Sexuality and Marriage

The M Word

Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Romans 1:2a (NIV)Have your thoughts about your own sexuality been renewed? One guy recently chided, “Get your head out of the sand! We are animals, and premarital sex is simply a biological need, like eating or sleeping. Sex isn’t morally wrong, any more than burping or urinating.” Many Christians think like this, but are just a bit more subtle in their approach. One such twenty-something asked, “My friends and I have talked about this sexual purity thing from top to bottom, and we’re absolutely certain that since God gave us a sexual side, it only makes sense that He’s provided a pure form of sexual release outside of marriage. Can you please tell us what that might be?”

I don’t necessarily agree that this “only makes sense.” The logic is too similar to this old saw: “Look, women are a good part of God’s creation! God wouldn’t have made them beautiful if he didn’t want us to feast on their beauty.” Makes sense, right?

Wrong. Just because God made someone beautiful doesn’t mean He wants you to “take a taste” of her by lusting and staring at her rear end. After all, God made the fruit of the tree in the middle of the Garden of Eden very beautiful, and He gave Eve a lush sense of sight and taste to enjoy that beauty. It “only makes sense” that God meant her to get her hands on it and eat it, right? Would you like to ask Eve if the fruit’s beauty made it all right to look at it and eat it? I didn’t think so.

In the same way, though we’ve been given a sexual side, it doesn’t necessarily “only make sense” that God wants us to indulge it any time we choose. God gives us things for His own purposes. Why did he give you a sexual side, and who was it for?

But since there is so much immorality, each man should have his own wife, and each woman her own husband. The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband. The wife’s body does not belong to her alone but also to her husband. In the same way, the husband’s body does not belong to him alone but also to his wife. 1 Corinthians 7:2-4 (NIV)

Your sexuality was not given only to you for you at all. No, your sexuality was given to you for your spouse’s sake as much as it was for you, and it was intended to be used in the context of two.

That’s not to say that God doesn’t want you to enjoy the encounter, too. He most certainly does. But it does suggest why He hasn’t necessarily provided you a way to express your sexuality as a single, even though He’s given you a sexual side.

Is It Yours?

God never views sex as an individual thing, and the Bible only speaks favorably about sex within the context of two in marriage. If our minds have been renewed, we, too, will only view sexuality in the context of two. It won’t “only make sense” that there must be a pure method of sexual release out there to indulge on your own, at your discretion and for your own good pleasure.

Besides, look at the following scripture:

Now to the unmarried and the widows I say: It is good for them to stay unmarried, as I am. But if they cannot control themselves, they should marry, for it is better to marry than to burn with passion. 1 Corinthians 7:8-9

God implies that sexual lack of control should be the rare exception among Christian singles, and antidote for those exceptions is not to be “pure-minded masturbation” or some such provision. God’s answer is marriage, as it has to be. To God, sexuality wasn’t created for the context of one.

So why the rampant lack of control among today’s Christian singles? Is it God’s fault, because He has given us strong sex drives? Or is it our fault, because we’re walking sloppily as Christians?

Flee sexual immorality. All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body. 1 Corinthians 6:18 (NIV)Our eyes can draw sexual gratification from our environment. When a guy looks at a sensual movie scene, the chemical responses in his brain’s pleasure centers are much like those of foreplay and intercourse, pushing his sex urges into the red zone.

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Let’s talk specifics by considering the movie Titanic. How did this movie ever pull down a PG-13 rating? The raw sexuality of the “sketching scene” alone should have qualified this film for an R rating. Frankly, that nude scene was reminiscent of some of the 1970s-era X-rated flicks that I (Fred) watched in the dorms back when I didn’t give a fig about Christ’s laws. We aren’t to have a hint of sexual immorality in our lives (Ephesians 5:3); how can the soft-core porn in Titanic rest easily with this truth?

How many young men have popped Titanic into the VCR and masturbated over this sketching scene? And what of the days that follow? The alarm goes off in the morning, and you lay groggily in the warm softness of your bed as you struggle to consciousness. Soon, the softness of her image seeps into your mind, and in the quiet morning light your mind again fondles her curvaceous fullness. A gentle, come-on smile plays across her lips as your engines churn higher and higher. Helpless before her charms, you’re masturbating again.

Supercharged Engines

The sensuality of our culture can supercharge our sex drive because our eyes can perform foreplay. Since we can’t toss our eyes out, Paul puts this sin is in its own special category — a sin against the body — and he gave us a unique prescription for handling this sin — by fleeing. This tactic is critical. You either train your eyes to flee, or you just keep losing. That’s just the way it is.

What does fleeing look like in practice? Simple: It is cutting off those sensual images that create that mental pop, which I explain in detail in my book for young singles, Every Young Man’s Battle. Bouncing the eyes is one form of fleeing. Starving the mind of new images and taking lustful thoughts captive is another. Fleeing into a deeper relationship with God through regularly Bible study is a third.

What are the effects of cable TV, videos, the Internet, magazines, and fantasy on our sex drive? Simple. They increase your sex drive, which makes it practically impossible to eliminate sexual sin in your life. It’s like your sexual engines are idling high constantly, ready to roar away at any moment.

Lack of sexual control among singles would be rare if we were only dealing with the sex drive God gave us, but because of the way we’ve been walking, we aren’t just dealing with that one.

You see, the size of your sex drive isn’t fixed. You aren’t necessarily overmatched in this battle simply because you have no wife. However, you can become overmatched if you’re not careful to guard your eyes and mind. We bring most of the sexual pressure onto ourselves through visual sensual stimulation and mental fantasy, which puffs up the variable portion of our sex drives to the point where they’re difficult to handle.

What Made You Fall?

Keith, a young pastor I recently met in North Carolina, said that when any of his guys fall into masturbation, his standard reply is, “Why did you need release? What were you doing during the day that made you fall that night?”

Added Keith, “Look, I’m single, too. I understand what they’re going through. But in my experience, if I’m faithful to guard my eyes and keep the fantasies out of my life, that false drive, as you call it, simply dries up. It just isn’t there anymore.”

Some of Keith’s guys claim they don’t lust while they masturbate, and they’re only doing it to release tension. “So what?” says Keith. “You were fantasizing and watching soft-core shows on cable earlier in the day. That forced your hand, and you know it. If you hadn’t been watching those shows, you would have had no sexual tension in the first place.” They rarely argue.

When you boil it down, sexual purity is simply a choice. Is holiness important to you, or is it not? Jesus declared that the truth would set us free, and we can all live freely if we’d only walk in it. Sure, you may not be free to stare at or watch anything you would like, but you’ll never feel freer to relate openly to women or freer to pray to your Lord without the guilt of your secret sin.

Fred Stoeker, co-author of Every Man’s Battle (WaterBrook Press), regularly writes and speaks to men about sexual purity. He works with “restoration teams” that help restore pastors to ministry after adultery.

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