Wednesday, September 19, 2007

The Value of Virginity

I was reading a blog post on Boundless.org and a couple of the commentors were saying how they are growing discouraged about finding a man who is a virgin and that they desire to marry a virgin. Another commentor pointed out that the men are also feeling discouraged in this. In response to them, I mentioned that their focus shouldn't be so much on whether the other person is a virgin, but whether they are. I was responded to by a young woman telling me that God (through the Bible, I suppose) values virginity and as Christians, we should value it as well - and desire it in our spouses.

This got me to thinking - what IS, exactly, the value of virginity as purported in the Bible? What does scripture lead us to believe about the value of virginity? Has our society raised up virginity to more than it should be, to the point of requiring it in our future spouses? Is this biblical?

I did a look-see and determined that the only place where "marrying virgins" is specifically required is in the Old Testament when commanding the Priests on who they can marry.

The rest of the Bible's expounding on anything related to the subject is on Adultery and is specifically directed towards the reader. Not the reader's spouse or the reader's children.

I think that it is very important to remember that scripture doesn't place the value on Virginity but on the Heart ( Protect the heart above all things, for it is the wellspring of life. ). To put value on virginity is glorifying a physical attribute that will be gone upon your marriage to someone and will be irretrievable (assuming you wait til marriage, as you should). If it were so valuable, it wouldn't last for such a small amount of time. The value, instead, should be what God values the most. It is obvious that God desires our hearts above anything else - not our virginity, not our blood, not our breath, our hair, our money. He wants our hearts - love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, and soul. The beauty and the issue of sex is that it binds two people into one - it is as much an emotional act as it is a physical one. Pre-marital sex is warned against so vehemently (and more than any other commandment) because it connects your heart to someone else's who isn't committed to you. We aren't warned against adultery because you should save your virginity for your husband - you are warned against adultery because you should save your heart, not only for your husband, but ultimately for God. Virginity is a SYMBOL of this and nothing more or less. Yes, it is important, but not out of this context.

I wonder if we have over-glorified virginity to the point of expecting it in others. I wonder if this is a wrong attitude. The person who you are going to marry is already aware of what the Bible says on adultery, and if he is not a virgin and is honest with you about it, Virginity should not be a pre-requisite to marriage.

The Bible warns against it for our own safety, good, and to preserve the relationship we have with the Father. Through our purity (not only in sex, but in other things as well), we are to glorify God. To lose sight of this goal in our own lives means to miss something very important in life. We should not be aiming to expect everyone out there to be perfect, but instead lovingly encourage them to pursue God with all their heart, mind, and soul - and sexual purity should be a by-product of that and nothing more.

9 comments:

Nic said...

(Here from Boundless, hello!)

The beauty and the issue of sex is that it binds two people into one - it is as much an emotional act as it is a physical one. Pre-marital sex is warned against so vehemently (and more than any other commandment) because it connects your heart to someone else's who isn't committed to you.

And THIS is the reason I desire virginity in my future spouse. If he's slept with someone else, his heart has been connected to hers in a marriage-like bond. There may not have been vows or rings but there was a physical promise and the mystery of sex which bound them further - a spiritual bond.

(I understand that men are much more able to disconnect sex from emotion, so perhaps I am more worried about the woman in this scenario. In either case, we're talking about the situation where this bond doesn't last.)

God abhors divorce... but the very fact that they are no longer together is very much like a divorce. They made a premature committment. He was bound to her and she to him.

And then I come along, with no such ties, hoping to marry a man who had already 'married' (and 'divorced') someone else.

Am I therefore sinning? Committing adultery?

---

If we go back to some OT passages, there are clear instructions that if a man takes (rapes) a virgin, he must then marry her. Why? Two possible answers:
(1) She has no more value in society.
(2) She and that man are physically/spiritually married already.

---

Now, we can throw out examples of someone whose spouse has died, they are not a virgin, and it is perfectly acceptable for them to marry a virgin. Marriage lasts this earthly life, not beyond.


And even having said all of this, I, as a virgin, have accepted that if I get married, it will probably be a non-virgin. The worst part is, if he's been a Christian all of his life, the girl(s) he's slept with were probably women he truly loved rather than casual encounters. And THAT will hurt all the more.

But we live in a fallen world. I'll have to accept my future husband's sin in this area just as he'll have to accept my other (numerous!) sins. This one just seems to hurt so much more.

I just think that something as sacred as marriage, which is so closely tied to the bonding of sexual intimacy, needs to be upheld with ideals of pre-marital purity. And this is why we elevate virginity :

- To ensure ONE and ONLY ONE 'marriage' bond
- To alleviate hurting your future spouse (they WILL be hurt, no matter when it happened.)

Blue Sky, Autumn Leaves said...

The difference between the heart and virginity, though, is that one can be redeemed while the other is irrevocably lost.

Even a man who was married and lost his wife or is divorced has experienced that emotional connection just like the man who had sex outside of marriage.

All I'm saying is don't lose sight of the heart God redeemed because the person has lost their virginity.

There are women in the Bible who God redeemed from their sexual past - Tamar (who slept with her father-in-law), Rahab (who was a prostitute), and Bathsheba (who slept with a King and her husband lost his life because of it).

