Today, dating typically starts with outer attributes. Is that person pleasant looking, sexually attractive, doing well, or well-connected? If yes, the next steps are dating, and then caressing and sex. If that works out fine, then both parties might consider commitment.
But sex is a powerful force. It can muddle up our thinking. Relationships should start from friendship to see if both sides can understand, accept, appreciate, and work with each other, preferably towards common goals. Then they move on to deeper friendship, romance, and commitment, before going to sex.
Fulfillment in sex comes from deep physical intimacy and full commitment from both sides. So, sex and marriage should be tied.
Masturbation focuses on just giving ourselves satisfaction. After reaching climax, one can feel emptier and lonelier. Also, masturbation depends on fantasy and is addictive. Don’t let it control you.
Don’t try to know everything about the other person before committing. We are imperfect. Your relationship with your spouse depends on God, and your intent to honor Him and to honor your commitment. Also, God continues to work on us. So, don’t be too cautious. After we have spent some time with a person and we really like that person, we should trust God and commit.
What if we are constantly being rejected in dating? Try to identify the reasons. Ask your close friends for suggestions. Then move on and seek out other opportunities.
Some want to remain single. That can be a good choice. Paul recommended being single (1 Corinthians 7:1-7), and Christ was single on earth. Though God said it was good for Adam to have Eve (Genesis 2), happy marriage is difficult to have because we are imperfect. A spouse can reprogram your self-image, which could inflict damage on you.
So, don’t be fixated on getting married or being single. Some idolize being single because they value independence. Others treat being single as a plague. Avoid both.
For some, being single comes easily. That is a gift. But for most, it is better to be married.
Ask God for guidance, and thank God for the outcome, whether you are single or married.
Summarized from a Tim Keller sermon:
Traditional culture discourages being single, but we are imperfect. How can imperfect couples live happily ever after? Couples need to give up their independence and work together to resolve many conflicts. 1 Corinthians 7:3-4 even describes sex as being controlled by one’s spouse. So, it is understandable that many are cynical towards marriage and glorify independence.
But remember that God did not just create Adam. God created Adam and Eve to be together.
Having said that, for Christians, it is also fine to be single. Paul even suggested not looking for a wife in 1 Corinthians 7:27-28. In other words, don’t be too eager to get married.
A few other issues.
Our culture puts too much emphasis on sexual immorality. 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 describe a list of bad characters. They include the sexually immoral, thieves, drunkards, slanderers, and swindlers. Both greed and sexual immorality are on the list. If we define greed as an intense selfish desire for wealth, power or food, then both greed and sexual immorality focus on selfish needs. But our culture treats the sexually immoral much worse than the greedy.
How do we control our appetites? Learn from those who diet. They bear hunger for something desirable, such as health. Similarly, we should abstain from frivolous sex for something desirable, such as more fulfilling sex, a happier spouse, or a better relationship with God.
For those who could not forgive themselves for their past sexual mistakes, remember that we are imperfect. We constantly love something else more than God, committing adultery against Him. But the blood of Christ has cleansed us. Christ has forgiven us, like He had forgiven the adulterer in John 8:8-11. So, forgive our past mistakes and leave our former life of sin.
Focus on God. Only God can truly satisfy us.
Summarized from a Tim Keller’s sermon:
Some consider sex as an appetite, similar to our urge for food (1 Corinthians 6:13). Some consider sex as something dirty that should be avoided (1 Corinthians 7:1).
For Christians, sex was created by God and considered as very good by Him. The two become one flesh (1 Corinthians 6:16) and are united physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually.
It is good to be married. Traditional culture emphasizes family. In the olden days, women were considered nobody if they were single. Nowadays, many believe that death ends everything. So, life on earth is of much higher importance, and it is paramount to find one’s true love.
The Bible also teaches us that we are designed to be married (Genesis 2:18). But, for Christians, it is good to be single also (1 Corinthians 7:27-28).
We are imperfect. Imperfect couples will face many conflicts. As discussed in Ephesians 5 and 1 Corinthians 7:28, marriage is a long and hard journey. Both husband and wife need to give up their independence. And both should try to help the other to be better. Thus, marriage does not automatically lead to “happily ever after.”
Don’t be too desperate for romance or too eager to change status. Whether we are single or married, focus on God. For the single, try to find a spouse with the same focus. If we are happily married, don’t make the other side our idol. Instead, make God our one true love. For the unhappily married, again center on God.
The world in the present form is passing away (1 Corinthians 7:29-31). Don’t be too attached to it. Only God can truly satisfy us. With His water, we will never thirst. Tie our hope to our future ultimate family. Tie our hope to God.
Summarized from a Tim Keller’s sermon:
Lust is powerful and addictive. Look at the huge pornography industry. But Christ said, “I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:28).
Yet, the Bible rejoices in sex and sexual desire. Genesis 1 depicts God creating sex through male and female. He called His creations very good. In Genesis 2:23, before God, naked Adam characterized naked Eve as bone of his bone and flesh of his flesh. The Song of Solomon celebrates sexual love, for example with one admiring the other’s body when the other was going in for sex (Song of Solomon 5, 7).
Sex should unify two persons, not just physically, but emotionally, mentally, and spiritually.
But sex without marriage means the parties only want to be united physically, with each holding onto their own life. They are splitting their bodies from their souls.
Sex should be an integrated act. It should re-confirm each party belonging completely and exclusively to the other. Thus, sex should be limited to marriage.
Lust is different from sexual desire. When a man lusts for a woman, he wants her body only, but not any other parts of her. He has dehumanized her.
Lust is also an excessive desire. One can be totally driven by lust, making it the center of one’s life. It is like an idol. After getting the other’s body, one still feels empty. There is no deep fulfillment in lust.
The passage on lust (Matthew 5:27-30) also points to eyes and hands. Eyes refer to what one perceives, and hands refer to actions. Have the right perception. Know that physical attraction is good but is just skin deep and can’t be meaningful. Also take the right action. Run away from lustful environments.
Sex in marriage is wonderful, but it cannot replace God as the center of our life.
Christ constantly refers Himself as the bridegroom, who accepts and loves us, His bride. Through faith, we become absolutely beautiful in Christ’s eyes. Christ becomes the center of our life. Only He could give meaning to our life, with deep fulfillment.
Summarized from a sermon:
情欲也是一种过度性的欲望。一个人可能完全被它控制, 使情欲成为这个人生活的中心。情欲像一个偶像， 即使得到对方的身体，仍然会感到空虚，无法给予人深深的满足。