By Dr. Juli Slattery
After a long day of taking care of three little boys, cooking, cleaning, and juggling work responsibilities, I had reached the “finish line.” It was my time to rest. I ignored the subtle flirtations of my husband, Mike, hoping he would get the hint that I was not in the mood. As we were getting ready for bed, I changed into my pj’s and he caught a “glimpse” of flesh. He looked at me amorously as if the act of changing my clothes was an invitation. I faced a fork in the road: would I “do my wifely duty” or tell Mike what I was really thinking. I responded with a compromise, “We can do it as long as I don’t have to be awake.”
If this had only happened once in a blue moon, our marriage could weather the storm. However, scenes like this one were regular occurrences during the busy years of babies and toddlers. I began to dread sex. Although I loved my husband, I resented that he wanted my body and was encroaching on my rare moments of free time. I remembered hearing that sex was supposed to be a gift from God to a married couple. Frankly, I wanted a gift receipt so I could exchange it for something more useful.
I’m guessing that many young moms can relate to this scenario. The number one barrier to sexual enjoyment for women is a lack of time and energy. Men often don’t understand the mammoth endeavor it can be to switch from “mommy mode” to “lover,” especially when a screaming child is in the next room and dirty dishes are piled in the sink. Who has time for sex?
It was during these busy years that I wrote a book called, No More Headaches. How ironic that I could find time to write a book about sex, but not find the time to actually engage in it! I desperately wanted to discover the secret to getting past the barriers that kept our sex life at best mediocre.
My boys are now 20,18, and 15. There are still challenges, including the fact that teenagers NEVER go to bed and they don’t fall for the whole, “Mom and dad are just wrestling” line. But God has taught me a lot about the importance of sex in marriage and how to make it happen, even in the busiest stage of your life.
Study after study shows that sexual satisfaction and a healthy marriage go together. From a woman’s perspective, we think, “Of course! If the marriage is good, so will the sex.” Men have a different approach, “How could marriage be good without great sex?” According to recent research, the guys actually have a point.
Oxytocin is the powerful bonding hormone that flows through your body in mass quantities when you have a baby. Oxytocin helps you to feel connected to your baby and helps you weather the crazy years of toddlerhood. The power of oxytocin makes your baby the most beautiful creature in the world to you. Women have varying levels of oxytocin running through their bodies at any given time. You may get a surge of it when you have an intimate conversation with a friend or when your husband gives you a backrub. Men are less endowed in the oxytocin department. Your husband will only have huge surges of the hormone at one time – after orgasm. Have you ever noticed that he acts more in love with you after sex? He thinks you are gorgeous with your hair sticking up and your morning breath. That’s oxytocin!
I need my husband to be bonded with me. I need his attention and his help with the demands of children and life. God has designed a way for this to happen through sexual intercourse. It truly is how many men feel the closest to their wives. Understanding the power of the chemicals involved in sex has given me a new appreciation for how critical it is to the health of our marriage. When I sense tension between my husband and me I often think, “That man needs some oxytocin!”
I could give you many other reason why sex is so powerful, important and not to be neglected. A few of them include the positive impact oxytocin and endorphins (also released after sex) have on you. Regular sex lowers blood pressure, reduces stress, boosts immunity, burns calories, helps you sleep better, and even slows the aging process. Yet, with all this information, it may seem like a monumental task to make sex a priority in your marriage. You may have legitimate barriers to overcome like body image issues, deep conflict with your husband, broken trust, wounds from sexual trauma or physical pain during sex. I don’t want to make light of these painful circumstances. (If this describes your situation, please get in touch with us through our website www.authenticintimacy.com.) But often, great sex doesn’t happen because it’s simply not a priority.
Although you may never feel as tired as you do as a young mom, there will always be some reason to neglect sex in your marriage. Like anything else, it won’t get better until you determine to change some things. Busy women find time to do what they deem important. They work out, go to Bible studies, volunteer in the classroom and create elaborate scrapbooks. Is it time for you to make sex a priority? If so, here are some ways to make that happen.
