What if I told you that you would have to wait longer than any other generation to get married? That’s not the only news. What if I said your generation would need to wait longer than any other generation to have sex?

And then there’s the fact that Christians are taught to abstain from sex till marriage. So what do we do? We become technical virgins. Courting couples kiss all over but claim virgin status. Some consider mutual masturbation as not breaching virginity.

Technical virgins – to the letter of the law, if not the spirit.

So while Christian singles desire to reconcile their faith and sexual desires, many have conflicted feelings – understandably. But there’s often a gap in what they’re hearing from their church leaders. Abstinence messages in church are geared towards teenagers. Once you leave your 20s, it’s all about married life.

Even before marriage, a lot of the talk is about getting married: BGR seminars. What to look for in a spouse. Just wait for marriage.

But what if I don’t get married? Am I expected to wait forever?

Abstinence is an incredibly difficult decision, and one that we have to make every day.

Hollywood may not have you believe it, but scientific evidence shows that sex within a marriage is more satisfying than that outside of marriage. But try explaining that to our raging hormones.

That just makes more of a case for a nuanced and holistic discussion on sexuality.

Asking questions like “How far can we go without sinning?” is like asking “How much poison can we take without dying?”

We know in our heads to live a life of purity. But do we know in our hearts and in our lives what it looks like in real life?

We need to have conversations about sexuality in our churches and homes – because we aren’t having them.

People need more than arguments; people need a way of life.

One mistake I feel we’ve made as the church is perhaps placing too much emphasis on virginity itself. This shouldn’t be about focusing on what is not okay; this is about honouring God in all things.

Asking questions like “How far can we go without sinning?” is like asking “How much poison can we take without dying?” We need to have the correct understanding. Otherwise, we’re at risk of breaching healthy boundaries thinking that only intercourse is sex – or the idea that only premarital sex is sin.

The goal is not to avoid sin but to live a life of worship.

Guidance must go beyond “What can I get away with and still be a virgin?” Instead, we must ask, “What must I do to become who I am intended to be?”

There needs to be a discussion of how the God of grace – and the grace of God – is there for those who have sinned in the past (that’s all of us!), but particularly in the area of sexual sin.

While there will be consequences to deal with from our past actions, it is important to remember: While the past will catch up with us, it does not define us. Instead, because of the grace of God, we can start over again, living a life of holiness together with accountability partners.

This may sound strange, but we need to live out gender and sexuality in non-genital ways. We often confuse sexuality with sex, but sexuality is ultimately about the innate desire we have for deep connection with another.

The experience of sexual desire is often triggered by subconscious needs such as identity, self-acceptance and intimacy. We can live without sex, but we cannot live without intimacy.

We need to learn to differentiate between genital desire and emotional needs.

The church needs to take the lead. The message up to now seems to be that marriage is strongly preferred over singleness. Many have also embraced the family – almost to the extent of idolatry over the Christian community.

The goal is not simply to avoid sin but to live a life of worship.

Over time, people have come to perceive that being married should be the norm, and therefore many reject singlehood. But is this biblical?

If it was bad to be single, why was Jesus single, and why did Paul commend life as a single? If earthly marriage were eternally important, it would exist in heaven – except it doesn’t. Not to say that marriage isn’t of value – it is, immeasurably. Just that singleness matters too, and it barely gets the recognition it deserves.

Congregations and families must affirm singlehood and singles.

We should encourage multi-generational small groups and mentoring. Families should include singles in their world – it is much harder for a single to invite an entire family over for dinner! When that interaction happens, both the single and the family will be blessed.

No matter how many of us stay single or not, all of us start out single. Some, including same-sex attracted Christians, might remain single even for life. But an authentic Christian community means Christian singles can indeed live strong in a sexualised world.

How can we engage a culture that is oversexualised? Want to stand for truth and yet communicate in grace? Join in an authentic discussion about sexuality and worldview at the Whole Life Symposium on August 25 & 26. This article was first published on Whole Life and republished with permission.