“For 55 million dollars, would you give up sex for the rest of your life?”

What a question! It invoked some interesting answers from listeners to a radio talk show I was listening to recently. Some who called in said they would be more than willing to forfeit sex forever for this amount of money; others said, “no way!”

While this was not a Christian program, it made me think of a similar question posed by my Lord and Master, Jesus Christ. He has asked me and every Christian single, “Out of obedience to Me, will you say ‘no’ to sex as long as you’re single, which will possibly be for the rest of your life?”

Before you answer, remember, there’s no 55 million dollar “reward” for an affirmative answer to this version of the question! There are rewards, definitely, but they aren’t easily measured and aren’t always readily seen or felt. In fact, we sometimes have to struggle to convince ourselves that it truly is worth the wait, and even the possible complete forfeiture forever. The rewards are long-lasting, even if not immediate: wholeness from not being torn asunder after becoming one flesh with another, freedom from the guilt of going against what our Lord has commanded, healthy bodies free from sexually transmitted diseases, the respect of our family and friends and possible future mate, and perhaps most importantly ? the guarantee that a child will not be born into a situation where his parents have not commtted themselves to each other for life. God obviously has good reasons for His commands.

But aside from any “reward”, our answer to Christ’s question is obvious when we realize it’s part of a larger decision we’ve already made to follow Christ. There are two commandments, Christ said, which sum up all of God’s commands: the first is to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength; and the second is to love our neighbor as ourselves. Listen to this story:

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“And one of the scribes came, and having heard them reasoning together, and perceiving that he had answered them well, asked him, Which is the first commandment of all? And Jesus answered him, The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord: And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment. And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these. And the scribe said unto him, Well, Master, thou hast said the truth: for there is one God; and there is none other but he: And to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the soul, and with all the strength, and to love his neighbour as himself, is more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices. And when Jesus saw that he answered discreetly, he said unto him, Thou art not far from the kingdom of God” (Mark 12:28-34).

So evidently it’s not the sacrifice of giving up sex that is important to God, but rather the expression of love to Him and to our “neighbor” by refraining from an act which He has put loving perimeters around. If we love God with all our being (including our bodies), how can we unite in a bond outside of the perimeters which He has commanded? If we love our neighbor as ourselves, how can we violate him or her by taking what is not ours to have? The two cannot coexist: we either love as God has called us to love and therefore refrain from sex outside of marriage, or we indulge and in so doing despise Him and the one with whom we think we are “in love.”

It’s this focus on God, and on loving Him and others, that will enable us to say “no” when the pressure is on. Do you think the guy who accepted the 55 million dollars will continue to refrain from sex by focusing on what he’s missing? Probably not. It’s the 55 million bucks that will continue to motivate him.

As Christians, we have a much greater motivation: a love relationship with the God of the Universe, a God we will spend eternity with, a God who loves us more completely than any human being can. Many around us — the media, our co-workers, friends, even at times other Christians — make it sound as though giving up sex is an unnatural and impossible thing to do. But we’re not giving up sex just to give it up. We’re giving up sex because we love with our whole selves, not just with our sexual appetites. And the rewards, though we can’t completely comprehend them all now, are even greater and longer lasting than 55 million dollars.

This article was first published on the Purposeful Singleness Web site www.singleness.org. Copyright © 1999 Fern Horst Purposeful Singleness. Used with permission. All rights reserved.