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Purity Culture: Lose the Lies, Keep Your Faith
If you want to get “cancelled” in Christian culture, try using the phrase “sexual purity.” Even for many committed Christians, sexual purity has lost its luster. Women are writing dissertations and books about how the Church’s teaching on sex has not only harmed them sexually, but shaken the foundations of their faith in God. What is going on?  In the mid 80s and 90s, the message to “save sex for marriage” became the predominant theme of Christian books and conferences. Modesty and abstinence were all the rage in the average church youth group. Young women were told not to “cause their brothers to stumble,” and wives were encouraged to “perform their wifely duty” to keep their man from straying.  I’ve spent the past ten years working exclusively in the arena of Christian sexuality and have interacted with hundreds of men and women who grew up with these insufficient and unbalanced messages about sex. As part of the Christian culture, I was among them. I dutifully obeyed and experienced my own disillusionment and pain in my marriage.  My understanding of God and sex has dramatically evolved over the decades. I can see that metamorphosis in the emphasis and nuances in what I wrote twenty years ago versus what I’m writing and teaching today. My journey has brought me closer to the heart of God. It has been a parallel track of deepening my love for the Lord and understanding His word related to our sexuality. Unfortunately, in the journeys of others, the opposite has transpired.    For many, reconsidering the purity narrative has led to a rejection of the true Christian faith. I think of Janna who grew up in the church with messages about purity and modesty, feeling ashamed about the size of her breasts and the attention she received from boys. In college after she was date raped, the first question her father asked her was, “What were you wearing?” The double standard, body shaming, and lack of compassion eventually became enough to undermine her faith in God. Or I think of Brenda, who followed all the rules and got married as a virgin to a pastor. Within the first year of their marriage, her Christian husband cheated on her multiple times. Brenda is now an open advocate for a God who lovingly and non-judgmentally allows us to pursue whatever sexual longings we may experience.   Every sexual issue is at heart a spiritual issue. When sex becomes confusing, it causes us to reexamine what we believe about God. Getting sex wrong usually begins and ends with getting God’s character wrong. This is why it is critical that we personally and corporately revisit what the Bible actually says about sexuality. Yet as we deconstruct, we must be very careful in how we reconstruct, pressing further into the word of God rather than away from it.    Consider the whole counsel of the Bible. Several years ago, I began to read the whole Bible each year. Yes, it gets tedious around Leviticus, repetitive in the gospels, and downright depressing in the prophets. Yet, I’m committed to this practice because it reminds me never to take out of context any particular passage.  In its entirety, the Bible is a Great Story. Within that story are lists of laws, teaching about holy life, songs of worship, times of judgment, and accounts of God’s work in unique times of history. Yet every part of the Bible must be understood within the larger framework of the Great Story. God created us for fellowship with Him. When sin entered the human race, every intent of the human heart became warped (see Genesis 6:5). All of creation has echoes of God, while also elements of brokenness that cause us to groan and suffer. God’s love for humanity prompted Him to send Jesus as the once-and-for-all remedy for human rebellion. God has offered us the choice to accept or reject this redemption. When we receive Jesus, we live in the tension of the finished work of the cross and in the “not yet” fulfillment of that completed work.  This story of the Bible must be the foreground and background of everything we teach, including sexuality. Our purity and righteousness ultimately have nothing to do with our sexual choices or struggles, but with our standing in Christ Jesus. We can never accomplish a pure life apart from His continual work in us, through the Holy Spirit. God loves the gay, the pastor, the virgin, the single, the married, the prostitute, and the divorced. Each one must choose whether or not to respond to that love with repentance, humility, and obedience. God is able and willing to redeem every story. He breaks down the self-righteous and builds up the broken.  