Sally (not her real name) had just heard the gospel, and she realized that she was not saved! Sally really wanted to be baptized. However, what troubled her was that she first needed to repent (make a commitment in her heart to stop sinning). She knew if she were baptized without repentance, she would not have her sins forgiven, (Acts 2:38). Sally had been living with a man for several years and had children by him – but they were not married.
Hebrews 13:4 says, “Marriage is honorable among all, and the bed undefiled; but fornicators and adulterers God will judge.” This verse taught Sally that any sex outside the marriage bed is unclean - and anyone having sex outside of marriage is a fornicator. (Fornication is any unlawful sex – sex before marriage, homosexuality, polygamy, etc. Adultery is when a married person has sex with someone besides his or her marriage partner.)
Sally realized that before she could be baptized, she had to determine that she would never again sleep with her boyfriend – unless they were married. Sally truly loved her boyfriend. What if he didn’t want to marry her? How could she tear herself away from him? And how could she take care of herself and her children as a single woman? “Seek first the kingdom of God, and all these things [food and clothing] shall be added to you,” (Matthew 6:33). It was going to take a lot of faith in God for Sally to do this. But Sally had a good heart, and the seed of the Word of God that was planted in her heart gave her the courage to do what was right. After spending much time in prayer, Sally approached her boyfriend about the problem. He responded in anger! His masculine pride was wounded! “If I am not good enough for you as I am, then I am leaving!” he shouted. Losing her boyfriend was like having a loved one die. Sally grieved much over this loss, but God helped her because she had obeyed Him by truly repenting and being baptized. God’s love motivated family members to help her so that she and her children could have their daily food. Even though Sally was so hurt, she prayed for her boyfriend every day. With God’s help, she picked up the broken pieces of her life and carried on.
After a few months, she was greatly surprised when her boyfriend came to see her. “I have missed you so much,” he said. “I am willing to marry you!” They are happily married to this day!
When Margie (also not her real name) was still in her teens, she repented of her sins and made the good confession that Jesus was her LORD – that she was going to obey Him in all things. She was baptized to receive forgiveness of her past sins and to become part of the body of Christ. Margie was serious about her commitment to Christ and about her studies.
I do not know why Margie allowed herself to commit fornication. Whatever the reason – it was not acceptable in the sight of God. Like so many others, she allowed her own feelings to be more important to her than God’s feelings.
Soon Margie was pregnant! The boy who supposedly loved her so much was not willing to marry her when he found out about the baby. Margie’s mother, a widow, was working very hard so that Margie could even study beyond high school. How could Margie tell her that there would soon be another mouth to feed, and that Margie would no longer be able to finish her studies nor even work to help support the family! Margie’s head and heart and stomach churned with anger, hurt, guilt, fear and worry. Fortunately Margie knew that when you make a total mess of your life, there is only one Person who can help you. Margie gave herself back to the Lord in true repentance. She never again committed fornication. She experienced the true joy of forgiveness, as it is written in Psalm 32. “But he who trusts in the Lord, mercy shall surround him.” By God’s mercy, Margie found another relative who agreed to look after the baby so she could finish her studies and earn enough money to look after herself and the child.
Many years have passed. There have been men who have shown an interest in her – but they were not God-fearing men. Margie would truly rather be single than to subject herself to the emotional hurt of giving herself to an ungodly man and become a victim of such a person’s sins, eg. Drunkenness, abuse, selfishness, unfaithfulness, AIDS, etc. So Margie is still single, but she is not unhappy! She helps a lot of people through her work. After work she spends time with other Christians – helping them when they need help and showing hospitality to them. For this she receives joy from the Lord – “It is more blessed to give than to receive,” (Acts 20:35).
Both stories are true. Both women are African women – one from a township and one from a rural area. There are others I know in similar circumstances who have overcome fornication. And there are many, (may God richly bless them!) who have never committed fornication. I have shared these stories with you so that you can know that in your culture it is possible for you to live a pure, godly, and happy life – even after being caught up in the sin of fornication. Maybe God will provide a husband for you – maybe not. But He will take care of you!
