Every evening around 10:30pm, if you’re hanging around a certain Chicago street corner, you’ll see a couple emerge from a yellowed apartment building, usually holding hands. They begin a 0.6 -mile walk in the twilight, cutting through some neighborhoods and past the parks, to a squat, brick two-flat on a one way street. She unlocks the door, he kisses her goodnight and assures she is safely inside, then he turns around and re-walks the 0.6-mile path in the dark.
It’s an inconvenient dance where I’m living out of a suitcase and sleeping on an air mattress in a near-empty apartment while my fiance lives a 15 minute walk away in a fully-furnished one. We aren’t getting married for another five weeks, and the back and forth is annoying and tiring.
Why make the harder choice? Why deal with the inconvenience of going home each night? This is stupid, many would say.
Nobody ever said holiness was convenient or easy.
Pursuing righteousness – why do we do it? Not only has God called His people to do so, but throughout Scripture we are told time and again that this is how we live the most fulfilling life – by knowing and obeying God. If He created something, and then tells us how to enjoy it, shouldn’t we pay attention? If He gives us a new life and identity, then shouldn’t we look to Him on how to live it out?
This is more than simply being “good kids”; purity is certainly a large part of why I go home each night and don’t just sleep over at my fiance’s place but there’s more to it than just saving myself until marriage to get a gold star. This is about living out life on earth as redeemed sons and daughters of the living God, not giving in to sin or flesh or lustful convenience. We are no longer slaves to sin, and so we now have a legitimate choice to live in freedom and not cave into desires. And we honor God and enjoy Him at His fullest when we live in that freedom.
This is also about understanding the meaning and point of sex. The world would say to do what feels good, etc. The Lord has a different and better way. Sex is for pleasure and bonding and making new life, but it also is the closest picture we have to the relational intimacy within the Trinity and to the relationship Christ has with His church. It is the most powerful bond-er on earth, this beautiful gift. As such, there is a place for it, a God-designed covenant to contain it so its power would not wreak havoc but instead be enjoyed and fulfill its purpose – marriage. The vows between a man and a woman that they make before God, the state, and their community is the place where this gift belongs, because the permanence of marriage (“’til death do us part”) ensures that its purpose will be fully realized. Sex outside of marriage becomes reductionistic and cheap at best, where there is no guarantee that this person truly loves you or is committed to you forever. And so the act is just an act that expresses desire, maybe affection, and brings pleasure for a time until the relationship is over.
We do live in a broken, fallen world, and there’s some myth floating around out there that sex is better when you wait. From what I’ve gathered, that’s not entirely true. You still have to figure it out, deal with the other person, work through awkwardness and anatomy. Bodies still don’t work right, attitudes get in the way, you have to learn and grow.
But the difference with a biblical marriage is that the other person won’t just bail on you because you aren’t good at it, they won’t try to take advantage of you to serve themselves, and they will love you and stay with you because they vowed to before the Lord. The pressure to perform is off, and it becomes about serving and loving the other person, as Christ enables us to love the “other” because He loved us first.
I’m looking forward to marriage and an end to all the back-and-forthing that has been a routine for the past four years. Truth is, I’m tired of having to sleep somewhere else at night and not be with the man I love 24/7. I’m grateful for God’s help in always providing a way to pursue holiness even when inconvenient. He always does, because He loves us and wants what is best for us even if it takes some energy on our part. Sin is lazy and easy, but we are refined to be more like Jesus when we do what God commands us to do. Isn’t that our prayer? To know Him, to be made more like Him, to love Him more and more.
“For the Scriptures say, ‘You must be holy because I am holy'” (1 Peter 1:16).