This might sound like the most unromantic idea on the planet, but spontaneous sex rarely happens in the busy years of raising kids. You need time to get your mind and body prepared to be intimate with your husband. If you simply wait until bedtime, the chances of you both being ready with energy at the same time are slim to none. Then sex becomes an act of service for one of you. The goal is for you both to enjoy the intimacy and pleasure of great sex.
Couples “schedule sex” in different ways. Some actually put it on the calendar one to three times a week. Other couples agree that each of them will initiate at least once a week. My husband and I had a code word that he would use meaning, “Let’s have sex sometime in the next 24 hours.” Then I had the freedom to initiate within that time frame when it was good for me.
Think about sex
The bestselling book series, Fifty Shades of Grey has proven one thing. Women want to think about sex and feel sexually stimulated. I’ve heard from scores of Christian women who are eating up erotic books like Fifty Shades because reading about sex helps their sex life.
I’ve read the book series (and written a book in response with Dannah Gresh Pulling Back the Shades: Revive more than your sex life – April 2014.) Please don’t fall into the trap of erotica. It is pornography for women. Although it will initially stimulate your sexuality, it will ultimately lead to distance between you and your husband. The greatest sex happens when we are naked in all ways. Porn and erotica cause you to share your body with your husband but stay “hidden” from him in your own secret fantasies.
A holy, erotic book called The Song of Solomon gives a Christian woman permission to fantasize and think about being sexual with her husband in a way that honors God. When you understand the symbolism of the book, you will be surprised by how specific, steamy and erotic this book is – and it’s in the Bible! If you are married, God wants you to think about sex, but to keep your fantasies and thoughts geared only toward your husband. The brain is the most powerful sex organ, especially for women. (Linda Dillow and I recently published a Bible study called Passion Pursuit for married women to help them think about sex in a biblical and holy way.)
Pray about Sex
Yes, you read right. God cares about your sex life. He understands the devastation of finding out your husband is looking at porn or has no interest in sex. He knows the pain of sexual trauma. He even cares about your exhaustion or depression. As a clinical psychologist, I’ve worked with many women through such barriers. While counseling can be a step in healing, God is the ultimate healer.
If your husband is willing, get on your knees together once a week and ask God to show you how to love each other sexually. Ask Him to help you work through the barriers that cause division between you.
There are a lot of great things you can give your kids. You may be sacrificing time and money to take them to play groups, sporting events, and music lessons. But remember this: none of these compare to the foundation of growing up in a home in which mom and dad love each other. Work hard at being a mom, but never at the expense of having a thriving marriage.
The recent Nashville statement has brought conservative Christianity’s relationship with sexual issues front and center into the mainstream media. USA Today describes the Nashville statement this way, “A coalition of conservative evangelical leaders laid out their beliefs on human sexuality, including opposition to same-sex marriage and fluid gender identity, in a new doctrinal statement.”
If you are familiar with the ministry Authentic Intimacy, you know how deeply I care about sexual theology and God's truth. I've spent the past five years teaching and defending a biblical view of sexuality. Cultural trends have caused vast confusion around homosexuality, gender and other sexual issues, and we need to be clear on God's design for sex. But I am also concerned that the message of the Gospel isn’t lost in our dialogue about sex.
Our commitment to unity must be as clear as our theology of sexuality. It’s just as important that you know how to respond when you meet a Christians who disagrees with you as it is for you to know where you stand on LGBT issues. After all, Jesus said that we would be known “by our love for one another,” not necessarily by our theology of human sexuality. Research indicates that whether or not you believe that God condones same-sex marriage may have more to do with your generation than it does your commitment to Jesus Christ. We can’t simply write off everyone who has a different view of sexuality as “not one of us.”
Unity within the body of Christ is very important to God. Jesus over and over again emphasized this point. But here’s the catch. Jesus didn’t just want us to be united with each other, but to be united in Him. A “Christian” isn’t just someone who claims the label, but one who embraces the Savior. This means that we can’t ignore theology and how people live for the sake of getting along. Hence the tension to integrate two essential truths: we are called to be united with our spiritual brothers and sisters, yet we are also called to stand on the truth of God's word.
So, how should we respond when other Christians have such different views on important sexual topics? How can we possibly work together and be unified if we can’t agree on God’s design for sexuality?
