Unmarried Christians sleeping together

Mature coupleMarriage is under attack from all sides. The traditional Christian dictum for monogamous heterosexual marriage (yes, it's both a pity and a symptom that it needs to be defined these days) is: "Fidelity within; chastity without".
Sexual attraction and pleasure is part of our a God-given make up, but at any time - not least the age in which we live - the Chistian church is not immune from the mores and relaxed standards of contemporary society, and the whispering lies from the enemy of God.

Ray Pritchard of Keep Believing Ministries was asked by a mature and divorced man and a woman if it was "OK" for them, as a loving couple and Christians, to sleep together.

This is what he wrote:


I received an email from a man who asked a very particular question. He is a Christian, divorced, and in his forties. He met a Christian woman who seems to be an answer to prayer. Over time they have fallen in love and hope to get married eventually. But they can’t marry right now because of financial reasons. Meanwhile they have started having sex together. He used the term “being intimate” to describe it. “We have been intimate and are feeling guilty that we DON’T feel convicted by the Holy Spirit that it has been wrong."
He goes on to say they waited to have sex until they knew they were in love. Here is his question put another way: “Why do we not feel convicted by the Holy Spirit but do feel convicted by people? People make us feel guilty but at the same time, the Lord has blessed us and used us in some truly amazing ways."
He wants to know if there is a different standard for premarital sex for those are divorced. After all, they aren’t virgins anymore. They’ve both been married before so their sex is not “premarital” in the literal sense of never having had sex before. They don’t want to lose the intimacy they have enjoyed.
So why would God forbid sex before marriage when you’ve been married in the past, had sex, and have children? And why don’t they feel guilty?
The email says (and I do not doubt) that they have struggled with this issue. He says they are not just young adults looking for a free pass to have sex. For the first time they both feel they have found a partner that they love and enjoy in every way.
So why shouldn’t two adult Christians who happen to be divorced and have fallen in love—why shouldn’t they sleep together?
There are many ways to answer that question. My own answer begins in a way that may surprise you, but I hope you will read through all the way to the end.

My Answer to This Question

Dear Friend,

Thanks for your note. I appreciate your forthrightness in writing so openly. Many people would not be as honest as you are. I thought a great deal about the question you raised and decided that I would answer you the same way I would answer an old friend. I want to shoot straight with you and say exactly what I would say if we were old and dear friends and had gone to high school together. Please know that I am not upset with you nor do I have a frown on my face. You have asked a good question that deserves an honest answer.
If we were lifetime friends, I would say something like this:
I want to shoot straight with you and say exactly what I would say if we were old and dear friends and had gone to high school together.

1) It doesn’t really matter whether or not you and your lady friend (for lack of a better term) sleep together. In the great cosmic scheme of things, it just doesn’t matter. Compared with the economic crisis, Russia’s invasion of Georgia, a national election coming up, and soldiers fighting and dying in Iraq, on one level, it just doesn’t matter whether or not two people sleep together. It’s not a big deal. The world goes on spinning whether you guys sleep together or whether you don’t. Odd place for me to begin, but it is undoubtedly true.

2) The world certainly expects that if you love each other, you will sleep together. People assume that in some discreet way, having fallen in love, two people in their forties will have sex.

3) And even in the Christian world, there is a great deal of winking at this point. I am not naive about this. I understand that Christian singles sometimes date and then have sex. I don’t approve of this nor do I think it is wise, but I cannot deny the reality. Not that every Christian couple in your situation sleeps together, but it does happen.

4) And that leads to the point about your friends making you feel guilty. How do they even know? Do the two of you talk about it? This isn’t a spectator sport.

5) I’m not surprised that the two of you enjoy being intimate. “Being intimate” makes fornication sound romantic. Words mean something. “Being intimate” seems a lot more acceptable than “fornication."