If you are living in fornication, but you truly love Jesus and want to go to heaven, what must you do? The Bible says that the one who is caught up in sexual sin is “caught in the cords [ropes] of his sin,” Proverbs 5:22. God understands that it is difficult to stop having sex outside of marriage – that is why He warns us not to start down that path. Yet God also commands us to break those ropes if we have sinned. It is difficult, but possible to break one piece of rope – but impossible to break many ropes at one time. Below is a way you can break the ropes that bind you to fornication – one rope at a time.
- Let the Word of God convict you of your sin. Read Scriptures such as Hebrews 13:4 and I Corinthians 6:9-20 to firmly place in your heart the knowledge that what you are doing (sex out side of marriage) is sin. These Scriptures also help you understand how God feels and help you determine in your heart not to displease God.
- Repent! Crucify yourself, Galatians 2:20, Romans 6:6. Put your own desires to death – a very painful death, determine you will do what Jesus wants, and stop sinning.
- If you have never been baptized in the Bible way (a burial in water), do this in order to receive forgiveness of past sins, (Acts 22:16), and to become part of the one body of Christ, (I Corinthians 12:12-13), which is the church of Christ, (Ephesians 1:22-23). If you are already a Christian, confess your sin to God and pray for forgiveness, 1 John 1:9. If your sin is known in the community, ask other Christians for forgiveness and prayers – because you have brought shame to the body of Christ by your fornication, James 5:16. (It may be good for you to write a letter to the church or to speak to one of the men and let him inform the congregation of your repentance and request for prayer.)
- Not only must you stop fornicating, but your must also present your body to God so that God will use you to help others (Psalms 51:12-15; Romans 6:12-13). Because Sally and Margie stopped fornicating, I was able to use their examples to encourage you to do what is right. So when you live a pure life, others will be encouraged to do right because of your example. God will also use you in many other ways! This will bring incredible joy to your life! (Acts 20:35; Colossians 1:9-11).
- If you have a steady boyfriend, prayerfully decide if you want to approach him about marriage or if you want to end the relationship. God has put it in man to seek a “bone-of-my-bones” relationship with a woman. But the man will only achieve that when he makes a commitment deep down in his heart to remain forever faithful to the one he marries – no matter what happens. The reason why boyfriends get tired of their girlfriends is because they have never made that commitment. They have girlfriend after girlfriend. Women get caught over and over again in their traps, suffering heart-break and financial difficulties. I want to spare you pain so I say to you: Do not marry a man unless you can truly trust him to remain faithful to his marriage vows! Do not marry a man who has other serious sins in his life! To help you with this decision, see the following chart.
- If your relationship ends, take the necessary steps not to fall back into fornication. After careful consideration, you may decide that you want to end the relationship. Your boyfriend may refuse to marry you. Possibly your past (an unlawful divorce) makes it unlawful for you to ever marry (Matthew 19:1-12). Whatever the reason for your singleness, you can live a life free of fornication (I Thessalonians 4:3-5). See “How to Keep Yourself Pure – and Be Happy!” below.
- If, after careful consideration, you want to encourage your boyfriend to repent and marry you, you can follow the example of Abigail in I Samuel 25.
The Example of Abigail
In I Samuel 25, David (later to be King David), was about to kill Abigail’s family. He was very angry because Abigail’s husband Nabal had insulted the messengers David had sent to him. Your boyfriend may also be angry and feel insulted when he hears that you are now going to put Christ first in your life above him! Abigail spoke and acted in a very wise way – and so she was able to get David to stop being angry and listen to her.
“Now when Abigail saw David, she dismounted quickly from the donkey, fell on her face before David, and bowed down to the ground” (I Samuel 25:23).
Step 1: Have a meek and quiet spirit (1 Pet.3:4). Treat your boyfriend with utmost respect in actions and in speech.
“So she fell at his feet and said: ‘On me, my lord, on me let this iniquity be! And please let your maidservant speak in your ears, and hear the words of your maid-servant’” (I Samuel 25:24).
