But Why: a discussion on sexual purity and the church

A few nights ago, the 4-year-old asked me how God makes people. Not Adam and Eve, but like real live humans, like her, she explained. *Gulp* After a hurried prayer I gave what I hope was a good dose of truth mixed with a gentle, “wait.” I rambled for a while about God having special secret surprises that only grown-ups get to know, and somewhere in there mentioned both beer and cells shaped like tadpoles. (If you need to feel better about your own parenting, you can read the entire conversation by clicking here.)

I used to think I was going to be the coolest mom when it came to “the talk.” Like, it wouldn’t even phase me when it came up because I’d be so chill and informed. And yet, when my first baby starting checking out her own body, I totally panicked and choked when she realized she had a “down there” and I couldn’t even think of what to call it.

So here we are at four, starting what is the first (of what I honestly hope are many) of these “talks.” My dad, a strong silent type, would always turn down the radio in the car and clear his throat before having any sort of serious talk, and I imagine my own little “tells” will make my girls feel the same little *gulp* I always felt. But regardless of how uncomfortable and foolish we all feel I want to keep having them, because whether or not I’m involved, my children will learn about sex. And when they do, it will be a confusing mishmash of information and twisted ideals. I want them to have a trusted source to bring it all home to. I want them to face it with a healthy amount of natural anticipation, while still holding it as something with purpose and holy design. I want them to step beyond the fear of moral obligation and walk with a deepened understanding of why God would place boundaries on something so natural and, let’s be honest, fun.

A few years back, my Facebook feed was flooded every couple days with various back-and-forth blog posts on the merit or the devastation of “waiting for marriage.” Testimony after testimony came out from people who grew up in religion and walked fearfully in almost “sacramental abstinence.” They would explain how their years of stifling sexual desire, even to the point of pretending it didn’t exist, had hindered and often been detrimental to their marriage. And in some ways, these articles were bringing up a good point. As the “capital C” Church, we have done a poor job preparing our young people for the beauty of sexual relationship. We have pounded into their heads: “NO. NO. NO.” (Picture Mean Girls’, Coach Carr: “At your age, you’re going to have a lot of urges. You’re going to want to take off your clothes and touch each other. But if you do touch each other, you will get chlamydia… and DIE.”) It seems, in some extremes, that we expect them to go from nuns to exhibitionists in a 24-hour period.  That the day before the wedding they are pleasing God by banishing every inkling of the existence of sex, and then overnight must please God by giving themselves wholly to their spouse.

Ok, I realize I may be exaggerating a bit, but I have had many conversations with girls in various youth groups, who feel this way. Terrified of their own desires, knowing what it is they’re not supposed to do, but outside of fear of wrongdoing, not understanding the why or the purpose of it all. Now, stay with me here, I am not about to give you a laundry list of moral metaphors and STDs. But I feel we have missed a great need among our young people by not digging into God’s plan for sexuality.

The Bible is full of “types”- stories, images or designs that are meant to symbolize and/or point to God’s ultimate plan for redemption and relationship with his people. The design of marriage and human sexuality is one of these types. Ephesians 5:22-32 describes how marriage is to be modeled after Jesus’ relationship to the church. The man and the woman are in exclusive, covenant relationship. Loving each other through self-sacrifice and mutual submission. But this is not the only time in scripture where the idea of marriage, and even sexual purity can be paralleled to the Gospel narrative.

I first realized this a few years back under the teaching of Jim and Drenda Killion. In one discussion, Jim walked us through the Oneness theme found throughout scripture. Here’s a brief outline (with my own observations thrown in!):

  • Genesis 1-2 God makes man and woman in His likeness- they are an image of his oneness, and are walking in unity with Him and each other. They, with God, are mirroring the fellowship unity enjoyed by the Trinity.
  • Genesis 3-11 describes how our oneness with God, as perfect image-bearers, was broken as sin was violently given reign. Our perfect unity with God was severed and we took on an “otherness” that separated us from God-who made us to be like Himself.
  • Genesis 12 through Malachi ushers in the time of Covenant community for Israel. The Law is given and God’s people live under its unyielding weight. The Law acts as a spotlight on humanity’s separation from God. Their “otherness” is juxtaposed by their inability to reach the oneness they were created to enjoy. The Law reveals their need for redemption and stirs a longing in their dead hearts for unified relationship with their Creator.
  • As we travel on into the New Testament, Jesus arrives and brings with Him the realization of what had nibbled deep down in our guts for centuries: a way to get back into perfect, shameless relationship with the God we were made for. He is the perfect image-bearer, and not only shows us how to walk in oneness, but is one with God. And now we eagerly await (Hebrews 9:28) the consummation of this re-unifying redemption: Christ’s return as described in Revelation 21.

So, here we are, back at my first uncomfortable sex talk with my daughter… What does any of the above have to do with how I want her to view her own sexuality? Well…everything.

In Genesis 1-2, Adam and Eve are created, man and woman. Separate beings, but made wholly one with each other and God. They live in shameless submission to each other and to God. Together, a perfect image of who God is and what his ultimate design for human relationship is. Genesis 3-11 shows us how far we have fallen from image-bearers, and the extensive laws placed on sexual morality (see Leviticus and Deuteronomy) reveal to us how far we have ventured from the shameless unity we were created to enjoy. The exclusivity God commands in covenant marriage and sexual purity  prepares us for the exclusivity of His salvation plan in Jesus.

Look around, sexual desire is either steeped in shame, in which we feel we need to hide it or stifle it, or we wave it around as proof of identity and purpose. And yet, marriage, sex, and the intimacy of husband and wife was intended to have kingdom purpose. It was designed to teach us something about God’s relationship with his people. It is far more than a stringent list of dos and don’ts, but a gift graciously given so that we might further look forward to Christ’s return. We must stop telling our youth, “NO NO NO” and start encouraging them to celebrate the gentle “wait.” We should wonder that God has placed in our physical bodies a desire for intimacy and unity that stirs in us, and should remind us of our longing for His return and our oneness to be restored.

Bottom line? God wants to redeem our sexuality. Whether it is unrealistic expectations, apathy, fear, lust, sex outside of marriage, an affair, same sex attraction, pornography… the list goes on. He wants to set you free. My pastor, JR Vassar said it best, “Freedom is not being able to do whatever you want to do, freedom is being able to do what you were created to do.” You were created to enjoy the unity and fun of sex within the security, purity and exclusivity of covenant marriage- so that your heart may be stirred and reminded that you were created for the intimate, vulnerable unity of exclusive relationship with Jesus.


photo courtesy of unsplash.com

One thought on “But Why: a discussion on sexual purity and the church

  1. Absolutely beautiful! Truth, clearly and lovingly spoken. Insightful, discerning. Balance of encouragement, anticipation and self-control. Genesis to Revelation–the full counsel fo scripture. I can see our Father smiling and saying well done! Love you, Bethie!


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