W.D. "Dub" Rogers, PhD.
Growing up as a teenager in the late 1950's and early 1960's the primary reasons to abstain from sex were the fear of pregnancy and the belief that it was a sin to have sex outside of marriage. This thinking was generally embraced by the culture however the reality of the behavior matching the thinking could be challenged.
In the 1960's and 1970's there was a major swing in the thinking of the culture concerning sex. "Free love" was in with the Hippie movement. Looking back, it was not free and it was definitely not love. In a campus newspaper, a Christian group ran a cartoon strip where two college coeds were talking. The first coed stated, "I believe sex before marriage is perfectly fine as long as it is a lasting, loving relationship." The second coed replied, "So do I. Why, I've had three lasting, loving relationships this month." "Recreational" or "casual" sex appears to be the norm in the media and the idea of waiting until marriage is seldom portrayed as an option.
A number of years ago, Dr. Henry Brandt, a psychologist, was speaking to some teachers in a large Christian organization. He made the statement that "flesh against flesh is pleasurable." Josh McDowell in his presentation to high school and college students often states that when it is between hormones and the Holy Spirit, hormones often win. Our world and our bodies resist postponement of gratification and desire and often scream to be satisfied.
There are many Christian authors that address this are well. Any Christian bookstore will have a number of books. Perhaps it is best to first look in the scriptures. I Thessalonians 4:3-6 gives us insight. "It is God's will that you should be holy; that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control his own body in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust like the heathen, who do not know God; and that in this matter no one should wrong his brother or take advantage of him." (NIV)
This passage teaches that sex is not something to be regarded lightly. It is a wonderful gift of God. It is holy. As such, it is set apart for a divine purpose and is greatly valued. It is an expression of love and intimacy. It should be invested wisely as opposed to lustfully used. God certainly isn't against passion but he doesn't want it to be used to defraud another. That is this should be a gift given to another rather than using another to serve one's own desires. Like any of God's gifts, sex can be used in the way it intended, to build and strengthen intimacy or it can be used in a self serving way.
I like the guidelines given by Cloud and Townsend concerning sex in their book Boundaries in Dating:
" You need a boundary against sex outside of marriage. God gives you this boundary to protect you, and it will, in a number of ways. " Sex has a very high purpose, great value, dignity and esteem. Do not treat it or your sexuality lightly, failing to give it the place it deserves. " Sex is the highest way of expressing romantic love for a person; therefore it must be reserved for the highest romantic relationship you will have - the one with your spouse. " Keeping your sexual boundaries will let you know of the other person's self control, delay of gratification, ability to love sacrificially, and willingness to submit to God. " Do not act out of lust. It prevents love, integration and healing and it guarantees relational problems. " No matter what your partner says, saying no to sex will be the only way for you to find out what he or she is like when he or she has to respect a limit. " God's forgiveness is available to anyone, no matter what you have done. It will allow you to have a clean slate and start over with good sexual boundaries. (p. 256)
So often couples use sex as a way to feel intimate. But true intimacy occurs in many areas, social, emotional, intellectual, etc. When there is pain in one of those areas, rather than address the pain and work through to understanding and intimacy, they will "sex down" their pain only to discover the problem and barriers to intimacy have not gone away. Sometimes this discovery comes after marriage when it is more difficult to address the core issues of intimacy.
God is so kind. He desires the best for us and in spite of what our culture says or our own desires scream, His guidelines are for our benefit. We may not be innocent but we can be clean as we follow his instruction drawing from his love and grace.