"Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength." --Mark 12:30
It's the generic story we have all heard at some point: Boy tells girl he loves her. She sleeps with him, and he's gone (you can even add women to the mix of objectifying others for personal gain). What I would like to point out in the story, however, is that none of us really think the boy loved the girl because he said so. In this simplistic story, he has shown otherwise. However, in this complex world things are not so straightforward or obvious--at least when it is happening to us at the time or when perhaps we are the ones with less than pure motives.
In the United States these days I suspect few really know what "love" is. It's a term often thrown around ambiguously to indicate "strong feelings," the existence of which supposedly indicates this thing called "love" which is something you catch like a wanted disease and is without cure. Maybe it is a strong pull to be around someone all the time? This feeling is so fundamentally human that to deny any person (including oneself) its ultimate expression: sex, is a supreme evil.
The idea of waiting for sex before marriage appears ungenuine or simply a cultural relic of the days of yore (or recent days...or current days for most cultures around the world). Perhaps many of us only know of it from Sunday school or youth group pledges we took to adhere to another rule, one of many rejected by the discovery of our "true selves" on our long painful journey from those hypocrites over there.
Sadly, our reality of love is also one of isolation, breakups and a plethora of interpretations as we try to redefine "family" to include friends or whatever we make of it to escape what we don't have. It is not atypical to have had fractured families either emotionally or physically, and a swirl of messages about love and beauty prioritizing sensation and the self. Worse yet, many of us are reliving what we experience within our homes with our children and significant other(s).
In truth, if we live and breath in a different reality shaped by what is known as the living Word of God we will have a different paradigm entirely. In the biblical reality, love is something dynamic, passionate, consuming and an action--not fundamnetally a sexual expression of a mere subjective state.
At the basic level love to all human beings is shown in the golden rule: love your neighbor as yourself (Mark 12:31) and is often expressed in the Bible as giving preference to one another--meaning your enemies and people not in your "tribe."
Then there is romantic love which is analogous to the all-consuming love of God. Both love for God and love for your husband or wife is a radical and singular commitment that demands the whole person. There is only one God and we either love him or we do not. We should have only one spouse and ultimately we love them or not.
Love is a concrete commitment.
If you love someone romantically, if they are a human being (in a way we love God romantically or we don't) it means your sexuality is an expression of a concrete commitment--not mere rhetoric or a passing (but ever strong) feeling. It means: You and Only YOU. It means you will not have sex before you are married out of love for that person and hopefully God because it naturally follows a special singular commitment. It means you will not have anyone else besides them until after death. Love is something declared in front of a community of accountability and continued on after. The commitment is the part many lack. Well, wishes are not enough. We will have sex now and commit later is not love. It is sacrifice is the real world, not something fun that we do in the moment to someone we have feelings for.
Yes, we sacrifice our sexual selves for the God we love and the man or woman we love. But in radical commitment, and consuming zeal are we truly abstinent? In all truth, God has to be the life-blood of us all. If we want to be our true selves and to be truly loving we have to be connected to the source of love. This is not a distant creator, but one who fills the world with himself and is intimately involved with us and who likens our turning away from him as a spouse sleeping around. He is one who speaks to us today, became the "other"--us, felt abandoned by God (God feeling abandoned by God is possible with a Trinity!), and died in the most cruel way at the hands of those he loved and wanted to bring into a joyful and loving relationship powerful enough to raise the dead.
But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. -Romans 5:8
The heart of this is caring for someone else so much that you are willing to die for them and this is exactly what God asks husbands and wives to do for each other in Ephesians 5. It is what he has done for us as an expression of his love. We show that we know God and love him (and truly love others) when we are also willing to sacrifice ourselves (this includes a life pattern of living this sacrifice--at the very least not having sex in some situations).
In God's reality, love makes ultimate sacrifices and commitments even when it means dying because paradoxically ultimately giving up ourselves means gaining ourselves.
“If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it." Matthew 16:24-25
"Saving sex before marriage" only covers what one is not doing at a given time. In God's world it is being caught up in an exclusive divine love that is all-encompassing, all loving, and all consuming. It is saying to God You and YOU ONLY and meaning it.
"Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends. You are My friends if you do what I command you. John 15:13-14