In recent weeks, millions of people have been discussing this question: does Jesus still love Christians who have sex outside of marriage? You’re probably not aware of this conversation unless you’re following the current season of The Bachelorette. Now, you’re also probably wondering why an old preacher like me is taking part in a discussion about the Bible and The Bachelorette. Well, my daughter’s brother-in-law, Luke, is on the show this season. My wife and I have known Luke for nearly five years; and came to know him very well when he lived in our house for a period of time. We love Luke and are glad to have him in our family. So, we definitely took an interest when he decided to be on the show.
While The Bachelor and The Bachelorette are no strangers to discussions on love and sex, introducing Jesus into the conversation is new. You see, this season’s bachelorette, Hannah, is a professing Christian, as is Luke. As a matter of fact, hearing about her outspoken Christianity is the sole reason he went. Luke had never even seen the show. So, two Christians enter a sensual environment where one woman attempts to date over 20 men in hopes of finding a husband. Of course, the series thrives on physical attraction, emotional chemistry, and drama – lots of drama! What could possibly go wrong? Needless to say, it’s a recipe for total chaos.
In my opinion, Luke and Hannah chose to participate in something for which neither was spiritually or emotionally prepared. Both are under a social media microscope and each has been called “a bad Christian” by other believers as well as those outside of Christianity. Social media is ruthless. People professing Christ often come across as the meanest of the mean. While I never condone hateful posts of any kind, I also understand what caused viewers to raise an eyebrow. At various times, Luke and Hannah displayed attitudes, behaviors, or speech that should not belong to a follower of Jesus Christ.
I’ve been among those who’ve challenged Luke about his behavior on the show. These conversations have been hard but not heartless. After all, Galatians 6:1 tells us, “Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted.” Let me put it this way; we’ve treated Luke with the understanding that we all live one breath and step away from stupidity. Luke hasn’t made excuses or attempted to justify any of his actions. He’s listened, admitted he compromised his faith, and sought correction.
Despite all the drama, Luke found himself in the final four men. He and Hannah seemed to have a genuine connection with each other. No doubt, sharing a common faith was a huge part of that – as it should be for Christians. To their credit, both have been fairly transparent throughout this process. Even as professing Christians, neither claimed to be a virgin before appearing on the show. However, when they broached the topic of sex they discovered that a common faith doesn’t mean seeing eye-to-eye on every issue. The result was an explosive conversation which was heavily promoted in previews, and set off a firestorm on social media.
One statement in that conversation started the larger online discussion. When Luke asked Hannah if she’d had sex with any men on the show, she said, “Yes, I’ve had sex and Jesus still loves me.” Now, I find this statement intriguing; especially after 35 years of studying and preaching the Bible. First, let’s address the elephant in the room. Does Jesus still love Christians who’ve had sex outside of marriage? Absolutely! His love is unconditional. But the real question we should be discussing is not if sex outside of marriage diminishes Jesus’ love for a Christian, but what it says about a believer’s love for Him. Jesus said, “If you love Me, you will keep my commandments” (John 14:15). And God’s instructions regarding sex are extremely clear.
First, He created sex exclusively for marriage (Genesis 2:24). Because sex unites two people physically, emotionally, and spiritually, it’s designed for a husband and wife to show affection and commitment to one another. Also, Hebrews 13 tells us to honor the covenant of marriage by keeping the marriage bed pure. Keep in mind, the purity of marriage begins long before vows are taken. Having sex before marriage cheapens what God intended. Single believers live out their faith by choosing to abstain from sexual activity.
As professing Christians, our views about sex and marriage should reflect God’s views; not because He wants to limit our pleasure but because He wants to protect us. All sin comes with consequences, but 1 Corinthians 6:18 informs us, “the immoral man sins against his own body.” Luke has been heavily criticized for being so verbal about his faith while also having a sexual past. But it was the self-inflicted pain of past sexual sin that’s driving Luke’s decision to remain celibate until he gets married. No, he cannot undo what’s been done. But now he deeply desires to honor God’s design for sex within the covenant of marriage.
Christians can, and do, commit sexual sin, but not without the conviction of the Holy Spirit. And while those sinful choices can’t separate believers from the love of Jesus, they do stand in the way of enjoying fellowship with Him. The Lord may even stop convicting a believer who continually ignores the Spirit, resulting in a hardened heart and a lack of biblical conviction. But God also restores fellowship when any believer turns from that sin and asks for His forgiveness (1 John 1:10). God’s mercy and grace always accompany His love.
So, professing to be a follower of Christ but continuing to engage in what God calls sin is taking advantage of His grace. Romans 6 presents this question, “What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? May it never be!” It makes no sense to claim that God’s grace allows us to do the very things for which His Son died. You see, sin should be the exception in the life of a Christian; not the rule.
Another backlash of this entire discussion is the accusation that Luke was judging Hannah when he said he would leave if she had sex while on the show. Well, 1 Corinthians 5:9-13 offers some insight, and “The Message” paraphrase is especially interesting, “I am saying that you shouldn’t act as if everything is just fine when a friend who claims to be a Christian is promiscuous… You can’t just go along with this, treating it as acceptable behavior. I’m not responsible for what the outsiders do, but don’t we have some responsibility for those within our community of believers? God decides on the outsiders, but we need to decide when our brothers and sisters are out of line…” So yes, God expects Christians to raise questions when another Christian’s actions are out of line with His Word. It’s actually a sign of godly love.
No doubt, this entire experience has been difficult on Luke and Hannah, as well as on their families. On social media, it’s been open season on their lives, their character, and their faith. My prayers are with them both. Above all, I pray they each desire to know God more and to obey Him fully.