My girlfriend and I intend to get married in the future, and want to wait until we are in a better financial situation to marry. Also being in a long distance relationship would mean that if we did marry, we would be unable to live together straight away just yet. But I'm in fear of constant sin with the sexual desires that we have for each other. Would it be better to marry as soon as possible and avoid sin, or until we feel comfortable? And more specifically, if the sexual desire is a sin and we're knowingly causing ourselves to sin by waiting, is it a sin to wait?
"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).
Having sexual desire is not a sin. You might as well say that being hungry is a sin -- after all, if you ignore it too long you might become a glutton. Your body is designed to desire sex. The question is whether you can control that desire. If the choice is between getting married now or dropping your pants, then getting married is the better choice even if it results in some less than ideal consequences. Sins, such as fornication, are too damaging to people and their character to prefer sin over a perfect situation.
So the question, again, is whether you two can control yourselves. If you do decide to marry, life might be more difficult financially, but you can live through it. I know many couples who basically started out nothing. It was the mutual effort to survive that drew them closer together. Life isn't about avoiding problems but overcoming them. So if you do marry, I would strongly urge you to find a way that you can be together even if you have to live poorly for a while. "Let the husband render to his wife the affection due her, and likewise also the wife to her husband. The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. And likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. Do not deprive one another except with consent for a time, that you may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again so that Satan does not tempt you because of your lack of self-control" (I Corinthians 7:3-5). Once you are married, you are obligated to her (and she to you) to be there for each other. Any separation should only be temporary and with planned endpoints.
One of the interesting things I've learned in life is that if you look at the hard numbers, no one really can afford to marry or have children. Yet with every marriage and every child, couples find ways to make what seems impossible on paper to work in reality. Much depends on your motivation.
Thanks for the great and speedy reply.
The relationship is currently long distance, and occasionally through longing each other it becomes sexually charged. But when we're together, that charge is too much and the past two times I've visited, we didn't have the control to stop.
I know now that I'm able to control myself better, as is she. But there is that slight charge and I have no idea how it will be the next time we're together.
I know her parents don't want her to get married yet, so first I was wondering if their will for us to not marry so soon should be honored over the sin we may commit with premarital sex (that's if there is any next time).
So really my first question is about I Corinthians 7: Does "should" mean "I would recommend," or does the "should" mean closer to a "must?"
Though we both are excited to marry, we don't have the money for it. We only have enough money for a civil marriage, which needs to be exempt from anything religious, which, as far as I've found, is still a little expensive. A civil marriage would be despised by both sets of parents and would spoil it for us, I guess. I want God to be involved in that day as much as possible!
So if it's a must by Paul, echoing Deuteronomy 22, I guess, then do parental wishes come first, and in this case does it go against the law, if the law refuses to lets us to do what God asked of us, but leaves us vulnerable to sin in the meantime? If that's a possibility, to be unrestrained by law in this circumstance, then how would a couple go about it?
Another issue would be that after marriage we'd be required to live long distance still with only two or three visits, a month at a time, for another year or two.
Is this start to a marriage OK? Or is it better to try to face the challenges of sin for a year or two first?
As a bit of background:
We had sex before, but we consider the one flesh bond very important and are both excited for a future together in which we can make our desires for each other into something godly. Most important for me, I want to be a biblical husband who will always be able to satisfy her and make her happy, in us and God.
And sorry if that's really disorganized. I should be sleeping but hoped you could help further with the matter.
Since you were unable to control yourself the last two times, what has changed that leads you to believe you will have control this time? Don't take this as my saying it can't be done, but I don't want you taking unnecessary risks. Do you have a plan or are you hoping that shear will-power will overcome the temptations?
Not to discredit your self-control, but from experience I have seen too many people collapse because they thought they could handle more than was reasonable. Sinning when you know the danger exists is worse than sinning from weakness. When a person does what he strongly believes he should not do, he becomes so harsh against himself that he often gives up trying to live godly. I really don't want you to fall into that trap.