AW Tozer wrote, “The question before us, and the question that really matters, is simply what do you think of Christ? And what are you going to do with Christ? Every question we might ever have can be boiled down to the subject of Jesus Christ.” Tozer’s wisdom also applies to conversations about sexuality. Before we ever talk about gay marriage or sexual ethics, we have to talk about the more important foundational issues of what we believe about God, the Bible, and human nature.
Our lack of Christian unity through the sexual revolution may actually have very little to do with the sexual questions of our time. Differing views on gay marriage, cohabitation, pornography, and gender aren’t primarily what divide us. These are just the external issues that have exposed the confusion of what we believe about God and His Word. Do we believe the Bible is authoritative, divinely inspired, and relevant without cultural revision? Do we believe that human nature is at heart rebellious and damned without God’s intervention? And what do we really believe about Jesus? Do we believe He was a nice teacher who made people feel good, or that He is the Son of God, deserving of our worship?
If we disagree on the answers to these questions, we have far greater problems than addressing issues like pornography and homosexuality. Our confusion about sexuality is rooted in our confusion about God. As we interact with fellow Christians, let’s start by affirming these foundational truths that have for too long been neglected in our seeker-friendly churches.
We can know how to be united in Christ when we agree to study and apply the Bible. The challenge is that we can’t just study and apply what the Bible says about sex. We must also study and apply what the Bible teaches about love and Christian unity. Are we applying passages like, “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as Christ God forgave you” (Ephesians 4:31-32)? Are we pursing unity through humility as Paul taught in Philippians 2? As he wrote to Timothy, are we patient, kind and gently instructing those who disagree with us even as we teach the truth "in and out of season?"
We know from history that sincere men and women of God have sharply disagreed on many interpretations and applications of the Bible. I have met with many Christians who have a sincere faith and belief in God’s Word but who are confident that God would be ok with same-sex committed relationships. We can't simply walk away from each other because my brother celebrates something that I believe the Scripture teaches is sin. How do we pursue truth together? The first thing I want to do in this situation is to understand that person’s perspective. I might ask, “Why is this important to you?” or “Tell me about how you came to that conclusion?” Sometimes this leads to a theological discussion, but most often there is a personal reason. The person has a good friend or relative who is same-sex attracted and can’t reconcile God not approving of a loving sexual relationship. Or there is a story of Christian bigotry and hatred towards the LGBT community. By listening and learning, I have earned the right to share my convictions about God's design for sexuality and why it is so central to Christian doctrine.
I’ve learned that even if I don't agree with a fellow Christian’s theology of marriage and sexuality, I may have something to learn about the struggle of translating God’s love into their world. For generations, the Christian church has upheld a God-honoring theology of marriage, but has often failed to demonstrate God’s love and grace to hurting people. Christians have also been rightly accused of applying a biblical teaching about sex only to some sins (homosexuality, premarital sex) while ignoring others (pornography, seeing women as sex objects, using sex selfishly in marriage). How much of the current sexual revolution is a backlash against the Christian dogmatism, hypocrisy and judgement against those in sexual sin and brokenness? We have as much to learn as we do to teach. If we cut off the conversation at the point of disagreement, we have no room to challenge each other according to the Scripture, pursuing Christian unity.
I’m not suggesting that we solve these important issues through compromise, but that we strive together to know the mind and heart of Christ. Dialogue does not mean compromise. Of the seven things listed that God hates in Proverbs 6, none of them are sexually oriented but included in the list are arrogance and causing division among God’s people (verses 6-19). When we stand before God one day, we will not only be accountable for how we held to His truth, but also for how we extended His love to one another.
We need each other. Not just those in our own denominations and demographics, we need the body of Christ. We need to know why the twenty somethings see the LGBT movement as a civil rights issue. We need to hear from the older sages who can teach us church history and reflections of wisdom from many years of following Jesus. We need to embrace fellow Christians who have very different experiences and who read the Bible through a different lens.
