Sex is a horrible, disgusting thing, so you should save it for the person you love the most!
This is often how people think Christians view sex and intimate relationships. “Christians are just a bunch of prudes who want to ruin the fun for everyone else with their outdated rules! Chastity is boring!” In reality this couldn’t be further from the truth. Though it might seem like Christians follow a bunch of arbitrary rules, the rules are there to protect ourselves and others, to hold up the dignity of sex, and to create the best possible environment for human sexuality to flourish. Christianity actually elevates sex to a place far greater than the secular culture does. The rules are not there to kill the fun, but rather to make sex an even more enjoyable experience.
Think of the yellow and white lines on a highway. To someone who has never driven a car before, they might seem arbitrary, but to those who drive regularly, those lines are there to create lanes and allow people to travel freely without danger. Imagine one day a bunch of people just decided to stop staying within those lines. “These lines are so restrictive! I’m not going to follow these outdated laws! They are just there to kill the fun!” Within no time there would be death and destruction. The lines provide the structure in order to travel freely. They actually give us more freedom than not having them!
Since some people still might be thinking that chastity is all about killing the fun, let me go further in depth to help you understand why it is so important. At this point I should also clarify something. Chastity does not mean abstaining from sex in every situation. That would be celibacy. Chastity is about using sex in its proper context. There are many things that happen psychologically, physically, and spiritually when humans engage in physical intimacy, with some pretty dramatic consequences. I will try to touch on each of these aspects, beginning with the psychological.
Humans are wired for relationship. There are even parts of the brain that correspond specifically to relational connection. When these parts of the brain are activated, we grow in our ability to connect with other people. One of the ways humans connect is through physical intimacy. When we engage in physical intimacy, there are things that happen in our bodies and in those relational parts of the brain that strengthen our connections with the people we are interacting with. Physical intimacy is so important that if babies aren’t held enough during infancy, they can actually develop brain defects! One thing that happens in the body when we engage in physical intimacy is the release of oxytocin. Oxytocin is a hormone responsible for many aspects of social bonding and sexual pleasure. It is released in a number of different situations from something as simple as giving someone a hug to something as significant as childbirth. Oxytocin creates a bond between people. So what does this have to do with our current discussion? When we engage in something like giving someone a hug, the bonding that is created is fairly minimal. However, when we engage in sex, the bonding that happens is extremely deep and powerful. This is significant because a bond that goes that deep is not meant to be broken. When it is broken, it causes significant wounding. Imagine sticking a picture to the wall using poster putty. Now imagine spraying the back of another picture with adhesive and super glueing it to the wall. The first picture will come off relatively easily, but the second was not intended to come off and the only way it will is with some level of destruction involved. This is the same with our sexuality. When we engage in sex, we are creating a psychological bond with someone that is not meant to be broken, and if it does get broken, it only happens with some level of destruction. Now there may be people who have become so numb to this destruction by frequently switching sexual partners that they don’t notice the destruction anymore, but nevertheless it is still there. I would endeavor to imagine that if they went back to their first partner and thought about the loss they felt when that relationship failed, it would be a significant source of trauma.
So what is the solution? This is where chastity comes in to save the day. By waiting to engage in physical intimacy until there is commitment, we are minimizing the risk of destruction to our psyches. This is likely one of the reasons God designed marriage. By establishing a covenantal commitment to someone for life, there is freedom to engage in sex without the likelihood of destroying the bond that is created through such activity. It should also be pointed out that chastity isn’t an all-or-nothing thing. The degree of physical intimacy in a relationship should match the level of commitment. If you are meeting someone for the first time, it probably isn’t a good idea to make out with them. If you are engaged to get married to someone, it’s probably fine to cuddle and hold each other. It’s going to vary from couple to couple, but the point is that we should reserve physical intimacy for those who have made commitments to us so that we reduce the risk of wounding due to breaking psychological bonds. I know that this might be hard to believe in the moment. It is easy to think, “This happens with other people, but my boyfriend/girlfriend really loves me. They would never leave me.” You might not want to even believe that’s possible. I’m telling you from personal experience as well as statistical data, many of these relationships eventually fail, and it is going to hurt a lot less if you protect yourself by remaining chaste. This is something you should endeavor to choose before you are in the middle of getting hot and heavy with your significant other. It won’t be easy to stop at that point. Take your time and get to know the other person well. This can be an incredibly fulfilling part of the relationship, and will actually create a stronger bond if you do decide to pursue things further. If you decide you aren’t right for each other, there won’t be nearly as much suffering involved. Choosing to remain chaste will also help you know that the other person is not just using you for sex. If he or she is willing to commit to you without getting sex, it probably means he or she actually cares about you. If you say no to physical intimacy and your significant other gets upset, you might be saving yourself from a toxic person.
