The content for this post comes from a portion of Letters to a Romantic: On Dating which will be released in September, 2017 by P&R Publishing.
Shame, fear, disappointment, and regret are emotions that often come after a couple has sinned sexually together. Perhaps you have just sinned in some way with your partner and you are wondering what to do. Should you be concerned? Is it really that big of a deal? Should you take a break, break-up, or continue to date?
The Path to Healing
Our human nature has the knee-jerk reaction to run and cover up sin. When Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden and realized they were naked, they hid from God. The very first act of sin in this world was followed by a cover up attempt. Adam and Eve grasped for fig leaves to cover their shame and they retreated back from the presence of God (Genesis 3:7-8).
Perhaps you have sinned with your partner and are tempted to run away from the presence of Jesus. I want to encourage you to do the exact opposite.
The way to heal sexual sin is to run to Jesus as quickly as you can. God is a tender and gracious Father who is on the lookout for his children to repent (Luke 15:20). Jesus did not come into the world to condemn the world, but to save it (John 3:17). I can guarantee this because Jesus bled on a wooden cross in order forgive anyone who turns away from disobedience. Jesus will forgive anyone who believes that he will wipe away his or her sins.
God promises sweet relief for a troubled conscience in the book of Hebrews:
Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. (Hebrews 10:19-22)
Jesus takes dirty hearts and broken consciences and makes them clean and clear. There is nothing better than a clear conscience before God, and Jesus can give you forgiveness today if you ask him. There has never been a better time to enter into the presence of God. His arms are open wide and the only thing keeping him from you is your pride and fear of judgment.
Hope through Honesty
The way to healing only comes through honesty. The Bible offers hope for everyone who walks in the light. If we do not walk in the light of truthfulness, we cannot have a relationship with God.
This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. (1 John 1:5-7)
If you are unwilling to confess your sin to God and mature Christians, then you are snuffing out all hope for healing. If you remain in the dark, sexual sin will become enslaving and will lead to death (Romans 6:23). It is so serious that God says those who continue in sexual immorality will not enter into the kingdom of heaven (Revelation 21:8).
I specifically want to encourage you to avoid “technicalities” with your sin. “But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints” (Ephesians 5:3). A heart that wants to come clean is not concerned with whether or not they are a “technical virgin.” The Pharisees who were very good at parsing all the minutiae of sin will be cast into the lake of fire, but the prostitutes who were broken and weeping at the feet of Jesus found life and peace.
Sexual sin will suffocate you unless you completely come clean. I have known couples only willing to confess parts of their sin. They said verbally they wanted to change, but they held onto aspects of their sin with clinched fists and did not give a full confession. If you are tempted to only turn away from half of your sin, you are still holding onto all of it.
The Path to Holiness
All of this raises the question: “Should we end our relationship because we have sinned sexually together?” There are many factors that play into answering this question, but one of the first questions that needs to be answered is “How often has this sin occurred?” “Is this sin an isolated incident or a pattern?” “Or is it a mixture of both?”
Patterns of sin often reveal hearts that are not in love with Jesus. If you are noticing sexual sins in your relationship together, now is the time to seek out a mentor and give attention to your personal walk with Christ. Though it can be painful, ending a romantic relationship that is fueling sexual sin is the best course of action. If you are habitually falling into sin, breaking-up will allow you to focus on pursuing holiness before romance. There is nothing more important than knowing the presence of Christ. (Psalm 27:4)
If this sexual sin was a one-time event for you, you need to know that sexual activity does not randomly take place. By the time someone commits a physical sexual sin, there have been numerous transgressions that have been committed at the heart level. All physical acts of sin come from the heart.
After confession of sin has taken place, there must be an intentional path charted away from that disobedience. This change must occur in the heart, head, and hands. It is best to reach out to a godly, wise couple for assistance in making a plan for change.
When charting a new course towards purity, the following steps need to be taken:
- · Confess to a spiritual authority. It is best if this is someone who can hold you accountable and offer you mature advice.
- · Clear boundaries must be re-established. Jesus talks about being radical in your efforts to fight against sin and temptation. In Matthew 5:29-32, He talks about cutting off hands and plucking out eyes in order to attack sin. What were the circumstances around the sin? Have you been alone and been in compromising situation, why did this happen? How can it be prevented?
- · Evaluate the entire relationship. Are both of you at a spiritually mature level to consider pursuing marriage? Are you ready to love each other by setting the bar of purity high in order to protect one another? Do you both want to honor God more than enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin?
This moment of failure can become a moment of victory. This sin may be the very act God uses to get your attention and pursue holiness. Jesus loves to take our weaknesses and make us strong. Let us plan and pray for grace to become pure in heart and hands in order that we might see God.
Sean Perron is the Chief of Staff with the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors. He is a graduate of Southern Seminary and a Ph.D. student at Southwestern Seminary. He lives in Jacksonville, FL and is married to the lovely Jennifer Perron. Sean is a co-author with Spencer Harmon of the forthcoming books Letters to a Romantic: On Dating and Letters to a Romantic: On Engagement (P&R, 2017). Sean and Spencer write together at unspokenblog.org.