I was raised in a traditional, conservative home with parents who taught me by example and word that certain moral standards were expected and good. As a child I didn’t have much trouble with this. It made sense to me, for example, that I wouldn’t want to get pregnant as a teenager and scupper my chances for university and a successful career. I wasn’t going to make a stupid mistake like that.
Then I got to university, and other choices lay before me as I met new boyfriends, and I began to question those morals. Why not sleep around, like some of my friends were doing? Who had made those rules from my childhood anyway? Could it really be wrong if others seemed to think it was alright? Perhaps my views had been too narrow all along.
I remember discussing this with a housemate who had grown up in Madagascar as a missionary kid. I was the outgoing, confident one – Julie was the shy, tentative one – but somehow, we hit it off. I also knew there was something different about her life because she seemed to sense the “why” of things more than I did. Later I’d recognize this was because she seemed to have a close relationship with God. But as for myself back then, I just knew my “know it all” approach to life had some major flaws.
The Law of Love
Julie’s view was that these moral rules were given by a loving God for one reason: because He loved us. And that the pattern shown in the Bible of sex only after marriage was given in love — because we as human beings were made to share such intimacy only within the commitment and security of marriage. God made us that way; it was as simple as that. It wasn’t just a rule or law because it fit a moral pattern – but a way to live given to us by a loving God.
I thought about this for a long time. Living together was promoted as a good way to test whether a person was the right marriage partner. But I also read statistics that said couples who lived together before marriage actually had a higher divorce rate than those who didn’t. Did God, who gave this rule for living, have no other motive but to really love ME? I wasn’t sure – but I kept asking questions, and kept talking with Julie. I met new friends at her church and was surprised that the guys there seemed to like me for who I was, and not for what they might get from me. So perhaps love really could be selfless.
In society we have laws that keep us safe. I have a friend who tends to speed a bit when he’s driving, and in a 30-mph zone he might complain when he has to slow down. But of course, those 30-mph zones are there for a reason – often to protect children in residential areas. This and other laws were in a way made out of love too – to protect us and others. But how could my sleeping around hurt anyone? Did this “law” really come from a Person who loved me – even when I was not loving Him back? A year or so later I concluded that it did, and gave my life to the only One (Jesus) who I felt had the commitment to ME to direct my life in a safe and fulfilling way.
Plans for Good
There’s a promise in the Bible where God says, “I know the plans I have for you; plans for good and not for evil; to give you a future and a hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11) When you know someone loves you, it frees you to make different choices – better choices – and the longer I have walked this way the more I see that whatever “laws” we are asked to follow for our good come from a God of love.
Looking back 40 years now, I’ve watched with sadness people I know who have broken lives, and even some of them with unwanted, disadvantaged children who were the result of people sleeping around. Yes, I’ve made my share of mistakes too – but I still believe these so-called “constraints” are meant to make our lives richer and more fulfilled. Because that’s what real love does.