Pre-marital and extra-marital sexual behavior
Team member: Philip Yim Kwok Hung, Thomas Ling Kie Kyong, Leung Chi Hau, Alex Wong Wai Sing
Sexual issues have caused struggles to the churches in Hong Kong. In this article we try to grasp the current situation and search for solutions. We will start from our theological understanding on sex and marriage. Based on this understanding, we will review the pre-marital and extra-marital sexual behavior.
I. Theological understanding on sex and marriage
In Gal. 5:19-21, Paul lists a series of "the desires of the flesh", and first three are related to sex: immorality, impurity and licentiousness. These are related to the three basic understanding of sex in the Bible: namely, sex as property, purity and privacy. Also, sex is the gift of God and sexual intercourse is the confirmation of the marital covenant.
A. Sex as property
Immorality means someone has a sexual relation with other's wife. In Ex. 20:17, God prohibit the Israelites to covet their neighbor's house, wife, manservant, ox, donkey and anything belongs to their neighbor. Clearly one's wife is counted as his property.
B. Sex as purity
In O.T., impurity always has a religious designation. In Lev. 11-20, two principles of impurity: lack of wholeness (Ch.12-15 e.g. leprosy) and defilement (Ch.18-20 e.g. incest).
Pre-marital and extra-marital sexual behavior will destroy the purity inside a marriage.
C. Sex as privacy
Licentiousness means immoral sexual behavior exhibited openly. This is against the principle of privacy: i.e. sexual intercourse should be done in private.
D. Sex as God's gift
Sex is the gift of God, since both sexes are created by God and praised by Him as good. (Gen.1:31). Eve is given by God to Adam and they should become one flesh. Besides, nakedness is not a shameful thing between them. Therefore the abuse and misuse of sex will offend God's purpose.
E. Sex as the confirmation of marriage
Sexual intercourse is also one of three basic elements of marriage; other two are exchange of promise and public celebration. However, sexual intercourse is the final seal of one's marriage. Hence, this act should be restricted to married couple only. Intercourse brings responsibilities and demands deeper mutual understanding (Gen 4:25; 19:5,8).
II. Pre-marital sexual behavior
A. General Situation in Hong Kong
Having many sexual partners are becoming popular among teenagers. Besides, the abuse of psychedelic, e.g. LSD, is rising. More and more adults choose the single lifestyle and cohabitation. More people have "one night stand", and the blue stories in some newspapers or blue books encourage this too.
B. Influence on HK Christians
Cohabitation is accepted by some Christians as a normal lifestyle. Pre-marital sexual intercourse or erotic caressing has also been found among some Christians.
C. Its influence on courtship and future marriage life
Fidelity and honesty are lost. One partner will fear that it may happen again, so she will try to escape from similar situation. This may hard to prevent this, because he may strive to put them in similar situation. A mutual struggle is built up in their heart. She may also worry that he will spread this secret to others if they have break off. Besides, she may look down upon him or fears that he may have some other sexual partners because he is so causal about sex. she may be anxious that he will have extra-marital affair after marriage.
Fear of sexual infections, accidental pregnancy and secret found by others may cause problems. Since they have sex in an unprepared situation, they may get some infections; but mostly they worry about pregnancy. It will reveal their secret which is a great shame to them. This creates a great pressure on them. On the other hand, pregnancy may force them to get marriage before they are ready. The birth date of the first child may reveal this secret. Some have opposed the person who find this secret, even fired the pastor who has found this secret.
Besides, guilty feelings may cause problems. It will affect how they see themselves. They are no longer men of integrity. If they have to teach Sunday school, they will think that they are hypocrites because they are doing what they teach not to do. They will feel self-blamed and internal struggle, sexual life will become a frustrated experience. This will affect marital sexual life.
D. Church Response
Educate the Christians to resist the temptation and escape from it. For example, don't go to the quiet places which are full of people caressing and kissing one another emotionally together. Don't participate in erotic dating activities, e.g. see X-rated films or video, blue books, and caressing vigorously and touching one another's genitals or breasts. They must know each other more before they date one another alone.
The pastor should keep this secret and help them to stop this from happening again. He should help them to get rid of the guilty feeling and other related problems. In special case, he should consult specialists or inform the authorized person related to this matter.
III. Extra-marital sexual behavior
A. General Situation
More TV shows contain these kinds of behaviors. These may affect the public perception on these behavior. Now HK people tends to accept these acts as normal among some people (please refer to the survey).
B. Its impact on marriage
1. Inevasivable in-depth wounds. Their feeling is hurt and revenge may happen. Some spouses will spread the news to relatives in order to soil their partners' reputation. Some even try to start an affair to break it even. Some punish themselves.
2. Infidelity forces the couple to lie to each other.
3. It is a destructive behavior against one's personality and integrity.
4. Fear of sexual infection may happen to their spouse, because the partner has sexual intercourse with others.
C. Hong Kong's situation and its impact on the church
No survey on Hong Kong's general situation is available. however, the Salvation Army has made a survey on one estate, which reveals some trends (though not representative).
38.95% (33 persons) of the respondents reject extra-marital affairs; and 21.05% (24 persons) takes a common phenomena and 25.44% (29 persons) as acceptable. This may reflects the ideological changes in Hong Kong.
D. Church's Response
The Church should help the congregation to prevent this thing. We should help them to establish a good family life and solve their life problems. We should aid them to recognize their own weakness in this area: e.g. their attitude towards this matter, which kinds of girls attract them most. Also, people in the mid-life crisis are easier to cling to this affair.
The pastor should keep the secret and only inform some of the ministers or deacons who can help. Some church's disciplines may be done. A small group of helpers may be assigned to deal with the person who has the affair and support his spouse. Only when the man reject to repent and change continually, will the matter to be stated openly. However, this step will also subjected to traditions of different churches. The aid of the helping group is to reestablish the man's family life and change his life attitude.
Petersen, Jallan. Flower in the road is better than in the home? Taiwan: Olive, 1990.
"Extra-marital Affair", Asian Week Nov., 1992.
Salvation Army Wah Fu Youth Centre. Youth and Sex research project survey report in Wah Fu Estate, 1991.
"On Pre-marital sexual relationship (I)", Today's Chinese Church, 9, 1985.
"On Pre-marital sexual relationship (II)", Today's Chinese Church, 10, 1985.
In USA, 1.2 million people get sexual diseases annually, but Hong Kong has a low rate. see Today's Chinese Church, 9. 85 p.31.
man his spouse
Case 1: A man has an affair and always go to mainland China for business for some months. In fact, he has a lover lived in China.
Case 2: behavior
Besides, people who try to immigrate to other countries, usually leave his / her spouse in Hong Kong. Many extra-marital affairs are found among them. Some blame others. Some punish themselves or their children. These behaviors will cause more guilty feeling to the spouse who want to have revenge. For example, a man has an affair with a woman who lent a lot of money to him.
Case 3: A man claimed that his lover is his partner in business. Hidden shame and fear of being found by others produce high pressure on a person. Always forced to tell lie, make him / her from trusting oneself and hide his / her real feeling. The deep sense of shame may force the man to leave his spouse.
Case 1: A man has an affair with a young woman. He feels shame and leaves his family, and live with the woman.
Case 2: A man has controlled by the woman who has an affair with him. He feel shame of himself and guilty towards his family and the woman involved.
He leaves his family and lives with the woman.
The woman forces him to divorce his wife. He is too shame to do so.
Case 3: A man has an affair in Hong Kong. He feels shame and works oversea to escape the feeling. He dares not to contact his family and always get drunk.