Question:

My girlfriend and I have been together for three years. We are engaged and about to be married in four months. We never had sex. We talked about it and the want. But we have decided to live together because she turned 18 and was forced out of her house. She says she feels like it might be wrong for us to live together, and also wrong to do anything at all in a sexual way, so I'm wondering is all of that wrong?


Answer:

There are a number of things we need to talk about because at the moment you aren't thinking clearly. I assume you try to follow the Bible, which is why you wrote to me, so I'm going to make most of my points from the Scriptures.

Let's start out with a basic fact that most people understand. "Marriage is honorable among all, and the bed undefiled; but fornicators and adulterers God will judge" (Hebrews 13:4). Fornication is to have sex with someone you are not married to. "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" (I Corinthians 6:9-10). How ever you slice matters, at the moment you are not married to this young woman. You have intentions of marrying her, but you have not yet entered into a covenant relationship with her.

The Lord willing, you will marry her in a few months. But the problem is that this is in the future and none of us have full control over the future. "Come now, you who say, "Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit"; whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away. Instead you ought to say, "If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that." But now you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil" (James 4:13-16). Let's just say you two started committing fornication and then something tragic happened to one of you. You could die while in sin with no more chance to repent. I certainly don't want that for you or her, and neither of you would want this to happen to the other. As tough as it will feel for you, and believe me I know, I was there years ago, you've got to keep stay away from sex until you are married.

There is always the temptation to sneak something in. Who would know? Even if she got pregnant, well, the marriage is close enough that most people might think the baby just came early. The problem is that even if you hid it from everyone else -- both of you will know that you were not able to keep your commitment to God, and God will know what you have done. "If I say, "Surely the darkness shall fall on me," even the night shall be light about me; indeed, the darkness shall not hide from You, but the night shines as the day; the darkness and the light are both alike to You" (Psalms 139:11-12). David learned this the hard way when he committed adultery and then tried to cover his tracks. He couldn't do it because God would not allow his sins to be hidden.

A part of your duty as a man is to protect those you love. Sometimes that means even protecting your girlfriend from yourself. Your instincts are demanding that you go as far as you can, but your head reminds you that you can't and live with yourself. Love "does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil" (I Corinthians 13:5). The reason you want to strip down is because of your body's demands, not because you are convinced that this is best for her or your relationship.

But it isn't just protecting your girlfriend from sex with you. You ought to also be concerned about her reputation. If she moves in with you, what is everyone going to justly assume? After all this is what the people in the world do. "Therefore, since Christ suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same mind, for he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, that he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh for the lusts of men, but for the will of God. For we have spent enough of our past lifetime in doing the will of the Gentiles -- when we walked in lewdness, lusts, drunkenness, revelries, drinking parties, and abominable idolatries" (I Peter 4:1-3). Do you want the reputation of being just like every other sinner in the world, or do you want a reputation that you and she are committed to God? We ought to be concerned as Paul was concerned, "providing honorable things, not only in the sight of the Lord, but also in the sight of men" (II Corinthians 8:21). Thus, if she moves in with you before you are married, and you do manage not to sneak into her bed in the middle of the night, almost no one will believe that you had that much self-control.

Your sexual engine is all fired up, but the brakes are still on. You are having a hard enough time restraining yourself now, and you aren't with her for long periods of time where no one will see you. What makes you think the temptation will remain the same or get less if you two move in together?

I take it that you are already battling lust. "Let us walk properly, as in the day, not in revelry and drunkenness, not in lewdness and lust, not in strife and envy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts" (Romans 13:13-14). Lust is having a really strong desire that almost always involves doing something sinful. You seem to be toying with the idea of having sex or at least getting involved in foreplay with her. When you start accepting that in your mind as something you would be willing to do, you've already moved into the realm of sin. "But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart" (Matthew 5:28). You've been playing out scenarios of fornication in your head and trying to find some reason to justify it. The only thing really missing is actually doing it. And now you think you have the perfect excuse: she has to move in with you.

Paul said, "Now concerning the things of which you wrote to me: It is good for a man not to touch a woman. Nevertheless, because of sexual immorality, let each man have his own wife, and let each woman have her own husband" (I Corinthians 7:1-2). The rule is simple: don't begin what you know you can't finish. Both of you need to keep your hands away from stimulating sexual responses in each others bodies because you are not yet married.

Few young people really give credit to how powerful the sexual drive is in the human body. I can't begin to list how many people told me that "it just happened," or "we didn't intend for it to go that far," or "it was an accident." Solomon asked, "Can a man take fire to his bosom, and his clothes not be burned?" (Proverbs 6:27). Suppose you really love fires. You like the warm feelings that it gives you. So you go up to a flame and give it a great big bear hug. What happens? You get burned. But why? You were being loving! But all your intentions doesn't change the nature of fire. Solomon further asks, "Can one walk on hot coals, and his feet not be seared?" (Proverbs 6:28). You are walking around the campsite barefooted and accidentally step on a hot coal that you didn't notice rolled out from the bonfire. Now because it wasn't your intention to step on the coal and you even apologize politely for accidentally treading on it, what happens? You still get burned! Why? Because your lack of intentions doesn't change the nature of fire.

