Virginity Isn't Our Holy Grail
But unfortunately, virginity has arguably become a modern-day idol of the church. According to Tim Keller, idolatry is fundamentally making good things into ultimate things. Virginity, which is rightly good, has unfortunately become ultimate, idolized in some churches as, in Bessey's words, become "a barometer of our righteousness and worth." Virginity is not a moral merit badge. Whether or not we have had sex before marriage, we are all lawbreakers (James 2:10). None can feel superior ¾ not even the virgins among us.
But all of this may beg the real question: How do we talk about sexual sin in ways that don't shame and yet stay faithful to the biblical truth that sex outside of marriage is, after all, sin (Heb. 13:4)?
For me, that question is not merely a philosophical one. Just days ago, my 11-year-old daughter stood looking over my shoulder and reading my current book manuscript. "You slept with your boyfriend?" she asked me incredulously, her eyes widened by the shock and dismay at my printed words of guilt.
I was 15 when I lost my virginity in the back bedroom of a strange apartment. He was my boyfriend, and I loved him. This rendezvous was not something we had planned, but my boyfriend's father, months previous, had offered him a box of condoms, "just in case."
Because let's be honest: Can we hope for purity with horny high school kids?
There are the three people I've had to work hard at forgiving over the last 20 years: me, for having made what has felt like one of the worst decisions of my life, my boyfriend, for having ever proposed the idea, and his father, for having had so little faith.
Strangely enough, though, I have readily accepted God's forgiveness, which isn't to say that I don't sympathize with the profound shame that many women with similar pasts are subjected to.
I have always planned to tell my children of my sexual past, not least because I believe God's grace is bigger than that history of shame. I have also wanted them to know what I believe about sexual sin, something that I fear isn't being mentioned in our blogosphere of grace. Sexual sin, although not unforgiveable, visits upon us categorically different consequences than other kinds of sin.
The Apostle Paul, in his letter to the Corinthians (a church, which floundered as we do in a culture of promiscuity), warns against sexual immorality: "Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body," (1 Cor. 6:18). When someone has sex outside of marriage, she corrupts herself, even her sexual DNA. This doesn't mean that sex, as holy and right and pleasurable, can't be this when we marry. Nor is this to say that redemptive healing isn't possible. It can mean – at least it has for me – that having enjoyed illicit sex once can make us vulnerable to that temptation again.