Christians and Sex

When it comes to the topic of sex and Christianity, there exist three viewpoints. Let me know if any of these sound familiar.

The Fundamentalist: “Sex is only for marriage between one man and one woman. The Bible says that whoever sins sexually sins against his or her own body. Premarital sex defiles the marriage bed and carries a lifetime of regret. A person who has been promiscuous has squandered his/her purity and, therefore, has little of value to offer his/her spouse. A defiled marriage is doomed to have serious problems.”

The Average Christian: “Yeah, I know I’m not supposed to have sex outside of marriage. But it’s really hard to adhere to the Bible’s commands. I mean, if I love the person and think we might get married, it should be ok, right? God will forgive me if I ask. After all, He understands what I’m going through. Besides, I know too many people who married before being sexually intimate, and they later discovered they weren’t sexually compatible with their spouse. I don’t want that to happen to me.”

The Agnostic: “I’m so sick of the whole abstinence issue! When are people going to wake up and realize that the Bible is totally irrelevant to the lives of modern people? I’ve slept with a few different people; so what? I used a condom and everything turned out fine–no STIs or unwanted pregnancies. I even enjoyed it. All this guilt-tripping over sex only hurts people. Young people need to know their own bodies and discover what they like in bed before committing to someone permanently. Otherwise, they end up trapped in repressed marriages with no self-confidence.”

Talk about some widely differing views! Yet I have to say, for the record, I don’t wholly agree with any of them.

The fundamentalist has it right on a few points: The Bible strongly suggests that sex should be reserved only for marriage (1 Corinthians 7:8-9; Hebrews 13:4), and outright condemns all lewd and adulterous sexual acts (1 Corinthians 6:9-11; Galatians 5:19; Colossians 3:5). The average Christian, too, has a point: God is forgiving. And the agnostic isn’t completely wrong, either. Some of the unnecessary condemnation brought on by religious fundamentalists has driven some young people into repressed, guilt-ridden relationships. But what is the truth?

The truth is that our bodies were created not for sex, but for the Lord’s worship (1 Corinthians 6:13). Abstaining from sex outside of marriage is a demonstration of love for both God and neighbor. For God, because He requires it. For neighbor, because by abstaining, we do not take advantage of someone’s sibling, child, spouse, parent, niece, nephew or friend for our own pleasure. It also ensures that we don’t bring a child into a life of fatherlessness or single parenthood. Sex without commitment is ultimately selfish.

Sure, God created sex. It’s how we reproduce. But the desire for sex comes from our flesh, not the Spirit.

For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world (1 John 2:16).

Unfortunately, our modern society has confused sex with love. If you’re not having sex with your significant other, they say, you’re not fully expressing your love for that person. If someone isn’t having sex with you, you are missing out on vital affirmation of your personhood, desirability and relationship. When asked what’s the most important quality in a marriage, many people have “sexual compatibility” scrawled at the top of their list. But great sex doesn’t guarantee a healthy marriage. In my experience, great sex usually results from a healthy marriage, not the other way around.

It’s interesting to note that when we read the Bible’s definition of love, sex and sexual desire don’t even make the list:

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres (1 Corinthians 13:4-7).

In other words, if you’re having great sex but your partner constantly berates you for your shortcomings, love may be absent from the relationship. (And if that’s the case, why should such a person have access to your body?)

Notice also that love “is not self-seeking.” That’s pretty much the opposite of sexual desire, which is focused entirely on obtaining physical pleasure. However, because God understands our biological desire for sexual intimacy, He allows us to pursue it within the safe, nurturing bonds of marriage, in which a loving commitment has first been established. This is a gift and a privilege Christians should respect and cherish.

At the same time, I appreciate the difficulty involved in exercising abstinence. When I was dating, I used many excuses to rationalize any sexual behavior: “I need this. I can’t help myself. Marriage is a long way off. I’m not really going all the way. Abuse awakened these feelings, and I don’t know how else to deal with them.” But, really, I was fooling myself. I was in it for the pleasure, pure and simple, and it left me feeling empty and unsatisfied. I used people to get what I wanted, and they used me. It’s not something I’m proud of. Several of the men I dated deserve an apology.

I’m not the only one to have felt a twinge of regret in this area. The “party girl” at my high school, who was not a Christian and often bragged about her numerous sexual exploits, once made this statement: “Sometimes I wish I hadn’t slept with so many people. Sometimes I wish I were still a virgin.” That left an impression on me for a long time.