Fornication is a fire that you can't control. You can't go part way and expect things not to progress rapidly. What people don't realize is that when you get strongly aroused, the judgment center in your brain shuts down. Instinct takes over. You do things you know you shouldn't do and it almost feels like you are trapped behind a glass window seeing yourself do things you know you'll regret but somehow you can't stop yourself -- until you ejaculate and then it is too late and guilt consumes you. And all the while you know it didn't have to be that way. "So is he who goes in to his neighbor's wife; whoever touches her shall not be innocent" (Proverbs 6:29).

I hope I've made my point. It isn't that I don't think you have good intentions. What I think is that you are a healthy male. You shouldn't let pride get in your way. You shouldn't trust your ability to resist sin. You've made it three years so far. Why throw everything you stood for away in the last few months?

So, let's start with a hard fact: you and she cannot live together before you are married. What other options do you have?

  • Move the wedding day up. "But if they cannot exercise self-control, let them marry. For it is better to marry than to burn with passion" (I Corinthians 7:9). It may ruin a lot of plans. It won't be as fun. But it certainly is better than condemning yourself in sin.
  • Have her move in with a friend or someone at church for a few months.
  • Have her go live with a relative, even if they are not conveniently local.
  • You move back in with your parents, relatives, or friends while she lives at your place.

I'm sure this leaves you with a ton of questions, "what if" and other thoughts. I'll be happy to talk with you further. I want you both in heaven. I want you both looking back at this time in your life without regret. And I want you to start your life as a couple on a firm foundation that isn't filled with guilt.

There is no problem waiting to have sex. We have no issues with that at all. I'm with her for every other reason, but that I love her for her and who she is and who I am when I'm with her. The thing is she was kicked out of her house with no family nearby. The family she has is multiple states away and as her boyfriend I can't put her out when it's me she needs the most and is leaning on for everything. I can't create a distance between us when we should be the closest. I know and understand about we only have right now; we can't predict the future or guarantee anything, but we have never done anything at all with each other or anybody else. At the most we have held hands, and this is the only relationship both of us have had. The temptation do anything is there but definitely controlled because individually that's who we are, and we have more than enough self-control to overcome that, and it's been three years. Also what others think isn't on my mind. Nobody else can judge me or us. Nobody else has the right to say what we did or didn't do. We have nothing to prove. God is the only person who can judge anybody, so worrying about another person doing that is on them for wrongfully judging another.

Also I am in no way battling lust in any way shape or form. I was asking a general question for advice we have been together three years, and I can guarantee I've given more to her than most people would ever give to another. Sex before marriage is not a problem, and there is no form of lust between us.

Your original questions were:

  • Is it wrong for us to live together?
  • Is it wrong to do anything at all in a sexual way?

You indicated that these were both her questions and yours. I took you at your word and since I don't know you or her I did not try to second guess what you intended to say or ask.

As I pointed out before, pride often gets in the way of making good decisions. You made it three years, so it is very easy to convince yourself that you can make it four months living together. Perhaps you can, but you are setting yourselves up for stronger temptations than you realize. Christians are told to flee temptations and sin for a good reason. "Flee sexual immorality. Every sin that a man does is outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body" (I Corinthians 6:18). It is the person who is convinced that he can withstand temptation who is the most vulnerable. "Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall" (I Corinthians 10:12).

I know it is popular to think that no one has the right to make judgments about another, yet in that very statement a judgment is being issued. Without realizing it, most people contradict themselves. If it were true that judgments could not be made by men, then anarchy would reign because we could not have any courts. We would be like the Israelites, "In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes" (Judges 21:25). Worse, as Christians we would not be able keep Christ's teachings:

"Dare any of you, having a matter against another, go to law before the unrighteous, and not before the saints? Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world will be judged by you, are you unworthy to judge the smallest matters? Do you not know that we shall judge angels? How much more, things that pertain to this life?" (I Corinthians 6:1-3).

Christians are to judge matters in this life. It cannot be arbitrary judgments or judgments based on opinions. "Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment" (John 7:24). A part of righteous judgment is to realize that whatever applies to another also applies to me. That is what Jesus was talking about that so many misquote and misapply. "Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you. And why do you look at the speck in your brother's eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, 'Let me remove the speck from your eye'; and look, a plank is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye" (Matthew 7:1-5). Notice that in this passage, judgment (removing the speck) is made but only after a person cleans up his own life.

You state that if anyone makes the wrong conclusion then it is his problem and not yours. Yet, God tells us that we are to be concerned about our reputation with other people: "A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches, Loving favor rather than silver and gold" (Proverbs 22:1). We are also told to be protective of that reputation: "Therefore do not let your good be spoken of as evil" (Romans 14:16).

It isn't just older people that you have to think about. There are lots of younger people around you who look to you and your girlfriend as examples of what Christians ought to be. "Let no one despise your youth, but be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity" (I Timothy 4:14). If you can live with your girlfriend, then why can't they? But they may not have the self-control that you have. Worse, you won't be able to say "You can't do what I did" because that would be unfair judgment. As I said, I'm thinking about your future as well as your present. I'm thinking about what you as a father will need to say when your daughter wants to move in with her boyfriend in college.

There are alternatives that you can choose that solves your dilemma without increasing the temptation to sin or smudging your reputation. Take one of those. You'll be happier for it in the long run.