Talking About Sex
My pastor recently completed a six-week series on 'God's Ethics of Intimacy'. We've been studying through Colossians, and instead of a quick gloss over the verse on sexual immorality, he took the time to delve into what it really means to submit our sexuality and our relationships to God and His plan for our lives. However, despite listening intently all six weeks, I was not setup with an arranged marriage as P.E. promised us for faithful attendance. Oh well.
I also just read Lauren Winner's book, Real Sex. (I recommend Lauren Winner's memoir, Girl Meets God to pretty much anyone I meet.) It is an excellent book, and required reading for anyone struggling with the concept of chastity, its meaning and importance. It is very realistic but also scriptural, and she pulls no punches about the necessity of chastity.
But to be honest with you, I'm pretty much sick of talking about sex. And I'm not even sure it's healthy to keep thinking about it so much. Wisdom and experience tells us that the more we dwell on something, the more likely we are to act on it, for good or bad. Does all this constant discussion open us up to more temptation?
Perhaps this is why historically the Christian community has tried to stay away from talking about sex. We literally flee temptation. The problem is, in our culture, you can't get away from it. Sex is everywhere. You can't watch a "family" show on television without being bombarded by ads for R-rated movies and sexy new shows featuring couples stripping off their clothes. I can't even check evite without a Victoria's Secret ad popping up. With four younger brothers in the house, I have to cover half the screen with my hand to try to protect them. You don't need to seek out porn on the internet: pinups are there for everyone to see (one of the benefits of switching to gmail: no picture ads!).
In our house, we constantly have to be on purity patrol with our entertainment choices. My brothers know that when a sexually explicit ad comes on, they are to avert their eyes while my mom runs for a pillow to cover the screen or digs for the remote to change the channel. But I'm sad that the message my brothers are getting is that the human body, particularly the female body, is something to hide from. My parents do a great job of explaining that the reason we cover up is because the body is sacred, that we are to cherish it, and enjoy it in the context of marriage. But still, they can't even get the mail without the possibility of an ad or catalog directly contradicting my parents' message.
Fleeing the conversation about sexuality has its own drawbacks. Not talking about it makes sex seem like a bad thing, or that the body itself is sinful. In Real Sex, Winner talks about our present-day Gnosticism in the church that seeks to make all sexual impulses seem evil. This view contradicts our entire creation as humans. And it is true that if we don't have the discussion about the Biblical view of sexuality Christians will only have the culture to teach them how to act. Not many people are as fortunate as I am to have parents who taught me from an early age about making good decisions in relationships (not that I haven't made my share of mistakes in spite of their warnings, but that is another discussion entirely). It is the place of the church to exegete God's plan for us as complete human beings: body, soul, and spirit.
But we also need to be very aware of our own weaknesses and tendencies, and take steps to protect ourselves. For example, I was chatting with a friend last Sunday about dancing, and I told him about the salsa lessons I'm taking. He shared with me that one of the reasons he chooses swing over salsa is because of the sensual nature of latin dancing. The moves and holds are something he personally feels is inappropriate and an area where temptation could creep in.
I can't say how much I respect that. That level of thoughtfulness and honesty is something I can learn from. Yes, some people might pooh-pooh his choice, saying that dancing is "no big deal" and he shouldn't be so uptight. But he is being honest, and following through on his conviction to keep himself pure. Jesus told us that adultery is not limited to the act of sex, that looking lustfully after another person violates the spirit of the law (Matthew 5:27-28). Lust can begin as a simple thought, and in the sexually charged environment of dancing, it is easy to let those thoughts take hold.
I'm not saying that my dancing friends and I should stop going out to Century Ballroom. And I'm not saying we should stop having good discussions about how best to seek after purity and chastity in our lives. But I am saying that everyone needs to be honest about their own weaknesses and take steps to protect their own soul. Jesus went on to say in Matthew 5: "If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell" (v.29). Maybe giving up salsa dancing is a good tradeoff if it keeps your mind pure.
Maybe we need less talking about sex and more about honoring each other as complete persons. Maybe there should be less talking about relationships and more talking during relationships. I don't think there is an easy solution. It is a constant battle every day to conform our wills to God's, in thought as well as deed. But I think a spirit of honest evaluation and humble acceptance of our limitations will go a long way. I know for myself, I need to take a break from all this sex talk.