In spite of my mistakes, however, my marriage today is healthy and whole. Memories of past encounters do not overshadow my relationship with my husband. Why? Because I recognized my error and repented. And God forgave me and restored me to purity in His sight. I am not “damaged goods.” And neither is any man or woman who has accepted Christ as savior.

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).

This is the problem I have with the fundamentalist view of premarital sex: It teaches that once you’ve “given away” your purity, you can’t get it back. You have to live with a lifetime of regret because you know that you erred and don’t deserve to receive someone else’s gift of purity in marriage. Hog. Wash.

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death (Romans 8:1-2).

Now, that’s not to say Christians can rationalize giving into their desires because God will forgive (see Romans 6). Jesus said, “If you love me, keep my commands” (John 14:15). When we violate those commands, we say that fulfilling our fleshly desires is more important than following Christ. That is idolatry, and it puts believers in danger of God’s judgment.

Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God (1 Corinthians 6:9-11).

Aside from this, there is significant value in premarital abstinence. No STIs. No unplanned pregnancies. No shame or regret. Greater intimacy in marriage. To those who say sex builds young people’s self-esteem, I say hogwash. I know plenty of people who engaged in sex before they were emotionally ready, who felt peer-pressured into it, and developed life-long insecurities as a result.

So what should the Christian attitude be toward sex?

We should recognize that God expects Christians to reserve sex for marriage; that is our responsibility as believers. According to the Bible, anything else is immorality–a selfish indulgence of fleshly lust. Adhering to God’s commands in this area demonstrates our love for Him and others. It also reveals the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives, because self-control is a fruit of the Spirit. For those who have strayed from God’s commands, forgiveness is available and sufficient to erase any regret and restore physical (and spiritual) purity.

Do you agree? As a believer, what is your view of sex outside of marriage? What will you teach your children?

6 responses to “Christians and Sex

  1. I completely agree with all that you said. Growing up I was taught that sex outside marriage is not what God wants for us. It became very important to me once I grew into dating years to meet a man who had also stayed sexually pure. My husband and I both sustained from sexual activity before marriage- and it was a great asset to our marriage to be able to have no sexual baggage. I hope that we can teach our children the same. I’ve known many to come from previous sexual lives then to accept our Savior and start fresh again. I admire those people, and those who they marry. But i do hope we can instill in our children to with hold from sexual activities until they are married.

  2. Human sexuality has two functions:
    1. The biological procreative function, which we have in common with other species.
    2. The unitive function which seems to be unique to humans and perhaps the higher primates.

    Until the development of highly reliable contraceptive technology, the procreative function determined the “rules” for sexual behavor. Conceiving a child when there was inadequate means to nurture that child was a personal and social disaster, perhaps more of a tragedy than a sin if the child was conceived out of mutual caring rather than a predatory “drive.”

    I believe that, in most cases, sexual promiscuity is ususally more psychological than biological. An example of “looking for love in all the wrong places.” It is perhaps more of an indictment of our heonistic predatory society than the individual, although the individual is not without responsibility:

    “I think the world today is upside down. Everybody seems to be in such a terrible rush, anxious for greater development and greater riches and so on. There is much suffering because there is so very little love in homes and in family life. We have no time for our children, we have no time for each other; there is no time to enjoy each other. In the home begins the disruption of the peace of the world.” –Mother Teresa

    “We think sometimes that poverty is only being hungry, naked and
    homeless. The poverty of being unwanted, unloved and uncared for is the greatest poverty. We must start in our own homes to remedy this kind of poverty.” –Mother Theresa

    “The greatest disease is the lack of love.”– Mother Teresa

    “America is a land that is starving for love.” –Mother Teresa

    Another problem is that our advanced technology has made contemporary life so complex that it has extended the time that it takes to prepare for a career past the time that we are biologically ready to begin a family. There is a “clash of cultures” between the natural world and our technological society and Mother Nature is a bitch goddess. She has no interest in meaning or quality of life issues. Her only agenda is getting our DNA passed from one generation to the next and we are the venue.

    Sex can not only provide a quick though temporary illusion of intimacy, natural biological survival determinisms are not easy daemons to control.

    Of. course, the traditional wisdom of waiting until we are in an economically stable, committed love/covenant relationship is the ideal; but ideals are rarely experienced this side of the fullness of Eternity.