Now that we understand why chastity is important psychologically let’s move on to the next reason chastity is important, the real life physical consequences. Sex is made for bonding with one another, but it is also made for procreation. The purpose of sex is to create other human beings. Though Planned Parenthood might want you to think otherwise, this is not a trivial matter. We are talking about one of the most amazing and beautiful things in all of the world! New life! If we engage in casual sex we are engaging in behavior that is potentially destructive to other humans…those who have not been born yet. If a woman gets pregnant without the lifelong commitment of marriage, the likelihood of harm to her and her child increases dramatically. Unfortunately, in our country an unexpected pregnancy could mean abortion, but even if the mother has the courage to keep her child, there are still many dangers along that path. This situation doesn’t always fall to single mothers either. It could even be a couple who decides to keep their child and raise her together. Without the lifelong commitment of marriage, there is a greater likelihood of a number of problems. The parents are much more likely to break up at some point, causing the child to be raised in a broken home, for example. This is not unmanageable, but it has a psychological toll on the child and the parents and statistically it leads to more negative outcomes. The parents may have to give the child up for adoption or the child may end up in foster care. These are also not ideal situations. By saving sex for the lifelong commitment of marriage, any children who are created will have a much greater chance at having a stable home to grow up in. Marriage is not just for the protection of the couple, but for the protection of the family. Since I know someone will say, “But William, now we have contraceptives. We can have sex without having children,” I will go into reasons why this is not a good solution.
First of all, many people don’t realize that contraceptives often work as abortifacients, meaning that they terminate a pregnancy rather than prevent one. Often an egg has already been fertilized and a new human with its own set of unique DNA has already been created before the contraceptive takes effect. Since many people don’t consider this an issue, I will go on to highlight other problems with contraceptives. Another reason they are not a good solution is that they are not always effective. There is still the chance that a woman will get pregnant while she is taking contraceptives, and it is actually pretty frequently that this happens. Often this leads to abortion, or some sort of crisis pregnancy. Even if a couple is married, contraceptives are still not a good solution. Couples who use contraceptives are many times more likely to get divorced than couples who use natural family planning or periods of abstinence. The problem arises because there is a withholding of oneself from his or her spouse. Sex is meant to be a complete gift of oneself and when someone says, “I’m willing to give you all of me, except for the creation of children part,” they are not really giving all of themselves. Inevitably this ends up becoming a relationship of use. Each partner becomes an object of sexual pleasure, rather than someone who is sharing themselves completely. It is a subtle difference, but again, the statistics show that it matters. Marriages that don’t use contraception almost never end in divorce, while ones that use contraceptives often do end in divorce. One final reason I will go into for rejecting contraception is that it is an offense towards God. Children are a gift from the Lord. When we use something He has created for the purpose of giving us children as a means of our own pleasure while rejecting the procreation part, we are rejecting the gifts God offers to us. We are saying that we don’t trust Him with our lives.
This leads me to the final reason chastity is important, the spiritual aspect. “And Pharisees came up to him (Jesus) and tested him by asking, “Is it lawful to divorce one's wife for any cause?” He answered, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’?” (Matthew 19:3-5) When we engage in sex, there is not only a psychological bond that happens, but a spiritual one. Sex is the giving of our entire selves to another. In the Bible, sex is often spoken of using the word “know,” as in Adam “knew” his wife Eve. It is a bond of knowing another completely. On top of that, the physical world is meant to reveal who God is, and sex is part of that revelation. Just as God the Father loves the Son, and the Holy Spirit proceeds from this love, so a man loves a woman and together this love produces a child. Sex is so incredible it actually produces another human! You might be thinking, “Well duh!” Really think about that though. There is no other process on this planet that can create new human life! This is why the Church has such an elevated view of human sexuality. This is why there are rules to protect it. Sex is not meant to be a cheap way to have fun. It has a very profound and deep purpose psychologically, physically, and spiritually. So no, sex isn’t a horrible thing. It is an incredible thing that deserves to be honored and revered.
So far I have only scratched the surface of human sexuality. This is an incredibly deep subject, and I couldn’t possibly get through everything about it in a short article like this. Even the aspects I touched on so far could be explored much more. Still, I hope this article will help you think about the importance of chastity and have a greater understanding of why it is good for healthy relationships.
William Joseph Scheremet