While the Bible and God's design for sexuality haven't changed, our culture is continually shifting, presenting new information and challenges in how we articulate a biblical perspective of sexuality. As Paul wrote, "Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone." None of us, including me, has this one hundred percent figured out. I’m constantly learning from people who have different experiences and viewpoints. Their input doesn’t make me change my view of biblical sexuality, but helps me refine how I live it out with sensitivity and conviction.
Even though we are one, unity among Christians will never just happen. We have to work at it, value it, pray for it and pursue it. Christians are to be different from the world not simply in our theology but also in how we treat one another. As disturbing as the vast theological divides around sexuality is the vitriol, arrogance and name calling among Christians. What if God uses us to reach the world not only because we get the theology right but also because we are able to humble ourselves and be gracious to people with whom we may sharply disagree? What if the world marvels not at our brilliant explanations but at our unexplainable ability to pursue truth across denominations and generations?
Follow Up Resources from Dr. Juli Slattery:
Podcast: We Are All Sexually Broken
Podcast: God Created You To Be Sexual
The New York Times and other prominent news sources recently reported that there is now proof that abstinence-only programs don’t work. A meta-analysis of data (this means analyzing data from a number of different studies) “found no good evidence that such programs delayed the age of first sexual intercourse or reduced the number of partners an adolescent might have.”
Let me first state that such research and reporting is always approached with a bias. It’s impossible to conduct research and write articles like these without the desire to prove what you already believe to be true (just as I write with a bias towards a biblical view of sexuality). In fact, the New York Times article concedes that some research suggests that four abstinence-only programs have had a positive impact (Healthy Futures, Positive Potential, Heritage Keepers, and Promoting Health Among Teens (PHAT)).
While I believe we must be teaching abstinence, I agree with the New York Times that teaching abstinence alone is not enough. In fact, no form of “sex education” is going to ultimately keep teenagers from engaging in sexual activity. We live in a world where sexual experimentation, viewing sexually explicit shows like “Game of Thrones,” and engaging with pornography have become accepted norms even among Christian teens. We have a sexually permissive and explicit culture targeting teens and young adults who have sexual desire and a sin nature. Add to that the impact of smart phones, streaming technology, and the delay of marriage and you have a toxic recipe that seems practically impossible to stand against.
I truly wish there were some course or magic pill we could give teens (including my own) that would instill in them the danger of sexual immorality and the beauty of God’s plan. Unfortunately, there is no such fool-proof plan.
Even Christian-based abstinence programs that have positively impacted thousands of teens and young adults have also created confusion and disillusionment for others who felt God promised them a happy marriage with great sex if only they abstained. Some reacted to such programs with deep shame that they could no longer be among the elite sexually pure because of past choices.
Whatever your opinion of abstinence-only education, please don’t think that what the world is offering is effective in advocating a healthy understanding of sex. Modern sex education encourages experimentation, sexual/gender fluidity, and self-exploration as natural and healthy. This will inevitably end up in more confusion and a view of sexuality is that is completely divorced from God’s created purpose of this gift in our lives.
The bottom line is we need a new model for how we approach sexuality, not just with teens, but even among adults.
While abstinence is very important to teach children and youth, it is not the most important message we have to give. More valuable than a teen’s sexual choices is the choice of trusting Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. Sometimes I fear that we get the cart before the horse. Being sexually pure does not lead to eternal salvation for our children. By contrast, it’s only through a relationship with Jesus Christ that a person has a compelling reason and the spiritual power to say no to peer pressure, strong sexual desire and temptations.
Sexual purity is not just about saying “no” to having sex with your boyfriend. It has to be rooted in a broader understanding of our God’s love for us, the harmful impact of rejecting His design, and the hope of His redemption in our lives. The reality is that most teenagers are looking at porn, experimenting sexually and are not convinced that there is anything morally wrong with any of these behaviors. In fact, the culture is working hard to erase any sexual ethic other than do what you like as long as you don’t hurt anyone else. Showing up with a “just say no to sex” message is like bringing a Dixie cup to confront a Super Soaker.
