Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Is a sexual past a deal breaker?

Last week I posted a link to and several quotes from an blog post by Dr. Russell Moore, "How much do I need to know about my potential spouses' sexual past?" Moore argues, basically, that virginity is a good thing; however, to make someone's sexual past a deal breaker reveals a lack of grace and willingness to forgive. He cautions, "You are not “owed” a virgin because you are. Your sexual purity wasn’t part of a quid pro quo in which God would guarantee you a sexually unbroken man."

The article sparked a healthy (maybe heated is a better word) debate on it in his comments section and I was asked to comment on the argument. I'll try to represent both sides adequately and then chime in myself.

One comment states, "It is one thing to forgive a potential partner for past indescretions, it is another thing to consider that person a candidate for marriage. I’m not suggesting that sexual past is a determining factor, at least not by itself. But sexual past will have an impact on overall compatibility and will either contribute to equal yoking or non-equal yoking." The person offering the comment and others who agree with him see the desire for a virgin spouse to be a pure and noble desire, one that should be encouraged, not dismissed lightly.

On the other side of the argument are those who see the desire for a virgin spouse to be a possible sign of pride and unforgiveness. I'm oversimplifying both sides here. They point out that we all bring past sins into our marriage, whether they be greed, anger, lust, alcohol abuse, etc. They rightly point out that virgin spouses will have there own sins that will need to be forgiven/overlooked. It is somewhat hypocritical to refuse to do the same for a potential spouse who has a sexual past.

I could go on and I haven't really done the two sides justice. If this is something you are concerned about, I'd recommend reading the comments (there are, at the time of this post, 86 of them!). My take is that there is truth on both sides, dangers on both sides, and that both sides are talking past each other instead of to each other (happens a lot in online, blog debates).

First, I want to affirm sexual purity and virginity are important things. God has called us to be chaste until marriage, and that is a virtue that should be honored. We owe God our purity - which is much more important than saying we owe our future spouse our purity. Sexual sin, especially our own, should not be taken lightly. And please don't neglect that most sexual sin is committed in our minds, not with another person (Matt. 5:27-28).

Second, I do not believe that this is a matter of being equally yoked, as the comment quoted above suggested. We are commanded not to be unequally yoked to unbelievers in marriage (2 Cor 6:14). It is an abuse of this passage to suggest that someone's past sins make them an unbeliever or a less passionate/committed follower of Jesus in the present.

Third, I do think that a refusal to consider a non-virgin as a potential spouse is a possible sign of pride and a flawed understanding of grace and even the gospel. I would suggest trying to understand someone's attitudes towards their past sins. That seems to me to be crucial. If I were in the dating game, I'd be more much more reluctant to consider someone who took a flippant attitude towards sexual sin (even if they were a virgin) than someone who was grieved by their sexual sin, had repented of it, and were committed to staying sexual pure in the future.

I don't want to come down as hard on those who have made virginity a deal breaker (some of the commentors are overly harsh), but I think virginity can easily become an idol. Idols are almost always good things that become too important. Moreover, I would caution any who think God owes them a virgin spouse because they have been sexually pure. That is a dangerous attitude. Finally, I think the story of Hosea is interesting. I have no idea if Hosea was sexually pure (just being a prophet doesn't guarantee it). I doubt he was a whore though, and yet God called him to marry one. Why? To demonstrate God's loving kindness and grace - a loving kindness and grace we are called to emulate.

Hope those brief thoughts are helpful.

4 comments:

David said...

I agree.

Rochelle said...

Idols, Dan? Really? If you're going to open the door to idol talk, then go one further to explain that expecting a virgin because you have been pure is an idol of pride. The dangerous attitude you spoke of is indicative of idols of the heart - that one's purity has somehow made you superior to non-virgins. At that point, forget about the issue of past sexual dealings and re-evaluate your heart as a Christian.

Anonymous said...

I think pride is an unfair generalization. I am dealing with the pain of my boyfriends past and it's not because I thought i deserved something. I have always cherished sex only between a husband and wife and it disgusts me to picture those details over and over again. Satan is plaguing my mind with those thoughts and even thought i am praying, and fighting to rebuke and forgive, I don't think your opinion is fair to a lot of people dealing with pains of a sexual past.

Anonymous said...

For many its not the pride, its the lingering pain that makes it unbearable.