I have a heart for today’s single Christian women.
Told to both avoid sex and be “in the world but not of it”, many Christian girls spend their days playing whack-a-mole with sexual topics. Many never truly understand sex in their frantic effort to remain pure. Meanwhile the world screams: “It’s natural! It’s wonderful! It makes you feel great and loved! Each day they stand at a crossroads, tired of whacking the moles of sexual thought but completely sexually ignorant – and completely ready to give up.
If God is good like I’ve been taught, and God made sex, why is sex bad?
Is Christian sex the only kind that’s bad? If
If it feels good, how can it be wrong?
These are sad but necessary questions, and they lead us to the world’s primary argument for extramarital sex: “If it feels good, affirms me, and makes me feel loved, it cannot be wrong”.
So for the girl who wonders why Christ calls us to save sex for marriage, this is for you.
God’s Design for Sexuality
The logic of the ‘if it feels good, do it’ argument is fundamentally flawed. If we determine moral issues based on individual feelings, there is no standard for right or wrong whatsoever. The standard for good and evil has to come from something outside of mankind, or each of us determines our own idea of truth. And if we determine our own idea of truth, no law on earth can tell us what to do.
Just because something ‘feels good’ does not mean it is the right thing to do for ourselves or for others. This is especially true when it comes to sexuality.
Every part of our bodies was designed by God for a specific function: our eyes, ears, legs, fingers, gall bladder – you name it. When that body part is used outside of its design, it affects the rest of the body. Sex is not just a bodily function. It involves thoughts and emotions that heighten the sexual experience and are inseparably tied to our minds and hearts. Part of what makes sex so appealing is the sense of closeness we have when we participate in it.
I was recently watching the movie How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days with my husband, Josh. One of the characters in the movie is known for her week-long relationships with successive break-ups shortly thereafter. Most times this character slept with her dates within that first week, and following these sexual encounters would become very emotional, to the point of crying or saying, “I love you.” This scared off the men she was dating, leaving her to wallow in the aftermath of yet another failed relationship.
The movie presents this girl as being an emotional whack-job for feeling those emotions after a one-night stand. In reality, those emotions are a natural part of sex. They are supposed to be there. Sex was designed for emotional and physical closeness, not for one-night stands and drive-by experiences. If we followed the subliminal messages of How to Lose a Guy, we would stifle our emotions, separate sex from our desire for a lasting love, and continue to give ourselves to men who want to use us for physical reasons alone.
Be Intoxicated With Her Love
In the Old Testament, sex is sometimes depicted with the verbs, “to know” (Gen. 4:1, 4:25, 21:2, 24:67). Marriage, and the sexual relationship within it, is the most glorious example of the intimate relationship God desires with mankind. It is the kind of relationship founded on commitment, faithfulness, mutual love, and complete vulnerability. I love this verse from Proverbs that reveals the contrast between illicit sex and marital sex:
“Drink water from your own cistern, flowing water from your own well. Should your springs be scattered abroad, streams of water in the streets? Let them be for yourself alone, and not for strangers with you. Let your fountain be blessed, and rejoice in the wife of your youth, a lovely deer, a graceful doe. Let her breasts fill you at all times with delight; be intoxicated always in her love.” (Prov. 5:15-19)
Scattered, streets, strangers: this is the life of a sexual nomad, never committing to the beauty of God-designed love. Marital sex, however, is a reservoir of satisfaction rather than the “scattered streams” of illicit sex. It is a continual fountain, always renewed – not the dark, empty streets of a city. It is a place to rejoice, delight, and be completely intoxicated with love, not overcome with temporary lust. It is security. It is a place where we are free to feel all the heights of emotion that accompanies sex, and if we are moved to tears and ‘I love you’, there is no place for shame.
Granted, there are nights where the experience may not be the best (read about my wedding night experience!). Sex takes practice! But in a relationship founded on commitment, sex is a journey a man and woman walk together. They are progressively sanctified as they give of themselves with patience, gentleness, and real love – the kind that commits to never, ever leave.
Lust v. Desire
Stasi Eldredge’s book Captivating captured the idea of ‘desiring to be desired’. As women, we long to be pursued, won over, and wanted by a man. This is a high and holy desire: one given and designed by God. When God tells us to reserve sex for marriage, He is not telling us to deny the existence of our desires or be ashamed that they exist. He, the designer of sex, is revealing to us the blueprint for the most fulfilling sexual relationship we can possibly have.
But God’s design for sex is based on real, God-defined love. It is good to desire that kind of love. But when our desire for love is reduced to a desire for physical closeness alone, we have missed the point entirely. Sexual sensations are a product of sex – but they aren’t the purpose. The purpose of sex is unity (Mark 10:8), service of one another (1 Cor. 7:1-40) and pure, faithful love (Heb. 13:4). In contrast, the world’s template for sex is based on lust, whether or not they use that word.
Is Lust Wrong?
Even in the church, you will hear teachers exclaiming over our ‘God-given freedom’ to celebrate our ‘God-given sexuality’ by indulging in the periphery of lust. This requires us to go to God’s Word and see if He indicates that lust is, in His view, a sin.