6) There is a great deal of biblical support for regarding sex as a gracious gift from God, meant for procreation and as part of what it means to become “one flesh." God designed sex for our enjoyment—but only within marriage (Genesis 2:24-25; Hebrews 13:4). Fire in the fireplace is a good thing. Outside the fireplace, that same fire will burn down the house. It’s not wrong to have sex and it’s certainly not wrong to enjoy it. And of course, if you have sex with someone you care about, you’ll enjoy it and feel good about it. That’s how God wired up the situation.

7) But your feelings don’t matter in this case. They just don’t matter because they will always lead you back to the bedroom.

8) I gather that your real issue is, “Why don’t we feel convicted by the Holy Spirit?” But I think you do or else why would you write me? And why would you take the time to justify yourself? You don’t write and say, “I am convicted that I spent too much time cheering for the US team to win the women’s water polo gold medal.” No, the very fact that you write is more or less the answer to your question.

9) Here’s something you may not have thought about. You say the Holy Spirit hasn’t convicted you but maybe he has. God often speaks to us through the witness of the church. And it sounds as if the church—the great Christian church—has spoken through your friends who have made you feel guilty. God often uses others to speak to us when we can’t clearly hear his voice any other way.

10) If you are truly in love, then get married and make it legal. Those are basically the rules we all have to follow. Not just the Bible rules, but the common rules of the Christian faith. To be sure, lots of people break the rules but they remain in force.

11) Don’t say, “Hey, I’ve got money issues so I can’t get married now but I still want to have sex.” It doesn’t work that way. You can’t rewrite the rulebook to satisfy your own desires.

No Time to Mess Around

But there is a deeper issue at work here. When I read your note, I was reminded of a book I read 25 years ago. It was a story about how many Jews in Romania were saved from the Holocaust by some Romanian friends who spirited them out of the country at great personal risk. Here is the part I recall most vividly. The heroine of the book was a beautiful young woman, well placed in the country, a friend of powerful people, who took up the cause of the Jews as her own. Time and again she risked everything to save them. Somewhere along the way she met and fell in love with a gallant young man who joined her in her mission. They were nearly caught and captured again and again. It was clear that they were falling in love with each other. And on some level, you kept thinking they would sleep together. But they never did. Not once. And the reason given was something like this. “Our work in saving the Jews is so important that our own desires must never interfere.” And it never did. They never slept together. Not even one time. The cause they served captured all their attention, and they knew that they had no time to have sex. And that’s why they didn’t. It wasn’t biblical at all—their reasoning, I mean. Yet it was immensely biblical.
You can’t rewrite the rulebook to satisfy your own desires.

I thought of that book for the first time in many years when I read your note. I think the meaning is, “As long as you and your friend have time to think about sleeping together, you aren’t serving the right cause.” I dare to venture that Christ and his Kingdom simply have not captured your heart. When Christ’s global cause and serving others in his name becomes your priority, you won’t have time or energy to think about sleeping together. Or you may think about it, but the higher calling will overrule your desires.
There is a huge truth for you to consider. I can say, “Don’t sleep together,” and you either will or you won’t. I don’t have the power to compel obedience. You and your lady friend have some important decisions to make. As I said, I have spoken to you this way as if we were lifetime friends because among friends you can be blunt. When I said, it doesn’t matter, I meant it. Who’s going to know if you sleep with her tonight? Not me. I don’t know and don’t want to know. The world rolls on, assumes that two people in love will sleep together, and the church sometimes looks the other way and too often shrugs its shoulders. I simply say, find a higher cause and give your energies to that cause so unreservedly that you will prize that cause above your own earthly desires.

