I mentioned something in an earlier post that may not have set well for many people. I want to return to that topic now after having developed a different understanding of justice – justice as restoration of broken relationships (with God and one another), right order in society, and the fulfillment of God’s original intentions.
What I mentioned in “Clarity Over Coffee” is that pre-marital sex relates to justice. Until now, the connection may have seemed to be a call for righteousness in the sense of personal uprightness.
In this day and age, such a connection tends to ring hollow. Postmodern society generally defines personal uprightness as relative and, quite often, irrelevant.
My generation is more inclined toward a concern with personal experience, tolerance, and being nice, all of which have brought both benefits and detriments.
The biblical concept of righteousness seems to include personal uprightness, but it doesn’t stop there. Recall the meaning of the Hebrew word (sedaqah) translated righteousness: rightness, a standard, or something fully what it should be.
And recall that “justice and righteousness” is a call to set things right by returning them to their originally intended state.
I don’t think justice and righteousness consist of a list of right and wrong that God regularly checks like Santa Claus. I think they’re more a state of existence God wants us to live in for enjoyment of right relationship with Him and others.
Safety and Security in Covenant Relationship
According to the Bible, pre-marital sex is something that takes away from that full enjoyment, from things being fully what they should be. The verses I focused on over the past two days convey that sense, particularly Jeremiah 7:9, which connects adultery with injustice (it may be helpful to read the last two posts to understand that there’s a connection being made).
According to Matthew 5:28, adultery is not only cheating on the one with whom you’re in relationship – instead, “everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”
1 Corinthians 7:8-9 is also clear in saying, “but if they cannot exercise self-control, let them marry. For it is better to marry than to burn with passion.”1
The vulnerability that comes with giving oneself to another sexually is intended for the safety and security of covenant relationship.
As described by Walther Eichrodt, because of God’s covenant with Abraham, “an atmosphere of trust and security is created.”2 From what I understand of the Bible, God intends marriage to reflect His covenant relationship with people.
In a covenant, one doesn’t withdraw from relationship when the other party fails to meet expectations. When worldviews embedded so deeply you didn’t know they were there suddenly clash, when you realize your partner isn’t quite who you thought he or she was, when your dreams and desires start to diverge…the covenant agreement still doesn’t end.
These are all perfectly legitimate reasons to end a dating relationship, but not to end a covenant relationship.3 And as Malachi 2:14 attests, marriage is a covenant relationship.
It makes sense in a culture like ours where marriages end for lesser reasons than those stated above that one would scoff at the notion of marriage as covenant relationship. With the extent of divorce we’ve experienced over the past 50 years, it seems ludicrous to trust that one enters a safe, secure relationship upon marriage.
It also makes sense that couples wouldn’t want to get married or would want to try living together before committing to marriage.
But what we witness in our culture is not what God intended marriage to be. It is unrighteous in that it is not fully what it should be.
Justice sets this situation right, returning marriage to the state God originally intended. Justice also returns sex to its originally intended state within the marriage covenant.
Less Than God Intended
Sex outside of marriage is less than God intended. He wants us to be in right relationship with one another and with Him, and sex outside of the marriage covenant wrongs others in ways to which we may remain oblivious.
When we have sex outside of marriage, we’re asking something of the other person – whether personal pleasure, affirmation, relational continuity, financial savings that come with living together, or something else – without committing to stand by their side no matter what happens.
Does this mean one’s intentions will be perfect in marriage? No.
But if we treat marriage as covenant, then at the very least we’re committed to stand by the other person “for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health…‘til death do us part.”
I believe we may also contribute to social injustices in ways we can’t see when we have sex outside of marriage. Whether by contributing to another’s degraded sense of self-worth, leaving them less able to fully be themselves, spreading sexual diseases, or leaving children without healthily married parents, we can influence the world negatively.
Please understand that I’m not saying pre-marital sex is necessarily worse than the wrongs that occur within marriage. Both are less than God intended and wants for His children.
What I’m saying is that there’s a connection between how we treat others and the state of injustice in the world. I’ve focused on premarital sex because it’s what came up in conversation over coffee with my friend and because we are so unlikely to naturally associate it with injustice.
Real Sex: The Naked Truth About Chastity by Lauren Winner – It’s been a very long time since I read this book, but from the little I can remember, it provides an honest, helpful Christian perspective on sexuality in a post-modern context.
1. Please note I am not justifying rushing into marriage because one wants to have sex.
2. Walter Eichrodt, Theology of the Old Testament, trans. J.A. Baker (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1961), 1:38, qtd. in Joseph L. Allen, Love & Conflict: A Covenantal Model of Christian Ethics (Lanham, Maryland: University Press of America, 1995), 72.