Talking about sex is uncomfortable, especially for Christians. We are taught in our faith communities absolute abstinence outside marriage, and have few conversations about what sexual pleasure looks like, even within a marriage context. Because of this inflexible approach, we often disengage, disconnecting our sex lives from our lives of faith which can be problematic. Here are five things Christians get wrong about sex that it’s time for us to rethink:
1. Believing the Bible Prohibits Sexual Pleasure
Can Christians express sexuality in positive and realistic ways still aligned with our faith? Yes. When it comes to sexual pleasure in the Bible, it is often spoken of in the context of marriage. There are some Christians that feel that the only reason for sex is reproduction and there are others that believe that there are higher reasons for sex, including the ultimate joining together of a married man and woman – joining their two spirits, joining their two minds, and joining their two bodies. The Bible is not explicit on sex practices between married people. In Hebrews 13:4 we are told that the marriage bed is to be undefiled, it does not say what it means. There are a number of practices of love and sexuality in which the Bible is silent. Because of this, it is difficult to determine what is right and this is wrong. The general rule here is if it’s not from faith, it is sin. In the Old Testament, the term for sexual intercourse was “to know” a husband or a wife. The most intimate knowledge of a partner comes through this joining. Rather than prohibit sexual pleasure, the Bible shows that it is a gift from God.
2. Believing Men Marry for Sex, Women Marry for Love
This just isn’t true. People marry for all types of reasons. Sex and love aren’t the only reasons people get married. There isn’t a reason that’s specific to any gender. If many men have lost their way and have reduced marriage down to a simple contract for lifelong sex, then such men are badly mistaken as to their calling and purpose. For life must be much more than a bundle of connected neurons stimulated by hormonal and electrical impulses. Intimacy and pleasure should be important, but it should pale in comparison to what God is calling you to in marriage; a lifelong of service to your partner and family. God says choose Me, and by doing so, He gives you all Jesus has to offer in this life and the next.
3. Believing Marriage Makes Sex Amazing for Everyone
Sex can be amazing after marriage. It can also be pretty bad. In fact, your wedding night may be an awkward, fumbling sexual experience – and that’s ok. Good sex requires intimacy, trust, transparency and mutual satisfaction. These things are amplified by a marriage. Despite what some Christians say, being a Christian won’t make your sex life amazing. You may run into some issues along the way. Sex doesn’t magically become the best thing you’ve ever experience after you sign a marriage certificate and walk down the aisle.
4. Believing Women Must Fulfill Men’s Needs
There’s often a double standard in how the church talks about sexual relationships. It’s one that usually favors the men and centers their needs over their female partners. The church espouses that women must be ready to fulfill their man’s needs at all times. But this argument does little to encourage men to fulfill their partner’s needs, sexual or not. It’s time for all God-fearing men to realize that women are not just there to meet their needs. When it comes to sex, God’s ways are very clear that with husband or wife, your body is not your own and belongs completely to your spouse when it comes to the marriage bed. We are to please each other, and by pleasing each other it does not mean withholding sex, but rather entering into God’s design where husband and wife put aside all their cares and focus on being with, and uniting with their spouse on a regular basis. Marriage isn’t about fulfilling one person’s needs over the others. Marriage is mutual.
5. Believing God Doesn’t Forgive Sexual Sin
No sexual sin is beyond God’s forgiveness. Thankfully, He doesn’t withhold forgiveness or grace from those who ask for it. 1 John 1:9 promises that if you confess your sins, that He is faithful to forgive and to cleanse you from all unrighteousness. This includes all sin, and does not exclude sexual sin. Psalm 103:12 also promises, “As far as the easy is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us.” In addition to forgiveness, God wants you to embrace His grace that will help you embrace the promises He has for you with joy. In spite of your choices, God wants to bring you relational fulfillment.
The way we think about sex, pleasure and sin has an impact on our understanding of what good Christian sex looks like. Many Christians have long thought of temptation to pleasure as the work of the Tempter when pleasure is really a gift from God. However, sexual pleasure is a nearly universal experience. It is important how we interpret that pursuit of pleasure. Sexual pleasure does not always mean turning away from God. Sexual pleasure does not always incite lust or incline us toward sin. As Christians, we don’t have to interpret that pursuit as sinful and worthy of shame. Pleasure is itself a good. Moral discernment will help us know when sexual pleasure needs to be sacrificed to other goods but it is not in itself wrong or shameful.