This great story isn’t ultimately about how to live a holy life, sexually or otherwise. It is about the character of God. In every generation, the Church has failed to fully grasp the true character of God. Depending on the times, we overemphasize one of His traits at the expense of the others. We embrace and teach a lopsided version of God. The purity movement taught a God who gave us moral rules to follow, but underemphasized His redemptive nature. In our current day, we teach about God’s love and mercy, but tend to skip past His holiness and righteous judgment. This is a grave danger of which every Church generation must be aware. Reading, studying, and teaching the whole of Scripture within the context of the larger story brings us back to the “True North” from which we can make sense of our sexuality.    Discern tradition versus truth. Traditions are not all bad. Although many of them are based on biblical wisdom, traditions should never hold the same weight as the word of God. Jesus confronted this in His day when He told the Pharisees: “You have disregarded the commandment of God to keep the tradition of men. You neatly set aside the command of God to maintain your own traditions.”  Why is this so essential to “reconstructing” from the purity narrative? Jesus said the greatest of all commandments are to love God completely and love our neighbors unselfishly. Church traditions about sex have established a moral hierarchy based on a person’s apparent sexual purity. Are you a virgin? Do you look at porn? Do you fall into accepted stereotypes of male and female? Are you in a second marriage? Even Christians who remain single in their thirties and forties often feel like “second-class citizens” because of their marital status. The Christian subculture has created traditions around sex, often unspoken, that cause us to violate and minimize the greatest commandments. For the sake of minor differences in theology, we alienate our brothers and sisters. Because we are confused and repulsed by various forms of sexual brokenness, we ignore the pain of our neighbors. We cling to our traditions while setting aside the most important commandments of how we are called to live and love.  Many who have “deconstructed” from faith in God do so because they have never seen genuine faith in God. What they have known as conservative Christianity is a judgmental, hypocritical, and dogmatic clinging to traditions.  We are often like the friends of Job, quoting the proper verses in a way that heaps on condemnation and ignores the heart of God. At the end of the book, God did not rebuke those friends because of what they said about Job, but because of the ways they falsely represented God Himself.    Learn the true narrative of sexuality. The Bible has a lot to say about sex. Yes, there are passages like I Corinthians 6-7 that deal explicitly with our sexual conduct, but the larger message of God and sex is hidden within passages that many of us skip right past.  For example, the book of Hosea is all about sex. A prophet Hosea marries a woman who is unfaithful, and God tells Hosea to redeem his unfaithful wife. The book of Hosea is about sex in a way that ultimately points back to the story of God’s redemption. The same can be said of Ezekiel 16. If you read this passage, you may be shocked to find references to pubic hair, “large genitals,” and menstrual blood. This chapter is a graphic description of something sexual as a metaphor for something profoundly spiritual. The Song of Solomon, the only book in the Bible about marriage, praises the beauty of erotic passion. It seems to be out of place within the Law and the prophets until we see it as more like the Psalms, a song about love. We cannot understand God’s prohibitions against sexual immorality, His heart for the abused and abandoned, or His passion for sexual intimacy within marriage until we understand the place that sex has within the larger story of God. Our sexuality, including our gendered bodies, is a form of revelation about the nature of God’s covenant love. As the apostle Paul says, this is a great mystery that refers to Christ and the Church.  The greatest failing of the Church is not the purity movement or even the reaction against it. Our greatest failing is in missing the larger message that our sexuality screams to us. We were made for intimacy. We were created for covenant. We have been pursued by a Bridegroom who awakens our love, redeems our sin, and invites us into eternal union with Him.   In 1990, it was far easier to say “save sex for marriage” than to wrestle through this narrative. And today, the easy road is to grant permission to embrace whatever our flesh desires. But to be true to the gospel, the word of the Lord, and the character of the Almighty God, we must press deeper into His story of love and how it is revealed in and through our sexuality.  This is why I’ve committed the last ten years of my life and the foreseeable future to learning, teaching, and writing about the most challenging topics of sexuality. What’s at stake is not sexual morality, but leading people to an intimate relationship with our Creator, our Redeemer, our Savior, and our Bridegroom.   You may also find these follow-up resources helpful:  Why Promise Rings & Purity Talks Fall Short The World Has A Lot to Say About Sex What's the Purpose of Your Sexuality, Really?