Symptoms vs. Root Issues

We need to distinguish between causes and symptoms. Sleeping together is a symptom. It’s not the root issue. The deeper issue is committing yourself unreservedly to Christ’s great global cause to bring Good News to everyone, everywhere. Last week one of the presidential candidates said that America’s great failing is that we have lost the concept of giving ourselves to a cause greater than our own self-interest. He’s right. And in the church somehow we have lost sight of the incredible adventure of serving Christ with nothing held back—to be so consumed in the Lord and his holy cause that lesser things fall away.
Find a higher cause and give your energies to that cause so unreservedly that you will prize that cause above your own earthly desires.
It comes down to this. Do I believe that the rules of life were made for my ultimate benefit? If so, then I’ll find a way to live by those rules and wait until I get married to have to have sex. And no one—not the teenagers who fool around on a date nor the divorced guy and gal who feel very attracted to each other and enjoy “being intimate”—will successfully say no unless they have a higher reason to do so. My advice is, find that higher reason in Christ and his great global cause. Give yourself with unrestrained passion to helping others in Jesus’ name.
I do not doubt that you and your lady friend truly love each other. If that is true, my counsel is, Don’t wait!
  • Don’t wait to serve the Lord.
  • Don’t wait to give all that you have for a cause greater than yourself.
  • Don’t wait to follow Christ wherever he leads.
When your heart is captured by a higher calling, you won’t have to write and ask me, “Should we be sleeping together?” You just won’t do it.

Nothing Better to Do

There is much more that could be said about setting proper boundaries, building hedges, finding accountability, and so on. I am putting all that aside to stress the central issue of your heart. I leave you with one final thought.

We sin because we don’t have anything better to do.

Ponder that for a while. This applies not just to sexual sin but to gluttony, pride, sloth, envy, bitterness, and every other evil inclination. We sin because we are bored and can’t think of anything better to do. As long as we are bored, we will justify anything we can think of simply to keep us occupied. Remember that David sinned with Bathsheba precisely because he had nothing better to do. He stayed home when it was the time of year when kings go out to war (2 Samuel 11:1). We focus on the adultery, but that was the result of his own boredom. He didn’t have anything better to do that night, he took a walk, he saw Bathsheba, and the rest is history.

Right now you don’t have anything better to do so of course the two of you sleep together. But how can you do that when the world is dying, millions are suffering, and people everywhere need the Lord? Why do you lie in bed with your lady friend when the King has called for you?
Many years ago we used to sing the old campfire song, “I Have Decided to Follow Jesus.” One verse in particular comes to mind:

The world behind me, the cross before me.
The world behind me, the cross before me.
The world behind me, the cross before me.
No turning back, no turning back.

If the cross is before you and the world behind you, there will be no turning back. When your heart is consumed with the pleasure of knowing Christ supremely, sleeping together won’t seem so appealing. Until that happens, until the eyes of your heart are opened, nothing I say can make much difference.

I started off by saying that it doesn’t matter. And I stand by that—in the sense that the world isn’t waiting to find out whether or not you are sleeping with a woman before you are married. The world thinks you are—and doesn’t worry about it. But on a deeper level, it matters greatly because what you do or don’t do sets a course for your own life. We don’t have two different standards—one for our teenagers and one for our divorced adults who fall in love with each other. It’s one standard across the board. What you do impacts your walk with God, your relationship with each other, the standard you set for your own children, and your testimony to other believers who may struggle in this area. Finally, it matters to the world because the world is waiting and watching to see if what we believe makes any difference in the way we live. If we live like the world, how will the world ever see the true life-changing power of Jesus Christ?

I am not suggesting that you shouldn’t date your lady friend or that you shouldn’t someday get married. But for the moment, that is not the issue. The greater matter is the state of your own heart and your commitment to Christ’s cause in the world. Ask God for a new vision, new eyes, a new heart and new desires. Ask the Lord to replace the boredom of your heart with an unquenchable passion for him.

I have not quoted any Scripture verses because it’s not about this verse or that verse. But if you want one, here it is. "Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well" (Matthew 6:33). I urge you to join the great band of Kingdom-seekers who for the sake of Christ have committed themselves to his global cause. Do that and in his time, everything else will be yours.

I have spoken to you as a friend to a friend. I hope these thoughts are helpful.

Ray Pritchard
with permission from Keep Believing Ministries

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Christians Together, 10/11/2008

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Desmond Decker (Guest) 15/11/2008 12:23
"That is clearly wrong and is a warped understanding of God's mercy and grace."

I suspect that we are same similar things from a different standpoint. What I am trying to say, and I think that you agree, is that we are completely forgiven. However, it is the Holy Spirits job to convict and convince someone of an ongoing problem with regards sin in their lives. We can be used by God (as for example Pastor's should be) to get alongside fellow Christians to LOVINGLY point to any areas of concern in line with God's revealed will.

