I’m here to wrap up my readings, so far, on relationships, marriage and love. But definitely a topic I will revisit once every few days. Even without my active seeking, I guess Facebook will shower me with articles. But anyway, at this point, I thought I should take some time to gather my thoughts and write this post – I believe is one of the struggles many dating Christians face, sexual intimacy. Our first strong encounter with our sexuality probably begins when we hit puberty. That’s when our bodily appearance and our hormones change. Some people experience sexual desires, even in early adulthood, as a result, had pre-marital sex. So I pondered on some of these questions.
- Why did God let man experience changes in sexual orientation in the teen years, yet He said there should not be any sexual immorality amongst us?
- Why does the bible say no to pre-marital sex, yet there is almost 10 to 20 years gap from the initial sexual desire to getting married?
Ostensibly, God appears to want us to rely on Him more, albeit I don’t know why He created us this way. But I believe His reasons are for His good purpose. As with the struggles of sexual intimacy in dating Christians, I believe God only meant it for us to grow in spiritual maturity when we walk with Him closely. So, I arrived with no answers to the questions. But the above questions speaks of the struggles in seeking purity and avoiding sexual temptations, which I have some thoughts to share from my readings.
Why seek purity?
Firstly, the bible says to “Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry.” (Colossians 3:5). 1 Thessalonians 4:3-5 tells us that “It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control your own body in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust like the pagans, who do not know God;”. In those verses, God was calling us to live as those made alive in Christ and living to please Him. “For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life.” (1 Thessalonian 4:7). We seek purity beyond giving the best gifts to our partner (virginity), but because of obedience to the word of God.
God had designed the sexual relationship in marriage for our pleasure in Him.
Quoting from Gary Thomas, “when sex is reduced to pleasure alone, no wife can possibly meet a husband’s expectations. Pleasure, by nature, is fleeting and fickle and easily bored.”
What is sex?
So, if God clearly told us to avoid sexual immorality, then what is the purpose of sex? Because knowing the law alone is not enough to avoid temptations, we have to seek the intentions that God had created sex in human.
God made us, and when He created us, He gave us some interesting sensations that differ between man and woman. By His design, He had called His creation good (Genesis 1:31). One thing to note here is that sex is not dirty, for it was given by God to experience it. But to experience, does not come from a selfish point of view of fulfilling one’s own sexual desires. But since every creation was pleasing to God, then maybe there is morally and spiritually goodness in the creation of sex.
As part of God’s creation, when God gave us the sexual desire, it is meant only to be fulfilled in Him.
God wants us to enjoy sexual intimacy (Proverbs 5:19) but with humility. Just as sexual intimacy requires two people in the act, there can be an attitude of servanthood and sacrificial love, that because I love my partner, I want to fulfil his desires, not mine. So we take joy in God for having given us an amazing experience that we can fulfil with our partner within the boundaries of marriage. Quoting from Gary Thomas, “the idolatry of sex and obsessive guilt over sex accomplish the same thing – they keep the focus on self, whether it is our of enjoyment or despair. Gratitude, on the other hand, turns our hearts towards God.”
I’m not here to condemn anyone in the act of doing so but to share on why I feel that sexual intimacy outside of marriage has its own problems.
Many people find it hard to restore their state of mind, after breakups of relationships that had sexual intimacy. Ask the scientist or psychologist, they can tell you that sex rewires your brain. I won’t dive into this part, but precisely my point is that sex has immense effects on our mind and heart. If you want to be in a healthy relationship, then having given a part of yourself away can leave a memory too difficult to bear – that is, when the relationship ends. But even if you get married eventually, there is more than a good sex to determine a good partner.
As much as sex can add pleasures into our lives, only God can nourish our souls.
Sexual intimacy becomes dangerous in the discernment of our partner character. When you engage in sex, you fulfil the fleshy pleasures of joy, and that short span of happiness can unknowingly project to possibilities of a happy marriage. Conversely, other than the physical act, man should avoid ‘over’ committing in a relationship. What I meant is that the topic of marriage should be brought up at the right time. Certainly, Christians date with marriage in mind. But marriage calls beyond just having two people in love – it requires the discernment of character. Marriage will involve a lifetime partner having the same mission of serving God together and serving each other. Having pre-marital sex does not suffice for marriage. For marriage is not self-pity, it is not to redeem our mistakes or protect us from our sins.
Marriage calls us to be servant of each other, just as we are servants of Christ.
Although sex is positioned as a physiological need in Maslow’s hierarchy – which means that without this need being fulfilled, the body cannot function optimally – it is not a physical need in the same way food is. In reality, without this need, you can still survive. As Gary Thomas mentions “this physical desire, which feels like a need – that a man and woman have for each other is there by God’s design. God put this need in us”.
What is too much that God is not happy?
In the pursuit of sexual purity begins the setting of healthy boundaries. It includes rules or laws to protect our relationships and govern our behaviour. There is no hard and fast rule in dealing with what is acceptable in a relationship. For example, some may find kissing to be acceptable outside of marriage, while some don’t. I feel strongly for those who share the latter view because sexual intimacy does encompass kissing. I recall Gary Thomas in the Scared Search, mention kissing as part of the whole act of sexual intimacy. To take something (merely kissing) out for personal enjoyment is missing out on the whole ‘package’ of sexual intimacy that God has gifted to us. It’s totally fine if kissing is to show affection and to the extent, it protects each other from any form of arousal.
Therefore, in setting these boundaries, consider it for the sake of the gospel. For it is written in Titus 2:12-13, “It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ.”
How can I pursue sexual purity?
I realised human inability to make moral decisions on our own. Even as we try as much to be the ‘perfect’ Christian, we can never be like God. But there is hope in knowing that God is with us. He gave His word to guide us in our lives. He puts the Holy Spirit in us (Romans 8:9). For those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God, as the mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law (Romans 8:7-8). But those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires (Romans 8:5).
Commit to walking in the spirit every day. “If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.” (Galatians 5:25) We walk in the Spirit when the desires of the Spirit is stronger than the flesh; when we no longer seek to gratify the desires of the flesh. John Piper shares 5 steps to walk in the Spirit – (1) Acknowledge, (2) Pray, (3) Trust, (4) Act, (5) Thank.
I believe past mistakes are Sacred History, as Gary Thomas puts it. It should be meaningful and compel us to live in fear of the Lord. Which ties with John Piper steps: we should acknowledge our sinfulness and know that no sin is too great that His son cannot bear! For God has forgiven us and only He can help us when we seek to sanctify ourselves each day, making a conscientious effort to repent. “Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the duty of all mankind. For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil.” (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14)
The believer who conducts his marriage as in the Lord will seek to make his marriage transcend mere sexuality by emphasising his fellowship with God. – Otto Piper
Strive to build a God-centred relationship. Couples that seek to remind their partner to walk in God and to keep them in tune with the Faith, face weariness and lose hope. Rather than focusing on building each other up in love, focus on your relationship with God. Are you walking with God every day? When your love is God, you will grasp the beauty of His commandments, and it will bear spiritual fruit to the relationship. Even better, next time, you can also teach your children about growing up to seek purity and Godly love.