Adolescence, Part V: Sex & Marriage

“But if they cannot control themselves, they should marry, for it is better to marry than to burn with passion.”
1 Cor. 7:9

In case you didn’t know, people in the Western world are living longer than anytime in history. No longer is it a necessity to get married and have children as soon as possible lest our culture die out. In times when people died in their 30s or 40s, it was VERY important.

Now throughout history, trends relating to sex and marriage haven’t been constant, but as far as American history is concerned, we, as Christians, seem to miss something about sex.

By extending adolescence by having 12 years of schooling, and then 4 years (or more) of college becoming a rite of passage, and then considering people are living longer, marriage is now delayed. The high rate of divorce also contributes to the delay. The median marriage age is about 25ish, with many getting married in their late 20s. What does that mean?

It means that we, as Christians, are now expecting people to abstain from sex for over 10 years after they biologically are, in many ways, an adult. Even Paul, in an age when people, as a whole, died younger, recognized the power of the sex drive and advised people to marry if they burned with passion. Now, when teens are burning with passion, what are they supposed to do? How many parents want their children in high school or college to get married during those times? The point is not whether they have the maturity or whether it’s a good idea, but, rather, that we have really high expectations which the cultural structure itself makes difficult to live up to. Teens are put into a subculture where they spend most of their time with their peers and are told not to bow to peer pressure.

The Bible definitely makes it clear that sex is to be within marriage. But, we do have sexual desires, and we get to choose what to do with that. In Paul’s culture, a young marriage was an expectation. For Paul to say that singleness was an option for all, perhaps even preferred, and that there was an alternate family, was out-of-step with the culture. And if singleness is a valid option for a Christian, God’s grace must be sufficient to abstain. Evangelicalism almost seems to worship the ideas of marriage and family at times though, and that makes it hard to be single in many church environments. People want a narrative that does more than reflect the culture with a little Jesus thrown in. Thankfully many in the next generation are rejecting the narrative given them by the Church of the American Dream and are searching for a better one.