Growing up I was around a lot of different denominations of Christians. We all agreed that sex should wait until marriage. And we needed to promote chastity. And there were promise rings and chastity bracelets and all that jazz. Those are all good things. But in that same sentiment was something that missed the entire point.
Everyone said don’t have sex before Marriage. And it stopped there. It didn’t take it to the next step and ask what the proper role of sex is within marriage.
There was this assumption that as long as sex was within marriage, then anything goes. It viewed marriage as this place to live out any sexual desires or fantasies one may have. And it was all good with God. And it was all healthy.
So we had a lot of teens with raging hormones who simply thought they needed to 1) restrain their lustful impulses until marriage and then 2) redirect them at their wife (or husband). While this may seem like a better alternative to sex before marriage, in many ways it still misses the beauty of sex all together. Further, it can breed many sexual disorders that are then carried into marriage later in life.
Here is a proper definition of Lust:
An inordinate desire for or enjoyment of sexual pleasure. The desires or acts are inordinate when they do not confirm to the divinely ordained purpose of sexual pleasure, which is to foster the mutual love of husband and wife and, according to the dispositions of providence, to procreate and educate their children.
So – let’s be clear. Not lusting does not mean denying the pleasure of sex. It means having the proper orientation of that pleasure. It should be something that fosters the mutual love between husband and wife. It should not be something either spouse abuses as a means of their own personal gratification. I fear this is all too common within marriage these days – even among so-called good Christian marriages.
When we lust for somebody we objectify them as an instrument of our own, selfish pleasure. We use them. If we truly love somebody we will never use them like this. This goes against the very meaning of the sacrament of Marriage. So we should not be lusting for anyone, least of all our spouses!
That’s why it is not good enough to only say “don’t have sex outside of marriage.” We must give people the full picture of God’s plan for sex. It’s not a legalism that says “don’t do this” or you’ll mess things up. That misses the point. It’s a liberty that says if you want the fullness of life – “live this way.”
That’s what John Paul II’s Theology of the Body has begun doing for our sexually confused culture. It’s revealing ever more clearly the beauty of God’s plan for sex. It’s awesome. And when people actually embrace it and live it they are finding that – “Ya know what? I guess God did know what he was doing!” Duh.