- The lust of the flesh and of the eyes belongs to the world (1 John 2:16), and we are NOT of the world (John 15:19).
- Lust limits our ability to fight against sin and pollutes our hearts (2 Tim. 2:4, 22); this should concern us, since ONLY the pure in heart will see God (Matt. 5:8).
- Lust wages war against our souls (1 Peter 2:11).
- Lustful minds conform us to the world (Romans 12:2).
If we are to fulfill God’s will, which is for us to be holy (1 Thess. 4:3-8), the definition and fruits of lust cannot be found in our lives. Therefore, lust is a sin. Lust is wrong.
- Lust objectifies. See the definitions from the OED. Lust of any kind is a focused and almost obsessive attention on attaining something. It is not patient or willing to give up its rights. A lustful mind is more focused on its desire than on the consequences of that desire; it is irrational: both sensual and insensitive.
- Lust satisfies itself first. Lust is focused on satisfying a want that it perceives as a need. The desire becomes so strong, a lustful mind sees what was once a preference as an inalienable right. If it cannot receive what it wants, it might just take it by force.
- Lust twists God’s plan. Lust takes God’s plan for sex out of context. God’s context for sex is marriage because sex inside of marriage (when the man and woman love God and each other) is safe. Lust focuses on the feelings of sex without the meaning of sex that God designed.
- Lust usurps God’s authority. Choosing to lust after someone, and acting on it (we will get to this later) is essentially saying, “I am god of this area of my life: I will dictate the parameters, limits, and morality of my own sexuality.” When we choose lust – or any other sin – our greatest transgression is not the action itself but our rebellion against God, elevating ourselves above His standard of holiness in the same manner Satan did before He was cast out of heaven (Ezek. 28:12-15).
But I Love Him!
“I’m in a loving relationship. We love each other, so I have a hard time believing God would have a problem with us having sex.” This common objection from the world has also been adopted by many nominal Christian young women and men. But this objection has one fatal flaw: the definition of love.
God has designed sex for marriage and requires marriage for sex because His definition of love is founded on sacrifice and commitment. To understand love as God defines it (and as He expects us to love others), we need to look at how He loves us:
“Can a mother forget her nursing child? Can she feel no love for the child she has borne? But even if that were possible, I would not forget you! See, I have written your name on the palms of my hands.” (Is. 49:15-16)
“The LORD appeared to us in the past, saying: I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness.” (Jer. 31:3)
“This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” (1 John 4:10)
God’s kind of love is everlasting. It is faithful. And most of all, it is sacrificial. He sent Jesus to purify us so that we could have a relationship with our all-holy God. We see an example of God commanding this kind of love in Paul’s instructions to husbands in Ephesians 5:
“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the Church and gave Himself for her, to make her holy, cleansing her in the washing of the word.” (Eph. 5:25-26)
God’s love is always meant to make us holy. The world’s kind of love is able to temporarily satisfy, but it can never present us to God spotless. Sex outside of marriage is unholy in God’s eyes and separates us from perfect relationship with Him. We cannot simultaneously be committing extramarital sexual acts and have an active relationship with Jesus Christ. If we call ourselves Christians, we will make every effort to uphold the holiness of Christ in our lives:
“Therefore, dear friends, while you wait for these things, make every effort to be found in peace without spot or blemish before Him.” (2 Peter 3:14)
God is ready with open arms to take back those who align their hearts and lives with His love.
Our Desire for Sex Can Glorify God
Sex in and of itself is not “bad”; it is one of the crowning glories of God’s creation. Eve was brought to Adam at the conclusion of God’s creative work in Genesis 1-2. Sex was designed to be enjoyed by us as women – when we do it God’s way. And God has only one requirement for sexual fulfillment: Be married. He requires this because marriage is close to His heart. It is a commitment to “intimate knowledge”.
While this is often considered a moral issue, the use of our sexuality is much more than that for Christian women. This is a ‘pleasing Jesus’ issue. Do I really want to honor Christ with my sexuality in the same way I want to honor Him with my career decisions, my thoughts, and my words? Is my sexuality a means for me to glorify God?
We can take our desire for sex and use it as a testament to God’s grace. We don’t stuff it in a bottle and shelve it until it explodes. We don’t prance around the church parking lot advertising virginity. We don’t allow Satan to hold us captive by past sexual failures.
We allow the desire for sex to be the good and wonderful thing God designed it to be, neither worshiping it nor ignoring its existence.
Paula Rinehart says in her book Sex and the Soul of a Woman:
“The second path [holding on to hope] is harder… But it leads to a place worth going, and this makes all the difference. To live in the rarer air of the in-between – neither shutting down desire nor demanding it be fulfilled in a particular way – is your own heart’s journey in what is means to trust God with your life.”
We have to trust God when it comes to our sexuality. We have to trust that His plan for sex really is in our best interest. This kind of trust only comes from understanding who God is and just how much He truly loves us, His women.