Question:

Hi, I hope you don't mind answering. I've tried to find answers in the Bible, but I'm a little confused about what my options are and what is best.

Firstly I'll write a background to the situation:

I've been dating my girlfriend for just over a year. I love her very much, and we both want to marry.
A few months ago, we had premarital sex and we did it a lot for about two to three weeks. We've learned that we both have very high sex drives. Slowly, we managed to control the lust and stop having sex. But it left us with an even greater desire to do it, which has been a cause of distress to us both.

We would like to get married as soon as possible, we don't want risk having such a strong constant temptation, and we both want to leave our parents and start our own life together.

However that's where the problems come in. She can't legally marry without parental consent yet. Neither of us have Christian parents. Mine call themselves Catholic, but don't believe the Bible to be important, and think just being nice should be good enough for God. Her mother is involved in a religion that claims to believe in Jesus but talks to spirits, and her father is similar to my parents. So any scriptural appeal would fall on deaf ears.

So from this we concluded that we should wait. It's not a long time, especially in the scale of life. But recently I've been wondering about Deuteronomy 22:28-29, and the corresponding Exodus quote. Does that apply, am I required to marry her? Is it still in effect? And if so, when? Would God permit waiting for the law of the land over His law? In other words, in this circumstance would a legal marriage be required? And having read other answers of yours, be assured that we would then get legally married as soon as we're legally free to do so. We want that piece of paper too, which brings me to the next possibility.

There's also the option of travelling to another country to marry. The age requirement there is as low as 16, and the marriage is recognized internationally. It's expensive to travel, get the documentation, pay the fees, etc., and wouldn't leave us with much, but personally I don't feel that finance makes a marriage. My problem with this way is that it feels sneaky. I'm not sure I'd be comfortable doing it unless it would be the best option spiritually.

Essentially, we want to do what would be best for God. We wouldn't want our marriage or delayed marriage to be any disrespect to Him. Obviously we'd prefer it sooner than later. We'd prefer to remove such a strong temptation of sin and lead a healthy biblical marriage with each other, but, well, it needs to be right.

Any guidance would be greatly appreciated.


Answer:

There is so much you and I should talk about. I'm going to touch on several points, and I hope they start a conversation.

What bothers me is that you talk as if you are a Christian, but your behavior with your girlfriend was completely against Christ's teaching. It is hard to get everything across in an e-mail, but what I find missing is any trace of remorse over what was done. Instead, you come across as happy that what has happened gives you an excuse to get married. You appear to understand in theory that it is wrong to have sex before marriage, but it doesn't seem to bother you. You talk about concern in doing what God wants, but I can't help noticing that it is only in areas where it appears you can get what you want.

Let's start with some basics. Deuteronomy and Exodus are two books in the Old Testament. "Old" is because the laws in there are no longer in effect. "In that He says, "A new covenant," He has made the first obsolete" (Hebrews 8:13). We use them for understanding and guidelines, but they are not laws which we follow. "For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope" (Romans 15:4).

"If a man finds a young woman who is a virgin, who is not betrothed, and he seizes her and lies with her, and they are found out, then the man who lay with her shall give to the young woman's father fifty shekels of silver, and she shall be his wife because he has humbled her; he shall not be permitted to divorce her all his days" (Deuteronomy 22:28-29).

"If a man entices a virgin who is not betrothed, and lies with her, he shall surely pay the bride-price for her to be his wife. If her father utterly refuses to give her to him, he shall pay money according to the bride-price of virgins" (Exodus 22:16-17).

Even if you could claim to follow these laws, you are only focusing on the part you want to see. Under this law, because you committed fornication, you would owe your girlfriend and her family 50 shekels of silver. To put that in modern terms, that would be about what you could save in about seven years of work while still paying for your room and board. Her father would decide if you were really good enough for his daughter and even if he said "no," you would still owe the money. If you didn't have the money, and her father really didn't like you, he could insist on immediate payment, which would force you into indentured servanthood for seven years. If he liked you and you didn't have the money, you might end up working for your father-in-law until you paid off your debt. Still like these laws? I thought not.

If you both want to do what is best in God's sight, then first you're going to have to keep your clothes on until you get married. "Marriage is honorable among all, and the bed undefiled; but fornicators and adulterers God will judge" (Hebrews 13:4). You two committed fornication. You need to change your behavior and get right with God. "Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God" (1 Corinthians 6:9-11). It is past time that both of you learn self-control, an essential part of being a Christian (II Peter 1:6).

You didn't mention your age, but I'm guessing your girlfriend is between 16 and 18. I assume you are over 18. There is a reason the marriage age is set at 18 in most places. While you and she are old enough to have sex, have you thought about the child you two tried to produce? Are either of you in the position to raise a child as he should be raised? You are playing with fire that may impact your life and another.