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Cuando te atrae alguien que no es tu cónyuge
El estereotipo de una relación adúltera en el matrimonio ha sido típicamente la imagen de un marido infiel. El hombre tiene una aventura de una noche en un viaje de negocios o se enamora de su secretaria. Supongo que nunca se nos ocurrió que por cada hombre infiel, también debe haber una mujer infiel. La experta en relaciones Bonnie Eaker Weil compartió en el programa 20/20 de ABC, sus hallazgos de que más del 50 por ciento de las mujeres casadas son sexualmente infieles. Esa estadística no toma en consideración a las innumerables personas que están enredadas en fantasías y asuntos emocionales. Toda mujer casada corre el riesgo de tener una aventura. Si dices: “¡No, yo nunca haría eso!”, toma en serio lo que escribió Pablo: “El que cree estar firme, ¡mire que no caiga!” (1 Corintios 10:12). Toda aventura comienza con una tentación, una atracción. Desafortunadamente, la mayoría de nosotras no tenemos idea de qué hacer cuando un hombre que no es nuestro esposo comienza a prestarnos atención. Se siente bien recibir la atención nuevamente, especialmente si tu matrimonio parece estar estancado. Inmediatamente después de que Pablo nos dijo que tuviéramos cuidado de no caer, nos dio algunos consejos muy prácticos sobre cómo manejar la tentación: “Ustedes no han sufrido ninguna tentación que no sea común al género humano. Pero Dios es fiel, y no permitirá que ustedes sean tentados más allá de lo que puedan aguantar. Más bien, cuando llegue la tentación, él les dará también una salida a fin de que puedan resistir.” (1 Corintios 10:13, NVI). Si bien la tentación es inevitable, el pecado sigue siendo imperdonable. Incluso si sientes una atracción abrumadora hacia otro hombre (o mujer), la infidelidad no tiene por qué ser tu destino. Dios ha prometido darle una salida a aquellos que estén dispuestos a correr hacia él. No te sorprendas cuando suceda ¿Cuántas aventuras se evitarían si simplemente tuviéramos en mente con anterioridad que es normal ser tentado? Sí, siempre habrá hombres más atractivos que tu esposo, y habrá alguien que parezca tener todas las fortalezas de las que carece tu esposo. Probablemente llegará el día en que te sientas atraída por alguien que parece ser más adecuado para ti que tu esposo. La atracción puede ser incluso espiritual (por ejemplo, la pasión de un hombre por el Señor es tan atractiva en comparación con la de tu esposo, quien parece estar espiritualmente muerto). Ya que sabes que llegará este día, prepárate ahora. ¿Recuerdas en la escuela primaria todas las veces que tuviste un simulacro de incendio o de tornado? ¿Por qué tenemos simulacros? Para prepararnos para un peligro real durante un tiempo que no es de crisis. Con esa misma sabiduría, elabora un plan ahora de lo que harás cuando venga la tentación. ¿Cómo responderás? ¿A quién llamarás para pedir ayuda? ¿Tienes una compañera de rendición de cuentas ahora? ¿A qué mujer en tu vida le has dicho: “Tienes permiso para hacerme las preguntas difíciles sobre mi matrimonio. Quiero que me confrontes si alguna vez ves algo en mi vida que te preocupa”. Al igual que en el simulacro de incendio, si ya has determinado a dónde “correr”, no te quedarás paralizada cuando un verdadero peligro amenace tu matrimonio. Recuerda lo que es real Me había estado reuniendo con Lisa durante unos dos meses antes de que ella me lo contara todo. Durante nuestras primeras sesiones de consejería, ella habló sobre su decepción en el matrimonio y otras frustraciones de la vida. Entonces, llegó el día en que se sintió lo suficientemente segura para hablarme de Doug. Se habían conocido en el gimnasio hacía varios meses y de inmediato se sintieron atraídos. Y además, ¡Doug era cristiano! Lisa y Doug comenzaron “casualmente” a encontrarse en el gimnasio al mismo tiempo y se empezaron a conocer. Eventualmente, comenzaron a encontrarse para tomar café. “Juli, ¡Doug es tan amable y sensible! Él ama al Señor y realmente me ha ayudado a crecer en mi fe. Dios sabe lo sola que me he sentido en mi matrimonio. Creo que Dios está trayendo a Doug a mi vida como respuesta a mi oración dándome una verdadera compañía”. Bueno . . . primero que todo, verifiquemos la realidad. Dios nunca contestará tus oraciones invitándote al pecado. ¿Cómo pudo una mujer cristiana como Lisa, haberse equivocado tanto?Esto tuvo lugar porque Satanás es el engañador. Él te tentará e invitará