Assuming you both are of marital age, the choice in regards to when you marry is yours alone. Your parents can (and will) advise you, but the two of you are setting off to form your own family. In that decision, you will no longer be under your parents' authority. "Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh" (Genesis 2:24). "Leave" means you are separating yourself from their authority. Now in doing so, you also accept full responsibility for your decision. Your parents, can (and actually should) end financial support of both of you because your choice means they are no longer responsible for you.
I'm gathering, though from your note, hints that you aren't of marital age -- that you both would need your parents' permission before you can actually marry. If such is the case, would you make this clear? My advice must change if you aren't at your legal majority.
Responsibility is one of the reasons sex before marriage is wrong. You risk getting her pregnant but you essentially are wanting her parents to shoulder the financial cost of your pleasure. It doesn't matter if you try to prevent pregnancy when having sex, the truth is that each time you engage in sex there is some probability of her ending up pregnant despite your precautions. However, I suspect that since you have been having sex because of the passion of the moment, you probably haven't even taken precautions to avoid the natural consequences of your sin.
Your sin did start when you coupled. It began when you entertained thoughts of having sex with her, despite knowing you weren't married. As I read through your note, what I see is that those lustful thoughts haven't left you. You aren't certain that you can resist having sex again, though it is your intention not to do so. In this you are much like drug addicts who know they should quit but aren't certain they will quit. It is holes like these that Satan drives large tanks through to break down your resistance.
I Corinthians 7 isn't a license to have sex as long as you are trying not to. Paul is very clear that fornication, having sex without being married, will keep you out of heaven if not repented of. "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). By saying "Do not be deceived," Paul is meaning there is no excuse for sin that is acceptable. I Corinthians 7:8-9 is really addressed to the parents and others around the couple. Notice that it is in third person. "But I say to the unmarried and to the widows: It is good for them if they remain even as I am; but if they cannot exercise self-control, let them marry. For it is better to marry than to burn with passion" (I Corinthians 7:8-9). Others should not stand in the way of a couple marrying if they are struggling with their passion. It is far better to permit them to marry, even if you think the timing is bad, than to risk losing them to Satan because they could not control themselves. At the time Paul wrote this, he was advising putting off marriages because a period of extreme persecution was coming up. The persecution was going to be hard enough without the extra burden of worrying about a spouse or children. "I suppose therefore that this is good because of the present distress--that it is good for a man to remain as he is: Are you bound to a wife? Do not seek to be loosed. Are you loosed from a wife? Do not seek a wife. But even if you do marry, you have not sinned; and if a virgin marries, she has not sinned. Nevertheless such will have trouble in the flesh, but I would spare you" (I Corinthians 7:26-28). I gather that your parents would rather spare you the additional financial burden at this time. But like the time of Paul, the answer is the same: You are better off marrying and having the burdens than losing your souls to Satan.
I get the feeling that some important information is being left out of this discussion, and I fear that my advice might not be the best for your situation as a result. I am assuming that you are separated at the moment because of college and that you only see each other on holidays.
One last point, most "impossibilities" are caused by self-imposed restrictions and not because of the realities of the situation. I don't know where you live, but you mentioned the cost of a civil service. Where I live, a couple can get married for less than $100, including paying for justice of the peace to perform the ceremony. But if you ask around, you can find preachers who will do the service for free. Personally, I don't charge for ceremonies, unless you want to count my requirement that the couple study about marriage with me a "charge." Others talk about the elaborate expenses of a wedding, but again, the costs are self-imposed. Let me give you an example, when my wife and I married, she made her own wedding dress. Her best friend did the wedding cake with my aunt (a professional cake decorator) supplying the decorations as part of her gift. We had the wedding at a small state park beside a covered bridge. The reception was a potluck picnic at the park (we are all church goers and have a long history of potlucks). People thought it fun because they got to contribute something personal to the wedding. My wife's aunt grew roses and supplies all the table flowers. Even our honeymoon ended up being a gift from friends of my aunt who loaned us their cottage in the mountains for a week. I'm a bit of an artist, so I drew the invitations and had them printed. Several friends volunteered to be our photographers. Instead of a rented tux, I bought a good quality suit that I wore for business and special occasions for many years thereafter. We did all this because my wife's family couldn't afford a fancy wedding. But we treasure the memories of that wedding all the more because of all our friends who made it personal. I hope this illustrates that you don't have to be stuck only with an expensive wedding. Instead, do things that are meaningful to you as a couple and to your family and friends. It is the event that important, not the money spent.
