What's the Purpose of Your Sexuality, Really?

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(Presione aquí para leer en español).

If someone asks you, “What are your thoughts on cohabitation?” or “Do you believe God is ok with gay marriage?” how would you respond? 

To answer those questions, you will (without even realizing it) tap into your underlying beliefs about the purpose of sexuality.  Every opinion you have about sexual issues is rooted in a larger narrative of what you believe about sex—and ultimately, God. Your sexual narrative is the background that helps you make sense of sexuality. It’s the backstory on why our sexual experiences and choices should matter. 

Our culture’s changing views on issues like living together or gender fluidity come from an evolution in our sexual narrative. The larger culture now predominantly tells a humanistic narrative that honors human sexuality as a primary form of self-expression and identity.  In a recent study, the Barna group concluded, “Sex has become less a function of procreation or an expression of intimacy and more of a personal experience. To have sex is increasingly seen as a pleasurable and important element in the journey toward self-fulfillment.” If sex is an important part of self-fulfillment, experimentation and sexual “freedom” become very important avenues to maturity. 

In contrast to this narrative, the traditional church narrative presents sexuality as a “pass or fail” test of moral character and religious commitment. In my last blog post, I wrote about the limitations of the traditional “purity narrative” of sexuality. If you read that post, you might have been left wondering. If “saving yourself for marriage” isn’t the complete Christian narrative about sex, then what is?

To understand the fuller picture of Christianity and sex, we need to start with the premise that sexuality isn’t just about what happens here on earth. It was created by God as something sacred. Sexuality is fundamentally linked to intimacy. As much as our culture tries to push the concept of “casual sex,” there is nothing casual about it. Sexuality, as created by God, taps into our deepest longings and vulnerabilities. 

Sexuality must first and foremost be understood as an earthly aspect of humanity that points to a heavenly truth. That truth is that we were made for intimacy. We were created with deep longings to be known, embraced, and loved eternally by a God who will never leave us nor forsake us. 

We cannot understand marriage and sexuality until we understand what they were designed to point to. Our sexual longings symbolize the experience of being incomplete. A sexual encounter at best provides a momentary taste of what we were created to experience for eternity. Even within marriage, we continue to have these longings because marriage was never meant to fully satisfy them. C.S. Lewis eloquently states the angst of desire and disappointment: “The longing for a union which only flesh can mediate while the flesh, our mutually excluding bodies, renders it forever unattainable.” Marriage is the metaphor for the answer—not the answer itself! 

God created the covenant of marriage to be an earthly experience that points to the eternal reality that Jesus Christ is the Bridegroom of His Church. He pursued her, sacrificed to make her holy, and was united with her through the ministry of the Holy Spirit. As Christians, we are most fulfilled when we abide deeply with God. We get glimpses of that intimacy here on earth, but we are still left wanting! As Paul says, all creation groans for Christ to come and claim His people.

While the cultural narrative worships sex as a source of our personal fulfillment, the biblical narrative presents sex as a sacred picture of longing, unity, and covenant. Its power is not in attaining sexual satisfaction but in recognizing the deeper longing it represents. This narrative gives a greater context to all things sexual. It explains the why behind the what

It also helps us understand why sexual intimacy is celebrated within marriage but wrong when it happens apart from a covenant. It fleshes out why sexual betrayal is so difficult to recover from. Within this narrative, male and female are not interchangeable, because they represent Christ and the church. The Christian “rules” around our sexuality are there because they frame the picture of the true purpose of our sexuality.

We were not created for sexual expression. We were not even created for marriage. We were created for intimacy. The greatest sex in marriage is a wonderful thing, but still a temporal pleasure meant to point to deeper longings. This is why the New Testament holds singleness in such high esteem. The ultimate good for a Christian is not a happy marriage but surrender to and unity with Christ Himself. Marriage and sexuality are holy metaphors to be honored but should never become idols that overshadow our longing to know God Himself. 

Over the past several years, I’ve been studying and “unpacking” this biblical metaphor. The deeper I press into this mystery (and it is a mystery!), the more I’m understanding God’s heart for our sexuality. It helps me put into context my struggles as a wife, the disappointments I see and experience, and also why everything sexual is such a massive spiritual battlefield.

My heart for you is that as you engage with Authentic Intimacy materials, you are not simply learning the Christian “rules” about sex, but are encountering God’s heart for you. Sex is not just about sex. It is a physical way that you experience what you were created for… eternal intimacy with a faithful God. 


Read the first and second blog in this series.

