Evangelical Christian’s have long promoted no sex before marriage. It is based on the biblical instructions to avoid fornication and is a valid instruction for the patriarchal society. But the patriarchal society and marriage are becoming less than universal and stretched and even manipulated beyond recognition. The Bible represents a reasonable social history of 2000 years ago in Palestine.
Further historical research reveals interesting information about their society. Firstly, after the years of turbulence in the Old Testament, Israeli society settled down to a reasonably stable existence. The Jewish law was all powerful and there were teachers of the law to instruct the people in adherence to the Torah. Attendance at the synagogue was not compulsory or even regular. Most people only attended on feast days as knowledge of the religion was well established. The teachers and important families would attend so as to discuss important issues.
Marriage would take place about 18 years old, it would be arranged to a first cousin or someone else in the village. These villages had stable populations that were divided between the Jewish tribes and everybody was related. As you were growing up you could probably guess who your partner would be and could grow up together. Generally the man was farming and the woman was pregnant, breast feeding and child rearing. This was a matter of survival that came about due to the change to farming from hunter-gathering, in pre-history, to agriculture. Producing kids was important to produce hands to work the farm, but still the population remained stable. The man would break his back in the field and the woman would have pain in childbirth, it was a hard life and it was difficult to stay alive. In the evening after eating there was little entertainment other than to make babies. There was no singleness, there was no reason to be gay as you had to marry anyway, there was virtually no splitting up, there was little opportunity to meet or see anyone of the opposite sex. The requirements for marriage were to turn up at the ceremony, make babies and work in the fields or run the home.
Today there appears to be many barriers to marriage, some seen and others unseen. The average age for marriage in England last time I looked was 28 for woman and 30 for man. It is neither right nor healthy to sexually repress people until this age. Some people still live under the patriarchal society, some relationships have morphed into a matriarchal society there appears to be little discussion about the type of relationship in advance and little choice.
In the Bible, Paul said wives obey your husbands and husband care for your wives. The first command is the way the system worked and Paul was maintaining the status quo, but the second was the Christian command to care. In instructing men this way, the Christian marriage would be more balanced and loving than other cultures. It seems to me that although the husband had more power than the wife, he also had more responsibility including managing the family fairly. Although this seems unfair, the woman’s responsibility was to the children for a reason, her biology. Putting the man in charge reduced power struggles, but onus was on the man to meet the woman’s needs.
In the future, I would propose that relationships should be 50/50 where partners select different areas of their lives that intersect and share responsibility. The different parts or their lives, or ministries, should be divided up between them. When a decision has to be made, the partner responsible will make it, reducing argument. Since the responsibilities will be shared, there is a balance and a basis for negotiation rather than a power struggle.
There are many types of love in this world now, but I would be referring to agape. This is the Greek word for sacrificial love that gives without needing return. It is buying flowers for your partner when you don’t want something and you have done nothing wrong, if that is ever possible! It is giving the shirt off your back or going the extra mile. Ultimately it is giving your life for your fellow humans. In the Korean War, a British unit was assaulting a hill and grenade rolled down into their midst. The nearest soldier dived on it shielding the blast, saving his brothers by losing his life. That is agape.
So, the Christian principles of sex and relationships, would in my mind at least be, an organised system where everybody knows the rules and sticks to them. Balance, agape and truth would be the triple code. In fact I would say that these three principles are good rules of thumb for any relationship. Granted they may be ideals, but it is better to start from these principles and see how it develops personally.
Surely relationships are better when there is not a power struggle. We are supposed to be sharing our lives not controlling each other. Relationships are really about a situation of mutual advantage. Expressed clearly, with both parties needs met, then the romantic possibilities, from that position could be endless.