However, unless an individual (s) becomes convicted and convinced by the power of God's word through His Spirit that they need to get married (or whatever) then they are likely to continue as before, still saved by grace though.

For example, how many Born Again believers sit in churches year in year out without having gone through the waters of baptism, even having witnessed maybe countless other Baptisms? Ultimately it is between them and the Lord, no matter how many appeals are made from the front for people to obey God's Word.

The same applies to all areas of obedience. In a new believers life God's priority for leading them on in areas of obedience is very often different to our ideas of what they should be putting right. God by His Spirit changes us from the inside out, we tend to go the other way, often missing the issues in our own lives which are plain for others to see!
(Guest) 15/11/2008 14:08
I agree we are in effect saying the same thing in a different way!

I was speaking specifically about the issue as to whether or not Christians should sleep together before marriage or even whether or not they are obliged to get married. My conscience, as well as what I read and understand from scripture, is that intimacy is specifically for the marital relationship and a marriage ceremony of some sorts must take place. Whether that is a full blown traditional western type event or a simple promise made in front of a few witnesses is irrelevant in God's eyes. It is the promise to Him alone which matters. As has already been pointed out, God expects us to obey the law and so, in most cultures, there is a requirement to follow a set down procedure to recognise this commitment in law and I think God would expect us to do this in addition to any direct promise to Him so that society officially recognises that we are married.
Desmond Decker (Guest) 15/11/2008 14:17
I am assuming that this Andrea responding? The point that I am trying to make is that obedience comes in degrees, and not necessarily in a way that suits other Christians. I for example had a drink problem prior to salavtion, that wasn't resolved immediately on my coming to Christ, but took some months to resolve under the Lords gracious hand, however some Christians were of the mind that I should have given up immediately!

We shouldn't be surprised if it takes some new believers time to respond to the Holy Spirits promptings. Thankfully though God is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love!!!
Andrea (Guest) 15/11/2008 17:06
Yes, it's me!

I couldn't agree more that some practices are gradually cleansed from our lives and it's too easy for some to say that, immediately following conversion, all unwise, unhealthy or sinful practices should instantly disappear. While for the very few, that may be the case, more often it takes time to put down an addiction and lapses may still occur from time to time. God understands this and I wish some Christians would too but the ones who don't are usually those who have never struggled with an addiction or compulsion. There's no credit to be given to someone who says "I never drank/smoked/was promiscuous" if they were never tempted in that direction.

Sadly, there is compassion and understanding lacking in many cases for those who have serious issues in their lives which are complicated and ingrained and which will take time and real effort to address. If God has the patience to work with such people, surely we should exercise the same attitude.
Editor 15/11/2008 17:51
If I can go "off topic" just for a mo....
Could anyone reading this message who has had experience (directly or indirectly) with alcohol and/or drug issues, please be in touch. Thanks!
Desmond Decker (Guest) 15/11/2008 23:02
"If God has the patience to work with such people, surely we should exercise the same attitude."

Does that also apply in the realm in which this discussion is based?
Andrea (Guest) 16/11/2008 12:52
Ultimately, it the people themselves who will have to answer to God but we have a duty to lovingly make them aware of a practice which is contrary to God's will. Obviously, if a couple are living together in the same house, it is natural to assume that they are sleeping together too so it may be appropriate to simply ask in a gentle way what they felt about marriage and take it from there. However, if they have separate homes, it is nobody else's business what they do on an intimate level.

