The Church Needs A Different View Of Sex & Singleness
Editor’s Note: In May 2010, Leigh Kramer intentionally uprooted her life in the Chicago suburbs by moving to Nashville in an effort to live more dependently on God. She writes about life in the South, what God has been teaching her, and her ongoing quest for the perfect fried pickle. She is currently writing her first novel. You can follow her adventures on Twitter and her blog LeighKramer.com. – Lauren
It’s been one of those weeks. I’m overloaded with emotions about several situations and I’m in need of release. And let’s be honest: exercise or a good cry is not going to cut it.
I rarely talk about sex in such stark terms. In fact, any discussion of sex, for me, is purely hypothetical.
You see, I am a rare breed. Some might even say an endangered species. I’m a 31-year-old virgin.
Rest easy. I’m not dating anyone right now, nor am I going to bed with the next guy I encounter. I’m committed to seeing my virginity through to marriage or death. Whichever comes first.
I can’t say I’m happy to be a virgin. I mean, I’m happy that I’ve been obedient, but trust me that there was a period in my life when it was more God’s protection than my will alone.
I’m not ashamed of my virgin status, but I don’t broadcast either. Most people assume that I have had sex because that is true of most women in their 30′s. Abstinence, chastity, whatever you want to call it, is no longer the norm.
I honestly never thought I’d still be single at this point in my life. I can’t help but wonder if I would have made the same choices had I known what lay ahead.
Does that shock you? It shocks me a little. We live in an age where premarital sex is accepted and often expected. It’s difficult to be countercultural when it comes to sex. There are even churches that don’t take a hard line on the matter.
Grace and forgiveness are extended to those who had premarital sex – and rightly so. Secondary virginity is an option. On the other hand, I’ve had friends that purposely had sex knowing they’d ask for forgiveness later.
Then there’s me. I love finding other ‘older’ virgins. Solidarity and all that. But also because I want to know why they waited and continue to wait. What do they do on the hard days?
Because hard days, or weeks, happen. Sex is best reserved for marriage but it’s hard being the odd woman out. I fervently hope I’ll be able to experience sex in the context of marriage someday. Now is the time to do the work of being faithful so that when I am in a relationship, regardless of my boyfriend’s sexual history, I will not falter.
I’m not alone in this. The church must start having a different conversation about sex and singleness. Here are a few suggestions of what I’d like to see.
1. Explore the framework of chastity.
Telling people to save sex for marriage is not enough when marriage isn’t a guarantee. Chastity is a way of life, looking at our physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health. It’s not solely focused on the physical act of sex. We need to get away from “how far is too far” and move toward respecting ourselves (and our partners) as men and women made in the image of Christ.
2. Recognize that singles are sexual beings too.
What does this look like within the context of church? How can you be someone who is sexual without acting out sexually? For me, it’s appreciating who I am as a woman. I don’t need a man to affirm my femaleness, though it’s nice when it happens! I’m mostly comfortable with my body, but more importantly, I’m comfortable with who God created me to be.
3. Don’t teach that sex is a reward.
First, it’s not the best way to motivate someone toward obedience. This might also explain why many Christians marry young, only to divorce later. Marriage is about more than sex. Second, what message does that send to those who are obedient but don’t receive the ‘reward’? Have I somehow been a bad virgin? I don’t worship a God who would punish people in this way.
4. Don’t elevate marriage over singleness (or vice-versa).
The amount of people who are single, divorced, or widowed is roughly equal to those who are married in most congregations. Yet sermons tend to be directed toward those who are married and parenting. This leaves a good portion of the congregation feeling left out – and these are the unattached who continue to go to church. Many simply choose not to go anymore. We all have much to learn from each other, no matter what our stage of life.
5. Recognize that those practicing abstinence don’t have super-human self-control.
I’m not a better Christian because I’m still a virgin. I do have moments of weakness and that’s when I need accountability and support more than ever. We need people to speak into our lives – and not just about our attitude toward sex. Married folks, please support the single people in your life. Let them be a part of your family gatherings but also schedule one-on-one time as well. Single folks, identify the people in the trenches with you and continue to build those relationships. Having support in place now means you’re more likely to be ready when temptation hits.
What else would you add to this list?
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