For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from fornication.
1 Thessalonians 4:3
This verse uses a word we’re not always sure we understand: fornication. Yes, we know what that means technically, but what does it mean as part of an instruction from God? Certainly, it means that we are to abstain from using people for sexual purposes, to gratify our physical desires with no thought of that person’s humanity, sanctity, or human needs and feelings. We know that’s wrong; no explanation needed. We know that this verse is also linked to the expectation that we will be faithful to our mates. God simply knows that, with fidelity, people have the freedom and trust that enhances their relationship and allows for true intimacy. Extremely conservative interpretations of this verse hold that any contact before marriage is forbidden. A more humane interpretation understands that this part of life – of intimacy – is too important to be an unknown or a subject of fear before marriage. What we can know is that God wants us to respect each other, value each other’s humanity, and be trustworthy recipients of another’s most intimate love.
©Carol Dean Henn, 2017