I would think that God will, in His own way, convict the hearts of those who truly have come to know Him. It is our job to help and instruct them when asked so they know what the Bible teaches about this subject.
Desmond Decker (Guest) 16/11/2008 23:34
Looks like we have reached some sort of agreement on this one! Vive la France!
a h 17/11/2008 09:42
This has to be a first then. :-)
Nikolei Haider, Graz Austria (Guest) 05/10/2013 03:10
Dear Mr. Pritchard

Im not a priest nor i cant say im realy know every part of the Bible im just a normal man with is thinking about how
live can be desigened to make the world a better place, but with my humbol meaning i see it very different than you.
I was never maried, and i also dont think its just a good idea that to marry fast to make it legal, for excample in las vegas.
And also not should be married only becouse of finacal benifits form the goverments.
But i belive it can be a great day for 2 people or better sayed for all which are part of that wedding when 2 people marrie becouse
of pure love, this is also the reason why i waited.

Should unmaried or divorsed pepole have sex or better the words you used I like more "beeing intimate" bevor they are married?
When God gives us such a gift to be able to be intimate with someone he had a good reason to make it also disereable.
To beeing intimate is not only to overcome boring situations it has so many diffrent functions. It can make you more harmonic which is
good for the comunity too. You have more energy to work for the good, to only say two things.
But its also true that not every intimy is like that the great gift, espacaly when the comes unhappines and disaffection to it but there it should not
be followed even when you are married.
Why dont you just get married istead of writing me all this you may ask. Becouse it affects me this days.
I belive that when 2 people know and have faith to each other they dont need a chruch nor a goverment that God know they are husband and wife
And i call my Girlfried my Wife but we are not yet married becouse of diffrent dificulties a socity has she was maried bevor and on paper she still
is, but like i belive that God does not need a church or goverment for a wedding i also belive that God dont need a church or goverment to
divorse. If 2 people feel the same in getting together or getting divorsed God will honor this.
There are so many reasons to not beeing intimate, but i belive what is written on a paper is it no reason.

But i also have maybe an higher standard, we live in a time where people can dised if they get pregnant and getting a baby or not when they
are intimate, but i say dont sleep with someone who you dont want to have childreen with, not thats is a must to have childreen but you should
not be afraid of it and can be then a good father or mother.

Lets go back to the paper and what is written in the bible you picked to places of the bible the following.

Genesis 2:24–25 (NIV)

24 That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.
25 Adam and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.

Hebrews 13:4 (NIV)

4 Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral.

So genesis write dont stick together forever with your father and mother, build your own family i doubt abit there where chuches or goverments at
this time where they children of adam and alot of later generations got blessings from. It was only God himself to bless them.

Hebrews 13:4 "Marriage should be honored by all" This when you look around God realy made good when someone id Marriage in Chruch or goverment
everybody is happy for them and giv gifts, Celebraties when they broadcast it on TV it can move Nations.
So there is no doubt that Marriage is honored.
"and the marriage bed kept pure" this is a thing i guess there also so much concense dont have intimate relations with others at the same time
"God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral" adulterer is a thing for me which is not starting in a bed this is much earlier, but
in so less times only one is gultiy for it but if people talk say we are married but not happy anymore God you know that we go diffrent ways.
Than its not a adulterer or immoral when the have new relations even when there papers saying diffrent things.

Your comparision with fire in the fireplace and fire in the house is not realy matching. I also could say how should someone
give you an adive how to repair a car when he never opend the front lid of a car.

There are so many reasons why people are not yet married or according to the rules canot get married, and i think its not a good thing
when the feel this is automaticly a sin when they are intimate.

So you maybe still ask when you know this all yourself why are you not happy with it and write me these.
My wife she is not that convinced about it, and for her i also write this, im not afraid that i maybe misinterpret the bible. with it i would be in
good company alot of people do misinterpreting the bible. God was people writing the bible with so much interpretion space he had a good reason for it.
But when i misinterpret the bible, i never see it for bad thing i only see the good things, God is good.

Im excusing for my english this is not my mother tounge.

What i just want is that more people try to see the bible as an manual for good things and does, not for a manual with for warings and dont's.
Im dont want anyone to change anything in there life, but everyone should be able to think about right and wrong and who should judge this.

Judy I love you and i know it was God who bring us together, it was not a foult that you married an other man befor me which you didt love.
I know you have separeated infront of God, and the paper will following, dont think you are sinning when you are together with me.
My bed feels cold as ice when you are not there, i miss you so much.

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