What does being a Christian woman mean for my sexuality? Can I be spiritual and sexual? If so, what does that even look like?
Maybe you were raised to have a blasé attitude towards sex where a sexual appetite—like a desire for food—was okay to fulfill anytime you were hungry (just make sure you’re using protection, right?). Maybe you grew up in church and in a Christian family where all you heard about sex was “true love waits” or “don’t do it until you’re married.” Who knows how the sex talk went or if it even happened in your family? And when was the last time you heard a preacher cover topics such as oral sex, anal sex, erotica, masturbation, or BDSM (bondage, dominance, sadism, and masochism) in their sermons? But turn on the TV, and our culture has no problem joking about such things and presenting them for all to see. But why would we ever let the world teach us about sex, love, and relationships? For far too long, we as Christ-followers have taken our cue from the world instead of the Word when it comes to sexuality.
Spiritual and Sexual
All people are sexual beings. We get this in how God created both men and women. Furthermore, God created sex and designed it to be pleasurable and to further intimacy between a husband and wife. Because He created sex, it also means that God gave us sexual desires, and within the context of His design, sex, desire, and sexual pleasure are good!
I have one friend who grew up in a strict, puritanical church, and once married, she had difficulty enjoying sex with her husband because of the teachings and attitudes she had imbibed about sex from her church. Understandably, her pastor and Sunday School teachers wanted their church members to abstain from premarital sex and to honor Christ with their purity, but their good intentions were tainted by austere rules rather than expressed through helpful explanations and vision-casting of God’s design.
Don’t think about a red elephant.
Of course, what are you thinking about but a red elephant? While we need to know God’s no’s and don’ts as stated in Scripture, focusing on what He prohibits is insufficient in itself in aiding us in our pursuit of purity as Christ-followers.
If I am in a dating relationship and am constantly focusing my attention on not having sex with my boyfriend, it increases my desire to have sex with him because I am devoting so much mental energy to not doing it. Something about being told “no” just makes us want to do it more.
We see this in the Garden of Eden (Gen. 3). God had told Adam and Eve that they could eat of any tree in the Garden except the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil (Gen. 2:16-17). God told them “no,” and as always, His “no” was in their best interest. If they had heeded His command, sin and death would not have entered the world (at least not at that point in time). But when tempting them, Satan questioned God’s character and the goodness of His “no.”
Isn’t this true of all of us when we want to do something authority prohibits us from doing? We question their goodness, their care for us, and their love. We question whether or not we can trust them and whether they are holding out on us. God created this tree and commanded Adam and Eve not to eat of it because He wanted them to learn about good and evil on His terms without having to experience evil. But instead of focusing on what God had provided, they focused on what God was withholding from them. As a result, they chose to disobey God and to experience evil for themselves, which opened the proverbial Pandora’s Box and let sin, sickness, and death loose into the world. When you look at God’s commands, do you think that He is withholding something from you, or do you trust in His infinite wisdom and that His “no” is in your best interest?
So think about a pink elephant with black polka dots.
Instead of focusing on what you should not do, direct your thoughts to God’s design and to what He has for you. Whether married or single, God has a plan for your sexuality, and let me free you by telling you truth from Scripture—to be a sexual being is not sinful. What is sinful is for you to act in any way outside of God’s design. This might blow your mind, but did you ever stop to think that Jesus Himself was a sexual being? The Son of God became a man—a man who had desires and who was tempted, but unlike you and me, Jesus did not sin. I bring this up because I think many Christians feel ashamed for having sexual desires. As one writer states, “A person who is wrongly ashamed of being a sexual creature with sexual desires will quickly feel overwhelmed and helpless because he’s trying to overcome more than just lust—he’s trying to stop being human!” (Joshua Harris in Sex Is Not the Problem [Lust Is]).
Let me be clear, God’s design for human sexuality involves one man and one woman united in marriage. So when I write about God creating us as sexual beings with sexual desires, I must point out that our desires can be tainted by sin. To be a sexual being—to be human—is not a sin, but as humans, our thoughts, affections, and will are all tainted by sin. I agree with John Piper’s definition of lust being sexual desire minus honor and holiness (in Battling the Unbelief of Lust). In short, any desire for someone or something outside of God’s design is lust. Therefore, lust includes viewing porn, having premarital or extramarital sex (or emotional affairs), engaging in sexual fantasy, or pursuing homosexuality. (And this is just a short list.)
I recognize that I still have not fully addressed the opening question about what it looks like for us to be spiritual and sexual beings, but come back next Monday for part two of “Sex & the Christian Woman” as we look at sexuality, singleness, and marriage.
Ashley Chesnut works on the local disciple-making team at The Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham, Ala., and earned an M.Div. from Beeson Divinity School. She has a passion for discipling college girls and equipping them to be disciple-makers.