By Shelby Turner, Crosswalk.com
Sex - It’s often thought about, but rarely talked about, especially within Christian circles. Yes, we’re going there. Let’s talk about sex. I’ve been in enough youth group meetings, women’s small groups and hushed conversations with friends to know that the topic of sex is one that most of us desperately need clarity on.
Whether we were looking for it or not, we’ve been taught innumerable lessons on what sex is from a very young age. These lessons, for better or for worse, have come from screens, from our own desires and from the people around us. The problem is, as with anything else in life, unless we filter what we’ve learned about sex through God’s word then we have, at best, a lesser version of what God intended and at worst, a twisted and deeply harmful version of something that God created to be blissfully good. We're left wondering what the Bible really does say about sex.
I hope this will be one of the most beneficial conversations you’ve taken part in on this risqué topic. And because I want the words on this page to be helpful, I’m going to humbly ask you to not just skim through the paragraphs, noting where you agree and disagree, but instead ask the Holy Spirit to use God’s words to illuminate the places in you where God might want to bring alignment, healing and wholeness.
Let's dive into Scripture and see what the Bible has to say about sex:
1. The Bible Says God Intended Sex to be Breathtakingly Good
I know we often think of all of the “don’ts” listed in the Bible when it comes to sex, but let’s start off with the “do’s.” In his perfect wisdom God put a whole book full of love-making do’s right near the front of his holy book. Chances are you haven’t read Song of Songs (or sometimes refered to as Song of Solomon) recently, so let me refresh your memory.
The book is a playful back and forth between a husband and wife. The man and woman are both feeling the heat of the moment as they call back and forth to one another. And they leave no detail out when describing their love and longing for one another.
From the man to the woman:
“You are my private garden, my treasure, my bride,
a secluded spring, a hidden fountain.”
Song of Songs 4:12
And from the woman to the man:
“Like the finest apple tree in the orchard
is my lover among other young men.
I sit in his delightful shade
and taste his delicious fruit.”
Song of Songs 2:3
Nothing about Song of Solomon is G rated. Why does God include such a provocative poem in the Bible? Simply put, it’s because sex is good. And if we read this book correctly, we really can’t even say it so plainly when God describes it so gloriously. God intends marital sex to be overwhelmingly good, full of passion and truly satisfying.
Married people, it’s possible that this truth is a far cry from what you’re experiencing. Maybe the bitter truth of your sex life has even caused you division, pain and confusion in your marriage. You are not alone, and this is not God’s will for your marriage. There are many resources available to help married couples restore God’s vision for sex to their relationship. Here are two that come highly recommended: “Sheet Music” by Kevin Leman and “Intended for Pleasure” by Ed Wheat and Gaye What.
Single people, read this truth but don’t dwell on it or let it awaken anything in you that God has not yet activated in your life. Throughout Song of Songs, the woman is constantly reminding us, “I charge you, do not stir up or awaken love until the appropriate time” (Song of Songs 1:5, 2:7, 3:5, 8:4).
2. Sex Has a Purpose
The Bible also says sex has a practical purpose, well actually two. First, it is the way we fulfill God’s instructions to be fruitful and multiply found in Genesis 1:28. Sex makes babies. I just love the way God designed this, he made it enjoyable to fulfill his command!
But not only that, God also gave sex a very practical purpose in marriage. Mark 10:7-8 says that a husband and wife are no longer two, but joined into one. Sex is the physical representation of the way marriage knots two separate beings into one. It joins the man and the woman together into one flesh.
3. Scripture Gives Firm, God-given Boundaries for Sex (for our benefit!)
Take a deep breath, friends. We’re diving into the don’ts of sex now. All throughout Scripture God puts parameters on physical intimacy. And they’re not indefinite or loose, but firm and precise. This topic can be divisive, but God’s word brings freedom when we align our hearts and lives to it.
I believe 1 Corinthians 7 draws the clearest line on what is and isn’t within the boundaries God gives. Paul addresses a number of issues both for those married and for the unwed in this chapter, but if we could summarize it, it would say: Husbands should fulfill the intimate needs of their wives and wives of their husbands. And if you are single or engaged, control your passion and do not give in.
