“I feel pressure to experiment with sex. I think we all have the natural inclination to,” says Kelly. “Everywhere you turn,” she continues, “it’s all about sex!”
CAN you relate to the way Jordon and Kelly feel? After all, traditional customs and values that once discouraged premarital sex are all but gone. A survey in one Asian country revealed that the majority of 15- to 24-year-old males felt that premarital intercourse was not only accepted but expected of them. Little wonder that throughout the world most young people have had sex before they reach 19 years of age.
Then there are youths who refrain from intercourse but who engage in so-called sexual alternatives, such as fondling one another’s sexual organs (sometimes called mutual masturbation). A disturbing report in The New York Times reveals that “oral sex has become a commonplace initiation into sexual activity, widely perceived by many young people as less intimate, and less risky, than intercourse . . . [and] as a means of avoiding pregnancy and of preserving their virginity.”
Just how should a Christian view premarital sex? And what about so-called alternatives to intercourse? Are they acceptable to God? Are they safe? And do they really preserve one’s virginity?
If a youth engaged in any form of fornication, could he or she be considered a virgin in God’s eyes?
What Fornication Includes
An authoritative answer to these questions can come only from our Creator—Jehovah God. And in his Word he tells us to “flee from fornication.” (1 Corinthians 6:18) Just what does that mean? The Greek word translated “fornication” is not restricted to sexual intercourse but includes a variety of lewd acts. So if two unmarried people engage in oral sex or in fondling each others’ reproductive organs, they are guilty of fornication.
But could they still be considered virgins—that is, in God’s eyes? In the Bible the word “virgin” is used as a symbol of moral purity. (2 Corinthians 11:2-6) But it is also used in a physical sense. The Bible tells of a young woman named Rebekah. It says that she was “a virgin, and no man had had sexual intercourse with her.” (Genesis 24:16) Interestingly, in the original Hebrew, the word for “intercourse” evidently included other acts besides normal man/woman intercourse. (Genesis 19:5) So, according to the Bible, if a youth engaged in any form of fornication, he or she could hardly be considered a virgin.
The Bible exhorts Christians to flee not only from fornication itself but also from all forms of unclean conduct that could lead to it. (Colossians 3:5) Others may ridicule you for taking such a stand. “‘You don’t know what you’re missing!’ is what I heard all through high school,” says a Christian youth named Kelly. However, premarital sex is nothing more than the “temporary enjoyment of sin.” (Hebrews 11:25) It can cause lasting physical, emotional, and spiritual harm.
The Bible tells us that King Solomon once observed a young man being seduced into premarital sex. Solomon compared the young man to “a bull that comes even to the slaughter.” A bull that is to be butchered seems to have no idea what is about to happen to it. Young ones who engage in premarital sex often behave similarly—they seem to show little or no awareness that there are serious consequences to their actions! Solomon said of that young man: “He has not known that it involves his very soul.” (Proverbs 7:22, 23) Yes, your “soul”—your life—is at stake.
For example, each year millions of youths contract a sexually transmitted disease (STD). “When I found out I had herpes, I wanted to run away,” says Lydia. She laments, “It is a painful disease that will never go away.” Over half of all new HIV infections worldwide (6,000 a day) occur among those who are between 15 and 24 years of age.
Those engaging in premarital sex risk contracting a sexually transmitted disease
Females are particularly vulnerable to a host of problems related to premarital sex. In fact, the threat of STDs (as well as HIV) is higher for females than for males. If a young girl becomes pregnant, she places herself and her unborn child at further risk. Why? Because a young girl’s body may not have developed to the point of being able to handle childbirth safely.
Even if a teen mother escapes severe health consequences, she must still face the serious responsibilities that parenthood brings. Many girls find that fending for themselves and for a newborn infant is far more difficult than they had imagined.
Then there are the spiritual and emotional aftereffects. King David’s sexual sin endangered his friendship with God and nearly led to his spiritual ruin. (Psalm 51) And while David recovered spiritually, he suffered the consequences of his sin for the rest of his life.
Young ones today can suffer similarly. For example, when she was only 17 years old, Cherie became physically intimate with a boy. She thought he loved her. Years later, she still regrets her actions. She laments: “I took Bible truths for granted and suffered the consequences. I lost Jehovah’s favor, and that was devastating.” A youth named Trish similarly admits: “Premarital sex was the biggest mistake of my life. I would do anything just to be a virgin again.” Yes, emotional wounds can linger for years, causing stress and heartache.
Premarital sex can wound the conscience of a God-fearing youth
Young Shanda raises an important question, “Why would God give young people sexual desires, knowing that they should not use them until after marriage?” It is true that sexual desires can be particularly strong during “the bloom of youth.” (1 Corinthians 7:36) In fact, teenagers may experience sudden sexual arousal for no seeming reason. But this is not something wicked. It is a normal part of the development of the reproductive system.
It is also true that Jehovah designed sexual relations to be pleasurable. This was in harmony with his original purpose for humans to populate the earth. (Genesis 1:28) Nevertheless, God never intended for us to misuse our procreative powers. “Each one of you should know how to get possession of his own vessel in sanctification and honor,” says the Bible. (1 Thessalonians 4:4) To act upon every sexual desire would be, in a sense, as foolish as hitting someone each time you felt anger.
Sexual relations are a gift from God, a gift that is to be enjoyed at the appropriate time—when one is married. How does God feel when we try to enjoy sex outside of marriage? Well, imagine that you have purchased a gift for a friend. Before you can give it to that friend, he or she steals it! Wouldn’t you be upset? Imagine, then, how God feels when a person engages in premarital sex, abusing the gift that God has provided.
What should you do about your sexual feelings? Put simply, learn to control them. Remind yourself that “Jehovah himself will not hold back anything good from those walking in faultlessness.” (Psalm 84:11) “When I find myself thinking that premarital sex would not be so bad,” says a youth named Gordon, “I reflect on the bad spiritual consequences and realize that no sin is worth the loss of my relationship with Jehovah.” Exercising self-control may not be easy. But as young Adrian reminds us, “it leaves you with a clean conscience and a good relationship with Jehovah, free to focus on the more important things, with no guilt or remorse for past actions.”—Psalm 16:11.
There are many good reasons for you to “abstain from fornication” in all its various forms. (1 Thessalonians 4:3) Admittedly, this is not always easy. A future article will address practical ways in which you can “preserve yourself chaste.”—1 Timothy 5:22.