How would you respond to someone heartbroken because he had sex before marriage?
A friend of the podcast, who wishes to remain anonymous, writes in: “Hello Pastor John, I’m a listener in the Middle East. I slept with my girlfriend two days ago, and now we are both left hurt and feeling dirty, cheap, ashamed—we cannot even look at ourselves. We are both born-again believers in Christ, but we got lured into temptation. Is there any hope that we might become pure again and be healed from our sin? I know the blood of Jesus covers every sin. But how can we get back our relationship’s purity again? Or is that permanently gone? What do we do now?”
Responding to Someone Who Says, ‘I had sex before marriage’
I think this young man from the Middle East is beginning in the right place. He is, it seems, appropriately shattered, meaning something has been irrevocably lost. He and his girlfriend will never be able to go behind this sexual encounter and undo it. By having sex before marriage, they have lost something very precious.
I begin this way, even though it may sound hard, because I feel a tender and jealous concern for those who are listening who have not lost their virginity. It is a very precious thing for men and women. The world views it as weakness, silly in fact. God views it as a very great strength and beauty beyond compare. And I am just as eager to help listeners maintain their sexual purity and virginity before they lose it as I am to help those who have lost it recover the purity that Christ makes possible. So that is why I am beginning the way I am beginning.
So I think this young man is beginning in the right place. He is broken. He knows that by having sex before marriage, a beautiful thing has been lost. And he knows that the blood of Jesus covers every sin. So this is a good place to begin. Those who take their sins lightly and treat the blood of Jesus as a kind of quick fix have never seen the true costliness of what Jesus did to purchase their purity. So let me simply make a few observations that might prove redemptive and hope-giving to our friend from the Middle East and his girlfriend.
1) I would simply draw attention to what he already knows—only put it in biblical words. First Corinthians 6:18, “Flee fornication.” God’s will for unmarried people is that they abstain from sexual relations. And God makes this possible by the power of the Holy Spirit through faith in his promises, and he gives sweet and special rewards to single people who honor him in this way.
Marriage has its special rewards for faithfulness, and singleness—chaste, holy singleness—has its special rewards for faithfulness. Married people can glorify God in some ways that single people can’t, and single people can glorify God in some ways that married people can’t. This is not a matter of inferiority or superiority. Singleness and chastity are a very high calling in God’s mind. That is the first thing.
2) I would say our friend—and he already knows this, but again, I want to put it in the words of Scripture so he can hear it from Christ and not just from me—should hear, “Truly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the children of man, and whatever blasphemies they utter, but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness” (Mark 3:28–29). Now let’s leave aside for a moment what it means to blaspheme against the Holy Spirit. That is for another time.
But let all of us with tears of thankfulness, with trembling joy, let us simply revel in these words: All sins will be forgiven the children of man. That means all sins, even having sex before marriage. That is breathtaking. Can you imagine anything sweeter for a person like the thief on the cross, just nothing but sin, nothing but sin for who knows how many decades? In other words, there is no specific, single sin or kind of sin that is so ugly, so gross, so offensive to God that it cannot be forgiven by the blood of Jesus. As John puts it, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from”—here it comes—“all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). So that is the second thing.
3) It will be a huge challenge for this couple now in this situation to forgive each other; not just to receive God’s forgiveness, but to receive each other’s forgiveness. Ephesians 4:32 says, “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” But that is no easy thing. And I just want to help them realize how difficult this is going to be so that they won’t give up too quickly. What makes it difficult to forgive each other in this particular situation is not only that we are all proud and selfish people and we don’t like to humble ourselves before others, but it is also because in this situation there is a subtle temptation to shift blame onto the other person that belongs at least partly with yourself.