Sorry for being unclear before. It is a long distance relationship between two countries. The finance trouble is mostly with document translation, and especially with moving. A ceremony would be incredibly expensive with making sure both our families are there when it happens, since not all would be able to pay for themselves. It's not something we've saved for yet, and are struggling to save for in the current economic climate.
As for sex, it was during the most recent time I saw her, and I guess we got caught up in the passion of seeing each other again after spending time apart. At the time we came to a point where we both felt "I don't want to do this, it's wrong", and we both have no intentions of doing it again before marriage. But still, it has me scared, and I can't put my faith in myself I guess.
Recently we've been reading a lot of advice to Christian couples planning to get married, and we've realized that though we both have the desire to marry and both love each other, that doesn't mean we're ready for it.
The most important issues seem to be:
- Preparing the relationship to be strong enough for a lifelong marriage, and
- to grow spiritually ready for a God honoring marriage.
I understand that prepararing for marriage usually takes anywhere from six months to a year. By that time the situation will hopefully be clearer and, in the meantime, it certainly gives us a chance to focus more strongly on God. In a way it's better that we now see the opportunity to find the rock to build our marriage on instead of the first available patch of sand.
I want to thank you for your advice. You helped give us something steady us when our emotions and worries had us confused. I'd also like to say how impressed I am with your web site. There's so much indepth content, and it's great that at the heart of the answers is biblical reasoning.
Thanks again :)
You're quite welcome. I'm glad I was of some service to you. Just a few more points for you to consider:
When you marry is up to you and your girlfriend. I'm glad you are taking a long term approach. What I would suggest is that you make rules for yourself to help hinder the possibility of having sex again before marriage.
First, commit to no sexual touching that might arouse your passions. I want you, especially, to pay attention to your body. If you find yourself getting aroused, back off, and ask your girlfriend in advance to respect this. A man doesn't think clearly when aroused and if she presses the point you might lose control. It won't be an excuse, but you need help limiting the temptation.
Second, no going to her place or your place when no one else is around. It is too tempting in a comfortable and private environment to go further than you should.
Third, no going off to private places without someone with you. If you want to have a picnic in the park or go canoeing in the wilderness, it must be with other people in the group. No parking in out of the way places either.
Please understand that the temptation to have sex again is going to get stronger. You are going to face all sorts of "reasons" to do it again:
- "We already did it before, so it won't change things."
- "We're going to get married anyway, so it doesn't matter."
- "We're getting married next month so even if she does get pregnant, no one will know."
Stick to your commitment to live God's way. This is how you prove to each other that you are trustworthy after marriage -- because you keep your word, and, thus, you will keep your marriage vows.
When you do decide to marry, I want you to notice that your financial reasons for waiting are of your own making. It is great that you want everyone at your wedding, but a wedding doesn't require everyone to be there. While not ideal, you can consider having two ceremonies, one in her country and one in yours so that all who want to come can attend. There is nothing stating that you need to pay for people to come. I'm glad you are thinking of them, but don't take on burdens you can't handle. Invite everyone and know that many just won't be able to make it -- that is their choice, not yours. I didn't get to attend my youngest brother's wedding because it was literally on the other side of the world. I don't think anyone from my brother's family was able to go. That was our choice. We wanted to be there but couldn't afford it at the time. It made no impact our feelings for him or his bride. Now that they live closer, we see each other often.
The paperwork need to move to another country will be a pain. As soon as you can, you ought to start getting that done. You can't start at the last minute. In regards to moving, if needed you can always start over from scratch in the country you decide to live. Material things can be replaced. Or, later, when you can afford it, you can have things shipped.
So distinguish between the absolute necessities and those you would like to have. It will make your decisions easier.