Ideally, the title of today's post would be meaningless.
It's not that I'm a prude, but there are some very good reasons why sex outside of marriage is a bad idea. "It's a sin!" is just one of them.
But it's going to happen. Sex is going to be a part of the lives of many unmarried Christians until the Second Coming. The important thing is minimizing the damage - spiritual, emotional, and physical.
The worst practical thing about premarital sex is that it takes a part of the marriage relationship out of context. Sex inside marriage is affected by all of the other things that go into the making of the marriage bond - a shared home, shared meals, shared finances, a shared future, and the building of a shared past.
They all add up to intimacy, in the strict sense of the word - not necessarily the 'fun kind', discovering delightful things about another person, but the deeper kind, of learning how to begin to understand another person.
Take sex outside those boundaries, and it becomes intimacy that's largely physical, but isn't really affected by the other factors that make up marriage.
Ah, but what if the couple's living together? Doesn't that bring it back into balance?
Well, no, because on thing that married intimacy depends on is a sense of commitment. Yes, you can get divorced, but most couples don't look on divorce as anything but a last resort. Live together, and you can decide to break up.
There may be some drama over who owns what, and if some payments are shared, who's responsible, but the act of leaving is much easier to implement.
Living together is playing house. No matter what the verbal assurances are, no matter how impassioned the declarations of love and fidelity and permanence, it can be over in a minute, and both partners know this.
Sexuality, against this background, is kind of like expecting real life to resemble a vacation. It won't, and the chances are pretty good that a couple's sex life will need some serious and painful adjustments after marriage, if they've decided to indulge ahead of time.
That assumes they make it to the altar. Another huge disadvantage of premarital sex i s rooted in the difference between men and women. Men tend to find excitement in 'the chase', and the courtship process is partially the pursuit of sex. It sounds crude, but men are crude. Is this stereotyping? Sire, and it's effective because it's true.
If marriage is the 'finish line', a man is likely to stay more interested and involved up to that point, until the formal commitment makes it hard to back out.
But if the race ends early, a significant percentage of men will look for new 'worlds to conquer', and many women have given in, only to be given up.
Sounds horrible, eh? Makes men sound like cads, and marriage sound like entrapment?
Neither is really the case, but for the first, there is a primitive undercurrent in all of us. Denying its existence is both foolish, and something of an affront to the Almighty - he made us this way. Far better to recognize the potential power of forces of which we may only dimly feel, and respect the need for care in handling them.
And is marriage entrapment? Hardly. Setting the end of the race on the other side of the altar ensures that physical intimacy will grow and flower where it's supposed to - in the marriage itself.
Okay, now we can trot out "it's a sin!". Sex outside marriage is considered by most churches to be fornication, and fornicators don't get to go to Heaven. So there.
However...some denominations have looked at this differently through the past few hundred years. Up until the mid-17th century in England, betrothal was considered to be the green light, and most brides were pregnant when they married.
More to the point, many Christians take the attitude that "we love each other, we're planning to marry, and we don't consider this a sin".
It's hard to argue this one effectively; the couples have generally thought it through, either individually or together. The 'formal commitment before God and community' bit may work, but these people generally feel committed.
So what do you say?
Nothing, unless you're asked, because at that point it's between them and God...and maybe it always was.