While I wholeheartedly support the efforts of those who are teaching abstinence in schools, churches and in their own homes, it’s a mistake to think that information alone will be enough to stand against the internal and external pressures teens are facing. Similarly, a promise ceremony or signing a purity pledge may be external symbols of a commitment to abstinence, but teens and young adults must be equipped with a more complete picture of the spiritual landscape of sexuality. Why does sexuality matter to God? Why do I matter to God? Why is sex so often associated with shame? Most importantly, how do I understand the gospel in light of my sexuality and my sexual choices?
If you’ve been engaging with Authentic Intimacy as a ministry, you know that we are passionate about sexual discipleship™. The sexual discipleship™ model means that we teach about sexuality within the lifestyle of following Jesus, not just a class addressing purity or cultural questions. Discipleship requires relationship, modeling and honest dialogue throughout daily life.
Whatever models we might use in academic settings to teach about sexual health will ultimately be insufficient in keeping them “safe” if teens do not have parents and mentors who have a greater goal for them abstinence.
Did you know that single women are sexual? That your sexuality has nothing to do with whether or not you are having sex? As ridiculous as it sounds, many Christians grow up thinking that they will magically become sexual when they get married.
Singles are sexual beings created in the image of God. Your sexuality is not compartmentalized, waiting for marriage; it's integrated into all the aspects of your being—intellectual, emotional, relational, and spiritual. It's a core part of who God created you to be.
I deeply believe that the biblical teaching to reserve sexual intimacy for marriage is still relevant for today’s Christian woman. The fullness of sexual expression was created to be expressed only within the covenant of marriage. No amount of modern science or situational ethics can erase the fact that your sexuality is about more than your body. Sexual intercourse is a powerful emotional and spiritual bonding that will always have implications; there is no such thing as “casual sex.”
While God commands you to save sexual intimacy for marriage, your sexuality is something that is always there even when sex isn't a part of your life. Because we tend to only talk about the physical act of sex, we ignore the fact that it's our sexuality that ultimately drives us into relationship, makes us desire marriage, expresses our longing to be known, heard, understood, and protected—our longing to be vulnerable, soul to soul, with another person, and ultimately, our longing to be known by God. As a single person, your sexuality serves a purpose.
The overemphasis on the act of sex often makes us miss the fact that sexuality is about intimacy and relationship. I was recently talking with a woman in her thirties who had lived a season of life as a bisexual. Over the past few years, she became convicted that her sexual relationships were not what God wanted for her life. Yet she was still confused about what that meant.
“Juli, I still really want to be close with women. I love my friends and hate the fact that I can’t be intimate with them.” As we talked, I helped this young women unravel the concepts of intimacy and sex. In our world, the two ideas have become intertwined. In fact, sexual intimacy is just one aspect of intimacy. I have intimate relationships with men and women, but I am not having sex with them.
A core aspect of our sexuality is the yearning to be known and to share intimately with another person. Yes, that is expressed in its fullness in marriage. Yet, my sexuality as a woman deeply impacts how I relate to others outside the bedroom. Your longing to nurture, to connect, to share, and to trust another person wholly are all aspects of God’s image expressed in your femininity and sexuality.
Ephesians 5:31–32 alludes to the fact that sex within marriage is a holy metaphor that points to the spiritual mystery of God’s covenant love for us. Throughout Scripture, sex is used to express aspects of God’s covenant and the degree of intimacy he has with his people. This means that married men and women should be learning mysteries of God as they experience sex together. I believe singles can also understand something deeper about God through their sexuality. Jesus talked about how we will mourn and long for the Bridegroom when he is not with us. We will ache for his presence and have deep longings that are unmet. Singles definitely get this!
When I read the expressions of spiritual longing expressed in some of the psalms, I can’t help but think of a single woman yearning for true intimacy. Here are a few examples:
O God, you are my God;
I earnestly search for you.
My soul thirsts for you;
my whole body longs for you
in this parched and weary land
where there is no water. (Pasalm 63:1)
I long, yes, I faint with longing
to enter the courts of the LORD.
With my whole being, body and soul,
I will shout joyfully to the living God. (Psalm 84:2)
Married and single women have a lot more in common than they realize. I think we do each other a great disservice when we compartmentalize sexual conversations to single and married women. Do you know that many married women struggle with sexual frustration and temptations?
