Let’s Talk About Sex
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Sex seems to be everywhere: It’s accessed through music, movies, TV, cellphones, computers, and even classes in school. We should avoid the wrong discussion of the subject, but is there a right conversation to have?
Though sex grows more and more casual in society as a cultural norm for dating, it certainly isn’t the first thing on our list of topics to talk about at Sabbath services with our buddies or the adults casually asking us about our week.
But sex shouldn’t be a taboo subject. In the right setting at the right time, sex is a subject we need to be open about, because being in the dark about it can make things worse.
It is crucial that we involve God in this conversation. After all, the creator of a thing certainly knows its proper use. God made sex for us with intention. But as a society we have warped this beautiful gift God made for marriage by not following His guidelines.
The apostle Paul wrote in 1 Thessalonians 4:2-5 (NIV), “For you know what instructions we gave you by the authority of the Lord Jesus. It is God’s will that you should be sanctified; that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control his own body in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust like the heathen, who do not know God.”
Taking this to heart, many Christian couples have an honest conversation while dating and make a commitment to wait till marriage.
What does it even mean, sexual immorality? I mean, it’s unlikely that in everyday conversation that you’ll ever say, “I’m choosing to refrain from sexual immorality.” If you do, quite possibly you might be met with blank stares. In this particular verse, the word for sexual immorality in the original Greek text is porneia. In Strong’s Greek Dictionary, we learn this word can mean prostitution, sexual intercourse driven by lust, sex outside of marriage, homosexual acts or other acts of perversion listed in Leviticus 18.
But the word porneia goes deeper than that. It encompasses the mind, the body and the spirit. This verse’s goal is to tell the reader that sex in all forms, outside the realm of marriage, defiles the body and the spirit. Sex has a great impact on every aspect of our person, today and in the future. In fact, being sexually immoral is a sin specifically mentioned that can keep you out of God’s Kingdom (Revelation 22:15). So, in action and in thought we are to keep ourselves pure from sexual immorality.
The following are real stories from real people about their struggles with sex. Names have been changed to preserve anonymity.
Lily grew up in the Church knowing that sex before marriage was wrong. When she started dating someone who held that same belief, she thought they were in the clear. She thought they were both strong in that choice. But later she felt like no one had prepared them for the attraction they would feel or how strongly it would pull at them. They were just told to wait. “Don’t do it.” She thought she was strong and would never compromise; but, sadly, they did. Though they never went “all the way,” exploring other sexual options left Lily wracked with guilt. Though Lily ended up married and happy with this man, that first year of marriage she hated sex. She didn’t feel like she deserved it because of the mistakes she made before marriage. Lily knew this wasn’t what God intended in her marriage, but the guilt kept her from enjoying the godly potential for her marriage for quite some time.
Sometimes you can feel like the only message you hear from your parents or church is: “Don’t.”
Well, yes, that is true. God says don’t, and we’ve already reviewed a scripture where He has told us that this is so. You can learn more about this by reviewing 1 Corinthians 7 in your personal studies.
The real question is how? If the temptations are so alluring, so strong, what defense could we possibly have against it?
God is our defense! He is our rock and our salvation (Psalm 18:2). When you find yourself struggling with something, ask yourself some basic questions:
- Have I prayed to God about this for as much time as I have spent worrying about it?
- Is this in line with my commitment to and knowledge of God’s way of life?
God says that to avoid sin and experience sex as a blessing, sexual actions must be saved for marriage. If you are dating with the intention of marriage, is there ever a good reason for you to be alone with someone of the opposite sex outside a public venue? To some this might sound a little strong. It is very easy to rationalize these things as OK, but in reality, these can be tempting scenarios that put us as at potential risk for compromising our values.
Joseph was a good example of this. Read Genesis 39:11-12. Joseph literally had to run away from a sexual temptation in front of him, just as we are told to do in 1 Corinthians 6:18: “Flee sexual immorality. Every sin that a man does is outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body.”
We don’t need to set ourselves up for failure, when every influence from the world is already doing that. We want to be pure and save ourselves for marriage, but sometimes we also want to date like the world dates. To be honest, it just doesn’t work that way.
We can get to know potential mates without putting ourselves in compromising situations. We can take steps to avoid precarious situations and, in turn, prevent a lot of personal hurt and anguish caused by giving in to sexual temptations.
According to a 2002 study by the U.S. National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health, by age 20, 75 percent of people had premarital sex, and by age 44, 95 percent had. The conclusion to this: sex is a part of dating in the world around us, but, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death” (Proverbs 14:12). That’s why we strive to do what is right in God’s eyes, not man’s.
A Battle of Body and Mind
Jesus tells us in Matthew 5:28 that “whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” One of God’s intentions for us is to refrain from lust: seeing something and feeling sexual desire or even acting on that desire with someone else or, in some instances, by yourself. This is where we talk about pornography.
If the temptations are so alluring, so strong, what defense could we possibly have against it? God is our defense!
