Should Christians ‘test drive’ their spouses before marriage?

When she was in her Senior Six, Jessica fell in love with John. After Senior Six, both of them went to the same campus and their love blossomed more. However, they used to watch movies and read magazines that glorified sex and before long, they were having it, despite the fact that they had vowed to have sex after marriage – after completing university.

When she was in her Senior Six, Jessica fell in love with John. After Senior Six, both of them went to the same campus and their love blossomed more. However, they used to watch movies and read magazines that glorified sex and before long, they were having it, despite the fact that they had vowed to have sex after marriage – after completing university.

It was long after they were married, and she became a staunch Christian that she realised that what they had done was wrong. She lived with the guilty conscience that they had had sex before marriage yet the Bible clearly condemns it. 

While a number of Christians like Jessica believe that the Bible is precisely clear that sex before marriage is sinful before God’s eyes, there are some people who say that today sexual purity is not a big deal. 

“Before I got married, I practically had sex with dozens of women, including my current wife. Does that make me a lesser Christian now?” asks Mark Rutabingwa of Christian Evangelical Church in Kicukiro. 

Rutabingwa says that like a person who wants to buy a car, you have to “test drive” your spouse before you commit yourself in marriage. “It would be preposterous to divorce or separate after only a few months after marriage when you find out that you are sexually incompatible. So, the only way you can find out this in earnest is by having sex before you walk down the aisle.” 

He adds that if you go searching for a Bible verse that condemns sex before marriage, you will be surprised to find its instruction both indirect and vague; adding that there is no Hebrew or Greek word used in the Bible that precisely refers to sex before marriage. “The Bible undeniably condemns adultery and sexual immorality, but is sex before marriage considered sexually immoral?” he posits.

However, there are also some Christians who believe that biblical teaching on this is very clear and Christians shouldn’t engage in this immoral behaviour outside the institution of marriage.

“One reason we should honour the Bible’s take on sex before marriage is that marriage should be pure without past baggage. We carry baggage when we have sexual relationship before marriage. Memories from the past, unwanted mental images and emotional scars may defile our thoughts and make marriage less pure. Thus, the only way we can caution ourselves against these is by staying chaste till we take marriage vows in the presence of God,” says Paul Uwineza of Remera Catholic Church.

He adds that 1 Corinthians 6:16 is clear on this matter: Sex is as much spiritual mystery as physical fact. As it is written, ‘The two become one.’ Since we want to become spiritually ONE with the Master, we must not pursue the kind of sex that avoids commitment and intimacy, leaving us lonelier than ever – the kind of sex that can never ‘become one’.”

Pauline Butera, a married Christian, says that this issue is a no-brainer. “ If we refrain from sex outside of marriage, we will be protected from the risk of catching HIV/Aids and other sexually transmitted diseases,” she says.

She advises Christians to avoid being driven by lust but to strictly follow Biblical teachings, saying that waiting to consummate your marriage during the honeymoon is the greatest joy for a Christian couple.