I definitly want to encourage you to stay as far away from extra-marital sex because it IS very emotionally difficult to get through when that relationship is gone and it seperates you from that person, from other people around you, and from God. But don't over-glorify virginity, because that isn't the point of the commandment "Thou shalt not commit adultery".

Hero's Cousin said...

interesting thoughts, both of you. i also clicked over from boundless. i always enjoy reading what other readers have written.

this is a kind of new issue for me...not that i never thought about it, but i never thought about the fact that my future husband might NOT be a virgin. i guess i just assumed it, and perhaps that was unfair. i will certainly think about the "virginity is a symbol" thing. on the other hand, my boyfriend (who i'll probably) is a virgin (neither of us dated before either). so i guess i never really had to apply any of this to myself, that's all. but i appreciate all the thoughts and research you did!
-nikki

Kate said...

Hello!
So, I've been thinking more about the post on Boundless (and your post too), and perhaps my view of virginity has come from having people in my life that weren't virgins when they married and also knowing that they have strong marriages and that God has healed them from their pasts (many of them more complicated than only premarital sex).
In the past, I tended to think that most Christians I knew were virgins, but in recent years, I've learned that it isn't true. But I think God has also helped me to see that their past actions don't have to change how I treat them or how God views them. Just like I'd hope my past failing wouldn't keep others (or God) from loving me.
If all sin is truly equal to God (as the New Testament seems to suggest), then my past actions (no matter how "small" they might seem) are just as bad. I had to ask God to forgive me of my own sins, and will have to keep doing it for the rest of my life. However, God has also healed (and it continuing to heal) me of those sinful tendencies. I've repented and truly am trying to live my life in a completely different way. And, as I said on boundless, I'd hope for my furture husband to forgive my failure to live like God wants me too, so I must forgive his as well.

-Katie
(aka the other one)

Blue Sky, Autumn Leaves said...

Nic, I'm not saying that pursuing a chaste life before marriage is not something to be desired.

It is.

But I don't think a man or woman's past should be held against them when their heart has been fully reconciled to God.

I really don't think whether the person is a virgin or not should be on the list of things you look for in a husband, but something that you rejoice with if he is, or work through if he's not.

The love you give him should not be contingent on that. It should be contingent on whether his heart belongs to God primarily and secondly, is free to love you.

Blue Sky, Autumn Leaves said...

So many comments I'm leaving on my own blog...

Katie, I understand what you are saying about all the other people who have lost their virginity even though they are Christians.

I went 22 years as a virgin and I am constantly learning to forgive myself. I know God has forgiven me, but it has been a very difficult battle. And this conversation and topic drives home just how difficult it will continue to be.

I valued it highly. I was excited to be a virgin for my future husband.

But I want to challenge you to think about something. How many people in your church have lied? How many have cheated in anything? Stolen anything? Hated anyone?

How many people in your church are human?

Nic said not to justify premarital sex because then we would start justifying the others. But what about the other way around? Don't treat it as more or less than what it is - it is sin...just like the others...and all have done them. Not just me, not just you. We all fall WAY short of the glory of God.

And if we all fall short, how do you justify the forgiveness God has given? And how do we justify not showing the same amount of Grace?

I'm not trying to justify myself - Romans says first, that just because God can use bad for good doesn't mean you should do it anyway. Don't make excuses for yourself. But also, rest assured that if you truly repent, God has forgiven you and released you from the bondage of sin.

I am free to love God, revel in his free gift of forgiveness, glorify him, and pray for a man who will love me and cherish me.

We both have the same right to God's blessing of marriage - which is none at all. It is a gift that none of us actually deserves, but God wants to give us anyway.

Lost in Academia said...

So I guess I'll comment, as is typical of me, late (Also here from the Line). That's me late to the party and last to leave. I just wanted to say I agree with your premise, not being a virgin is just one sin. As sin it is to be avoided, but it can, and is , and will be forgiven. Your absolutely right on this one.

I guess my only note for you comes from a future lawyer's persnickety nature. You said:

"The rest of the Bible's expounding on anything related to the subject is on Adultery..."

Well...No, the Bible often warns against fornication which is sex between unmarried individuals. Not to mention Paul's frequent warnings against "Porneia" which is a larger subset of sexual sins, including sex twixt the unmarried.

Of course it in no way detracts from your brilliant and well reasoned argument, so you know...Persnickety.

And on a final note, as a fellow "iffy" commenter, keep on bobbing and weaving Chica.

Nic said...

I really don't think whether the person is a virgin or not should be on the list of things you look for in a husband, but something that you rejoice with if he is, or work through if he's not.


I definitely agree with this, it would be silly to judge someone on one sin when everyone sins, in so many different ways.

It's like every girl has a "Required Qualities" and a "Nice to Have" list for their future husband and virginity belongs on my 'nice to have but not essential' list.

I hope my response didn't come across as judgemental; I get carried away with academic discussion sometimes while distancing from the true heart of the matter!

Blue Sky, Autumn Leaves said...

Nic, completely understood :)

It's nice to find someone who is interested in these kinds of discussions.