I don't remember when I first heard the idea that the best sex in marriage comes from saving yourself until your wedding night, probably because it's been repeated again and again in church circles over the years. True love waiting rewards the strife of abstinence with a world of pleasure upon saying, "I do."

This mentality gets perpetuated by a well-meaning evangelical culture that I believe genuinely wants what's best for its young people. We hope they will hold out for the better portion, so we tell our single brothers and sisters how unmarried sex doesn't live up to the gratification of sex saved for the marriage bed.

In an article last year in The New York Times, "In Hook-Ups, Inequality Still Reigns," Natalie Kitroeff found that the majority of sexually active females were not experiencing orgasms during casual sexual encounters. While the article showed how much the hook-up culture has shaped their understanding of their own sexual expectations, it also highlighted how they can feel disappointed with sex outside of committed relationships. "We've been sold this bill of goods that we're in an era where people can be sexually free and participate equally in the hook-up culture. The fact is that not everyone's having a good time," one doctor noted in the article.

To counter hook-up culture, Christians remind young people if they follow God's good design, it will actually be better for them. The hook-up culture promises freedom, excitement, and the occasional orgasm, Christians promise something more. Within the confines of a loving, committed, marital relationship sex is actually the most satisfying and enjoyable.

In some ways, they're right. God intended us for pleasure. He created sex, and he made sex good. We are all familiar with Song of Solomon's frequent, and sometimes uncomfortable, praise for the sexual relationship. God does all things well.

The problem with this mentality is it fails to consider reality where married sex can also have its shortcomings. In some ways the promise of universally satisfying sex in marriage sets up a generation of hopeful, abstinent Christians for some degree of confusion and heartache.

We do this a lot in Christianity, don't we? We see our obedience as a sort of cosmic exchange, as if God were in the business of rewarding us with perks. We make a commitment to purity and then hold on to the promise that our self-denial is not in vain: Good sex comes to those who wait.

But sometimes it doesn't. We do our single Christian friends a disservice by promising something we aren't sure will ever be delivered.

Sex is indeed a wonderful gift for us as image-bearers. But it is also, like everything else, marred by sin. Even the Bible bears this out. Sex is marred by infertility (Gen. 11:30). Sex is marred by selfish aggression and rape (2 Sam. 11; 13:1-22). Sex is marred by physical limitations. Sex is marred by manipulation (Gen. 19:30-38; Gen. 38). Sex is marred by our own sinful hearts (Judg. 16). Sex is even marred by the daily grind of life. Sex, like the wider marriage relationship, is filled with the highest of highs and the most mundane lows. It's part of living in a post-Genesis 3 world.

The New York Times article discovered sex was far more pleasurable for women in the context of committed relationships. Without commitment, the male partners didn't see much need (or understand) what it took to please their casual hook-ups. As Christians, we understand something far more compelling about sex. While sex is marred by sin, and not always a mountaintop experience, it does work most beautifully when had within God's boundaries—namely, the marriage relationship. Like the relationship itself, over time sex becomes sweeter, more intimate, and more pleasurable (though not always). As Tim Keller so helpfully says,

Indeed, sex is perhaps the most powerful God-created way to help you give your entire self to another human being. Sex is God's appointed way for two people to reciprocally say to one another "I belong completely, permanently, and exclusively to you." You must not use sex to say anything less.

As Christians longing for the next life, we must recognize that even sex is not fully what God intended. Promising amazing sex in exchange for purity doesn't serve anyone. In fact, it can do a greater disservice to the one yet to be married, or in a pleasure-less marriage. At the end of the day, sex is not about us and our needs being met. It is about humble service of another—our spouse.

We must resist the world's model of sex as a means of personal fulfillment. Promising great sex to those who wait for their wedding day is feeding off of our desire for self-fulfillment, not other-oriented service. Of course, we were made to enjoy God's gifts, but the gifts were never meant to be all about us.