dudar de la verdad sobre lo que es bueno y lo que es malo. Dios ha equipado nuestros cuerpos con hormonas muy poderosas que se activan cuando entramos en una nueva relación romántica. ¿Recuerdas cuando podías pasar días sin pensar en comida o cuando escribías el nombre de tu novio en tu cuaderno de geometría? Tu mente todavía tiene la capacidad de experimentar el “amor romántico”, incluso siendo una mujer adulta. Las “mariposas” de una nueva relación pueden cegarte de la realidad y lo harán. Si no luchas por encontrar el “verdadero norte” según la Palabra de Dios, tomarás una decisión desastrosa que tendrá consecuencias de gran alcance. No importa cuánto creas que este hombre mejorará tu vida, no lo hará. Ninguna cantidad de dinero, buen sexo o atención puede compensar el alejarte de la comunión con Dios y el representar a Jesucristo ante tu esposo, tus hijos y tu comunidad. Corre rápido Hay un tiempo para caminar y hay un tiempo para correr. Nadie sale de un edificio en llamas de forma casual. Corren por sus vidas. Pablo dice que la tentación sexual representa un momento para correr. “¡Huyan de la tentación sexual!” José nos demostró lo que es “huir”. Literalmente salió corriendo de la esposa de Potifar cuando ella trató de seducirlo. No se detuvo a debatir sobre las consecuencias o a averiguar cómo podía mantener feliz a la mujer sin llegar “hasta el final”. Simplemente corrió. Podrías pensar, no hay nada de malo en coquetear un poco. ¡Sí que lo hay, de hecho esto causa mucho daño! Cuanto más permanezcas en la tentación, más oportunidades tendrá el Enemigo de engañarte. ¿Qué significa “correr”? Significa no darle a la relación ninguna posibilidad de desarrollarse. Si es necesario, cambia de trabajo, vete a vivir a otro vecindario y rehúsate a estar a solas con la persona que representa la tentación. Pide ayuda Una de las cosas más peligrosas que puedes hacer cuando te sientes atraída por otro hombre es mantenerlo en secreto. Es posible que te avergüence admitirle a un amigo que te gusta en secreto o que tengas miedo de que ser honesta signifique que tendrás que renunciar a él. En algunos casos, creo que es apropiado decírselo a tu esposo. “Cariño, solo necesito que sepas que hay un hombre en el trabajo con el que me he comprometido a no estar nunca a solas. No ha pasado nada, pero siento que es una zona de peligro”. Sería muy difícil que una atracción se arraigara después de este tipo de conversación honesta. Si no crees que sea prudente hablar con tu esposo, comparte la situación con una amiga o mentora de confianza. Ella puede orar contigo, darte consejos sólidos y hacerte las preguntas difíciles sobre si estás tomando el camino de escape o si continúas jugando con fuego. Invierte en tu matrimonio Si alguna vez has tenido un problema de salud grave, probablemente hayas cambiado la forma en que abordas tu salud. Un ataque cardíaco casi fatal hará que la mayoría de nosotros renunciemos a las hamburguesas con queso y a los cigarrillos. Lo mismo debería ser cierto de cómo respondemos ante la posibilidad de un matrimonio roto. Debería llevarnos a reexaminar lo que hemos comenzado a dar por sentado. Sé que has escuchado esta afirmación, pero vale la pena repetirla: “La hierba es más verde donde se riega”. Sentirse atraída por otro hombre no solo es una tentación, sino también una indicación de que tal vez tu matrimonio necesita algo de agua. Es una llamada de atención que muestra que tu matrimonio es vulnerable a la infidelidad. ¿Puedes identificar qué deseos tienes que no se están cumpliendo en tu matrimonio? Tal vez sea el momento de invertir en asesoramiento matrimonial, escaparte por un tiempo a solas con tu cónyuge o trabajar en el romance y la satisfacción sexual en tu matrimonio. Incluso si estás casada con un esposo que no responde y que no tiene un fuerte deseo de mejorar el matrimonio, ¿cómo estás invirtiendo tú en la relación? ¿Oras a diario para que Dios te dé amor y paciencia? ¿Tienes la intención de aprender a construir intimidad, en la medida en que dependa de ti? Aunque invertir en tu matrimonio es una forma importante de responder a una tentación, invertir en tu relación con Dios es aún más importante. Hay quienes creen que la mejor arma contra una aventura es un matrimonio fuerte. No estoy de acuerdo. Las mayores armas contra una amenaza espiritual (y la tentación es siempre una amenaza espiritual) es un arma espiritual. Pablo nos dijo específicamente cómo armarnos contra