Many Christians are taught that God does not rank one type of sin as better or worse than another. There’s no scale that shows certain things like lying or stealing on one side of the spectrum and murder and adultery on the other. Sin is sin, and we all fall short of the standard set for us. I have found, however, that sexual sin, specifically sex before marriage, causes wounds of a deeper guilt than most types. But why is this?
I think about it this way. I’ve lied in my life. I’ve embellished stories and have hidden the truth before. It may not be a common theme, but I can’t deny lying. But I wouldn’t call myself a liar, and I don’t think other people would either. I’ve also been really angry before, lost my temper, and said rude things in retaliation to people. I wouldn’t call myself an angry person, though. I wouldn’t define myself by those sins.
Sexual sin seems different. The word virgin, the idea of being "pure," is different. When I had sex for the first time outside of marriage, I could no longer call myself a virgin, I was no longer "pure." Committing that sin made me feel like I had become something else, something less worthy. Rather than premarital sex being something I simply did, it defined me and for a long time I believed my purity wasn’t redeemable.
Up until I was 17-years-old, I was clueless and pretty innocent when it came to sexual stuff; it was all uncharted waters for me. Unfortunately, that year I was sexually assaulted and was abruptly introduced to sex in a very unhealthy manner. The assault started off verbal, but soon turned physical and violent. As a result, the first images of sex that were painted in my mind were ones of dirtiness, fear, suffocation, and force. Thankfully I wasn’t physically injured, but that abuse had lingering effects I wouldn’t discover until a couple years later when I was in a relationship. I was pressured to have sex quite often, and eventually I gave in. All those feelings of fear, force, and now guilt and unworthiness returned. In that moment, not only did I know I had fallen short of God, but I figured I must have fallen short of ever deserving a Christian man.
When I met my future husband, I saw quickly how godly and good a man he was! He was a complete leader spiritually, and also a virgin. I loved everything about him, but didn’t think I was deserving of anything close to him. So when the day came that I told him I wasn’t a virgin, the lies in my head were as loud and heavy as ever: You don’t deserve him, he won’t be able to let it go, sex won’t be holy, he deserves better, sex can not be good…
That night was enormously painful, as were the days that followed. He had some trouble trusting me, and I know he still had thoughts in his head that reflected mine, wondering if I really did deserve him, fearful that sex wouldn’t be the wonderful gift from God that he always pictured it to be. It was a painful time because those lies and fears came out in our attitudes and words towards each other, and forgiveness was like a revolving door. But all the while God was teaching, refining and rewashing over and over again, until love was restored. In 1 John 4:10-12 it says, “This is real love. It is not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His son as a sacrifice to take away our sins. Since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other. No one has ever seen God. But if we love each other, God lives in us, and His love is perfected in us.” He doesn’t want to rest until this is made true in us.
As time passed and he forgave me, our love grew stronger and we eventually got engaged. God did some amazing things in us as we prepared for marriage. God started to convince me that purity is redeemable, that He washes hearts whiter than snow, and that no sin is stronger than His grace. Romans 8:38 says that “…neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing shall be able to separate us from the love of God.” There is nothing we can do that will take away — or even lessen — His love for each of us.
We’re human; we’re not perfect and we never will be, so God will never be through with refining us. God’s forgiveness is immediate once we ask and receive it, but feeling His redemption is long term. He is so good in leading us through the healing process, and pursuing us if we stray from it.
Over the course of three years, I went from believing I would always feel dirty, to being confident in my purity, redeemed in Jesus Christ. I never thought I would be married to a wonderful man who loves me despite my past and because of who I really am; I have received love that every girl deserves to hope for.
And above all that, I feel pure again, and know that I am worthy of God’s love.
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