I have a question that has really been weighing on my conscience and my heart. This may be very long and I apologize, but here it goes.
I have been dating my boyfriend for four years now. We are both currently in college. We most definitely have the intentions of getting married. Unfortunately, we have had sex before marriage. At the time I didn't realize how grave of a sin it was until this year in my theology class, which is focused on the dynamics of Christian spirituality. I have been struggling with the realization that having sex before marriage is a mortal sin, and I and my boyfriend will go to hell for it.
I finally knew in my heart that I needed to stop this, so I told my boyfriend that I didn't want to have sex anymore. I was so afraid that he was going to hate me or leave me for this. We both truly love each other and although he was confused, he told me if I was passionate about this, then that is what we would have to do.
My boyfriend is also Catholic, but he is not actively practicing. He hasn't gone to church in a long time and doesn't pray from what I know of him. I don't think he has a strong relationship with God. He doesn't understand or believe in a lot of the church's teachings, and sex before marriage is one of those teachings he "doesn't believe in." I know that he "doesn't believe in it;" one, because he doesn't have full knowledge of it like I didn't at the time, and two, because he doesn't want to believe it.
Although we are actively stopping sex before marriage, I am afraid that without him truly understanding why, and only agreeing with me because he wants me to be happy, isn't enough for God to forgive him. I know we both must go to confession, but I am so afraid that he won't truly mean what he is confessing and be truly sorry and that he won't receive the grace he needs from God. I love him so much, and I care so much about what happens to him after this life. I want him to get to heaven as much as I want myself to get to heaven. I don't know how to convince him or make him understand what a mistake it truly is to have sex before marriage.
I can completely understand that it is hard for most people to think about anything beyond this life. It is hard for me to think about it too, but I know in my heart that this is the right thing to do, and I want him to know it too, even if it is hard to understand.
I also am afraid of him doing other things, like masturbating, which I also realize is a mortal sin. I have told him about this too, but I really don't think he understands, nor can I stop him from doing it.
Could you give me any advice on what to do to make him understand because I cannot see or fathom a life after this without him in it. I want him so badly to go to heaven with me and it scares and hurts me every day worrying about him. It has truly turned my life upside down and is making me depressed. I also feel that, although he has agreed to abstain from sex, our relationship has changed and has been strained. It hurts me so deeply because I love him so much, and I want to spend the rest of my life with him. I don't know how to get our relationship back to the way it once was.
I also have a second question related to this. I have so many friends, and even people who aren't my friends but are just acquaintances, that I know are having sex before marriage. I am not sure that they realize that this is a mortal sin and will send them to hell. These people are such good people with good hearts and good intentions in life. What will happen to them? How could all of these amazing people I know and I am friends with possibly all go to hell for this? At the end of our time when we are judged by God, how could He say to me or to anyone, you were a great person and you gave to others and were caring and loving and lived the way I wanted you to, but you had sex before marriage, so I am sorry, all of the other things that you did in life don't matter, I have to send you to hell. I just don't see how God could do this because we are His children and He loves us, even with our sins and mistakes and faults in life.
I also know that this is another separate question, but I have been thinking about it as well. I know that we should follow what the Bible says, but when the Bible was written, it was a different time period. People were getting married at 16 years old and could start a family right away. Age, life circumstances, and money weren't necessarily an issue. Now in this time period, people aren't getting married until they are 20-30. They have to wait longer because people are going to college and need to make money before they can commit to marriage, so they can support each other. Does this at all change the fact that sex before marriage is a mortal sin, considering people have to wait many many years compared to back when the Bible was written?
I know this was a very long series of questions, but I hope you can find some time to respond because it would really help me feel better and have some advice on how to help me and my boyfriend get back in God's good graces.
Thank you so much.
Let me be clear about from where I'll be approaching your questions. I'm not a member of the Roman Catholic church. As a whole, I don't support their doctrines because in many of them, they have left the simple truths of the Bible. All I teach is the Bible and not the philosophies of a denomination.
Yes, what you and your boyfriend did was sinful. Any sin that is not corrected will keep you out of heaven. "Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God" (Galatians 5:20-21). While the Roman Catholic Church divides sins into mortal and venial sins, that division is not found in the Bible. Rather, all sins, left unaddressed, will lead the sinner into hell. "But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death" (Revelation 21:8). It doesn't matter whether you think they are important sins or not.
