How do you know when you love someone?
How do you know when you love God?
For the Christian, these answers are somewhat varied, but are ultimately rooted in the truth of Scripture. For instance, I know that I love God if I am walking in obedience to His word and His voice. I know that I love others if I am willing to lay down my own desires to better serve them.
When in doubt, people are likely to quote 1 Corinthians 13 and compare their actions to Paul’s list of the characteristics of love. Outside of the Church, however, identifying love can be difficult. To the unbeliever, the second question doesn’t matter, and since all true love starts and ends with God, the first question becomes merely a matter of opinion. Answers will range from cute explanations of butterflies in the tummy to the ever-serious move of telling the parents.
For an increasing number of millennials, responses are much more risqué.
According to Match.com’s most recent Singles in America survey, approximately 28 percent of people view sex as a way of discovering whether or not they love someone. Even more alarming, the study revealed that nearly 34 percent have had sex before going on a first date. The data even suggests that millennials are 48 percent more likely to fall into that category than previous generations.
The expectations and cultural norms surrounding dating, sex and relationships are clearly shifting. It now seems a legitimate question to ask: Has purity been cast aside by this generation?
As followers of Christ, purity is the standard by which we are to conduct our relationships and our lives. It is not about empty rules and prudish ways, but about living a life in line with the truth of Scripture.
By definition purity means “freedom from contamination and immorality,” which makes purity something we should all be engaging in. The Apostle Paul tells us to “flee from sexual immorality.” (1 Corinthians 6)
This fleeing is to be so deliberate that he also warns us not to even associate with people who claim to be of the Christian faith but are sexually immoral. (1 Corinthians 5) Staying sexually pure can be hard, but it is for our benefit. Plus self-control in this area honors God and shows a distinction between the people of His Kingdom and the people of the world. (1 Thessesolonians 4)
Culture’s sexual fallout
In addition to some alarming statistics on the sexual habits of the current singles population, the report also stated that 57 percent of millennials report feeling lonely. It seems, that in a culture of extreme technological connectedness, instant gratification and increased sexual activity, there is a void in deep, meaningful relationships.
Intimacy has been inverted, and sexual contact has overridden the word to rob it of its depth of meaning. When reporting on the survey, Fox News reporter Mac King put it this way:
Younger generations treat sex not as the pinnacle of intimacy but as a first gateway through which all potential relationships must pass for screening before proceeding onward or not toward some ultimate plane of closeness.
To base love on sex is to rob sex of its meaning and to manipulate the definition of love to mean something that it does not.
Sex, although an act of intimacy, is not intimacy itself. To be intimate with someone is to know them and to be known by them. To be intimate with someone to have close familiarity and friendship. Intimate relationships are deep and meaningful. They have been cultivated by hours of conversation, shared experience and mutual respect.
Intimate relationships cannot be feigned or microwaved.
Replacing the intimacy in our relationships with sex is a cheap counterfeit that often leads to feelings of rejection and disappointment. Having sex with someone you have never been on a date with won’t resolve the sadness of not having a friends or company and, at least according to this data, appears to make the loneliness worse.
Sex outside of marriage, for Christians, often leads into further problems, like lying about our actions, being deceptive to cover the lies and, as Robert Morris put it we begin to correlate appetites with sex that were never meant to exist.
The issue can seem overwhelming, both to those trying to fight for purity and those who haven’t. But it is not unavoidable, and it is not irreconcilable. In the face of a culture that is lonely, the many broken people need to encounter the love of Christ. In the face of a culture that is increasingly sexual, the world does not need a dissertation on purity, a protest or a ten-point sermon on what it’s doing wrong.
The world, and millennial culture especially, needs Christians to live boldly as salt and light. It needs people who refuse to cave to the pressures of social conformity.
Biblical purity isn’t a one-and-done proposition: Restoration is always a prayer away. Jesus can take sin and replace it with something far better. The depth of intimacy Christ offers us is enough to quash the urge for superficial dating, feigned expressions of love and sex outside of marriage.
Living a life of purity sets us free to love God with our whole hearts and to enjoy the fullness of friendship, relationship and godly sexuality. And no matter what the numbers say, it is important to remember that God’s way is best and that we are never as alone as it seems in our stands for righteousness. The percentages in the survey were significant, but they also clearly showed something else: Not all millennials are following this pattern.