    The Law of love transcends and surpassingly fulfills all other laws. I believe that a same-sex couple that remains faithful to their spousal committment through the tragedy of end-stage AIDs in one of the partners is more pleasing to God than a heterosexual couple who stays together for financial reasons or even “for the sake of the children” although they cannot treat each other with respect and consideration.

    I think the all of the views stated above are simplistic, the result of limited subjective experience + head/logic minus heart/empathy/compassion.

    “No general principle can decide each concrete case; always secondary principles and special circumstances enter into consideration.” –David Spitz, The New Conservatives

    Another important factor to consider is that the virtue is chastity, not virginity. Once virginity is lost it is gone forever; but chastity can always be recovered after an error in judgment or a sin against love through repentance and a behavioral change.

  3. I think you summed everything up really well, April. What you’ve written here is exactly what I’m teaching my own teen daughter. The bible is a wise book and we cannot go wrong by attempting to allow it to guide us in every area of our lives, imo.

    • I was not raised in a “church-going” family although my Mother always sais that she “believed IN God.” She never told us what she believed ABOUT God. I don’t think she believed very much about God, her faith was more intuitive than theological.

      My father was a scientist, a chemist. He was an agnostic [not an atheist], an empiricist who said that there was no way to know whether there was a God or not, so he would “wait and see” when his life ended.

      Both of my parents were people of integrity for whom seeking their own advantage at the expense of others was unthinkable. My father used to say he wanted a “fair deal”, not a “good deal” because if he got a good deal he would be cheating someone.

      The three forbidden subjects–sex, politics and religion–were often discussed openly in my home. Dear ol’ Dad participated in the sex and politics dialogue.

      My mother taught me to abstain from intimate sexual acts for pragmatic reasons–sex produced babies and I was in no position to support a child. She also cautioned me that erotic touching made it very difficult for boys to control their sexual desires.

      That insight, which few women, who get so much pleasure from simply kissing, cuddling and “petting” without having to “go the whole nine yards,” understand was reinforced by my father.

      When I began dating it was dear ol’ Dad who really wised me up by explaining that in males “the little head is stronger than the big head” and “a stiff prick has no conscience.”

      That is why so many men simply do not understand that *NO* really means NO! when a woman has welcomed what they think of as “the preliminaries” of kissing, cuddling and/or petting.

      Your daughter needs to know more than just what is in the Bible if she is to cope intelligently with male sexuality, which is quite different from female sexuality, even if it bursts a few romantic female bubbles.

      It is said that a woman’s sex life begins when the couple gets up in the morning. A man’s begins when they go to bed at night. What most men don’t realize is that the most powerful aphrodesiac for women is kindness and consideration. No book on sexual techniques is going to make any difference for a woman in the bedroom when a man is neglectful or abusive in the spousal relationship.

      “Technique” without caring makes a woman feel like she is having sex with Robbie the Robot. The first thing a woman in that sort of relationship learns is how to fake an orgasm just to get him off of her.

      Just passing along some wisdom that our secular sisters share that you probably won’t find in the Bible.

  4. April this is so good. Insightful and Biblical. I’m glad I’m following your blog. This Saturday my church is having our annual abstinence and restoration rally. We believe in “grace purity” which is what I would label the ideal combination of the 3 views you summarized. So our rally will have music, food and ministry for the virgin, divorced, and non-virigins of all ages and genders. God wants more than anything to heal the brokenness that caused premarital sex, unwanted pregnancy, diseases and divorce. We believe that God can make you a “second chance virgin”. I’m actually going to give my teenage cousin a purity ring. The truth is that sex should be a by product of established intimacy in Christ, not that intimacy is a by product of sex. But the good news is that once you really believe that and repent God will pardon moving forward. I think I will blog on how the even went and talk bit more out my theory on it. Because actually it goes hand in hand with a consecrated lifestyle and community support. We can’t watch “Magic Mike”, “The Bachelor” or listen to “My heart will go on” and expect victory in this area. Because those things are the world’s rules and will get into your spirit and mind. There are good Christian equivalent romance movies. Or maybe the Lord will give discernment and say watch Lifetime once a month instead of every other day. LOL. Christians will also need to surround themselves with like minded people phsyically or virtually for which we can hold each other accountable and if get an urge we can confess to each other and pray(James 5:16). It is possible with a true surrender.

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