This is that talk - the one no one wants to have. The one where no one wants to make eye contact. The one that exposes our struggles and offers hope and healing. This is that talk that hopefully starts the conversation for some, and brings about resolution for others.
Let me remind you we have two ways to engage through the week to help you. You can send any question to firstname.lastname@example.org . This is the 2nd installment in our series New Rules for Love, Sex and Marriage. Next week we’ll address the controversial subject of marriage but for now, let’s talk about sex.
We live in a sex-crazed society. What started as a sexual revolution in the 1960’s has now become a sexual tsunami. Anything goes. Everything is perceived as normative, no big deal. Everybody does it. The rules of dating have changed. In our culture, sex is assumed. And if you are not doing so within so many dates, people move on. As a result, premarital sex is not just permissible, it is so much as assumed! In fact, what used to be shameful is now considered the norm. And what was once regarded as sacred and reserved is treated so casually.
The mantra of our culture is: Express yourself, try it. Whatever you want, you can have it and if you can’t find somebody to try it with – then you are just a few clicks away on a computer screen.
To further exasperate the problem, while everyone is doing whatever they want to do, the church has determined that this subject is taboo. I’m sorry, I’d rather have somebody get mad at me for telling the truth - instead of "loving" me and contributing to the lie.
Most of us if not all of us are sexually broken. Whether through childhood abuse, adolescent promiscuity, premarital sex, adultery, or watching porn – we are sexually broken. It’s in our music, our movies, our TV shows, and even on our commercials. It starts as suggestive and moves to exploitive.
- Suggestive is what makes you uncomfortable watching when your mother is in the room.
- Exploitive is what would make you compelled to tackle your mom before she sees what’s on the screen.
And so on our TVs, computers, and cell phones we have become broken. Women have been objectified and treated as a commodity instead of as image bearers of God.
So far, nothing new here. You either agree generally or specifically. But I don’t intend to treat any of this lightly today. We don’t need another safe talk… look how far that has gotten us! I hope to help you put some issues on the table and begin to deal with them and get help and healing. God is pro-sex. He created it and gave it to us for our enjoyment. But we have perverted his gift and it has caused so much pain. Many people think God is like grandma – cautious to talk about sex openly. I have heard one preacher say, “God has not given us a grenade and told us to go and play around with it -- in the hope we would figure it out on our own.” God has not left us without guidance. This is such a crucial topic for life and holiness. And He has not left us to our own. The Bible talks at length about what we should do in this important area of life.
The popular Myth about sex is: it’s just physical.
Sex is more than physical, which is why people tear up or live despondent, depressed, or relationally disconnected – many times, it can be traced back to something that cut so deep in a sexual encounter.
What you are doing right now will eventually be a part of your past. The past, especially your relational past, has a pesky way of showing up at the most inopportune times in your future. Your sexual past is not just history. Memories. Guilt. Comparison. Fear of comparison. There is some degree of shame, which is why many people try to lie about their history or try to cover it up. It’s more than physical. It eventually becomes our present no matter how far in the past it was.
Andy Stanley has said, “I’ve met couples who would describe themselves as having marriage problems. But I’ve never talked to a married couple that actually had a marriage problem. What I’ve discovered is that people with problems get married and their problems collide. What was manageable as a single person eventually becomes unmanageable within the context of marriage. Marriage problems are easy. They rarely require counseling. But when the pre-marriage past surfaces in a marriage, that’s another story…. There’s enough unavoidable pain in life. I want to help you avoid the avoidable pain. Namely, the pain you will experience later in life because of the decisions you are making right now."
So some of what I’m saying is pointed at teenagers and single adults. There is also some Biblical counsel for married couples about how to have great sex.
Most people’s greatest regrets involves something sexual.
My hope is that there are those who are living in sexual brokenness right now that will find healing. The Bible gives us some guidelines and guardrails. The Bible also gives us a bridge to cross over from brokenness to healing. For those who are not yet sexually active… I want to encourage you to fight for your future. To not go there. Don’t experiment with porn. Proverbs is full of wisdom:: to run from the lure, the enticement of sexual activity outside of marriage.
1 Corinthians 6:18 says, "Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually sins against their own body."
Paul puts sexual sin in a category all by itself. Sexual sin is like no other sin. So he says… "Flee from sexual immorality." For the sake of clarity. I’ll define sexual immorality. It is all sex outside of marriage between one man and one woman. All of it. Pre-marital sex, extra marital sex, bi-sexual, watching porn, reading for sexual pleasure. Any sex outside of marriage between husband and wife defined as one man and one woman. Good people are confused on this subject.