I’ve met with many young men and women who think that their struggle to stay pure would end with a wedding ceremony. Wrong! Sexual purity is a battle throughout adulthood. It simply takes a different form in marriage.
Your married friends are free to have sex with their husbands, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t struggling with porn, unmet desires, images from the past, extramarital flirtations, and conflict over sex in marriage.
Why is this important for you to know as a single? Because it helps you understand that your sexuality is not about an “on-off” switch called marriage. It means understanding that being an adult sexual woman is part of God’s design for you as one who bares the image of Christ. I don’t fully understand it—it’s a mystery, but it’s still a reality.
Single or married, yielding your sexuality under the lordship of Christ will always be a challenge. In this season of singleness, it doesn’t help to pretend that you aren’t sexual. Instead, how can you express your sexuality in ways that are honoring to God and that validate your longings for intimacy? Here are a few thoughts:
1. Guard your mind. We live in a culture that is sex-saturated. For many, the accessibility of porn on every mobile device makes it seem impossible to not think about sex. Other women who aren’t tempted by visual porn might consume “emotional porn.” In other words, movies, romance novels, and reality shows that present romance in a light far from reality.
Song of Solomon warns us not to awaken love before its time. You need to know what fuels your thinking and gets your engine running with no where to go.
2. Channel your desire for intimacy in healthy ways. Remember that intimacy doesn’t mean sex. I believe that many women who struggle with sexual temptation are really longing for intimacy more than for sex. Show me a woman who is hooked on Fifty Shades of Grey, and I’ll show you a woman who is lonely. She’s longing for intimacy—the feeling of being known, cherished, valued, and loved.
Although we have hormones and sexual longings, they are not nearly as powerful as our drive for intimacy. The physical act of sex, while beautiful as an expression of intimacy, is a cheap replacement for it. We live in a world that sabotages intimacy at every step while promoting sex as an adequate substitute. No amount of sex (real or imagined) can compensate for a lack of intimacy.
God may or may not have marriage for you in the future, but his will for you is to have intimate relationships within the body of Christ. In some cases, deep friendships can be even more fulfilling than marriage. David expressed this about his intimate friendship with Jonathan. Paul, who was single most (if not all of his life) shares in his writings about many intimate friendships who encouraged him through the years.
3. Take a lesson from a widow. The other day, I noticed an “unsung heroine” among the women of the Bible. Her name was Anna. We don’t know much about her, but here is her testimony recorded in Luke:
Anna, a prophet, was also there in the Temple [when Mary and Joseph brought baby Jesus to the Temple]. She was the daughter of Phanuel from the tribe of Asher, and she was very old. Her husband died when they had been married only seven years. Then she lived as a widow to the age of eighty-four. She never left the Temple but stayed there day and night, worshiping God with fasting and prayer. She came along just as Simeon was talking with Mary and Joseph, and she began praising God. She talked about the child to everyone who had been waiting expectantly for God to rescue Jerusalem. (Luke 2:36–38)
Here was a widow who knew martial and sexual intimacy as a young woman. When she was widowed, she didn’t search for intimacy in another man but by seeking the Lord until she was 84 years old. Her constant pursuit was rewarded with the presence of the living Messiah!
If Anna were alive today, I wonder what her advice would be. I’d love to ask her about her experience as a married woman who then chose a life of singleness, seeking intimacy with God. We so often view “intimacy with God” as a trite suggestion for our loneliness. Yet, Anna was a woman who believed that worshiping and seeking God could be even more fulfilling that the expression of her sexuality in marriage.
Does this mean that we should all become nuns and be “married to Christ.” No. As Paul taught in 1 Corinthians 7, we each have different callings. Some women serve the Lord as wives and moms. However, there is true intimacy to be found in worship and obedience to the Lord. You may sing about it every Sunday, but have you experienced it? Do you know what it is to cry out as David did, “My heart and my flesh cry out for you, the living God?” He will answer.
While marriage is a wonderful thing to seek, intimacy is the greater goal. Allow your sexuality and your longings to remind you that God has created you for relationship—relationship with others and with him.
Want to learn more? Juli just wrote a 6 week Bible study called "Sex & The Single Girl" and you can read the first chapter for free!
