I’ll never forget the first time I heard my daughter awkwardly say the word “sexy” as a very little girl. Thinking about it even now makes my stomach drop. Why? Well, I’m a parent. I’m a father. I know that there will be a day — likely sooner than I think — where everything we’ve taught our children about sex is going to matter.
As a pastor, I believe sex and Christianity should be taught together. It matters deeply to me, and I want to pour this message into my children, to my teenage small group, and into the couples I counsel and marry. But I also know there are assumptions about sex and Christianity that take place before I even say a word — assumptions that can halt a conversation before it starts.
That’s real talk. Sex is a hot topic in today’s culture, and the one thing that keeps some of us from following Jesus.
To the modern world, sex and Christianity, especially as it’s presented in the Bible, seem oppressive and antiquated. Christopher Hitchens, an author for Vanity Fair, even suggested that religion should be banned from discourse about sexuality in general — in other words, the Christian perspective on sex has no place on the discussion panel.
With all due respect, that’s Just. Not. True.
I believe the conversation about sex and Christianity matters, but we have to approach the conversation with an idea of the cultural views on sex. Let’s call them, for lack of a better term, three sex(y) views on sex and Christianity.
3 Sexy Views on Sex and Christianity
Sex is Appetite
When we get hungry, we eat whatever is around. When we get thirsty, find something to drink. When we are sexually aroused, we should have sex with whoever is there. This view on sex was developed by naturalists, and was popular during the writing of the New Testament and certainly still popular today.
In the animal kingdom, there isn’t a concept of marriage or fidelity; there’s just mating. With this view, we are just animals, and the same behavior should be normal for us, too. The ancient Greeks had a different angle on the same concept. They taught that the body was bad and the spirit was good, and that you can do what you want with your body if you keep your spirit pure. In modern culture, it sounds more like “Oh, we are just friends with benefits” and “we’re just messing around”. Or, “Netflix and chill”.
Sex is God
In this view, sex isn’t just good, but the ultimate good. A defining good. It becomes the central component to our identity as human beings.
Margaret Sanger, an American birth control activist said, “Sexual liberation is the only method to finding inner peace and security and beauty…Through sex, mankind will attain the great spiritual illumination (and) light up the only path to earthly paradise”. When we treat sex as god, it becomes our new religion and our salvation.
Throughout history, people have shaped their lives around the pursuit of sexual pleasure. Much of Christian scripture was written to people living in a culture where they regularly engaged in premarital sex, extramarital sex, sexual slavery, prostitution, orgies, and various forms of promiscuity. The sex is god view was as common then as it is today.
Sex is Bad
When sex is appetite and sex is god, our bodies become commodities. But then Christianity comes along and tells us that we each have a mind, body, and spirit, and aren’t defined by sex; our bodies aren’t just a objects that can be traded, sold, or used. But unfortunately, the church didn’t get this right, either. We kind of jacked it up.
The position of the church for generations was that sex was bad. How many went to church summer camp and heard something like, “Sex is dirty, nasty, vile, and wrong…so, save it for the one you love and marry”? Who in the world would say that? Lots of pastors did, because that was easier than counseling young couples on premarital sex — a conversation on sex and Christianity that was awkward and uncomfortable, and lead to generations of couples who meet shame and embarrassment on their wedding night.
Why is sex a problem?
Whether your view is sex as an appetite, sex as god, or a complex combination of all three, we can agree on one point: in our culture, sex is in full-on turbo mode. It’s everywhere. And if we are real, we’d probably say that sex has been a source of our greatest pleasure and our greatest pain.
So, why is sex a problem? Why don’t we trust Jesus when it comes to sex? Why does our sexuality leave us skeptical about following God?
There’s nowhere in scripture that says sex is bad. In fact, this says to me that sex is a gift from God. He made us sexual beings, and created our bodies with pleasure points that have no other purpose. Still don’t believe me? Open your bible to Song of Solomon and check out the erotic letters about sex and our freedom in it.
Go ahead, I’ll wait.
Let’s start by diving in to what the Bible says about sex. These words come from a man named Paul who was single, addressing a culture that was just as supercharged as our culture is now. This is 1 Corinthians 6: 12:
“Everything is permissible for me, but not everything is helpful….Food for the stomach and the stomach for food, but God will do away with both of them. The body is not for sexual immorality but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. God raised up the Lord and will also raise us up by His power.”
Don’t you know that your bodies are a part of Christ’s body? So should I take a part of Christ’s body and make it part of a prostitute? Absolutely not! Don’t you know that anyone joined to a prostitute is one body with her? For Scripture says, The two will become one flesh. But anyone joined to the Lord is one spirit with Him. Run from sexual immorality! “Every sin a person can commit is outside the body.” On the contrary, the person who is sexually immoral sins against his own body. Don’t you know that your body is a sanctuary of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought at a price. Therefore glorify God in your body.
In other words, sex isn’t just an appetite. Sex is not god. Our bodies aren’t commodities. And at the same time, sex is not bad, or dirty, or shameful. It’s emotional in mind and body. Sex is spiritual. Sex is about your soul connecting with another human, and that’s a beautiful thing.
“But Brad, that’s from the Bible, and I’m already skeptical, so I don’t know if I buy what you’re saying…”
Fair point. Next, we’ll tackle the context of sex, and why you should trust God’s gift of sex within his plan.