to people together who are not committed for life, and the relationship ends - what happens? We rip the duct tape off. Ouch - it hurts. Then we date again, use sexual duct tape again, break up - rip it off. Ouch - it hurts... But when we keep taping and ripping, taping and ripping, what happens? After a while, it doesn't hurt so much, does it? You become callused.
I counsel a lot of people living together, and most say, 'We're already committed.' But when you live together, the only commitment (if you're honest) is to stay until you find something you can't stand. But that doesn't build trust. So allow God to retrain your minds to think about marriage and sex as a unique, sacred bond. Work on what will stick you together for life, your spiritual and emotional intimacy. If you get that right, the sex and living together will work, and it will last!
God thinks sex is good. A whole book of the Bible, the Song of Solomon, is devoted to the beauty of romantic, sexual love in marriage. But like every good thing God has created, we can miss use it. And when we do, it hurts others or us. God's not opposed to sex; he's opposed to premarital sex... But just like any desire, God expects us to tame it and rule over it and not let it rule over us.
The "free love" movement of the sixties turned into herpes in the seventies and AIDS in the eighties. It's hard to conceive of all the pain God sees.
Look, the truth is we all screw up. We all go our own way more than God's way and hurt others and ourselves. That's why Jesus died on the cross in our place. So we can know that God doesn't stand ready to condemn, but to forgive and to do life with us - to grow us up into the people he intended. That's why he wants us to listen and follow him with our sexuality. When we honor God, it protects others and us from pains we never think statistically will happen to us. And we may avoid being a statistic, but we all contribute to society's greater pain when we ignore God's ill. That's the lesson of the Old Testament - sin affects the whole community, even if we don't realize it.
God wants to train us to have patience, control, and a committed view of sexual love, so we can build emotional intimacy - which is 80 percent of great sex. When guys use sex to prove their manhood for just for a 'feel good' fix, they're training themselves to view sex only as a means of self-gratification. That's the opposite of what our mindset needs to be for growing marital contentment and satisfaction.
Sometimes women use sex to keep a guy around or to have some control and power in the relationship. But this too is manipulative - it's about using sex to get her needs met rather than a giving of herself in trusting, lifelong commitment. When we train our minds to use sex for self-centered needs, it backfires on us in marriage, which is probably why the majority of all married couples today are not satisfied with their sexual relationship.
Nobody thinks any bad consequences will come their way, which is why so many keep doing what feels right in the moment. But learning mental monogamy right now is the best prevention against these future pains.