When women ask their honest questions about sexuality, the most common ones typically relate to whether certain things are right or wrong for Christian women to engage in. They want to know where the boundaries lie.
Is masturbation wrong?
Am I still a virgin if I’ve had oral sex?
Is it wrong to read erotic novels like Fifty Shades of Grey?
How far is too far to go in a dating relationship?
There are plenty of opinions available on each of these questions. Ask five people you know, and you will probably hear five drastically different answers. And let’s be honest . . . we usually embrace the answer that most represents what we wanted to hear.
My opinion on these questions doesn’t matter, nor does your best friend’s. God is the one who created you as a sexual being. If you truly want your sexuality to be an expression of your love for Christ, the only opinion that matters is his.
As you navigate the practical implications of your sexual choices, you can ask yourself three important questions to help discern God’s opinion on any question you might have. Are you ready?
“I am a stranger on earth. Do not hide your commands from me. I wear myself out with desire for your law all the time” (Psalm 119:19–20, NCV).
If you are a child of God, you are a stranger on this earth. You will not (and should not) make decisions like the world does. The author of Psalm 119 understood this, and he was desperate for God’s instruction. God’s Word became his delight because it gave him the practical answers for how to live life as a child of God on earth.
God’s Word can do the same for you today. It is meant to be “lamp unto your feet and a light unto your path” (Psalm 119:105).
While the Bible doesn’t specifically address every sexual question you may have, it does clearly state that some sexual activity is not acceptable to God. Let’s take a look at what those things may be.
Below is a list of the sexual practices that the Bible prohibits, some Old Testament and some New Testament. Some people question whether Old Testament references still apply for Christians today since it expressed the Jewish law. After all, we no longer follow rules about not eating shellfish or being ceremonially unclean during your period. A biblical scholar could give you a sophisticated answer, but here’s a good way of thinking about it: biblical teaching on morality in the Old Testament was repeated and reinforced by Jesus in the New Testament while teachings about being “clean or unclean” were not. The death of Jesus on the cross made the sacrificial system obsolete; those who trust in Christ are “clean.” However, our actions can still be immoral and offensive to God.
These sexual practices are defined in Scripture as sexual immorality:
Fornication – This is a broad term for immoral sex and includes incest, sex before marriage and sex outside of marriage. (1 Corinthians 6:18–20, 7:2, Galatians 5:19–20, 1 Thessalonians 4:3)
Adultery – This refers to having sex with someone other than your spouse. It is prohibited in the 10 Commandments; Jesus broadened the definition by exposing “adultery of the heart.” (Exodus 20:14, Proverbs 6:23, Matthew 5:28, Hebrews 13:4)
Homosexuality – Both Old Testament and New Testament references describe homosexual activity as a perversion of God’s design. It is not a sin to have homosexual thoughts of feelings—we can’t control what we are tempted by! But acting on that temptation is wrong in God’s eyes (Leviticus 18:22, Leviticus 20:13, Romans 1:27, 1 Corinthians 6:9).
Prostitution – The world’s oldest profession has never been okay with God. (Deuteronomy 23:17, Proverbs 7:4–27, 1 Corinthians 6:15).
Lustful Passions – This does not refer to the God-given sexual desire a married man or woman has for their spouse. It refers to unrestrained sexual desire for someone you are not married to (Mark 7:21–22,Ephesians 4:19).
Obscenity and Course Joking – God cares about more than what we do sexually. He wants our words to be respectful of the holy gift of sexuality (Ephesians 4:29, 5:4).
I’m sure you’ve noticed that some of these prohibitions are not politically correct. God’s Word doesn’t change with popular opinion, so it’s important to know what the Bible actually says rather than relying on cultural interpretations.
Have you ever wondered what God’s will for you life is? Whether or not he has marriage in your future or what job he wants you to take? There are very few verses that specifically tell you what God’s will for you is. This is one of them: 1 Thessalonians 4:3 says, “This is God’s will for you, that you avoid sexual immorality.”
Sexual immorality is anything that twists and abuses sexuality and the holy expression of it. In our thinking, we have “acceptable” ways of distorting sex. For example, some women who would never watch pornography are perfectly fine with reading a pornographic love story like Fifty Shades of Grey.
