By Sean Perron
I recently stumbled across a blog post from Relevant Magazine called 4 Lies the Church Taught Me About Sex. I was intrigued because I too am burdened about how the church communicates to it’s members about such an important issue. I agree with the overall intention of the post that “the evangelical church has a lot of work to do correcting the distorted ways we talk about sex and sexuality, especially to our youth.” In the midst of a confused sexual culture, my soul yearns jealously for the church to talk about sex in a way that is consistent with the Scripture and offers wise biblical counsel. To my chagrin, the Relevant article missed the mark.
I readily admit that many presentations of sexual purity in the church today are well-intended but poorly delivered. Once I was asked to speak at a purity banquet. I preached my heart out about how everyone is a prostitute at heart and in need of forgiveness. I then talked about the need for grace-motivated purity from Ephesians chapter 5. I was followed by the minister who unfortunately proceeded to lay the legalism on thick. It felt as if my message was in vain.
The church desperately needs help in holding high the bar of purity while reaching out boldly to those who have been burdened with sexual sin. This is what was disappointing to me in the Relevant article.
The First “Lie”
Not everything in the Relevant article was unhelpful, but the response to the first “Lie” was harmful at best. The first lie addressed was: “Any and all physical contact is like a gateway drug to sex.” The following paragraphs in the post communicate that this is a crazy idea that should surely be discarded.
Once in high school I attended a big Christian youth conference. One night, one of the chaperones addressed the girls: “Girls, we have noticed some very inappropriate touching going on…”
The inappropriate touching she meant turned out to be two high school couples in the youth group holding hands. This woman was deadly serious. “I know it may not seem like a big deal to you,” she said. “But hand-holding leads to OTHER THINGS!”
I heard similar things from parents, teachers, church leaders and books. In my church it was not unusual for people to pledge not only to save sex until marriage, but even to save their first kiss for their wedding day. “Don’t start the engine if you aren’t ready to drive the car,” and other similar metaphors warned me that any physical contact was a slippery slope straight into the jaws of fornication.
On this side of things, I can honestly say that there are SO many conscious decisions you have to make between kissing and having sex. Despite what Hollywood says, clothes do not take themselves off and bodies do not magically and effortlessly fit together.
If you are committed to waiting until you’re married to have sex, there are many valid reasons to set boundaries on your physical relationship, but the fear of accidentally having sex shouldn’t be one of them.
First, I know of no one who says that “any” physical contact leads to sex. (For instance, few frown upon a side hug.)
Second, no solution is going to be found in criticism. I find it perplexing that a believer would mock a high standard of purity and then proceed to offer no practical advice for boundaries. If you are going to dismiss someone who is holding high the bar of purity for the sake of Christ, you must offer a biblical alternative.
Holding hands is not a gateway drug, but it should not be left as candy to suck on throughout the day. That helps no one – especially the diabetics.
Third, I know of no one who is worried about accidentally having sex. “If you are committed to waiting until you’re married to have sex, there are many valid reasons to set boundaries on your physical relationship, but the fear of accidentally having sex shouldn’t be one of them.” Perhaps I have my head in the sand, but this is not the problem I encounter when discipling others. Most people are spring-loaded for sex… and they are trigger happy.
I have briefly written elsewhere about some considerations couples should ponder before kissing before marriage. I understand it is a bold claim to refrain from physical affection. It is certainly audacious to the world. But I am offering it with a heart full of love for the joy of my brothers and sisters in Christ.
I am fully convinced that purity brings pleasure. I think Jesus will have much joy in his heart when he presents his bride spotless before the throne. Jesus went through a bloody cross to obtain purity for his bride. I believe couples should beat their bodies into submission for their future spouses. Holiness is a beautiful thing that should cause the world to ask us about the hope within us.
I had a good friend recently get married. While dating, he did not hold hands with his girlfriend. They also waited to kiss each other until they were at the alter. Their kiss was electric. The whole room cheered and their faces were glowing. They would not have traded that moment for anything and neither would I. I’m so thankful they didn’t take the advice of Relevant Magazine. I’m so thankful they held the bar of purity high for the sake of joy.
Does that kind of electric kiss happen for everyone? I’m not a prophet nor the son of one. But that question misses the point altogether.
Kisses and honeymoons aren’t going to be perfect because we live in an imperfect world. The article by Relevant definitely highlights the fact that our bodies will fail and past sin can crouch at the door. But there is grace for that. Much grace. God can take any broken couple and sanctify them for his glory and their joy. This is the trumpet we should blow.
The Need for Biblical Discipleship on Sex
I agree that there are problems in how the church talks about sex. But I honestly think all of the “lies” mentioned in the Relevant article can be solved with good discipleship.
If someone has a fantasy view of the marriage bed, the Bible addresses this and can reorient someone towards selfless love. If someone is struggling with past sin, the power of Christ can help them and their spouse. If someone has a guilty view of sex, the Scriptures can renew their minds to view it as a glorious, delightful gift from God. The Bible is ready to provide practical wisdom for all areas of life and godliness. Properly discipled through the Scriptures, every Christian couple can look forward to their honeymoon and a lifetime of marriage.
So I plead with you: have a high standard of purity and seek out godly discipleship when it comes to sex. Don’t settle for shallow holiness and ignorance. Pursue practical wisdom from the Scriptures in your local church. The church can have a real relevant answer.