Worldwide, porn is a $4.9-billion industry. Nearly half of young adults say they have come across it at least once a week, even when they aren’t seeking it out, according to research done by Barna Group, a Christian polling firm based in California.
A Barna Group study also found that 77 percent of Christian men age 18–30 admit to watching porn on a monthly basis, 36 percent say they view it daily and 32 percent admit to being addicted to porn. Women are also not immune. According to the Institute for Family Studies, while women still use pornography much less than men, use is on the rise, but also includes other forms of porn, including material deemed erotica, such as novels that depict graphic sexual scenes or Internet chat rooms, where there is more of a connection to an individual.
We are ignorant if we think that we are immune to the pulls of pornography in the Church. John’s story is evidence of that. He grew up in the Church—a third-generation Church of God member. As many households do, he had a computer in his room. His problem with pornography and masturbation started when he was 11. Most of his life he struggled with low self-esteem and keeping his grades up in school. When he moved to a new school district and had no friends, he turned down a devastating road—porn. He knew it was wrong but couldn’t stop. He would have this high, a rush of endorphins, but immediately afterward he was awash with guilt and slipped into depression. It was a dark secret. He was tormented with anxiety over his family finding out. At 17 he realized he couldn’t deal with this on his own, and even though he grew up in the Church, his first inclination wasn’t to turn to God; instead he felt his last resort was suicide. Thankfully, God stepped in—twice. The first time a church friend struggling with the same thing pointed John to Sex Addicts Anonymous (SAA).
John began attending SAA meetings. To overcome, he had to admit that alone he was powerless, and he needed God’s help. He had to be honest with God about his sins. He had to remove temptation, which meant removing or restricting access to the devices that opened him up to this particular sin. He installed security on devices that blocked certain types of websites, and he turned himself over to other activities—studying God’s Word, praying, exercising and more.
It can seem like an impossible request, and, on your own, it really could be. But you’re not alone.
Though he went months without incident, the guilt of what he had already done enveloped him in further depression, and he again looked at suicide. This time, though, he prayed that God would kill him. He didn’t want to hurt his family through his suicide, but he didn’t think he could live with what he’d done. His answer came quickly. God miraculously lifted his depression soon after his prayer. Months later he was baptized and continues seeking God’s will in his life.
Sometimes the answers we seek aren’t what we expect. John is now happily married but lives and struggles with this addiction every day, like Paul attests in Romans 7:14-20 about how we all war within ourselves against sin. With God’s help, we continually work to overcome (Romans 8:37).
God doesn’t arbitrarily make guidelines on how to live our life because He wants to keep pleasure from us. As the creator of sex, He knows its power and the blessings of it within the safe boundaries of God-ordained marriage. The ultimate purpose of marriage is so that husband and wife can “be heirs together of the grace of life” (1 Peter 3:7)—in other words, help each other to attain the Kingdom of God!
A Sheep Amongst Wolves
In Ephesians 6:16, we are told that Satan is shooting fiery darts at us. Now, I’ve never physically been on fire. But safety professionals say if you find yourself in this situation, stop, drop and roll, right? When we face a sexual temptation, the first thing we need to do is stop. Stop looking at it, stop contemplating it. Drop what you are doing and turn immediately to God. Ask for strength to overcome, to roll out of the situation you are in before giving in to the temptation.
One of the beautiful things about prayer is that it can be done anywhere, any time. I’ve prayed from bathroom stalls, in my car driving down the road, while exercising. God is always there to hear us (1 John 5:14).
It can also help to talk privately about the challenges of sexual temptation before marriage with someone you trust in the Church, another important reason we develop relationships with people in our congregations beyond our age group. Your parents should always be there to talk about these things with you. But if that is not your situation, God’s people can be there for you too, especially ministers. Older adults have been through these temptations; some have overcome; some have given in but were able to learn from it and turn themselves around. They can help you understand how to keep yourself from situations where you may be tempted to give in to pressures of sexual temptation. Use the wisdom of your parents and church family to your benefit.
Until you are married, there are other important things God wants you to focus your time and thoughts on. In I Corinthians 7:32, 34, Paul says, “He who is unmarried cares for the things of the Lord—how he may please the Lord . . . The unmarried woman cares about the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and in spirit.”
So, when your God and your Church tell you to be the exception, to stand against what is the norm, it can feel like you’re a sheep in the midst of ravenous wolves. It can seem like an impossible request, and, on your own, it really could be.
But you’re not alone.
You have a Shepherd guiding you through it all, who was tested and tempted and tortured and yet still overcame (Hebrews 4:15). He sympathizes with you. He knows how hard it can be to fight temptation and that there are battles we lose.
Ultimately, He helps us overcome to win the war. That’s all that counts, that we keep fighting and keep turning to God when we’ve done wrong. We need to continue to fight the good fight of faith (1 Timothy 6:12). With Christ on our side, we can overcome anything (Philippians 4:13).