These categories seem black and white. For married people: Yes, have sex with each other only. For single people: No, control your passions. But they can take on many shades of gray. Let’s talk about a few of them and Biblical support for each conclusion.
Should an engaged man and woman have sex if they are “married in their hearts?”
Biblically, no they should not. This is supported by 1 Corinthians 7:36-37:
“But if a man thinks that he’s treating his fiancée improperly and will inevitably give in to his passion, let him marry her as he wishes. It is not a sin. But if he has decided firmly not to marry and there is no urgency and he can control his passion, he does well not to marry."
Should I view pornography?
Single or married, biblically, no you should not. Matthew 5:27-29 says that even if you aren’t engaging in physical sex with another person, your looks of lust are enough to condemn you. It even goes far enough to say that it would be better for us to part with our eyes or hands than to indulge our lusts.
“But I say, anyone who even looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart. So if your eye—even your good eye—causes you to lust, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your hand—even your stronger hand—causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.”
Should a man have sex with another man or a woman have sex with another woman?
According to thte Bible, no they should not. Homosexual sex is a refusal to acknowledge God and the superiority of his design. It is walking opposed to the will and ways of God. This is supported by Romans 1:24-28:
“They traded the truth about God for a lie. So they worshiped and served the things God created instead of the Creator himself, who is worthy of eternal praise! Amen. That is why God abandoned them to their shameful desires. Even the women turned against the natural way to have sex and instead indulged in sex with each other. And the men, instead of having normal sexual relations with women, burned with lust for each other. Men did shameful things with other men, and as a result of this sin, they suffered within themselves the penalty they deserved. Since they thought it foolish to acknowledge God, he abandoned them to their foolish thinking and let them do things that should never be done.”
The Bottom Line
The Bible says we should not just avoid, but flee all sexual immorality. We shouldn’t blur the lines or tip-toe across them. Why is that? When we indulge our lusts, we deny the deity of God. We say my way is better, this pleasure is better and I don’t believe your design is good enough for me.
What a foolish thing for a created human to say to the Creator God! Maybe we should instead try saying, “Lord, help! My spirit is willing but my flesh is weak.” Because our creator is not only righteous but also compassionate and he will give each of us every measure of grace we need to resist temptation.
4. Sex Isn’t Dirty or Shameful
We can’t have a conversation about sex and leave out shame. I would dare to say that sex and shame are commingled in the minds of each and every one of us.
Shame is defined by dictionary.com as a painful feeling of humiliation or distress caused by the consciousness of wrong or foolish behavior.
Sex can trigger shame for many reasons; it could be because of what we’ve done or because of what has been done to us. No matter the reason though, shame no longer allows us to see sex as it was created to be because of all the baggage it carries with it.
So what can we do? I think it would be helpful to adjust our thinking from the default of shame which is “sex is dirty” to “sex is pure, but for me it’s been stained by sin.” When we can see it in that light, then we can begin to let God heal and forgive and restore.
God intended sex to be pure and the stunning reality is that he can restore it to purity for each and every one of us. We can be assured of this, – God’s forgiveness leaves no blemish uncleansed.
“Oh what joy for those whose disobedience is forgiven, whose sins are put out of sight. Yes, what joy for those whose record the Lord has cleared from sin” (Romans 4:7-8).
Sex doesn’t have to be confusing, unenjoyable or shame-filled. God intended for it to be beautiful, unifying and honorable. We can experience that kind of physical intimacy if we filter our thoughts and actions through God’s Word. Where is God asking you to align your mind and heart with his truth today?
Photo credit: Getty Images/Milkos
Shelby Turner is a speaker and writer who lives in Kansas City, Missouri with her husband and three sons. When she isn’t sharing Jesus from the stage or writing words on a page, you can find her building Legos with her kids. You can connect with her on her blog at www.shelbyraeturner.com or she also loves to hang out on Instagram at @shelbyraeturner.