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In the previous article, I wrote about two of the three principles that aid young men (and women) in pursuing and practicing sexual purity: Getting the gospel right, and applying the Word to your life by yourself and by others. In this second part, we will look at the third principle.
“Be a Man!”: Marriage as a Means to Christlikeness
The final principle that I want to suggest is probably the most overlooked and under-discussed solution on purity: get married. Now, I would readily grant and defend the fact that marriage will not solve or rectify your sexual struggles or loneliness. Without resting your identity and treasuring Christ as your end-all, your heart’s craving for intimacy and companionship will not be satisfied either with sex or with marriage.1
Yet, even with such a qualification, it cannot be denied that one of the means that the Lord uses to meet our need for intimacy and companionship is marriage (cf. 1 Cor 7:9b). After all, was it not God himself who, after making and declaring all things ‘good’, says “it is not good for a man to be alone” (Gen 2:18)? However, the question remains: how does this relate to sexual purity? May I gently suggest that one of the many, but important reasons for the radical increase in sexual struggles among young men and women is their inexplicable delaying of marriage.
R. R. Reno makes this startling but astute observation namely that, “Homosexuals, especially gay men, are…associated with scrupulous self-care and glamorous consumption. They pioneered the now upper-middle-class norm of extended adolescence, the carefree single life that extends for decades. Gay life also realizes the dreams of many feminists—professional success and self-realization without the burdens of fertility.”2 (emphasis mine)
The glamour of the extended ‘carefree single life’ is a cover for immaturity, self-centeredness, worldly ambition, and a lack of disregard for the biblical teaching on marriage. And, therefore, when young men and women seek to extend their “carefree, single life” they are actually modelling what homosexuals have popularized. So, what happens when young men and women disregard the God-given desire and drive for intimacy and companionship in pursuit of worldly goals? The desire and drive do not go away. Rather, they would seek ungodly avenues to fulfil God-given needs.
Young Christian men and women, unless called by the Lord to a life of singleness in serving Him, whatever else they may pursue in life, they ought to get married, raise children and be godly parents. Marriage and parenting have the potential to enable men and women to sober down and mature. How much more so when done within the context of a church community! It truly enables one to grow in godliness. Marriage and parenting, when coupled with the Word of God, prayer and a godly community, necessarily sanctifies. Why so?
Ephesians 5.31-32 reads: “‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church” (emphasis mine). If Christ gave Himself up for His Church in sanctifying her through the Word (Eph 5:25-27), why should we expect something different to happen when two individuals committed to Christ get married? The Lord, for the sake of His name, grants the grace of sanctification in the marriage of believers, aiding their sexual purity, because our earthly marriage participates in the heavenly marriage of Christ and His Church. Augustine summarizes this well when he writes:
“Marriage has also this good, that carnal or youthful incontinence (i.e., lack of self-control), even if it is bad, is turned to the honourable task of begetting children, so that marital intercourse makes something good out of the evil of lust. Finally, the [lust] of the flesh, which parental affection tempers, is repressed and becomes inflamed more modestly. For a kind of dignity prevails when, as husband and wife they unite in the marriage act, they think of themselves as mother and father.”3
Augustine is saying that through having children, the untamed passions of the youth are tempered and tamed through the God-given responsibility as husband and wives, and as father and mother to their children. To put it simply, marriage and parenting is a means of sanctification appointed by God to mature a person. It is not marriage itself that is sanctifying. Rather, when a marriage aligns to the biblical ideal of the love and union of Christ and his church, evidence of sanctification is experienced and seen in that marriage. In other words, when a man who is a believer loves his wife and dies to himself as Christ loved and died for His church, by the grace of God that man grows in maturity. And likewise, when a woman who is a believer joyfully submits to her husband out of love, just as the church joyfully submits to Christ in love, by the grace of God, that woman grows in maturity.
Such sanctification and maturity happen because this is what Christ Himself has done! The Son of God became the Son of Man to grant new birth and sanctify His bride, the Church, to Himself. Therefore, the goal of a Christian is not sexual purity. Rather, it is to grow to the full measure of Christ, into mature manhood. This is biblical maturity: the “measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” (Eph 4:13). And God has given marriage as one of the means to become more Christlike.
The struggle for sexual purity is real yet it is not impossible to attain. God has appointed different means (such as believing in the gospel, applying the Word and having the Word applied rightly by a healthy community, and marriage) that ought to be pursued and practiced in order to be holy. Yet, we must not forget that the goal is not purity for the sake of purity. Rather, the God-established end of godliness is to become more like Christ Jesus.
J. C. Ryle, the famed Anglican Bishop, wrote concerning young men: “what young men will be, in all probability, depends on what they are now, and they seem to forget this.”4 It is to our detriment that we as young men not pay heed to this. What we sow in our youth, we continue reaping for a long time to come. And if we sow to the Spirit, we will reap godliness but if we are sowing to our flesh, then it goes without saying that we will sow destruction, both, in this age and in the age to come. Young men, remember: you are called to be like the Man, Christ. Therefore, young man, grow up, pursue Christ, serve the church, marry, have children, bear responsibilities, mature, and be a man!
Please click here to read part one of the article "“Young Man, Be a Man!”: Young Men and Sexual Purity - Part 1" by Bro. Reuben Thomas
1 If you are struggling with an addiction, seek help and not marriage! The first step towards freedom from addiction is to admit that you have a problem for which you need help from others.
3 Augustine, St. Augustine: Treatises on Marriage and Other Subjects, ed. Roy J. Deferrari, vol. 27, The Fathers of the Church: A New Translation (Washington, D. C.: Catholic University of America Press, 1999), 13; “On the Good of Marriage”, III.3.
4 J. C. Ryle, Thoughts for Young Men, Christian Classic Series (Pensacola, FL: Chapel Library, 2006), 7.