Twelve weeks into his romance with Hailey Baldwin, Justin Bieber married her. Probably surprising those who are aware of the wild ride that has been Bieber’s life, the couple says they didn’t have sex during those twelve weeks. They wanted to wait until they were married. In fact, by the time Justin and Hailey reconnected, the singer had been celibate for over a year. While I applaud his abstention from sex outside of marriage, I believe that Bieber still doesn’t understand what the Bible teaches about sex.
Bieber told Vogue that after detoxing from drugs under the care of Hillsong pastor Carl Lentz, sex was “his remaining vice, an addiction that had long since ceased to provide him any pleasure.”
In that cover interview with Vogue, Bieber went on to explain his changing position on sex outside of marriage and his goal for abstention:
Not having sex, [Bieber] decided, was a way for him to feel closer to God. “He doesn’t ask us not to have sex for him because he wants rules and stuff,” Justin explains. “He’s like, I’m trying to protect you from hurt and pain. I think sex can cause a lot of pain. Sometimes people have sex because they don’t feel good enough. Because they lack self-worth. Women do that, and guys do that. I wanted to rededicate myself to God in that way because I really felt it was better for the condition of my soul. And I believe that God blessed me with Hailey as a result. There are perks. You get rewarded for good behavior.”
I want to be careful to not be too hard on Bieber. While I believe that his motivation for abstaining from sex outside of marriage is not supported by the Bible, his position is the default one for many, if not most, evangelicals in America. Not to mention that I can’t see his heart. He may be in the process of being sanctified and genuinely has the desire to obey God while growing in grace and the knowledge of Jesus Christ. I simply don’t know.
However, he is a public figure who shared his belief in an interview with a widely read magazine. As a highly influential taste-maker and pop culture icon, Bieber’s words and beliefs carry weight that most immature Christians’ words do not. Because of that, his comments should be publicly challenged.
Bieber’s statement to Vogue reveals that he views sex as primarily a consumer act. In other words, his choice to abstain was because he believed that doing so would help ensure a better sexual relationship with Hailey after they were married. This is in line with the evangelical purity movement, which teaches that if you maintain your virginity until marriage, you will be blessed with wonderful sex and a happily-ever-after relationship. That teaching reduces the abstention from sex to a man-centered moralism with the goal of improving our lives.
Except, it’s simply not true that having sex before marriage will create problems in your marriage. It might, and it can. But it doesn’t have to. We shouldn’t abstain from sex outside of marriage because it improves our lives. We should abstain from sex outside of marriage because having sex outside of the bounds of marriage lies about Jesus.
It’s revealed in Ephesians 5:31-32, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.”
Prior to that “therefore” in verse 31, Paul writes of Christ’s love for his bride, the church.
Marriage is a promise (covenant) between a man and a woman that “refers to” Jesus’ covenant with the church. And sex is the covenant sign for the covenant of marriage. This is why it’s often referred to as “consummating the marriage.” The becoming of one flesh reveals a little of the mystery of what it means for the church to be in Christ.
In the Bible, the calls for purity in the Christian life are commands for faithfulness to God. In 2 Peter 3:14, the words “found by [Jesus] without spot or blemish” metaphorically point to the Old Testament sacrificial system and, hence, indicate purity. With that passage, Peter is exhorting us to be pure in our affections for Jesus. When Jesus returns, his bride is not to be found with divided loyalties nor to be found clinging to identities other than our identity in Christ.
Ironically, Bieber’s reducing of the abstention from sex to a man-centered moralism fails to point people to the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Since the covenant of marriage and the covenant sign of sex point to Jesus’ relationship with his bride, the Church, sex outside of the bounds of marriage lies about who Jesus is. It lies about Jesus’ relationship with his bride. Sex outside of marriage says that Jesus is not faithful to his bride and that his bride isn’t required to be found without spot or blemish when he returns.
I’m happy that Justin Bieber decided to abstain from sex outside of marriage. I just wish that he had done so for the right reason.