The number of people committing sin doesn't change whether something is right or wrong. Before the great Flood, the whole world was caught up in sin. "Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually" (Genesis 6:5). A world full of sinners did not make the sins right. Sadly, due to people being people, most aren't willing to follow God. "Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it" (Matthew 7:13-14). Sin is the "easy" path, so most people don't exert the effort necessary to follow the truth.
Nor does time alter morality. The Creator of the universe is the God of Truth (Psalms 31:5). God cannot lie, so the Bible He gave us is the truth. "You are near, O LORD, and all Your commandments are truth" (Psalms 119:151). God is eternal. He does not change, but then truth doesn't change either. "And: "You, LORD, in the beginning laid the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the work of Your hands. They will perish, but You remain; and they will all grow old like a garment; like a cloak You will fold them up, and they will be changed. But You are the same, and Your years will not fail" (Hebrews 1:10-12). Still, for all the changes in the world, people remain basically the same. "Is there anything of which it may be said, "See, this is new"? It has already been in ancient times before us. There is no remembrance of former things, nor will there be any remembrance of things that are to come by those who will come after" (Ecclesiastes 1:10-11). Each generation thinks it is unique, but that is because we can't remember what our grandparents lived.
Currently it is fashionable to delay marriage. In part, it is a result of contraceptives making it easier to have sex without as great a fear of causing pregnancy. Girls are more willing to have sex, and even if there is an "oops!" they believe they can solve the problem with an abortion or emergency contraception. The stigma of killing a child disappeared with society willingly accepting the lie that an unborn child is just a lump of tissue. Because guys and gals can have sex indiscriminately and it is actively pushed as normal behavior by movies and television, the pressure to get married is removed. People put it off further and further. Marriage is actually becoming increasingly rare. My point is that the choice to marry later in life or not at all isn't due to a shift in morality. It is due to people figuring out ways to avoid the consequences of sexual sins and then thinking that a lack of consequences means it is acceptable.
Truth is, however, that you could get married now, if you so desired. Both you and your boyfriend are adults, well pass the minimum age for marriage -- even without your parents' consent. The excuse that you have to wait until after college is done, is just that: an excuse. Plenty of married people are in college. Sure, you may have to get a bit more creative about your finances, you might have to (gasp!) work while you finish your education, but it is doable. Again, people too often are lazy and try to find the path that requires the least effort on their part. Getting married means taking on responsibilities. It means earning your living. It means struggling to get along with another person. Thus, out of laziness people are missing out on the joys of having their own families and stable relationships.
I'm glad you want your boyfriend to get to heaven, but you have the right of the matter: you can't make him be a follower of God. Wearing the name "Christian" doesn't make a person a child of God. In truth, your boyfriend is merely putting on an act. He is completely caught up in the world, but telling himself it doesn't matter. The old word for that is "hypocrite," which is from the Greek, meaning an actor. You are correct, he doesn't understand God's laws because he doesn't want to. To understand would mean he would have to submit to God and make a lot of changes in his life. If this is the man you want by your side for the rest of your life, that is your decision, but don't fool yourself into thinking that you'll be able to "fix" him or that he will change just because he is your husband.
I assume the point about masturbation comes from him pushing for sex to relieve himself. Even if masturbation was a sin, to say you'll commit one sin to avoid another sin is foolishness. You would still be in sin and the consequences would remain the same. But the truth of the matter is that God doesn't state that masturbation is a sin. What often accompanies masturbation (pornography and lustful thoughts) are sinful, but Bible hints that the act of masturbation exists, but does not categorize it as sin. See: Is masturbation sinful or not? Thus, this is not a factor in regards to whether fornication is acceptable or not.
Now, in regards to your past sins, God makes a way for us to be saved from our sins that is not difficult, but like other matters, people like to make it sound hard. See: What Must I Do to be Saved? Even after a person becomes a true Christian, there is a solution to the problem of the occasional sin that creeps into our lives, but what the Bible teaches is probably not what you were taught in the Roman Catholic Church. See: Do we have to do penance?