You may also find these follow-up resources helpful: 
Java with Juli #218: Rethinking Sexuality in Your Life (member exclusive)
Java with Juli #160: Why God Created You to Be Sexual
Java with Juli #166: We Are All Sexually Broken 

Java with Juli #182: Your Generation and Your View of Sexuality

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  • Susan Bissonette

    Susan Bissonette

    Thank you Juli for helping us understand holy sexuality in that intimacy in covenant marriage points to the greater spiritual reality of intimacy with our Lord. So grateful for the why behind the what.
  • Andrew Brassyhub

    Andrew Brassyhub

    Yes, my longing is for intimacy, not just for sex. But how to handle not (ever) having either? Do I have to look to 'eternal intimacy with a faithful God' who will never, ever give me the experience of intimacy in marriage here and now? There are problems that simply have no answer. The reading and sermon yesterday, Sunday, was on Luke 1.37 'to God all things are possible'. Not for me they're not. We're counting our sexless marriage in years, not months and weeks.
  • Frank Repasi

    Frank Repasi

    Juli I have a deep need to be intimate with God and when I consistently seek him that intimate relationship grows , But I need also that intimacy with another human being . I don't believe I can remain without a significant partner in my life .

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(Presione aquí para leer en español.)  Whenever I speak to a group of people about sexuality, I try to include time for an anonymous Q&A session. No matter who is listening, young or old, male or female, married or single, I am sure to be asked about masturbation: Is it wrong? What does the Bible say about it? Many Christians have spoken and written on the topic, some of them with sincere disagreement.  If you want to know how I’ve answered this question in the past, you can read it right here. Rather than repeat those thoughts in this blog post, though, I want to suggest a new angle. What if the question itself is shortsighted?  Have you ever noticed that when people asked Jesus a moral question, He often sidestepped it and brought up a different question? It wasn’t because He didn’t know the answer. It was because He knew the heart of the person asking the question and was more concerned with ministering to their heart than responding specifically to their inquiry. Chances are, if you’re here, you’ve read other blogs and opinions on masturbation. You probably even have your own opinion. So, why are you interested in yet another take on this age-old question that frankly isn’t even addressed in the Bible? In other words, what is the question beneath your question? Perhaps you want someone to write a blog that will erase the shame you feel about masturbating. Maybe you hope I will confirm your suspicion that self pleasuring really is a horrible practice. I suspect that no matter what I write about masturbation, you may still feel unsatisfied, searching for yet another opinion on the topic.  That’s why I want to suggest a different question to ask—and, I think, a healthier question. Maybe even a question that Jesus would ask a man or woman seeking His wisdom on this topic. Are you ready?  Why does masturbation matter to you?  I’ve long suspected that masturbation is less a matter of Christian morality than it is a matter of Christian maturity.    When we are immature in our walk with God, we look for rules. Just tell me, how far can I go with my boyfriend? Can my husband and I use sex toys in the bedroom? Is it okay to read romance novels? We may complain about the rules of Christian living, but at the same time grasp for even more of them. In my past 10 years of working with Christians on sexual topics, I see that we have become obsessed with “the rules” about sex. We argue about the ones we view as unloving and debate the moral lines that seem nebulous. Jesus came to give us freedom, not to make us more focused on rules.  Paul wrote in Romans 6 that those who don’t know the Lord are slaves to their own fleshly desires. They don’t have the freedom to choose what is right, so they need rules and a punishment for breaking them. Without Christ, we are guilted and shamed into good behavior. Once the Spirit of God lives within us, we have eyes to see a picture greater than the rules. We live by the “law of love” for God and for other people.   Friend, if you know the Lord, you have infinite freedom in how you steward your sexuality. You can respond to your most carnal desires with abandon, all the while knowing the long-term consequences of those choices—a lack of intimacy between God and people. But you can also choose to see your desires in the light of God’s love for you. You learn the self-control to say “no” to what you want in order to say “yes” to a greater pleasure, not out of fear but out of wisdom. Maturing as a Christian is not just about memorizing and living by rules, but inviting God to heal and transform you. As you grow in your Christian walk, the rules become unnecessary because you have internalized the law of love for God and for others.  Christians have freedom to masturbate, just as we are free to choose a lot of things that may or may not reflect God’s goodness. As our journey with the Lord deepens, we should be moving toward the fullness of His design for sexuality. As long as we stay stuck in asking the question, “Is masturbation wrong?” we will never push toward a grander vision for sexual wholeness that helps us outgrow the question itself.  You were created for intimacy: A deep, abiding connection with God and with other people. Masturbation is a temporary way to experience a faint glimmer of pleasure and comfort, devoid of the true intimacy you long for. Like cotton candy, it tastes sweet for a second and then dissolves into a sugary nothingness. Children are drawn to cotton candy. 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