By Andrea Emerson

3 Things about Sex, Dating, and Jesus

When I find out two people are dating I assume they’re also having sex. Statistically, this assumption is pretty safe.

Our Western culture presupposes dating and sex are a package deal. And campus hook-up culture suggests that the dating part of the package is optional.

As Christians, most of us assume our behavior should be shaped by our identity as Christians, rather than by the popular culture.

In my work with students, conversations about sex and dating come up a lot, and I think that’s a good thing! I count it a privilege to walk with students along a journey often marked by pain, regret, and confusion, because I know that Jesus wants to bring joy, life, and restoration to our stories.

Here are three things every college student should consider about sex, dating, and Jesus:

1. Jesus Is Lord . . . of Everything

We Christians like to say Jesus is Lord… a lot. But saying Jesus is Lord is a lot easier than living like he is Lord. We all have areas in our lives where we want control and are reluctant to let Jesus be the master. And many of us are reluctant to let Jesus be in charge of our sex and dating decisions.

But if Jesus is Lord, then he is the Lord of our entire lives. And that means our sexuality too! He’s in charge, which means he gets to call the shots and influence who we date and how we date.

Isn’t this discipleship?                           

2. Ask Better Questions

When Jesus is the Lord of our sexuality and our dating decisions, the way we engage in relationships begins to change. We begin to view people like Jesus does—created in the image of God. We also begin to treat people like Jesus does—laying down our lives for them. Jesus transforms our selfishness into selflessness. While our intentions might be good when it comes to dating, often times our motivations can also be selfish:

“What can I get out of dating this or that person?”

“Now that we’re dating, how far can we push the physical boundaries?”

If Jesus is Lord of our dating lives, we are challenged to love the other person in a way that honors them and God:

“Would dating this person honor God?”

“How can I seek to honor this person, their reputation, and their dignity?”

“Is having sex, the best way to honor this person and God?”

Being made in the image of God means that we reflect truth about Him to other people around us. We must ask ourselves, then, if our actions in our dating relationships reflect truth about God.

3. We Won’t Fit In

Submitting our sexuality and our dating decisions to Jesus’ lordship not only leads to asking better questions about how to engage in relationships, but also how to radically lives as his disciples.

Our dating relationships shouldn’t involve sex. Period. Like it or not, sex and dating are not a package deal in the Christian narrative.

Though celibacy until marriage is a shocking and counter-cultural concept; it’s really nothing new. Christians have historically held such views about the sacredness of sex and marriage. We’re not the first generation to live in a culture with a misguided sexual narrative. 

C.S. Lewis wrote, “Chastity is the most unpopular of the Christian virtues.”

So let's encourage one another on as we journey an unpopular road, because in the end Jesus' way is the way that leads to life and not away from it.

Andrea Emerson and her husband, Ben, are on staff at Oregon State University in Corvallis, Oregon. A recent transplant to the Northwest, Andrea believes she's living in the promised land for people who value good coffee, all things indie, and plaid shirts. She loves helping students meet Jesus and learn how to follow him.

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Thank you for posting this and standing firm in what is true. My parents had always taught me the sacredness of sex and marriage, and I was able to stick to that until I married at the age of 24. My first real and lasting dating relationship was for two years, with the man who became my husband. Sadly, we did not totally surrender ourselves to Jesus and did not keep ourselves pure as we wish we had. I had no idea the temptation would be so strong, and had not adequately assessed my own weakness. In the eyes of the world, we were pure on our wedding day. In God's eyes, we both knew we had fallen short. What might he have accomplished in our lives had we not been so distracted in that way? Sin is sin. It takes us further from God no matter what it is. My husband and I have been married for 11 years now, but I would counsel any young dating couples to be aware of the dangers more than we were. Accountability, prayer, and living every second as before the very eyes of Jesus who died for us--the only way! Jesus wants more for us than the world has to offer!

Thank you for sharing your insights. Waiting until marriage was a decision I made when I was 16. I am going to be 30 soon. I am still not married and yes, still a virgin. I'm ok with this and actually, my friends are incredibly supportive. I get no pressure from them and I try to live my life according to God's word. My mother actually gave me some interesting feedback and told me that not everyone is meant to be with someone. As hurtful as that was at the time, I have thought about her words and The Apostle Paul. "To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is well for them to remain single as I do." (1 Corinthians 7:7-8 RSV) I have no idea what is in stored for me, but I'm embracing my single life and holding on to my chastity. I'm very proud to have remained a virgin.

It's issues like these that make me feel like I am pushing the boundaries of God's love. I have never been good at resisting temptation. While I still am a virgin, there are many other places where I fall short. Sin is sin, and the sin described above is no worse or no better than any other sin. So does succeeding in one area make you any different? Can God really do something better in my life when I don't fall in some places? I am a faller. I will continue to fall all my life. God is a picker-upper. He will continue to pick me up all my life. He has seen who I really am, but still loves me. Half the times I think to myself wtf. The other times I feel covered in grace. -a fluffy bunny

Despite these rules set forth in the Bible, I still find the conception of Christ hypocritical. Just like many other immaculate conceptions of sons of Greek gods, God was not traditionally married to Mary when he conceived Jesus. So why exactly should I live up to a standard that was not even set by God himself?

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