Many young adults find the church’s teaching on sexuality negative, judgmental, or irrelevant. I’m sorry about that. Let’s see if we can say something more useful.
The sex drive is God’s gift to us, and it is a beautiful one. It’s worth beginning our study with this fact, as you can get the impression that sex was invented by the rock industry. As sex was God’s idea, it would be very wise to discover how he intended it to be used. I say this because the gift of sex the hardest gift you will ever be given to control.
As I look round the university scene, I see a lot of people who are conflicted because they feel let down by the realities of the “hook-up” culture. The fun, fun, fun loving thing hasn’t delivered. Woman particularly can end up with a loss of self-esteem, anxiety, depression, and sometimes post-traumatic stress if they have been victimized. They can feel that something of their essence has been violated or trivialized – but they may not always be able to put this into words.
God has a great plan for sex, and he should know, because he invented it. ‘Tonight we will fake love’[i] is a paltry, pathetic shadow of a beautiful reality that God wants to reserve for you. The excuse, “everybody’s doing it” didn’t work out so well for lemmings – so take the hint. Your self-esteem is never going to be improved by someone who just wants to use you for sex. So, embody Jesus’ way of living – in particular, the way he was so comfortable living within his own skin.
Whatever you do, don’t compartmentalize! In other words, don’t have your Christian life in one pigeonhole, and your sex life in another. You’ll end up being schizophrenic. The reality is, you can’t serve two masters. (Jesus said this when he talked about being careful not to love money more than God, see: Matthew 6:24.)
Your body is good, so don’t be ashamed of it (Genesis 1:27,31). Note: modesty should not be confused with shame. Think of your body as a temple in which God lives by his Spirit (1 Corinthians 3:16; 2 Corinthians 6:16; Ephesians 2:22). The Bible encourages us to give our body as a living sacrifice to God (Romans 12:1-2). Immodesty has been touted as sexual freedom, but it has actually encouraged sexual objectification – as our execrable TV reality shows amply demonstrate.
The Bible says that we are to ‘flee’ from the idea of immorality. In other words don’t put yourself in situations where there is great pressure to sin (1 Corinthians 6:18). Be wise (Proverbs 2:12-18). Like a quarrel, once you start, it is difficult to stop (Proverbs 17:14; 26:11; 27:12). This prompts the question: What level of petting do you think is appropriate before marriage? It’s not an easy question. Whatever else: avoid being a sucker for seduction (2 Peter 2:18-19; James 1:14-15). Be careful. The hormonal make-up of men means that certain stimuli will invariably produce sexual arousal. Some researchers also claim that the hormone-amended brain of males makes them less inclined to monogamy than females. This does not excuse bad male sexual behaviour but it does suggest that men have to be particularly careful.
Finally, be stable. Know who you are and understand your sacredness to God. It is often the unstable who are most easily seduced (2 Peter 2:14).
Is the Christian ideal of ‘celibacy in singleness and faithfulness in marriage’ just a Western, cultural imposition?
Some may be tempted to suggest that celibacy in singleness and faithfulness in marriage does not reflect biblical truth, but is merely a product of outdated Western culture. They point to the different sexual ethics of some Biblical leaders in the Old Testament, such as King David and King Solomon, who amassed a considerable number of wives between them (2 Samuel 5:13; 1 Kings 11:1-3).
David and Solomon certainly did have many wives. What is equally true is that this led to strife rather than blessing. Polygamy caused Solomon to lose his faith (1 Kings 11:3). David’s adultery with Bathsheba resulted in death and murder (2 Samuel 11:1-12:19); and Abraham’s sexual liaison with Sarah’s maid caused jealousy and strife (Genesis 16:1-5). It has to be said that sex outside the model God set for humankind has never worked well.
The development of sexual feelings in young people is quite natural, and is part of growing up into an adult. Rejoice in it and don’t feel guilty about it. We also have to face reality. The sex drive can be powerful, and it is not easy these days to keep sex for marriage – particularly as people are becoming sexually mature earlier, but are marrying later. This means that you will need to manage your sexuality, i.e. adhere to boundaries that will keep you from doing things that will hurt yourself or others. If this is to happen, it will be important to identify the principles you want to live by.
Some questions for honest reflection
Here are some questions for you to reflect on when the time is right. I ask them only because they may help you navigate the way to the future you want:
- Does your significance come from the number and status of your sexual partners, or could your significance come from something more profound – being loved by God?
- Could you live as God wants you to, intentionally cultivating godly relationships in defiance of your sexual desires? (Note: I’m not talking about “suppression”, I’m talking about ‘choice’.)
Sex can demean or ennoble. I’m cheering you on as you seek to get it right.
[i] This phrase was popularised by the British Poet, Steve Turner and was the title of one of his books: Tonight We Will Fake Love Poems, 1969-1973, Paperback (Razor Books, 1978).
Dr Nick Hawkes is a scientist, pastor, apologist, writer and broadcaster. He also describes himself as an absent-minded, slightly obsessive man who is pathetically weak due to cancer and chemo, who has experienced, and needs to experience, the grace of God each day.
Nick has written a book Soar above the Storm in which he draws on his experience of cancer to encourage anyone walking through a storm in life to find rest and hope in God. It offers a 40-day retreat to be refreshed and strengthened and find deep peace in God. Order it at Koorong.
He blogs and records podcasts at nickhawkes.net
Nick told his life story to Eternity https://www.eternitynews.com.au/good-news/deadly-storms-heroin-addicts-cancer-and-my-faith/