Step 2: Make sure you choose a good time to speak to your boyfriend – and ask his permission to speak to him about something that is troubling you. If he is busy or tired, etc., wait to speak to him until another time.
“Please, let not my lord regard this scoundrel Nabal. For as his name is, so is he: Nabal [fool] is his name, and folly is with him!” (I Samuel 25:25).
[Notice her respectful speech – “lord”.]
Step 3: Acknowledge your boyfriend’s side of the picture. Abigail let David know that she understood and accepted why he was angry with her husband. You can make sure your boyfriend knows that you understand why he is upset. After all, up to this point you have been giving him your body without marriage – so he may be upset that you are wanting to change the rules in the middle of the game. He may feel that you are now trying to pressure him into making a decision. He may also feel that everyone else in his culture seems to live without marriage – so why should he be forced into marriage?
“But I, your maidservant, did not see the young men of my lord whom you sent” (I Samuel 25:25).
[Nabal had insulted them.]
Step 4: After you have acknowledged the boyfriend’s side of the picture, give him your side. Abigail told David that she was ignorant of what had happened. Perhaps you also were ignorant of God’s word or lacked strong faith – and that is why you allowed yourself to give your body to him without marriage. However, now that you are aware of what God commands, and you have built your faith up with the Word of God, you can no longer live as you did in the past.
“Now therefore, my lord, as the Lord lives and as your soul lives, since the Lord has held you back from coming to bloodshed and from avenging yourself with your own hand, now then, let your enemies and those who seek harm for my lord be as [foolish as] Nabal” (I Samuel 25:26).
Step 5: Let your boyfriend know of the goodness of the Lord – and that you seek God’s goodness for him. It is the Lord who gave you the opportunity to hear the gospel of salvation. It is the Lord who has kept you both alive to this moment in time where you still have time to repent and make things right before you stand before Him in judgment. It is God who made sex and who made marriage and who wants you to enjoy His gift of sex and a close relationship without guilt. It is God – and you – who want him to experience true love and emotional security, to know that he will have a wife standing beside him to look after him in sickness or old age. It is God – and you – who want there to be a life-time commitment between him and a wife so that he can see his children grow up disease-free and be able to look after him in his old age. God promises to bless those who fear Him – and you want the blessings of God to rest upon him. God – and you – want him to experience the true happiness of having a help-meet who is truly bone of his bones.
“Please forgive the trespass of your maidservant...” (I Samuel 25:28).
Step 6: Ask your boyfriend to forgive you for sinning against him. By giving your body to him before marriage you sinned against him. Now that you no longer are willing to do this, you are causing him unhappiness. Perhaps you have been sinning in other ways – lying to him, trying to force him to do what you want, etc. Show him how the word of God has brought you to repentance concerning those things as well, and ask his forgiveness.
“And it shall come to pass, when the Lord has done for my lord according to all the good that He has spoken....that this will be no grief to you, nor offense of heart to my lord, either that you have shed blood without cause, or that my lord has avenged himself. But when the Lord has dealt well with my lord, then remember your maidservant” (I Samuel 25:30-31).
Step 7: Appeal to your boyfriend’s conscience. Tell him you are confident he can make a wise decision. Respectfully point out the good that will come to him in the future if he obeys the Lord, and let him know that you would like to share that future with him if marriage is what he desires. Make sure you humbly leave the decision to marry in your boyfriend’s hands. If he is not ready to make a commitment to you, then the wise thing for him to do is to refuse to marry you.
“Then David said to Abigail, ‘Blessed is the Lord God of Israel, who sent you this day to meet me! And blessed is your advice and blessed are you, because you have kept me this day from coming to bloodshed ... Go up in peace to your house. See, I have heeded your voice and respected your person’” (I Samuel 25:32-35).
Abigail’s selfless concern for David and her wise approach motivated David to repent and turn to God! Your boyfriend may or may not decide to marry you, but if you approach him in this selfless, humble way, he will at least respect you and realize that what you are saying to him comes from God.