los planes del diablo. Nos dijo que nos vistiéramos con la armadura de Dios: con la coraza de la justicia, el cinturón de la verdad, el escudo de la fe y la espada del espíritu. Amiga, nunca intentes luchar contra una tentación espiritual únicamente con armas emocionales o psicológicas. Perderás. La forma de escape que brinda Dios es aferrarnos a él y correr hacia él. Él puede evitar que tropieces y hacer que estés en presencia de su gloria sin culpa con gran gozo (Judas 24). Si permanezco fiel a lo largo de toda la duración de mi matrimonio, no será simplemente porque amo a mi esposo, sino por cuánto amo al Señor. Aferrarme a Mike puede evitar que me desvíe, pero solo aferrarme a Jesús puede purificar mi corazón. Torre inexpugnable es el nombre del Señor; a ella corren los justos y se ponen a salvo. (Proverbios 18:10).
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Five Things You Need to Know About Women, Orgasm & Intimacy
After speaking at a marriage event, I spent time with couples who wanted to ask a question or share a comment. A young couple sat patiently and silently until everyone else had left the auditorium. As I sat down to talk with them, they could barely get the words out. The young man began, “This is really embarrassing, but we don’t know where else to go for help. Umm, we’ve been married for, umm, six years and umm….” His wife quietly finished his sentence, “I don’t know how to achieve an orgasm.”   As I encouraged them to share more, the husband admitted, “I just feel like I must be doing something wrong.” His wife added, “We get so frustrated. I don’t even want to have sex anymore because I feel so much pressure of disappointing him and feeling like something is wrong with me.”  Research shows that about 75% of women find it difficult to climax through intercourse alone and about ten percent never experience orgasm. This young couple had the courage to ask a very common yet unspoken question. Many articles and even books have been written about the elusive female orgasm; I don’t expect to solve this mystery in one blog. However, here is a primary mental shift for a couple struggling with this frustration: Orgasm isn’t something you achieve, but part of the experience of sexual intimacy. Some studies suggest that, in spite of the sex positivity movement and information on female sexual response, the percentage of women who can’t climax has been increasing. Unrealistic expectations perpetuated by pornography and Hollywood is one reason cited for this escalation. Couples expect to always climax without effort. Mutual and multiple orgasms have become the definition of “great sex.”  While God created both the female and male orgasm as part of sexual intimacy, He didn’t design them to be the purpose of sex, nor the mark of “success.” Sexual intimacy is about much more than orgasm. It is a journey to be shared and experienced as a husband and wife learn to celebrate and love together with their bodies.  If you are among the many women and couples who think of “achieving” orgasm rather than experiencing God's gift of sexual pleasure, here are five things to encourage you on your journey.   Learn to enjoy each other’s touch.  Have you ever spent hours preparing a gourmet meal only to have your family wolf it down in a few minutes? God created food not just for nourishment but for enjoyment. In our fast-paced world, we sometimes have to remind ourselves to slow down and enjoy the taste of food, wine, or coffee. We walk right past flowers we don’t smell and birds we don’t hear. Achievement is the enemy of experience because the journey gets lost in pursuit of the goal.  One of the most helpful suggestions for couples is to go back to the beginning, relearning to enjoy and savor touch, even non-sexual touch. Do you remember the electrifying feeling of first holding hands? The sensation of tender kisses or a shoulder massage?  Sex therapists recommend a series of exercises called Sensate Focus to help couples reawaken to the sensation of physical touch. Cliff and Joyce Penner’s book Restoring the Pleasure* is a wonderful Christian resource that walks couples through similar exercises.    Address the barriers.  Imagine that you are walking down a nature path, enjoying a beautiful day when you run into a big yellow “no trespassing” sign. This is what it may feel like on the “road” to climax. Sex is a mind and body relational experience, meaning a lot of things can go wrong. Body image issues, fear of losing control, physical pain, feeling insecure in your marriage, medications like antidepressants, body memories from past trauma, and fatigue are just a few of the barriers that can stop you dead in your tracks.  