Due to recent supreme court rulings, everybody is chiming in on opinions. Let me just stop and say: If you believe gay sex is sinful, it’s really no morally different than straight sex outside of marriage. Be honest, many, many unmarried people, even in the church are having sex. I know you want to believe that’s not true (trust me, I want to believe that’s not true), but ask around? In fact about 80% of the couples coming to us for pre-marriage counseling are either already living together or sleeping together. And we haven’t even uncovered the percentage of married folks that struggle with porn, lust, and a long list of other dysfunctions. If you believe gay marriage is not God’s design, you’re really dealing with the same issue you’ve been dealing with all along—sex outside of its God-given context. You don’t need to treat it any differently. By the way, if you don’t deal with straight sex outside of marriage, don’t start being inconsistent and speak out against gay sex.
Until the church starts living out it’s heterosexual ethic, we undermine anything we have to say to the homosexual community about is sexual ethic.
I said all that to keep us honest. We are sexually broken. In our culture it’s popular to be gay or bisexual. Let me just point out that God’s design for sex was in the context of marriage. And marriage is for a man and woman – created in God’s image to become one. It’s a picture of the Gospel when done right. We’ll get into that more next week.
Now, let’s read Paul’s instructions again:
1 Corinthians 6:18 says, "Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body."
Notice he didn’t say flee sexual immorality because I said so. He didn’t say flee sexual immorality to avoid an STD or to keep you from having a baby you can’t take care of. He didn’t even say because sex is reserved for married people. Why did he say flee sexual immorality? ...Because “All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually sins against their own body.”
In other words, whether you realize it or not right now… you are hurting yourself. Here’s another myth that is going to challenge the health educators for a moment but hang with me. Safe sex is not safe. I get the necessity of protecting against STDs and unwanted pregnancies. But the idea of “safe” is misleading. It’s false advertising. I can introduce you to scores of people who had “safe sex” and it left them empty, detached, and emotionally scarred. Andy Stanley writes, "what is touted as safe for the body is dangerous for the soul. Sex was given as an expression of physical oneness designed to mirror relational permanence. When that which is designed to amplify oneness isn’t reserved for one, its significance is diminished."
The idea of sex is an expression of Oneness. In Genesis 2:24 God said, "Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife and they shall become one flesh." Jesus expounds on this OT verse in the New Testament. In Matthew 19:6 (v.5 he quotes Genesis) then in v.6 he says, "So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate."
When two bodies become one (you get that right. If you need help understanding, ask your mom), we get the physical oneness that sex brings. But Oneness is achieved in the context where everything else in their lives has become one also. This is why sex is intended to be for marriage. That’s what marriage is to be: Oneness. In marriage, your lives have become one. Your families become one – your last name is one, your finances are one, your future is one... Sex outside of marriage separates physical oneness from the oneness in all those other dimensions. So when you are having sex with a person outside of marriage – you are saying to that person – I don’t really want all of you yet… at least I’m not willing to commit to everything else right now… I just want your body for right now.
CS Lewis had a great analogy for this… the guy that wants to have sex with a girl without marrying her feels about the girl the way the bulimic feels about food. The bulimic person loves the taste of food, the pleasure it brings and the comfort it brings to them, but they don’t really want to carry around the calories and saturated fat of the food in their bodies. So after they eat it and taste it and have the pleasure of it, they vomit it back out… Lewis says, that’s what the guy is doing who has sex with a girl outside of marriage. I love the taste of you, I love the sense of oneness with you, but I don’t want all of you yet so we’ll just have sex, and I won’t fully unite myself to you.
Our culture has been deceived and is deceiving so many in this area of sexuality. When we ignore God’s relational purpose for sex we hurt ourselves. Even when there are no physical consequences, we hurt ourselves. I talked with a guy one time and he told me, "Richard, I grew up in a home where my dad told me to have sex with as many girls as possible… as so I did. And now I realize the hurt and pain I’ve caused."
Sex is more than physical. Sexual sin cuts deeper than any other sin. It’s against your own true self. Your own soul. It’s self-inflicted pain.
Sex was designed in a divinely relational context of marriage. It’s the ultimate expression of Oneness designed by God for pleasure, for fun in the context of a marriage relationship between one man and one woman. And let me stop and say for married people… Author, Counselor Kevin Lehman suggests every 72 hours married people ought to come together. So I’m just trying to help your marriage… You need to think in terms of twice a week. At least. Otherwise we get a new set of issues we didn’t need to deal with…. Listen to me, We are sexually broken.
There’s nothing like sex and there’s nothing like sexual sin. The beauty and pleasure is matched with pain and complexity when it is taken out of its divinely designed context. It’s what happens when we insist that we can write the rules and only have limits the we allow to be placed on us.
The good news is we don’t have to continue in the destructive cycle. We can change - by the power of the Holy Spirit. Sexual sin is not unforgivable. You can be forgiven and God can make things new.