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.