A Chart to Help You Decide If You Should Marry
Make a list similar to the one below that applies to your specific circumstances. Pray for wisdom and make a careful decision.
|Reasons to Marry||Reasons NOT to Marry|
|1. You and he are free to marry. Do not marry a man who already has a wife (I Corinthians 7:2). A man who is divorced is not free to marry, unless he was innocent and he divorced his wife because she was committing adultery (Matthew 19:9). The same applies to yourself.||1. Your boyfriend has serious problems that he needs to work on, eg. Anger, drug or alcohol abuse, selfishness, depression, etc. Do not think that he will change after you are married!|
|2. He is a God-fearing man and wants to do what is right. It is very hard to make a good relationship out of a relationship that was built on sin, but it is possible if both of you repent and commit yourselves to God and to each other.||2. He is not interested in God. This will make it difficult for you to serve God as you should. He will be a bad example to your children.|
|3. You have had a long-term relationship – he has shown he can be faithful to one person – and he is the father of your children.||3. He has had many short-term relationships. Therefore you should have serious doubts that he will be faithful to you.|
|4. He has a job and is happy to support you and the children.||4. You need someone to support you and the children. Do not place your trust in man, but in God (Matthew 6:33).|
|5. He understands and practices true love, 1 Cor.13. This takes maturity, humility and self-sacrifice.||5. You desire someone to give you an emotional boost. Again, do not trust in man to fill your emotional needs, but in God (Philippians 4:19).|
|6. You trust this man enough that you feel that you can put yourself in submission to him as is commanded in Ephesians 5:22-24. Be careful! If he is not a Christian, he may keep you from going to heaven!||6. If you don’t have a man in your life, people will think there is something seriously wrong with you. Desire what God wants more than what men think.|
Remember! When you marry you promise before God (Malachi 2:14) that you will stay with this man for the rest of his life – no matter what he does! Pray about your decision and ask older and wiser Christians for advice.
How to Keep Yourself Pure – and Be Happy!
- Stop lusting! Fornication begins in the mind, Matthew 5:28. When you find yourself thinking about your old boyfriend or desiring a new relationship, put thoughts of fornication right out of your mind. Pray to God that He will help you find a good mate, but also express your trust in Him that you will stay single if it is His will. Then force your mind to think about something pure (Philippians 4:8-9). You can do this by studying your Bible, by trying to memorize verses, by singing hymns or by doing something that requires mental concentration, like school work or helping someone. This will take your mind off your own desires.
- Dress and act in a way that lets others know you are now pure. No low, tight tops, no “see-me stomach” tops, no short skirts, no tight pants, no flirting. (Flirting is using body movements and flattering speech to attract men.)
- Make wise friends. “He who walks with wise men will be wise, But the companion of fools will be destroyed.” (Proverbs 13:20) Find a wise woman who will be your friend and encourage you to do right. Stop having close friendships with other women who have boyfriends, for they will pull you back into sin.
- Build yourself up in the faith. Spend time in Bible study and prayer every day (Ephesians 6:11-18).
- Let God fill your emotional needs. You, because you are a women, have a deep desire to share your life with someone – a deep desire for a husband. God gave you that desire (Genesis 3:16). If, at this moment, you do not lawfully have someone to share your life with, you must focus on God as the One with whom you will share your deepest self – and the One who will care for you. Read Ezekiel 16:1-14. Although this is a picture of the city of Jerusalem, it is also a picture of us sinners who are now in the new Jerusalem, the church of Christ. We were ugly and unloved – but God married us and will give us abundantly all that we need, including all that we need emotionally! See Romans 7:4; Ephesians 5:22-32; Isaiah 54:1-8; Matthew 6:25-34; Ephesians 3:14-21. These are promises of God. Cling to them! Also read Ezekiel 16:15-43 to see how God felt when Jerusalem broke her marriage vows – and how He will feel if you break your marriage vows to Him.
- Stop focusing on yourself and your own desires. Focus rather on the needs of others. Jesus was able to deny Himself, even to sacrifice His own life, by focusing on serving rather than on being served (Mark 10:45). When you focus on helping others, God puts happiness in your heart! (Acts 20:35).