–Daniel S. Ferguson
A very quick note. I received a lot of feedback on this post, some kind and some not. What was so strange was that though I wound up saying that abstinence until marriage was best, it was Christians who fought me the hardest on the post. They seemed to think that my challenge of our dogmatism on the subject was ultimately permissive.
That’s a fair criticism. I was asked by more than one person if I believed that premarital sex was a sin. That’s the question I want to answer. By not answering it.
Because Christianity isn’t about determining what is sin and what isn’t. Living Christlike lives isn’t about following a set of rules or checking off certain boxes. Living Christlike lives means constantly submitting yourself both to the truth of Scripture and to the grace of Christ. Toward that end, I don’t pretend to judge either the sin or the sinner. That is for God alone to do. Rather, I believe that Scripture is moderately, but not completely, clear on this issue. Jesus talks about avoiding lust, and Paul talks about avoiding sexual immorality, and the Old Testament places a literal price on virginity at marriage. Those all point to the same principle of marriage as the best context for sexual expression.
But the Gospel isn’t about following principles. It’s about following Jesus, who picks us up every time we fall down and loves us even when we’re most unloveable. As Matt Chandler so poignant puts it, “Jesus wants the rose.” However much we believe in a doctrine, tenet, or practice of our faith, all of that is subject to the grace of Christ. Otherwise, the Gospel falls flat on its face.
So whether sex before marriage is a sin or isn’t is hardly the question. The Bible seems to point toward the idea that sex within marriage is the safest and healthiest course of action, but my point was (and is) that we Christians ought not to hang anyone on a cross for sin other than Jesus.
The point is not what is sin, but who saves us from sin.
That was the whole message. I hope that helps you to understand what I was getting at. The third and final “Does the Bible Really Say That?” post will come soon. It’s a doozy.