If a baby comes, what about your education or hers? If you are going to play with sex, then you are pretending to be adults while acting like children (children center their world around their own desires). Both your parents should say that you chose to be irresponsible, so you must become responsible for all consequences of your actions. You'll be finding your own place, buying your own meals, and paying for your own education, if you have time while working full-time.

Sorry to point these things out, but while you claim to love this girl, you are planning a life of poverty and hardship for her simply because you can't wait for your next orgasm. Does that really sound like love?

I'm sorry, my friend, it is time to be an adult. Fix your relationship with God. Figure out how you can support a wife and the children that are bound to come. By the time you get yourself in a position to establish your own family, you girlfriend will be old enough to marry you. Meanwhile, stop using her for your sexual pleasure and treat her with respect.

Thanks for the quick response.

You seemed to have misunderstood my intentions. In the previous e-mail I said:

"Slowly, we managed to control the lust and stop having sex. But it left us with an even greater desire to do it, which has been a cause of distress to us both. We would like to get married as soon as possible, we don't want risk having such a strong constant temptation."

We haven't done it for months, we've already stopped. I mean, of course I'm sexually attracted to her, and her to me, and that's something beyond our control to change. It would seem fairly strange if we weren't attracted sexually. It's a constant temptation, and it worries us. Regret is the whole motivation to do it sooner rather than later; we don't want to sin again.

As for the silver and permission, of course, my concern was more about is it still a requirement to marry. I guess not.

And no, my concern isn't my next orgasm. Like I said, we've stopped doing it, and both already desired to get married before we had sex. Sharing my life with her, taking care of her, providing for her, would be an honor.

I'm in my early twenties and she's 17. At the moment I'm not financially prepared for marriage. Obviously, if I were to marry her, that would need to change among other things.

It's not a long time to wait. And it's not that big a deal to wait. I can wait for as long as I need to. Our concern was more about the constant temptation to sin until then. It was easy when we were both virgins, but it became incredibly more difficult once we'd done it. At times the simplest thing would turn one of us on, and we have to tell the other to stop so we can "cool down" and avoid sexual thoughts.

Would it be better for us to continue fighting against this temptation for now, rather than marry sooner?

I'm sorry if I came on strong. Remember that I only can go on what you tell me. You told me you stopped, but you didn't say how long you had stopped. You also mentioned that in stopping, it was more of slowing down to a stop. Since you had strong concerns about giving in to temptation and you did mention why you decided to stop, I wanted to point out a number of reasons why what happened was wrong and why you should not repeat the fornication.

I wouldn't expect that stopping would end your attraction for your girlfriend or the temptation. You are correct that having broken God's law, it is easy to tell yourself that doing it again won't make much difference -- unless you really see that the sin is keeping you from having a relationship with God. I understand the problem; it is one reason I gave you a number of reasons not to repeat the mistake. I don't want you miserable, but more I don't want you lost because of your lack of self-control.

Do you have to marry this girl because you had sex? No. But it seems clear to me that you want to marry her and it would be the better option. Since you are having a hard time with the passion, ask her to marry you and place the date shortly after she can get married. That would be less than a year from now.

In that time you both have a lot of growing up to do. Don't be approaching this as "if" you will be marrying this young woman, but "when" you two get married. There are a ton of things you need to do to get ready. Understand that once you are married, you are a new family on your own. The two of you will have to provide everything. Friends and family may give you a hand, but don't ask or expect help. The decision to marry means you are ready for the responsibilities of an adult.

  • You need a job that will support you and your wife. You said you aren't financially prepared, so get busy now making the changes you need. If you happen to make extra for a while early, save it; you're going to face unexpected expenses.
  • You two will need a place to live. Plan on securing a place to live in advance and live there yourself. Ideally moving in a month before would give you a chance to get things ready for your bride. It will also give you a chance to realize that living on your own has more "hidden" expenses than you realized if you have been living with your parents.

There is another advantage of focusing on getting ready. Right now you are focused on not dropping your pants; as a result, the temptation is dominating your thoughts. There are two halves to overcoming temptation. One is not sinning, but the other essential half is being so busy doing what is right that you don't have room for the sin. I want you two so focused on getting ready for life as a couple that you won't have time for fooling around. Instead of seeing your upcoming marriage as an excuse to continue sinning or a means of hiding your sins, see it as a goal. You can wait because you know when the endpoint is and you know you can wait that long.

Meanwhile, make it more difficult and more unlikely that you two while engage in fornication. Don't go to the other person's house unless you know other people will be there. Don't go into each others bedrooms. Don't be together in private areas of the house or stay up when everyone else has gone to bed. Yes, there will be less opportunities for private conversation, but you won't be doing inappropriate thing when someone might see you. To get private time, go to public places where people will ignore two people having a conversation. But having a potential audience will help you keep your hands where they belong.