I wish the church would talk more about sex. It’s in the Bible. We are quick to talk about how much God hates beer or how much God loves Chris Tomlin-err-I mean praises from His people. But God loves sex. Sounds weird and you might seem weirded out. Just hold on and take a breath. I'm saying sex is created by God for us and we aren’t jumping at the chance to talk about what a healthy sexual relationships looks like in the context of a thriving, God-centered marriage. Here’s what I have been talking about in my current contexts in my own conversations about sex:
The world CORRUPTS sex and perverts it.
Religion CONTEMPTS sex and shames it.
God CELEBRATES sex and affirms it.
So why don’t we create space in our relationships so we can celebrate what God has given us in for our community with honesty about what God created and designed us for? God gave us a sex drive. Plain and simple. God does not want to mute your sex drive like the "pings" on our iphone but instead God desires for you to master it and direct it in a positive direction to show the world how good God is and why God can be trusted with our sex lives.
This invitation for us to engage conversations, whether it’s opposite sex or same sex attraction, is our chance to express the love of Christ, the acceptance of God in the midst of shame, the belonging to community and the restoration of creation back to the creator.
In our society, how you feel determines who you are. That is not only dangerous but also completely not true. How you feel doesn’t dictate who you are. If you have a feeling of “I hate them” doesn’t mean you should live out a lifestyle of hate towards that person or situation the rest of your life. You are supposed to forgive.
Just because you feel like a “slut” after an unwanted sexual encounter doesn’t mean that’s who you are. The power of forgiveness in Jesus compels you to be forgiven and from that moment forward compel you to live a life of waiting for the right person in the context of marriage.
Just because you feel "attracted to the same sex" doesn’t mean you’re gay. You may have a longing to be with other guys because you lacked acceptance and affirmation from other men in your life. Nothing wrong with wanting to be with guys that you can be yourself with and be vulnerable with in the context of an intimate healthy friendship. But culture takes that "void feeling" and twists it into you think you need to be sexually intimate with the same sex to feel affirmation and validation. No, a healthy community will affirm you and remind you who you are who God design you to be.
Just because you feel like you "love them and it just seems right" doesn't mean that you move in with them. Of course you will feel emotionally connected to your significant other but don't alter your life by moving in with them just because of how you feel. True love and emotional connection is an intentionality that sets you up for a long sustainability through marriage, commitment, healthy community with similar values on what love and marriage is like, etc.
You have to remember that your feelings and your temptations are not your identity. The world says to “look inside you” to find out who you are. Instead, look to your creator and see how God desires you to function. We as Christians look to a point outside of ourselves to measure and validate our feelings. Tim Keller attacks this ideas by saying, “our culture presses its’ members to believe you have to ‘be yourself’ that sexual desires are crucial to a personality identity that any curving strong sexual desires leads to psychological damage.’” Keller is exposing the lie that to feel satisfied you have act on your feelings to find yourself and be yourself. We can’t rely on our feelings as the only reliable source to identify who we are sexually. We have to look to who God made us to be to fully understand how we can function in a healthy way. Culture brings chaos to our sexuality but Christ brings a simplicity and an order to a very complicated construct.
Someone said recently, “We can live without sex, but we can’t live without intimacy.” Intimacy with the next generation is a potent wood the midst of severe abandonment with divorce and lack of fathers making true intimacy an apologetic that our culture would respond powerfully to. We have to be aware that there is a longing for intimacy with other people which is felt the strongest when expressed through sex. Intimacy is emotional, relational and most of the times sexual. Our Biblical faith has a sexual ethic that is very clear: sex is created by God between a man and a woman in a covenantal marriage. We must resist the desire to rush to the sexual intimacy part of our lives prematurely or we create dysfunction.
Christians are looking for Biblical ways to satisfy the desire for lifelong companionship. This desire for intimacy is so strong that it compels some to give up on their Christian beliefs to find intimacy. That's why casual sex, living together, etc are higher than it's ever been with those who profess a Christian faith. The Christian community must walk with those who are struggling sexually and affirm healthy relationships through positive and healthy environments. When you are aware of all of the sexual dysfunction and longing for intimacy, you can start unpacking all of the sexual assumptions of our culture, you have an opportunity to show the world a God who cares not just about our future but the very practical part of life like our sex lives.
Throughout my ministry career I have worked in the restaurant world. One of the staff who I've had the privilege to work with who I’ll call Kelsie, knew I was a pastor and found it fascinating that I was working as a server. She asked me one day at work that was both an honest question but also seemed to monitor “my reaction” as a Christian and spiritual leader by asking, “Alan, my friend with benefits stopped having sex with me and now I don’t have someone to meet my needs…what should I do?” I had two choices in that moment on that Friday Night as we were closing the restaurant. The first could be to point out how sex outside of marriage is wrong and that she should turn her life over to Jesus (which are sincere motives for any follower of Christ but in a“right idea wrong execution” kind of way). The other choice was to begin a dialogue and focus on her “intimacy” and using the context of her “sexuality” as a place to dialogue with her and asking questions like: “What is it about this guy that you like?”; “Why haven’t you made a commitment to him?”; “How is your relationship not fulfilling to you?”; “Give me one quality of an ideal guy for you”; etc. Then I began to talk about how my relationship works with Heidi and I for 19 years as we choose to put each others needs before our own and how that is modeled in the Bible, loving and respecting, waiting till marriage for sex, etc. This conversation moved me to dialogue with her further about her faith. I found out her parents were involved in a cult and she was very hesitant towards Christians and faith. I got to talk to her about Jesus and she became one of my favorite people at work.
It’s not “just about sex” with this generation of young believers and non-believers but about true intimacy. How do I connect and be vulnerable with someone? How can someone fulfill my needs and should they fulfill my needs?, etc. Christians who are living out a Biblical sexual ethic are real examples of what God intended from the beginning. A true understanding of what you believe what the Bible says about sex and also understanding the pain bad sexual relationships can cause makes you a beautiful example of obedience on display and one of the best expressions of evangelism in our culture.
The enemy in our culture distorts some our relationships to a place that some of us eventually believe that “to be ‘intimate with someone you have to have sex with them.” There are relationships in the Bible that were very intimate but that were not sexual: David and Jonathan (1 Samuel 18:1); Ruth and Naomi (Ruth 1:16); Paul and Barnabus (Acts 11 & 13); Mary and Mary (Mark 16:1-10); Peter, James and John (Matthew 17:1), etc. Intimacy is critical for spiritual formation and spiritual forward motion but not all intimacy needs a sexual bond.
How you manage your “sexual appetite” determines your community success and spiritual success. You have sexual desires given to you by God that is constantly being stirred up. Culture is constantly promoting a variety of sexual activities and we have to learn to manage our sex drives as followers of Christ for not just our own spiritual and community health but to be an example to others in culture. When we can talk about our sexuality in healthy faith communities, it sets up the new young Christian to have a strong ability to overcome the temptation, not if but when the temptation comes. The reality is this: Whoever teaches you about sex first, their advice and information becomes the foundation. That foundation is now the measuring piece against “new information.” This is why it’s so critical to empower pastors and parents to dialogue early about this critical developmental stage in the life of young believers.
As we said earlier, we are all sexual beings. Our sexuality is something that we have in common with every human being…despite their faith background or belief system. That’s why I really believe our sexuality in culture is prime to be the new apologetic. We as followers of Christ can use our own sexuality as common space and common opportunity to talk about God, our origin story, our identity, how we relate, and bring a place to speak beautifully about Jesus with others.