In highschool I loved doing high jump. Now imagine if just before running up to jump I looked at the bar and told myself: “You will never make it! It’s way too high. I don’t think I have seen anyone jump that before. You can’t do it either, it’s just not feasible.” Do you think I would make the jump? Now what if in addition to my own voices the people around me watching were to join in saying, “What are you thinking? You can’t jump that!” If they were to laugh at me for even considering it? Would I be able to make the jump?
I think this is exactly what happens every day if we try to live in this world according to God’s standards. There are a million voices around us, including our own voice and Satan deceiving us, saying it is IMPOSSIBLE. The standard is just WAY too high. God makes his standard clear in the 10 commandments – and just looking at a few of them: (you can find them in Exodus 20 in the Bible)
How could you possibly live without ever lying?
How could you possibly live without ever feeling jealous of anyone?
How could you possibly live loving God above ALL ELSE?
How could you possibly live without committing adultery?
Now you might say – the last one is not that hard to live up to. I believe in being faithful to my girlfriend/boyfriend/wife/husband/significant other. But what does that commandment really mean? It is not only talking about cheating on your partner – in the Septuaginta the Greek word porneia πορνεία actually means fornication, referring to any immoral sexual conduct and including any sex outside of marriage.
Now the voices start to laugh.
But wait – Jesus goes even further saying: “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (Matthew 5, 27-28)
Whoa!? But can there be anyone innocent then? Isn’t that a bit outdated? NOBODY believes that anymore! Its just not normal.
Ok, I understand that you might think that way – it is what we are taught from childhood through books, magazines, movies and the example of the society we live in, the people around us. But what if we ignored all of these voices for a moment and just focused on that high jump bar before us to ask ourselves two questions:
1. Are there any good reasons to try to jump that bar?
2. Is it really impossible?
The first question – WHY even try?
A) Out of obedience to God’s command. God is the one who invented relationships and sex and HE meant for it to be something intimate between one man and one woman within marriage. Usually makes sense to follow the instructions of the designer – he surely had a reason for giving that rule! Now you might say – where does God ever mention marriage? Marriage traditions change and are also different in every country. Its not so much about the form – its about recognizing that marriage is a decision you make, a promise before God, before your partner and usually before family and friends to stick together, to be a team, be there for eachother in love and respect until death. In Genesis 2,24 it says “For this reason a man will leave his mother and father and be united to his wife and the two will become one flesh” And Jesus says when asked about divorce, “Haven’t you read,” that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.” (Matthew 19,6) So you might say that you plan to get married at some point – but it still makes sense to wait for the contract before living it. You probably wouldn’t dream of living in a house for two years before signing the contract and paying for it. The one comes after the other.
B) Out of love and respect for eachother: your partner is worth waiting for! You value eachother and your long-term happiness more than desires of the moment. There is a freedom to enjoy sex within marriage which is especially important for the woman. She feels secure to give herself away. It is also healthy to practice self control. Or what happens if you are ever apart when married – because of a business trip etc.? Of course sexual intimacy is an important part of a relationship – but its not the most important and certainly not the foundation! The foundation should be a healthy friendship and you can invest in that rather than in caressing in the time before marriage. It makes sense to build a firm foundation.
C) Less partners = more intimacy. A lot of people say they have to find out before marrying if they are physically compatible, but really that is nonsense. Just like you get to know and learn about eachothers personalities you can also get to know eachother physically. Takes time. Takes patience. Most couples say that it wasn’t all that incredible in the bedroom from the start, but statistics say that couples that have been faithfully married for many years are actually happier with their sex life. And those who had several partners before settling down with one admit that their previous relationships are not so easily erased from their memory and can lead to problems such as making comparisons or finding it hard to trust in your partner’s love and faithfulness.
D) Ready for a family? It is said that sex may lead to pregnancy. Have you ever asked yourself if you would you be prepared to care for a child if you were to become pregnant? Would you not prefer for your son or daughter to enjoy growing up within a stable family situation that welcomes his/her arrival rather than seeing it as an unpleasant surprise or inconvenient accident?
Second question – Is it really impossible?
No. Easy answer. I admit it may not be easy to follow through – especially with all those voices telling us that we can’t and are foolish to even try – but there are millions of couples who have waited for marriage and many still do today. It is a decision a couple should make together and they can then help eachother uphold it by going slow on physical affection and not necessarily putting themselves in situations where the temptation to go “too far” could arise. There is no golden rule book on how many kisses are allowed – you know yourself best and should weigh up what is sensible for you. Just keep in mind that if you’ve decided to jump – it isn’t wise to load up with extra weight. You can see physical boundaries as a restriction that deprives you of your freedom – or as a trampoline that helps you make the jump!
And most importantly we can also admit that it is normal to be physically attracted towards someone and to find it hard to meet God’s standards! But the great thing is that the one who gave us this standard is also the one who enables us to meet it! We do not have to rely on our own willpower and self-discipline but can ask God to help us – to give us both the desire and the ability to uphold his command. The apostle Paul says, “I can do everything through him who gives me strength.” (Phillippians 4,13 NIV) And he also reminds us that “if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall! No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.” (1 Corinthians 10,12-13)
What if you say you tried to jump but didn’t make it? I encourage you still not to give up! Just try again. God gives us his standard to live by – yes. But he is also forgiving and merciful and always willing to let us start afresh.
So now just imagine – you’re hesitating to jump with all the negative voices around you – but in the midsts of the mocking you suddenly hear someone shout:
“Go for it! You can do it! C’mon Johnny/Sally/Your name! Don’t listen to the others, I know you’ll make it!”
What effect would that voice have on you? Sometimes a bit of encouragement is all we need. Just SOMEONE to believe in us! Well guess what – there’s at least two that are rooting for you: the allmighty God, creator of heaven and earth! And me! I dare you to jump!