By Dermot Cottuli
What I’d like to try and do in this message is present you with a biblical framework to help guide your thinking about sexuality. I’m not going to be prescriptive, so I’m not going to be talking about sexual behaviour, so you can all breath a sigh of relief . Instead what I hope to be able to do is give you a framework that you can apply to any question you may have about any tough issue you’re facing not just sexuality, and end up in a place where your chosen behaviour causes you and those around you to flourish.
1) Where am I coming from?
The first thing we need to do is establish our current beliefs, bias and perceptions about sex and God or else we’ll really struggle to think well about the best path to follow for our lives in this incredibly important area.
For some reading this, you might’ve grown up believing that religion is all about male domination and sexual repression.
Others of you might feel afraid of what your friends would say if they knew you were a Christian especially given the vocal “unrestrained sexuality is good” line that gets hammered home by the media and popular culture.
Some of you may have been exposed to pornography from a young age or even currently be struggling with a pornography addiction.
Some may have grown up in a home where the subject of sex was taboo and never spoken about. There’s probably always going to be a little bit of awkwardness around the topic between parents and their kids and that’s totally understandable. Debra is much better than me in that regard in our family.
Sadly many people have experienced the damaging effect of child abuse and for some it can totally skew their experience and thinking about sex as adults.
Some people have an issue with authority so any situation where they think they’re being told what they can and can’t do causes them to react in the completely opposite direction.
And lastly some people are just not informed. They’ve never really thought through why they do what they do. When that’s the case you invariably find yourself going along with the prevailing thinking and practice of those around you.
So it’s important that we understand our own history and can see the connections in our thinking between our personal experience and our feelings about the subject. Please note I used the word feelings. Quite often it’s our feelings that drive our actions and not our thinking. It’s important to recognise that truth if we’re to understand ourselves better.
2) What do I believe about God?
Next we need to move onto our understanding and perception of God. Some people view the idea of “God” as a tool of oppression used by unscrupulous people to subjugate the commoner. Karl Marx, the father of socialism, which led to Communism, an ideology that has done more to subjugate entire nations than any other form of social construct; called religion the opium of the masses. It’s often the argument that new age atheists fall back onto to denigrate anyone of faith even though it doesn’t stand up to historical scrutiny. It makes for nice ammo on online forums and if that’s the place you get your historical context from then you could be forgiven for thinking that it has some validity but you’d be wrong. There is far more cold hard factual evidence in the world today that a belief in Jesus brings about an uplift in society and a push toward the betterment of life for all members of a community.
Your understanding of God, the thoughts that you have about Him, the picture that you have in your mind of what it means to follow Him, play a significant role in the way you think about sex and what constitutes healthy sexuality.
The overarching theme of God’s dealings with humankind is one of unfathomable love, a love so deep that you’ll never get to the end of it, outworked through the flourishing and freedom of all humankind. God wants you and I to flourish in life and be free. He wants you to love passionately and generously, He wants you to think deeply and wisely, he wants you to see beyond the surface and understand why things are the way they are and to know how best to walk out the gift of life you’ve been given. And it’s all for your benefit not His. No where is that found more clearly spelt out than in the words of Jesus himself.
(AMP) The thief comes only in order to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance [to the full, till it overflows].
(Phillips) The thief comes with the sole intention of stealing and killing and destroying, but I came to bring them life, and far more life than before.
(TLB) The thief’s purpose is to steal, kill and destroy. My purpose is to give life in all its fullness.
(NIV) The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.
Remember, your life isn’t made up of what you eat, drink, wear or the car you drive or the house you live in. Your life is the sum total of you, your experiences, your joys and your fears, your triumphs and your tragedies, your hopes and your dreams, your truth and your blind spots, your love and your sin; and your experience of life happens within you. That’s why the Apostle Paul could experience life in an overflowing measure even when imprisoned in a Roman gaol awaiting execution.
Jesus also promised that when we know the truth we would be free, and then went on to say that He was the truth, implying that if we listened to Him and believed what He said then we would see things for what they really were and be free. If you don’t know the truth you lack the ability to choose and you’re held captive by whatever belief system controls your thinking. When you know the truth you’re free to choose how you’ll respond and when we’re free to choose then we are truly free indeed.
3) What does God have to say about this?
So if God wants us to flourish and to know the truth about life so that we can make fully informed choices, we can then tackle the questions about our sexuality and His instructions around that area with confidence knowing that anything he tells us is for our good. There’s nothing dirty or shameful about sex because God created it and everything he created was good. So we can talk about sex in church with God looking over our shoulder and know that He’s fully onside with our conversation.
