Mixed Messages on Sex and Marriage

I shared in my sermon this past Sunday some thoughts on 1 Corinthians 7 regarding sex, marriage, divorce, and being single.  For the full message, go here.

One of the things that peaked my interest in planning for this message was seeing a Christianity Today article called “The Case for Marrying Young,” written a few years ago by Mark Regnerus. The article talks about how we give our young single Christians mixed messages when it comes to sex and marriage.  We give them the “Don’t have sex until you are married” talk, but it seems that many also give them the “Wait until you have everything lined up in your life to get married,” or “Don’t rush into relationships,” talks as well.

This is creating a problem.  We tell them on the one side, based on passages like 1 Corinthians 7:2, not to have sex until marriage, and then, on the other side, wait until you are established to get married.  Many people don’t truly get established in this life until they are well past their 20’s and even some never quite seem to get there!  So what we are asking them to do is counter-productive and really hard.  We are asking them to wait to fulfill their sexual desires and not to act on those impulses in the years in which their sexual desires are strongest.  Essentially there is no outlet for them to fulfill those desires outside the context of marriage and it seems at the same time we are pushing marriage till later years.  Is there nothing they can do?  Is something about our messages wrong?

Here are a few other things he mentioned in the article as well to drive home this point:

  • “The median age of first marriage, was 21 for women and 23 for men in 1970.  Today it is 5 years later for each: the average first marriage age is 26 for women and 28 for men, the highest figures since the Census Bureau started collecting data about it. That’s five additional, long years of peak sexual interest and fertility. (And remember, those numbers are medians: for every man marrying at 22, there’s one marrying for the first time at 34.)”


  • Evangelicals tend to marry slightly earlier than other Americans, but not by much. Many of them plan to marry in their mid-20s.Yet waiting for sex until then feels far too long to most of them. And I am suggesting that when people wait until their mid-to-late 20s to marry, it is unreasonable to expect them to refrain from sex. It’s battling our Creator’s reproductive designs. The data don’t lie. Our sexual behavior patterns give us away. Very few wait long for sex.


  • Unfortunately, Christians have another demographic concern: The ratio of devoutly Christian young women to men is far from even. Amongst churchgoers, there are about three single women for every two single men. There is a shortage of young Christian men.


  • Evangelicals make much of avoiding being unequally yoked, but the fact that there are far more spiritually mature young women out there than men makes this bit of advice difficult to follow. No congregational program or men’s retreat in the Rocky Mountains will solve this. If she decides to marry, one in three women has no choice but to marry down in terms of Christian maturity. Many of the hopeful ones wait, watching their late 20s and early 30s arrive with no husband. When the persistent longing turns to deep disappointment, some decide that they didn’t really want to marry after all.

What do we do about this?  Certainly we want our Christian young men and women to remain pure and avoid sexual immorality.  And certainly we want our Christian young men and women not to rush into any relationships that are not God-pleasing.  How do we respond to this?  Are we sending mixed signals or is this just a battle our young people have to fight?

Rather than giving a nice tidy answer to this question, I’m open for your feedback and opinions on this topic.


3 thoughts on “Mixed Messages on Sex and Marriage

  1. While I also feel that waiting to get married until you’re independent, financially stable, and in the career of your dreams is nothing short of a fairy tale these days, I do feel that, as a college student still living at home, it’s ok to wait until you have made plans to move out or have a place ready to move into before you get married. Although I love my home and my parental roommates, my futon is hardly fitting for a newlywed couple!

  2. I believe that in order to address any issue – a person should go to the root – what is the cause. I believe the root cause of people not marrying until they’re in their 20s – 30s generation is that our parents got divorced for any and every reason. They some times had 2 or 3 spouses. This then created fertile ground for fear or disdain for marriage, and a fear of “messing things up”. I also believe that we grew up during a time when “abuse” began to be in education and the media more, so we started believing that if I or my children are being abused, I can divorce – and that was the only option. We forgot to consult God’s word about divorce.

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