A spouse feeling lost and lonely because their husband or wife isn’t interested in sexual intimacy. A young (or not-so-young) person heavy with shame while feeling unable to break free from pornography. A single person wrestling with what to do with their sexual drives and needs. A married person disappointed and angry when their spouse is not fulfilling their sexual desires. A newly married spouse struggling with intimacy because of old baggage. A young person confused over the conflicting sexual messages the media and the church are giving out. At their root, all of these sexual questions are spiritual questions.
God created us for intimacy. Sex and marriage were His idea. And yet the church has too often left sexual discipleship to the world. Oh, the church has often said “Just say No.” And thankfully there are more and more groups seeking to help those who are wounded in areas of sexuality. But our conversations have mostly been fights about what is or isn’t on the “sin list” rather than deeply and in an ongoing way helping young and old, men and women, married and single, through a journey of sexual discipleship God’s way.
Sexuality really is a spiritual issue. We cannot let the world continue to own the portrayal of what sexuality is all about. Sexuality was God’s idea, after all. It’s part of how He created us.
So what can we do about it?
Getting Past the Fear
It’s fear that keeps many of us from having sexual conversations in the church. How will I know what to say if confronted with LGBTQ questions? My sexual past isn’t that great, so how can I talk about this without shame? I’m afraid I won’t know what to say if I start talking with my kids about these things. Others in the church will think I’m weird or sinful if I ask about these issues.
Friends, if the gospel doesn’t have answers for these often-challenging questions, then does it really have much of value at all? I believe in the bottom of my soul that there’s no issue, no life area, no need or challenge or brokenness or sin, that the gospel doesn’t speak to. The gospel’s answers, however, are not proof texts or one-liners. To embrace those answers demands that we look deeper. Your and my sexuality was created by God, as part of how we are made in His image. Jesus came to redeem this area of our humanness just as He seeks to redeem every other part of us.
Recently I was talking with a group of ladies about how our need, desire, and capacity for intimacy too often leads us to look for love in all the wrong places. Their stories were so poignant. Even within marriage sex does not equal intimacy. Shutting off the parts of our heart where this need resides leads to brokenness just as much as acting out sexually in ungodly ways.
Married or single, young or old, and however we’ve sought to either cover up or fulfill our sexuality, we all need sexual discipleship.
Experiencing Sexual Discipleship
Here are a few ways in which we as a body of Christ can do better in helping each other in this area.
Get Below the Surface. Let’s get beyond the controversies about what is or isn’t on the “sin list.” Let’s seek to understand why God created us as sexual beings, what the gospel has to say about our sexuality, and how God would have us walk forward in a life of sexual integrity, married or single. Let’s seek God’s interpretation of our need, desire, and capacity for intimacy physically, emotionally, and spiritually.
Talk About Sex in Church. Yes, the church needs to be the place where we address these issues. We need to do so without glorifying sin or heaping shame on those who are struggling. But where else are people able to hear about God’s design for this deepest part of our being? If we can’t talk about this in church, where should we talk about it? Some homes do a good job in talking about these issues, but what about those homes where that does not happen?
Embrace Sexual Healing. We are all sexually broken in some way – prideful over our chase behavior, ashamed of our sexual past, unable to embrace intimacy in marriage, or continuing to seek intimacy in ungodly ways. We need to be both challenged and loved. We can each individually seek to continue on the path God offers toward healing and wholeness, and extend grace, love, and truth to others who need that healing as well.