Now as with anything that you and I can do there are going to be boundaries that we shouldn’t cross in the area of our sexuality because we could end up hurting ourselves and possibly others as well. I have the ability to physically jump, however if I were to jump in front of a speeding car there would be dire consequences for me, my family and the occupants of that car. The same is true for sex. As we saw in my last message, unrestrained sexuality damages people. Pornography and human trafficking are some of the fruit of sexuality without boundaries. They’re a toxic destructive force currently destroying many in our society today.
One thing that’s helpful to remember is that the thinking that went into the writing of the Bible is different to what most of us are exposed to in the west. Eastern thinking is far more collective than individualistic so someone brought up in the east is far more likely to see issues such as sexuality in the context of how it effects others and the good of the group rather than a purely personal experience, which is what we tend to do in the west. It’s why Paul made the statement to the Corinthians about not eating meat sacrificed to idols. He said that it might be okay for them to do it but if it caused their brother to stumble they should avoid doing it. Corinthian society was far closer to our modern western style of thinking than the society that birthed the writings of our Bibles. I bring that up to help you understand a key Kingdom principle – love, which is the preeminent value of the Kingdom is always concerned about others. You cannot love or even truly understand love without a realisation that others are just as important as you. The very nature of sex involves others, so simply thinking that you personally aren’t being hurt by your actions isn’t a good enough argument to justify “an everything goes” approach to sexual practice.
So the question I should be asking is “What are the boundaries that God says we need to observe around sex that will keep everyone safe whilst ensuring the participants involved flourish?”
The bible talks about two types of behaviour regarding sex that we shouldn’t engage in. The first is sexual immorality which covers sexual activity outside of marriage and adultery which covers sexual activity by a married person with someone who isn’t their spouse.
“Sexual immorality” is denounced in about 25 passages in the New Testament. The word translated as “sexual immorality” or “fornication” in English versions of the Bible is the Greek word porneia, which means “illicit sexual intercourse.”
And then he added, “It is what comes from inside that defiles you. For from within, out of a person’s heart, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, wickedness, deceit, lustful desires, envy, slander, pride, and foolishness. All these vile things come from within; they are what defile you.”
When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarrelling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God.
1 Corinthians 6:18-20
Run from sexual sin! No other sin so clearly affects the body as this one does. For sexual immorality is a sin against your own body. Don’t you realise that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself, for God bought you with a high price. So you must honour God with your body.
1 Thessalonians 4:3-5
God’s will is for you to be holy, so stay away from all sexual sin. Then each of you will control his own body and live in holiness and honour— not in lustful passion like the pagans who do not know God and his ways.
Matthew 5:27, 28
“You have heard the commandment that says, ‘You must not commit adultery.’ But I say, anyone who even looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart.
4) Why did He say that?
- Okay so let’s break this down….
- God created sex and said that it was good. Genesis 1, 2
He then placed boundaries around our practice of it because his intention is that we flourish in life and remain free.
- Sex whilst being a physical activity, effects those involved in a profoundly deeper way than simply playing a game of tennis with a partner. Remember back to our first week. The act of sexual intercourse joins two people to each other in a way that science has yet to document but people have intuitively known ever since the first of us walked on the earth.
- If you join with each person you sleep with then how can you truly give yourself to just one person when you finally decide you’ve found the right person?
- Whether it’s a casual fling or a longer term relationship damage is always done when two people who have been sexually intimate with each other separate.
- Gods plan is that you experience all that sex brings to your life with ONE person for the term of your natural lives in the safety of a marriage covenant.
- Why marriage? Because a marriage covenant goes far beyond the strength of your personal willpower. It involves a promise that you make between each other that happens in the presence of your community. It’s not just the strength of your will that holds you accountable to your promise but your entire community, and in our country, the government as well. And that’s a good thing. It protects both you and your partner and protects any children you may have in the future.
Don’t kid yourself, when people break a relationship that has been consummated, where intercourse has occurred, there’s always a cost. Even for those who’ve been betrayed by their partner. That cost is magnified when children are involved. When you tear something that has been joined together it damages both parts.
Yes it can be repaired but there will always be a scar.
Okay but what about the stuff that leads up to sex? How far can you go before you cross the line?
Advice for young people . . .
Song of Solomon 2:7
Promise me, O women of Jerusalem, by the gazelles and wild deer, not to awaken love until the time is right.
- Where am I coming from?
- What do I believe about God?
- What does God have to say about this?
- Why did He say that?