You may not even be sure what “cocktail” of relational, emotional, or physical problems contribute to the “no trespassing” sign. Regardless, I encourage you to reach out to a Christian sex therapist that can help you identify and address these barriers.    Rethink the “goal.”  Women who struggle with climax often ask me, “Should I just fake it? My husband doesn’t want sex to stop until I climax. I keep telling him it’s not that important to me, but he takes it as a personal failure if I don’t orgasm. Sometimes I just want to be done with it and go on with our day.”  The purpose of sex is not orgasm. While they may enjoy the pleasure of climax, many women report they are more satisfied by the feeling of closeness during sex. The purpose of sex is a shared journey of intimate knowing. Exploring and enjoying each other’s bodies doesn’t always have to mean intercourse. To take the pressure and expectations off of having an orgasm, husbands and wives need to communicate and, potentially, even redefine the purpose of their sex life. This includes sharing the disappointments they have about sex and learning how to work toward intimacy and mutual pleasure together.  If you need practical help talking about sex, our Date Nights In video series is a great place to start.   Learn the basics of anatomy. The number one source of sex education is online pornography, and porn is a horrible educator for many reasons! Because young men and women “learn” about sex at such young ages, they often believe they know more than they actually do.  Female sexuality is complicated. Her anatomy is hidden, and her sexual response continually fluctuates with hormones and her environment. Most women don't understand their own bodies, so how can we expect their husbands to be experts in female sexuality? Sex is designed to get better with time as husbands and wives learn together. While his sexual response is likely to be more predictable, hers provides the mystery. My friend Dr. Jennifer Degler has great resources for both husbands and wives to learn about a woman’s anatomy and sexual response. You might also want to check out Cliff Penner’s book The Married Guy’s Guide to Great Sex.*   Move from passive to active.  While orgasm is not an achievement, sexual arousal and response is something that requires a woman’s active participation. It doesn’t just “happen” for most women.  Sometimes, women perceive their role in sex as passive. He initiates, he provides the foreplay, he penetrates, and she just lies there. While it may be counterproductive to pursue orgasm (because it becomes a goal), it definitely helps to go after sexual arousal in your mind and body. A man can’t make a woman climax. Her own thoughts and response to stimulation play the key role in her sexual arousal. Many women need direct clitoral stimulation to climax. A woman often learns this first by touching herself and then teaching her husband what is most pleasurable to her. Without her participation and open communication, couples may stay stuck in the rut that becomes all about his arousal and climax.  Some women feel as if it is somehow wrong to become sexually aroused or to initiate sex. The lies that feed this belief can be a major roadblock to entering into the pleasure of sexual intimacy. I was in my second decade of marriage before I made this shift in my own thinking. A mentor, Linda Dillow, challenged me to study the woman in the Song of Solomon. It was then I realized that God actually wants me to experience sexual pleasure. At some level, I had always assumed that sexual pleasure was primarily for husbands.  No matter what challenges you may be walking through as a couple, God’s design is for sexual intimacy to invite you into a deeper “knowing” of one another. Great sex isn’t defined by the couple who always climaxes together, but by the couple who accepts the invitation of authentic intimacy through every challenge of marriage.   If you'd like to learn more on this topic, join our online study through Passion Pursuit for women. Or, as a couple, check out our Date Nights In video series. *This is an affiliate link. AI may earn referral fees from qualifying purchases. Photo by Hian Oliveira on Unsplash