Most Christians who repeatedly engage in sexual sin know that what they are doing is harmful to them on many levels, and yet this knowledge does little to help them stop.
We all have the central belief system that drives actions and behaviors. We can’t necessarily see it because it is embedded in everything that we do. Sometimes that belief system comes from our cultural beliefs; things that are socially acceptable.
Just the same, we as Christians have a belief system regarding sex and sexuality. And it is influenced by the false beliefs we hear the world say and what we hear the church say.
Belief #1 – Everybody should and does have sex
We live in a sex and sexual driven culture. The first false belief comes from, the idea that everyone has to have sex. This idea gives too much importance to sex. This is why non-religious people and organizations fight tooth and nail with abstinence programs. This thread also runs through our sex education curriculum in schools. Those who carry the idea, “we have to have sex” are not basing their view on scientific evidence. Most likely, they put it forth to provide a justification for their own sexual desires or behavior.
Making sex an absolute need has helped lead our culture to become sex-obsessed, why sex has become a constant theme in books, movies and television shows. In a conversation I had with a young adult, she said “if I don’t have sex, how will I know what I like or don’t like. How will I know if someone is compatible?“
As Christians, most of us would say that we don’t buy into the “we must have sex; abstinence is impossible” beliefs. But we can’t help but be influenced by the prominence our culture has placed on sex. There are many who wonder if abstinence from masturbation is possible. Some who view their single life as devoid of sexual relationships. We see it in people who put all their efforts into dealing with their sexual problems, while there are more serious and deeper issues at play.
Placing too much importance on sex can actually hinder our pursuit of purity. The greater the importance we place on having sex, the more difficult abstinence is.
Belief #2 – Sex is dirty
This second belief often comes out of the church. That is, sex is bad, dirty and a curse on man. Does this sound familiar? It would be wonderful if we didn’t have these bodies to deal with. How great would it be to not have to struggle with sexual desires?
You see an attractive person who is not your spouse and you feel some sexual attractions. Is this good or bad? I believe it is good. God built sexual attractions into us. He made men to find women sexually attractive, and women to find men sexually attractive.
But what if the attraction is to someone of the same sex? Is that good or bad? It is still good that you feel sexual attractions. You were not made to be asexual. Yes, something went wrong in your development so that you don’t see the opposite sex as your complement. But remember, having homosexual attractions is not a sin, but the sign of a need for growth and healing. Unfortunately, because many tend to see all sexual desires—unless directed towards our spouse—as evil, it is hard not come down even harder on “unnatural” sexual desires.
Attraction is not lust. This is where so many Christians get confused. If you can take temporary pleasure in observing the masculine or feminine qualities in another person, that is good. It is good unless we carry the attractions to another level. Even then, it is not the attraction that is sinful, but where we take it. Consider these three ways we can misuse our sexual attractions:
- We desire to possess the person we are attracted to. (That is covetousness.)
- We view the person as less than a whole person; we make the person an object. Pope John Paul II said, “the problem with pornography is not that it shows too much, but that it shows too little.” In other words, it shows the body, not the person, and in showing only the body, it demeans the person.
- We allow the attraction to gain too much power. Not turning our minds to other things, we start to obsess. (That is idolatry.)
Belief #3 – I can never be free
This is common when someone who struggles with sexual sins that have lasted longer than they believe it should. This belief often comes out of both the church and the culture. This view is reinforced by the psychological community, reflecting its relative inability to help people with their sexual struggles. To deny that the Christian cannot find significant, if not total freedom from sexual struggles, is to deny the power of the Gospel.
The potential to fall back into sexual struggles and even sexual sin may always be present in this life. We are still being perfected and will not reach perfection until we are with the Lord. But the Scriptures give us wonderful images of being cleansed, of being washed, and of experiencing total victory over sin! To think these promises don’t apply to our sexuality is to remove the hope we have an hour battle for sexual purity and wholeness. Maybe we should consider the problem is we see sex as too big and too important. Maybe too big for God.
Let’s put sex in its rightful place. And to do that we will need to replace each false belief with true ones. This will not bring instant healing and change, but if we hold fast to these truths overtime this will affect our actions.
- Sex is a wonderful gift from God. He gave us sex to be a blessing. In His desire that we not be alone, He created an automatic response in us that would draw us to someone who is not like us. It is easy to see the beauty and wonderful nature of sex in the marriage bed when husband and wife are truly one, but God didn’t give sexual desires only to married people; he gave them to single people too. Sexual desire is a manifestation of the longing He created in us to connect with other people. Misdirected and carried too far, this desire to connect will bring harm rather than good, but the existence of the desire itself is a sign of life and health, not of sin and depravity.
- We don’t have to have sex. Sex is wonderful, but it’s not as big of a deal as our culture would have us believe. Think of the vast number of blessings that are to be enjoyed in this life: deep friendships, music and art, the glories of nature, good food, intimacy with God, humor, friendly competition, and on and on. But, we are missing something good if we don’t experience a wonderful sexual relationship in marriage, where it is designed to be.
- As we seek the Lord, the struggles will diminish and perhaps go away. As Christians, we live a life of trust, believing in those things that are unseen. God never fails this trust. He is faithful! Where wrongful patterns of sexual attraction and response have taken root in us, they may not go away easily. But, one of the great promises of the New Testament is freedom. We know that this means freedom from the power of sin, but it must also mean freedom from life-dominating temptations. There this part of a song that I like that says, “I am no longer a slave to fear, for I am a child of God.”
Our new life of freedom is to be experienced here, not just in heaven. God may allow our temptations to continue in order to bring us to deeper levels of repentance or healing, but His ultimate goal for us is freedom. Keep reminding yourself of this.
What is the proper perspective of sex? It is a wonderful gift from God, but sometimes we have to truthfully tell ourselves- it’s not everything.