How should a couple considering marriage deal with sexual sins from previous relationships?
First of all, there should be total candor and total honesty about what you've done, before you're married. Now that's going to be really hard, and some people are going to say, "It would just be better if she (or he) didn't know." But I don't think so. I don't think so.
Noël and I did not have sex with anybody before we married. Neither with each other nor anybody else, unless she's not telling me the truth (and I think she is telling me the truth). But she had a boyfriend or two, and I remember being uncomfortable with that and wondering, "What did they do? Did they do anything? Misbehave?"
So I asked her one time, "Did you ever kiss him?" (We're talking about high school.) And she said, "Yeah." Everything in me did not like that, you know! Isn't that strange? People today are so fast and loose with their sexuality that a kiss probably doesn't mean anything to anybody. But it did to me. I wanted to say, "How?" but I didn't go there.
But I'm resonating with this question and the problems. I am glad that I knew that first. And here's one of the reasons why:
We had been married probably two years—I can't remember exactly. It was within the first three years. We were living in Pasadena, California. Noël gets a letter in the mail and starts to cry! She walks outside to be away from me. I let her go but said, "Whoa, what is that?" And I walk out after a while and say, "What's wrong?" And she said, "Jackson was just killed in Vietnam." It's the old boyfriend.
I'm glad I knew about Jackson at that point, because I think it just helped me deal with the fact that this isn't a hidden thing, like "Whoa, we have way too emotion invested in Jackson here!"
So I just think it's going to backfire if you don't tell the truth. So, that's my first point: there must be candor and honesty about what you've been through. If you can't deal with each other's backgrounds then you probably can't deal with life, you know? Marriage is trust, and you gotta trust each other with the junk that is in the past and whatever might be coming in the future.
Honesty is not the main thing. It's just a crucial thing, and was big for us.
Secondly, they have to be dealt with between you and God first, then they can be dealt with between each other. In other words, both of you know, "Christ has forgiven my sins. In Jesus Christ I'm as pure as the driven snow. And my resolves to walk in chastity and to walk in purity from this day forward and be a virgin for you until we're married count for something."
To know justification by faith alone, to know the purifying work of the blood of Christ is a glorious thing, so that you can look at each other and say, "I'm looking at you the way Jesus looks at you. And if you're enjoying the forgiveness of Jesus, I'm going to enjoy forgiving you the way Jesus says that he has forgiven you. If he has blotted out all of that sexual sin, I'm going to blot out all of that sexual sin."
So I think the essence of the answer is that we deal with it gospel-like in forgiveness and justification vertically so that we can hand that to each other as a gift on our wedding day, that same forgiveness.