by Kara L. Johnson
My first lessons in sexuality came from gestures and jokes made by kids on my elementary school bus. Once my mom tried to have “the talk” with me, and all I remember is sitting on the couch, gawking at a book with brightly colored medical illustrations and suddenly feeling an uncomfortable urge to bury myself underneath the couch cushions.
Today, sex is everywhere. Our culture is enthralled with it. Marketing campaigns are based around it and commercial platforms are built to exploit it. For Christians, this everyday exposure to sexuality can be confusing at best. Ministers rarely talk about it and parents often find it difficult to address with curious teens. When I was growing up, Mom and Dad made sure we understood that sex outside of marriage was never acceptable. Period. No explanation was given and no discussion was necessary. “Abstinence or else” became my mantra; and if you knew my parents, you’d understand the fear I associated with the rule.
Curiosity and Shame
While abstinence before marriage is a message I will always stand behind, I fear an epic disservice has been done in the world of Christian sexual education. Some public school curriculum promotes “safe sex” by giving the impression that premarital sex is a normal part of life and abstinence is simply another form of birth control. Many churches, on the other hand, operate under an almost disgusted silence, leaving many of their members under a shroud of sexual ignorance.
No doubt, sex is a sacred topic; unfortunately though, many are too scared to discuss it. For me, sex was barely addressed and when it was, it was associated with sin. This constant negativity trained my mind to view sex and all related thoughts, actions, and feelings as sinful. The problem is that while this approach may seem initially effective in promoting abstinence, it doesn’t offer a true understanding of God’s view on the matter. Unfortunately, this could ruin the sexual relationship later in marriage.
As a teenager, I remember stopping at a gas station while on a family road trip and spotting a vending machine secured to the bathroom stall. It was full of glow-in-the-dark condoms, concoctions, and potions promising pleasure. To be honest, it looked like fun. I was curious, but instead of moving my thoughts into a mental file of “save until you’re married,” I automatically stamped them with the seal of “sin” and suddenly felt ashamed for wondering what sex would be like.
Having an educational background in science finally caused me to question my attitude toward sex. I knew there were many physical benefits to it, and even remembered learning that certain elements of human sexual anatomy are designed primarily for pleasure. I recognized God’s divine hand in his creation and began to question much of what I grew up believing about sexuality. Through the course of my study, I discovered that when experienced within God’s boundaries, sex can be free of guilt and fully approved.
A Legitimate Desire
In the right context, sexual desire is not sinful. God created it. He formed man and woman (sexual anatomy included) in his image, and declared that his creation was “very good” (Genesis 1:31). That means God not only knows we have desires, urges, and needs, but he created us that way. He fashioned our sexual organs to bring us pleasure and he tailored our minds, emotions, and bodies to desire the sexual relationship. Like everything else God created, though, certain rules need to be applied in order to have a morally acceptable and spiritually beneficial experience.
Waiting for the Right Time
Because God designed sex, he knows the power it contains and warns us therefore to “not stir up or awaken love until it pleases” (Song of Solomon 8:4). This is because any time we engage in sexual activity outside the safety and security of marriage, we create heavy burdens of physical, emotional, and even spiritual baggage that can become devastating obstacles later on.
While practicing abstinence may seem like an impossible, unnecessary, or even outdated concept to the unmarried, we can be sure God still stands behind his directives on the matter (1 Thessalonians 4:3, 4). Just as a parent wouldn’t allow a child to fill up on junk food before dinner, God’s instructions contain an urgent plea to forego immediate gratification for the sake of a long and healthy experience later. He wants us to save ourselves so we can fully savor the sexual relationship when the time is right. He also recognizes that sex has become the social currency of our culture and knows that when supply peaks above the demand, we lose the value of his priceless gift. His desire is never to ruin our fun or cause us to miss out on something pleasurable, but instead, to help build our anticipation and appreciation for it when it’s appropriate.
Designed for a Purpose
Another discovery I made was that sex is not only necessary, it is connected with our marital responsibility: “Do not deprive one another” (1 Corinthians 7:5). Paul described the sexual relationship as a great mystery and proposed that the depth of sexual intimacy held between a husband and wife somehow depict an element of God’s profound interaction with us, his children (Ephesians 5:31-33). Sex is part of the glue that forms a successful marriage. It’s meant to unify, cultivate forgiveness, teach servitude, ignite creativity, and even implement gratitude. God designed it to create a connection and acceptance between spouses by fostering an emotional and spiritual connectivity that cultivates deep fulfillment through this all encompassing, uniquely intimate act.
In addition to procreation, sex has numerous physical, emotional, and spiritual benefits as well. Research has found it to boost the body’s immune system, increase cardiovascular health, reduce pain, improve sleep patterns, and even tone muscles. In my house, sex has been known to eliminate stress and transform attitudes for the better. My husband even swears that a healthy dose of it could be the answer for world peace!
A Precious Gift
Contrary to common belief, sex and Christianity are not oxymoronic. God has given his blessing on it, and he urges us to enjoy the communion of being naked and “not ashamed” (Genesis 2:25) before him. Unfortunately, although sex is one of God’s most precious gifts to a husband and wife, some baggage often follows a couple into the bedroom. Once we say, “I do,” it can be difficult to step from a mindset of avoidance to one of allowance. As my husband and I were approaching marriage, we had many brutally honest and often painful discussions about our individual sexual histories. Though the process was hard, we diligently prayed for forgiveness of past sins, healing, restoration, and supernatural protection over our coming marriage. God has answered our prayers and blessed our desire to honor him with our sexuality.
If you’ve experienced sexual difficulty within your marriage, I suggest working with your spouse to identify and rectify these issues. Talk to a minister or counselor if you need to, and pray for God’s grace to intervene. If sin is involved, confess it, seek forgiveness, and move toward restoration. Married sexuality needs to be fervently protected. The Song of Solomon says, “Catch the foxes for us, the little foxes that ruin the vineyards” (2:15). A conscious effort needs to be made to work through difficult issues and eliminate distractions.
God expects both married and unmarried individuals to respect the marriage relationship. “Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure” (Hebrews 13:4). Those who are married can honor their spousal responsibility by thanking God for the gift of sex and making a conscious effort to prioritize it. Singles can protect the marriages around them by encouraging a husband and wife to take the time they need to build their relationship (“date nights”) and by abstaining from peer pressure promoting behaviors that could cause someone to dishonor a spouse.
Above all, God has designed sex to be freely explored and intimately expressed between a husband and wife. Sex is a glorious gift that deserves gracious appreciation. God is glorified when married couples enjoy it.
Kara L. Johnson is a freelance writer in Boise, Idaho.
Standard Publishing has many great books about marriage that include chapters specifically about the value of sex in marriage.
He’s Not a Mind Reader And Other Brilliant Insights for a Fabulous First Year of Marriage
by Brenda Garrison
Put the Seat Down And Other Brilliant Insights for a Fabulous First Year of Marriage
by Jess MacCallum
These how-to guides for newlyweds could save loads of trouble and set the tone for many years of happy marriage.
Happy Spouse, Happy House
The BEST Game Plan for a Winning Marriage
Pat and Ruth Williams offer compassionate and competent coaching for building a strong, secure, and successful marriage.
That Crazy Little Thing Called Love—The Soundtrack of Marriage, Sex, and Faith
Jud Wilhite finds passionate and insightful principles for relationships in the book of Song of Solomon.
For more information on any of these resources, visit: www.standardpub.com
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