Sex & The Single Christian
What The Scriptures Actually Mean
Nobody actually lives this way. I know of precious few single or
divorced Christians who practice celibacy. Well, some practice,
but they're not very good at it. What I see is an endless
pattern of failure, conviction and repentance, only to start
over again, which is, by definition, bondage. My mother was a
single parent. Her daughter is a single parent. Her daughter’s
daughter is a single parent. Babies everywhere. Daddies nowhere
to be found. And these people are all “Christians.” This is what
your child sees: moral failure. They see moral failure mainly
because (1) you are equating spirituality with morality and (2)
your standard of morality is an implausible if not impossible
one to sustain.
Instead of holding abstinence up as an ethical or moral device, as a measure of character, abstinence should be seen in a more spiritual light which substitutes trust, faith, hope and love for the crime-and-punishment extremes of a moral test. We should keep ourselves pure not because we fear punishment but because we love God. Abstinence in schools isn't effective because schools push God out of the equation. Abstinence only works when it is in service of a purpose or goal. Without a personal relationship with Christ, chastity for chastity's sake has not much appeal to young persons. But a value-based decision, to give oneself bodily to God, is an effective motivator.
The Holy Spirit absolutely can keep us, can preserve us, but first we must want to be preserved. Our will must be that we want to remain pure, that we're tired of the seesaw. Sexually active people have trained their bodies to expect and to need sexual stimulation. Like an addiction, it's tough to just go cold turkey, which is why most singles fail. But what they teach you in abstinence class is absolutely true: you can take control of your own body if you really want to. If you're willing to tough out the withdrawal pains and humble yourself enough to trust a sponsor, a prayer partner to keep you honest. If you'll pick up the phone and call that prayer partner when you feel yourself getting weak. If you'll get a bicycle and go ride it off. Run it off. Dance it off. If you'll keep yourself busy with projects and motivated with prayer.
Masturbation can be like sexual Methadone, easing the withdrawal symptoms. I mean, you're a lot less likely to be tempted by Leroy if you ruin your appetite for him before he comes around. But be aware masturbation has its own pitfalls, not the least of which is your substituting one addiction for another. Addiction to pornography and masturbation itself are real risks, not to mention the sin of lusting in your heart [Matt 5:27-30]. It can also work against you in that it may actually fuel your desire for sexual intimacy as masturbation, ultimately, becomes unsatisfying; one French fry short of a Happy Meal. Eventually you'll want the whole Big Mac combo. Lastly, masturbation is ultimately selfish: there's no giving in it. Over time, you develop a lot of bad habits, habits men, especially, tend to bring into their intimate relationships and marriages. Couples engaging in mutual masturbation may find a procedural loophole in that no vaginal intercourse has taken place, but this business is a joke: sexual intimacy is sexual intimacy. A line is being crossed, whether there is technical penetration or not, and you guys are playing with fire. This is High School stuff: fooling around to the point where the difference between what you are doing and "actual sex" is largely rhetorical. This is how teens get pregnant: telling themselves they'll only go but so far, but boiling the water to the point where the difference between what they're doing and penetration is, maybe, a sneeze.
God wants you to be pure. God wants you to give yourself to Him.
And He deserves better than you lying to yourself.
Checking Our Motives:
Christian abstinence should not be about The Law (as we assume it is).
It should be about Grace. Not morality, but purity. A mature decision to wait, to sacrifice something
of ourselves in order to honor and please God.
Giving A Gift Back To God
Abstinence can't be this thing you do because you're afraid of
Hell. That's a result-oriented position that will always fail
you. Rather, abstinence has to become a lifestyle one adopts.
Diets don't work: if you want to lose weight, you have to change
how you live. Cut out the sugar, cut out the salt, eat smaller
portions, work out hard several days a week. And do it for life.
Forever. Because, the minute you stop, you'll blow up like the
Goodyear blimp again. And that's what abstinence is: it is a way
of life. It's not a punishment. It's not a phase you grow out
of. Eventually, your body will adapt. We are living organisms.
Organisms always adapt themselves to new conditions. Just like
dieting, your body will, sooner or later, respond to what you
are doing. It'll be incredibly tough at first, but hang in
there. Get help to hang in there. Sex is no different from
cigarettes or coffee: it takes strength and lots of patience to
wean yourself away from it. You'll slip. You'll cheat. Don't get
discouraged, don't give in. Start over. Twenty, thirty times,
start over. But stop letting guilt eat you alive: God is your
Father. He loves You. He gave His life for you. The least we all
can do is give our lives—including our sex lives—back to Him.
It may take months, but I promise you, sooner or later, the organism adapts. You're riding twenty miles a day on your bike. You're working out at the gym, you're involved in community service, you're taking extra classes. You've filled that void with other things, and your body will eventually adapt to it. Which isn't to say the craving goes away—call the paramedics if that happens—but that it becomes manageable. You become the master of you. You are no longer a slave to your desires. You have learned how to wait on God, how to be patient with Him. On the other side of the storm is a wonderful, unparalleled sense of peace. Peace, first and foremost, with yourself, knowing you're not hiding something, not feeling guilty about something. You don't have to remember who you told what to. You're off the seesaw. The emotional highs and lows even out.
And, even better, you are once again useful to God.
When I was seeing a woman who had three daughters, I would always leave the house around bedtime. My friend would invite me to stay, so we could relax after the kids went upstairs, but this was the mother of three girls. It was important, I said, that the girls see me go home. That they understood that I'd left, that they didn’t wonder what we were doing down there. That’s the kind of sacrifice God wants us to make, the kind of example He wants us to set, putting our needs on hold and avoiding opportunities for the enemy to influence our children or to tempt us. Abstaining from sex shouldn’t be about some moral law. It should be about sacrifice, about giving a gift back to God. About keeping ourselves pure, About wanting to be pure, rather than remaining abstinent out of fear of hell.
Homesick: Loving God more than we love ourselves.
Let God Sort It Out
Reconciling sinners back to God—that’s the only standard the
bible holds up. The rest of it, the “moral” majority and all of
that—is us, is our choices and our expression of that belief.
Keeping your drawers on should be more about wanting to please
God than it is about breaking His law. We all break His law,
every day. None of us can be saved by keeping the Law, so, as an
enforcer of human behavior, the Law fails and fails miserably as
Hell is what we all deserve anyway. Preserving sexual intimacy
for a time and an environment, a covenant, that welcomes God
should be our choice. Not because we fear God but because we
love Him. Because we trust Him with our future. It is not enough
to simply believe, your belief must find disciplined expression.
Sacrifice your own needs, your own desires. Give everything you
have—your body, your needs and desires—give it all to God. Let
Him sort it out. Which isn’t to suggest you’ll never be tempted
or that you won’t succumb to that temptation. But the emptiness
you’ll feel on the other side of that temptation should fairly
scream at you about how poor a choice that was.
When we are estranged from God, we should feel homesick. We should want to go home, to be back in our Savior’s arms. I hate feeling homesick. I hate feeling estranged from God. For me, not wanting to be estranged from God is more a governor of moral conduct than any preacher’s threat could be. ‘Cause I know, eight or even nine times out of ten, that preacher can’t close the deal on moral teaching because he himself feels convicted about who he’s spending the night with. Therefore my compass, my rationale for policing my own behavior, is not judgment but love. To love God more than myself means I want to please God more than I want to do what I want to do.
Which may not be exactly what the bible says, but it is surely what the bible means.