Christians told to get rid of taboos

Tackling sex, love and relationships at Hillsong Conference

No questions were off limits when Helen and John Burns, founding pastors of Relate Church in Vancouver, Canada, fielded a Q&A session after their “Taboo in the Pews” masterclass on sex, love and relationships at the Hillsong Conference in Sydney last Friday.

So, of course, what came up? Masturbation!

After giving a half-hour address on keeping the excitement in marriage and keeping sex within the safety of a lifetime marriage commitment, the couple were hardly taken aback or surprised at the question.

John said he had been asked about this many times by mothers of boys who didn’t seem able to keep their hands above their waists.

“Boys will play with toys!” he declared, before sitting down.

“So often in church we put sex out there as a bad thing.” – John Burns

Reluctantly getting back up again, John said the issue for a Christian was what was going on in your head, not what’s going on in your body.

“Jesus said if you think it, it’s a good as if you did it, so if masturbation is the result of fantasising about having sex with somebody else, then in Jesus’ words that’s as good as having sex with somebody else,” he said.

“But on the other side, if it’s not, I don’t know!”

He pointed out that the Bible doesn’t say anything about masturbation and that there is a season in the life of a developing boy when he starts to figure out how he works physiologically.

“And when he figures out how he works, he’s going to have the greatest physiological explosion he’s ever had. But when he goes to church, he feels he should hide because he feels bad. So often in church we put sex out there as a bad thing. He not bad – he’s a boy! But nobody talks to him and so he goes into hiding and so he goes into the darkness and that’s where it all works. In the darkness is where the devil is always building.”

“If you want to fix sex, take it out of the darkness. Just talking about it is a major factor in being OK.” – John Burns

He said the problem is that sex becomes associated with guilt and shame, which are the elements that drive addictions.

“If you want to fix sex, take it out of the darkness. Just talking about it is a major factor in being OK.”

Helen and John Burns

As the father of three daughters, John had some pointed advice for other dads of girls as they go through puberty.

“When a little girl hits puberty, the hormones take off and you’re on an emotional roller-coaster ride … They cry and if you ask, ‘Why are you crying?’ – I don’t know! Dads, you need to move in at that point,” he said.

He pointed out that pheromones cause girls who live together to have their monthly cycle at the same time.

“And pheromones are responsible for attracting men, so here’s my hypothesis. She is actually looking for a godly, healthy touch from a man. And if she doesn’t get it at home because dad’s wandered off, what he should do is put his arms around her, hold her hand.

“Let’s take it out of the darkness.”

They say the secret to staying in love for a lifetime is to stay amazed.

Helen and John speak from a position of having rescued their marriage when they were living apart in 1978, four years after they wed. They had two young daughters and Helen was pregnant with their third when God intervened and changed their lives individually. After they met Jesus, they were able to rebuild their relationship on a vision refined from the word of God and from the power of connecting to the other person’s world.

Now married for 45 years, they say the secret to staying in love for a lifetime is to stay amazed.

“When you meet and fall in love, you don’t fall in love – what you do is you get amazed with this person because you discover their world is so amazing, so different from your world, there’s treasure that you discover in that heart,” John said.

“The biggest mistake you can make is assuming you know them already, treating them as familiar. Stay amazed – don’t ever get bored. That’s your choice. I don’t get bored with the Lord. The way to stay amazed is to connect and keep treasure hunting.

“If you’re going on a date – and you should all go on dates to build relationships … what is a date anyway? It’s a treasure hunt and if you think of it that way you won’t take it for granted.”