Pre-Marital Sexual Relations

My beloved spiritual children in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,

by Archpriest Joseph F. Purpura

(Source: Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America)

[Taken from his book: Moral and Ethical issues: Confronting Orthodox Youth Across North America]

It is not surprising that one out of every four teens are unsure if it is right or wrong to have sexual relations prior to marriage, given how much teens are inundated with sexual messages and images in their daily life, starting from the pre-teen years. The fact that only 5.57 percent of teen in the survey thought pre-marital sex was right is remarkable given the pervasive exploitation of young males and females in the media as sex objects and the constant portrayal of sex outside of marriage as normal and an everyday event without consequences. We need to better equip teens to make good choices concerning sex and to be able to see through the multitude of sexual messages they receive on a daily basis. We want teens to see themselves as important, valuable, and sacred, despite the messages they receive to the contrary, which tend to debase both males and females. Simply teaching teens that sex is bad is insufficient and tends to leave teens further confused as to why they are having the physical and psychological feelings and urges that come along with puberty and thereafter. In fact the approach typically leads teens to feel that they themselves are bad for having these feelings and for being attracted to people of the opposite sex.

One of our goals ought to be to develop within the hearts and minds that virginity is something very good, something to strive for until marriage, and something not to be embarrassed about possessing, but in face an accomplishment to be proud of keeping. We want them to remain virgin until marriage, not simply because they did what they were asked in not having sex, but that they valued themselves, the person they will marry, their relationship with God and sex itself. Teens ought to see sex as something very sacred, and good and therefore an act not lightly undertaken. For that matter, we want them to understand the consequences of a sexual relation are something that they carry with themselves throughout their life. They do not forget it or the person they had sex with, because they give up to the other person a very special part of themselves in the bonding that takes place in a sexual relationship. The bond created in having sex with another person is very real and does not simply disappear once the relationship ends…

"...Parents may want to give consideration towards discouraging their teens from dating during the early teen years, as statistically younger teens who dated were much more likely to have engaged in sexual behavior. The number of times a young teen had dated also raised the likelihood that they would be sexually active. For example, 20 percent of thirteen year olds had intercourse, 8 percent of fourteen year olds, 7 percent of fifteen year olds, 12 percent of sixteen year olds, 21 percent of seventeen year olds, and 29 percent of eighteen year olds. One can assume that not all eighteen year olds had sex only when they were eighteen, but may have had sex at an earlier age. Those teens that had not dated over the previous 12 months had no instances of pre-marital sex with the exception of seven teens, three of who reported being force to have sex. In short adults can help teens remain virgin, by dialoging with them on what is appropriate, supporting them to remain virgins, consider placing more controls on dating, and to provide safe opportunities where teens can interact with their peers of the opposite sex, free from the pressures of feeling they are expected to have sex.

The Church's View on Pre-Martial Sex

The Holy Scripture, writings of the Holy Fathers of the Church and current theologians are all consistent in their view that sexual relations belong only within marriage. Sexual relations outside of marriage attempt to express a relationship and union which do not exist, a fact that eventually becomes evident to all such relationships. Sexual relations are seen as something good and necessary within marriage as an expression of a union (oneness) and commitment between husband and wife, neither of which exist outside of marriage. What is written in this section concerning pre-marital sex certainly applies to sex outside of one's own marriage and in fact extra-marital affairs add to the consequence of breaking the marriage commitment and oneness of that marriage, a break which is often irreparable.

The Holy Scripture abound with prohibitions against pre-marital sexual relations, not because as some would say, "God does not want us to have fun," but because God loves us, understands us, and knows that such relationships can only bring harm, sadness, and brokenness. In the Gospel of Saint Matthew, Jesus speaks concerning fornication (sexual relations outside of marriage):

And He called the people to Him and said to them, "Hear and understand not what goes into the mouth defiles a man, but what comes out of the mouth, this defiles a man." Then the Disciples came and said to Him, "Do you know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this saying?" He answered, "Every plant which My Heavenly Father has not planted will be rooted up. Let them alone; they are blind guides. And if a blind man leads a blind man, both will fall into a pit." But Peter said to Him, "Explain the Parable to us." And He said, "Are you also still without understanding? Do you not see that whatever goes into the mouth passes into the stomach, and so passes on? But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a man. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, fornication, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a man; but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile a man." (St. Matthew 15:10-20).

Saint Paul writes to Galatians:

"But I say, walk by the Spirit, and do not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh; for these are opposed to each other, to prevent you from doing what you would. But if you are led by the Spirit you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are plain: fornication, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, anger, selfishness, dissension, party spirit, envy, drunkenness, carousing and the like. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things shall not inherit the Kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.

The Scriptural and Patristic teachings on sex outside of marriage whether it be physical sex, viewing pornography, or the latest fad of "cyber sex" can be found consistently through the writings of other Church Holy Fathers, such as Saint John Chrysostom and Saint Basil the Great. In this regard, St. Matthew records the words of Jesus, "But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart"... Christ, the Scripture and the Church Fathers consistently teach to guard one's words and thoughts as much as one's actions, as one leads to the other. In sharing sexual intercourse, a person becomes one with the other person. That intimate sharing does not just disappear when one moves onto the next relationship. When a person has sexual intercourse, they give fully of themselves to the other. Through intercourse they become one physically, emotionally and spiritually. If one has had sex before marriage they bring that experience and a "piece" of the other into their marriage. Sexual intercourse no longer becomes the unique bond of oneness shared only with husband and wife within the marriage but has had another complicating factor added and placed in between the couple. With each sexual relationship and breaking of the relationships, one begins to put up more defenses and becomes more closed as a thinking and feeling person, placing more barriers between and within the marriage bond, therefore making true intimacy more difficult and strained. Young people should be urged to remain virgin until marriage to allow for a deep and fulfilled marriage commitment and a more intimate sexual relationship with their spouse.

"For it has seemed to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things; that you abstain from what has been sacrificed to idols and from blood and from what is strangled and from unchastity. If you keep yourselves from these, you will do well. Farewell" (Acts 15:28-29).

"Shun immorality. Every other sin which a man commits is outside the body; but the immoral man sins against his own body. Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God? You are not your own; you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body" (1 Corinthians 6:18-19).


Glory Be To GOD For All Things!"--Saint John Chrysostom


With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God

+Father George