When you wonder if a certain sexual act or thought is right or wrong, ask yourself this question: “Is this thought or action consistent with God’s design for sexuality as a beautiful expression of love between a man and a woman in the covenant of marriage?”
Not every sexual action or thought is listed in the Bible with a “yes” or “no” beside it. Some things just appear to be gray areas. For example, we know from Scripture that the full expression of sexuality is to be reserved for marriage, but what about everything leading up to it? Is it okay with God for a couple to kiss, touch each other, and fantasize about what they might do if they were married?
In his letter to the Corinthian church, Paul gave us some great standards to help us discern what to do when the Bible isn’t clear:
“I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but not everything is constructive. No one should seek their own good, but the good of others. (1 Corinthians 10:23–24, NIV)
While you may not be breaking the rules with your boyfriend, some things you choose to do together may be harmful for one or both of you. I’m guessing you’ve probably done things with a guy in the past and regretted giving so much of yourself to him, even if you didn’t go all the way. Even when something isn’t specifically prohibited, it can still be harmful, selfish, or unloving. Passionate kissing may not tempt you, but if it tempts your boyfriend to go further and causes his mind to wander, these actions are not beneficial to him.
God is not about us simply following a list of rules. He wants us to seek his wisdom and honor him in every choice we make. His desire is for you to make wise choices to keep yourself and others from emotional and spiritual harm.
As much as we dislike rules, it is hard for us not to have specific guidelines in this area. A big piece of yielding your sexuality to the Lord is asking for his wisdom in these very personal questions. When God has been clear in his Word, obey him even if you don’t understand his reasoning. When God hasn’t been clear, ask him to guide you!
Here are some thoughts from my friend, Chelsey Nugteren about her journey in seeking God’s boundaries in her dating relationships:
I was the young Christian woman who embraced the answers that I wanted to hear. Deep down, I knew my choices were wrong, but honestly, it was just easier to listen to my peers. My shallow understanding of God’s love for me kept me from fully grasping the fact that his truth was created to protect me. I traded fulfilling purity for momentary pleasure.
Instead of seeing God’s boundaries as created to protect me, I saw them as a means to keep me from experiencing life. I’ve learned that God’s love for me is so much bigger than I can ever imagine, and he truly wants good for my life. I now understand that God puts boundaries in place to protect and keep me from pain, not to be a fun-hater and to make my life difficult. In reality, following God’s truth brings freedom from the pain sexual sin brings.
How many married people have you met that are thankful they slept around before marriage? How many singles have honestly said porn has benefited their life? Or how many engaged couples have expressed their thankfulness for going “too far”? Most likely none. The Enemy is clearly doing his job of deceiving—leading us to believe these things are harmless and fun, but we will always look back with regret, wishing we had made different choices.
I honestly believe I would have made wiser decisions in my dating life if I had accountability—someone to remind me of God’s truth and to hold me to it. I tried for years to uphold sexual purity on my own and failed. I just kept silent about this area of my life. My shame and guilt isolated me. I became convinced that I was the only one struggling with these issues.
The purpose of this article isn’t to make you feel guilty for past mistakes but to help you make better choices moving forward. The Enemy will always try to convince you it is too late to be pure. Have you heard his deceptive whispers? “You already had sex; it’s too late to be pure in God’s eyes.” “Your future marriage is going to suffer because of your past sexual sins.” “God can’t forgive what you have done.” “You have already gone this far; one step further won’t hurt.” See these whispers for what they are—lies—and let God’s truth about you sink in instead. You are forgiven. It is not too late.
You are not alone. No matter what you are struggling with, there are other Christians in the same boat. You may feel like the only one who cares about what God thinks, but there are other Christian women around you wanting to honor God in their sexuality. Be bold and find other believers with whom you can pursue purity. You may feel like a stranger in this world, but there are other “strangers” who are committed to God’s Word as the foundation of practical, daily truth!
Want to learn more about sexuality while you're single? Juli just published a new six week Bible study called Sex & The Single Girl. Learn more and read the first chapter for free on our website!