It was a typical Wednesday night at church. Hoards of overly-energetic teenagers clustered in little groups, giggling and whispering over the S-E-X Talk they had just been treated to by a rather sweaty middle-aged deacon. A rather grungy 10th grader was the only one brave enough to question the presentation.
“Okay, I get that you want me to wear the promise ring and vow to save my virginity for marriage….but why?”
“It’s what the Bible says.”
“Okay…. but why?”
“Sex before marriage is bad.”
“Really?.. ‘cause my sister and her boyfriend said that it…”
“Jamie – just don’t!”
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
But why? It is a fair question. One that I wondered for all of my teen years, but never had the guts to ask. It’s not that I doubted the truth of the teaching, I just didn’t understand the reasoning behind it. Nobody could really tell me why waiting was God’s plan. I trusted God and His plan…. Just not so much the youth workers with no answers.
In the past 10 years of college, masters and ministry I’ve seen my friends and those I’m mentoring struggle with a lot of things. And nothing is more grieving to me than to see them struggle with their sexuality as they date and get married. The “Just Don’t” message preached by most of our youth groups wasn’t enough when faced with the real world. My friends either gave into temptation because they didn’t really have a reason not to or they so denied their sexuality that it caused serious emotional and physical problems in the early years of their marriages. The author of Real Sex says, “Rather than spending our unmarried years stewarding and disciplining our desires, we have become ashamed of them.”
Can I just say right now – neither guilt or promiscuity are God’s plan for sexuality!
When we are taught that sexual desires are bad it most often results in confusion and pre-marital sexual exploration or shame and guilt over all expressions of sexuality. And that guilt, shame and confusion over our sexuality is causing serious problems in the church.
It’s affecting our view of ourselves and our understanding of God.
A right understanding of sexuality affects our view of self
By labeling sexuality as ‘bad,’ indoctrinating the next generation with the idea that sexuality is sinful, we distort their understanding of how God created them as male and female. In Genesis 1, God created man and woman as sexual beings. He looked at what He had made and called it very good. That “very good” label applies to our sexuality too! Sexuality is intertwined in our make-up as humans, as women. And if we deny our sexuality, or feel guilt over our makeup as sexual beings, we are rejecting God’s design of our womanhood.
Just like everything God created, sexuality can be used for sinful purposes or for God-glorifying purposes. As His redeemed children, adopted into the family of God, He calls us to be set apart in our sexuality – pure in a world of filth (1 Thess. 4:1-8). The ultimate purpose of our sexuality is to glorify God, “So glorify God in your body.” (1 Cor. 6:13-20).
A right understanding of sexuality affects our understanding of God
Sexuality, an intricate part of our humanity designed by God as men and women, is directly related to God’s plan to reveal His nature to us and to the world. Mary Kassian explains it best, “God created manhood, womanhood, marriage, and sex because He wanted us to have images powerful enough to convey the idea of who He is and what a relationship with Him is all about…Without them, we would have a tough time understanding concepts such as desire, love, commitment, fidelity, infidelity, loyalty, jealousy, unity, intimacy, marriage, oneness, covenant and family. We would have a tough time understanding the Gospel. They’re temporary symbols that point to eternal spiritual realities. C.S. Lewis called it living in the “shadowlands.” We bring God glory when the shadows we cast here on earth match up with their heavenly counterparts. Sex in the shadowlands is supposed to tell the story of God.”
Wow. So sexuality has direct implications on the Gospel as we reflect it to this world. That means a right understanding – and acceptance – of the purpose and beauty God created in male and female sexuality is vital to our understanding of the Gospel, our relationship with God and our witness of the Gospel to the world.
A right understanding of sexuality results in purity
“The instructions of “just don’t, it’s bad,” fail to recognize that one resists strong bodily urges like sexual desire not primarily through willpower, but through grace.” (Real Sex) Which is great news for me – because I have very little willpower, but God gives me an abundance of grace every single day!
And we all need it. Because no matter how lily-white our sexual past, apart from Christ our natural sexual inclinations and human desires are tainted with sin. We need Jesus’ power and grace to restore our sexuality to His high standard of purity, just like we need His power and grace to replace our natural pride with humility and our selfishness with a concern for others.
The great news is that purity is applicable to every believer: Single, married, divorced, or widowed. If you have Christ as your Savior, you have purity as your standard. Purity is about submitting all fleshly desires to God’s righteousness, through His grace, for His glory – which means expressing sexuality in the way God designed it; nothing more and nothing less. That means sexual intimacy with one man (or woman, if you’re a man), in marriage until death do you part (Matthew 19:4-12). It means not polluting that sexual intimacy with other physical, emotional, mental, or digital partners before, during or after marriage. Period. Purity like that is impossible apart from God… which is the whole point. Purity is reflecting Jesus Christ in our sexuality.
True love waits…. Isn’t enough. True love – a love that comes from God to a sinner – is completely redeemed. True love is transformed. It doesn’t just dampen physical desires to unleash raw sexuality on the wedding night. Its desires are completely redeemed, so that when the physical union takes place it is beautiful, holy and God-glorifying.
It’s not sexuality vs. Christianity. It’s sexuality as God designed it. It’s sexuality through the redeeming blood of Christ. It’s sexuality as a woman of God for the glory of God.
More on this topic in my next post – The myth of the un-sexual Christian girl,