Several years ago, the pastor of the church I attended courted, got engaged to, and married a girl in the church in about three months. Shortly before they married, I seized a chance to ask the bride’s mother why they were getting married so fast.
One of her reasons was the fear of them yielding to sexual temptation.
I was shocked and disgusted.
At the time I was 26 and had managed to live a celibate life with zero support from the church and am not a pastor nor closely related to one. The pastor was five months, ten days younger than me and the son of a pastor. His bride, who was the daughter of a pastor and granddaughter of another, turned 18 several days after their marriage. Despite the lack of church support, I’d been able to resist sexual temptation, so why couldn’t they, especially with their pastoral backgrounds and large amount of church support?
The bride’s mother had married at 18 or 19 to an extremely patriarchal man and her mannerisms indicated that she was not the happiest in her marriage. She knew nothing about the realities of singleness but was clearly aware of I Cor 7:9, which says that it is “better to marry than to burn.”
When one looks at the whole of scripture, it’s clear that marriage is not the cure for sexual temptation, despite what Paul says. David had several wives, yet still raped Bathsheba. Solomon, Jacob, Elkanah, and David all had more than one wife, and all those men except Elkanah had mistresses in addition to their wives. Many rapists and child molesters are married men; both married men and women cheat on each other.
It is highly degrading to marry someone simply to have all the sex one wants. Each person consists of body, soul, and spirit. Souls and spirits exist even when the body fails. Nor is lots of sex always possible in a marriage. Spouses spend time away from each other for various reasons, such as work and ministry related trips. Spouses get sick or exhausted, making sexual intimacy difficult. A loving spouse does not demand sexual intimacy when the other is sick or tired. To get married just for sex is a recipe for potential marital trouble.
So what was Paul saying in I Cor 7:9?
To my understanding it is that marriage is the only place for sexual relations with another person.
Using I Cor 7:9, churches often push their youth into marriage or to pressure a young woman into marrying a sexual offender. They use it to defend marriage and speak out against sexual immorality.
Singles rain on that parade.
Not every single with a strong sex drive can find a spouse with an equally strong sex drive that they can also be soul mates with.
To live a Godly life, they must learn to resist sexual temptation.
By resisting sexual temptation, they prove that marriage is not crucial to resisting sexual temptation.
Thus it is possible for youth with raging hormones to delay marrying until they have found someone who is both soul and body mate.
Delayed marriage is a huge problem for many churches.
Delaying marriage helps individuals, especially women, become more independent and confident. Independence and confidence means that someone will be more likely to question church leadership and stand up to them if they have concerns.
Delaying marriage also means fewer children.
A woman with a strong work history and marketable skills is better equipped to leave and divorce an abusive husband.
Married people are also more likely to attend church than single people.
Marginalizing singleness by promoting marriage as the cure for sexual temptation enables churches to keep both men and women under the authority of church leadership and enables them to yield to the lusts of the flesh.