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Can the Church Redeem Sex?

CC Photo Courtesy of Klearchos Kapoutsis via Flickr
CC Photo Courtesy of Klearchos Kapoutsis via Flickr

A few months ago, I wrote an article about the current, bleak sexual climate that exists both inside and outside the church and how that affects our personal battles for purity.  The price of sex is at an all-time low, promiscuity is rampant and marriage rates are declining. Fewer people are marrying, and most of them are hooking up or shacking up—even those in the church. Cultural rot is disheartening, but seeing the same decay in the church is devastating.

Can the church redeem sex?

God created sex. It’s His. He called sex good. It’s time to “plunder the culture and get our treasure back” (to quote my pastor). What does that look like? There are four key areas where I see buried treasure.

Sex and Children – Whether it’s blatantly false ideas about overpopulation or reasonable fears about personal financial stability, human beings in the twenty-first century have severed the link between sex and natural childbirth. While we shop for organic, hormone-free produce, we inject our bodies with convenient infertility.

Women are told that to be equal with men, they need to seek “reproductive justice” by denying their biology and shredding their hearts on the altar of sexual expression. Men are encouraged to be bro-choice and sexually free—leaving them to founder and to be confused about who they are.

Jesus has called His church to be salt and light—declaring the goodness of the created order and humbling ourselves in light of how He has created us to reproduce.

Sex and Fun – According to pop culture, sex was the original sin, and puritanical Christians hate it. The lie that sex is Satan’s domain screams at us from every corner. Sex is secret, private and something that proper Christians don’t speak about. Christians, when they do talk about sex, talk about waiting for sex if you are unmarried and keeping your legs crossed. On the flip side, young Christians are encouraged to wait for marriage until they are “ready,” “in that place” and “mature”—prolonging the time between puberty and marriage as if there are no consequences.

So on the one side, we have sex is fun and for now, and on the other, we have sex is secret, private, and for later. Our teaching on sex reflects our perspective on God’s character. If the church really believes that God created sex for our pleasure and His glory, then we have to radically change the way we teach on God’s character. God is fun. He created romantic love and pheromones, and He is more creative than the Kama Sutra.

Sex and the Ordinary – The world promulgates hors d’oeuvre sexuality: new trumps old; variety is healthy; faithfulness is dangerous. Hollywood leads us to believe that airbrushed fiction-sex is not only possible but desirable and that sexual experience breeds emotional adulthood. And unfortunately, sometimes the church, while not promoting promiscuous sexuality, does prefer the sexually active to the abstinent.

While I would agree that it’s better to marry than to burn with passion, marriage is not a stage of life. Marriage is a vocation. If you never marry or never re-marry, you aren’t developmentally stunted. God uses ordinary life to grow His church up into spiritual maturity and emotional adulthood. Sometimes He uses marriage, and other times not.

Sex and Sacrifice –Sexual liberation and fulfillment are the false testimony of our era. Cosmo, Seventeen, Glamour, and Maxim are four pillars of the sexual fulfillment gospel. If you’re not getting any, or not getting any in a way that suits your fancy, you are entitled to leave for greener pastures.

For obvious reasons, the Word of God and the church at-large do not condone this perspective, but it has seeped in, in subtle ways. Instead of allowing couples to split over sexual “differences,” the church has elevated sex to “reward” status. Godly, good-times martial bliss is yours if you can you get to the altar without completely consummating. I respect the True Love Waits movement for their goal of encouraging teenage abstinence, but it isn’t the full picture of sexuality from Scripture. True love does wait, but more importantly, true love sacrifices.

The church needs sermons on sexual self-control, but many of those sermons are incomplete in their breadth and depth. Calling some to a lifetime of sexual denial rings hollow when sex is seen as a reward for good behavior. Sex as reward or personal fulfillment leaves single adults on the sidelines and gives them an excuse to tune out. Instead, the sex-as-sacrifice perspective is something every believer should be living. If you’re married, your marital relationship with your spouse is to be one of submission and sacrifice. And, if you’re not married, your chaste “sex life” is to be one of submission and sacrifice.

As His Bride, God has called us to be redeeming agents in the culture—in art, in the sciences, in politics and in our very bodies. Can the church redeem sex? The Lord can and is, and He’s invited us into this battle. He’s given us treasure, and it’s time to use it.


About Anna Hayes

Anna is a 30-year-old who recently left the East Coast for a life as a grad student in a small city somewhere in the middle. She spent several years in East Asia teaching English and loves words, language and being a small part of applying the Gospel to current cultural trends: gender-role confusion, marriage/family breakdown, sexual sin and delayed marriage/unintended singleness.
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