If the Bible Talks About Sex, Why Don’t We?
With the issue of sexuality there is very little the Bible doesn’t talk about. It’s not shy about all sorts of perversions – presumably because it is such a universal human issue. But it’s an uncomfortable topic. I’d be lying if I said I really didn’t want to answer this question. Nevertheless, in my travels, I keep coming back to it. I’m encountering a lot of single people who have a lot of unanswered questions and yet no-one seems willing to answer them. If you’re single, it’s become taboo to talk about sex. But I love breaking taboos, so here goes.
Before I begin, I’d like to take this opportunity to address my brothers and sisters who live with the regret of having failed to live up to God’s pure marriage design. I am not here to condemn you. I grieve alongside you for the part of you that was stolen by sin. We all have regrets and things we wished we could undo. His grace is sufficient to cover the shame and He does not want you to live in regret for past actions (2 Corinthians 12:9). Nor do I. Instead, I intend to comfort you. If you feel trapped by your desires and actions, my heart connects with you. I share your pain. Your tears, I have also cried for myself and with my beloved friends who have also found the unhealed scars of sin. I know how difficult Jesus’ command to “go and sin no more” (John 8:11) is in practice. I think Songs of Solomon 1:5-6 can be your comfort. Though the woman is darkened by sin and regret for having failed to ‘keep her own vineyard’, she delights in the loving mercy of her husband who looks upon her in delight. There is redemption and forgiveness on offer, regardless of how undeserving you might feel.
Sex was and has always been God’s intention for His creation. It was present in the Garden of Eden. The first thing that was not good about creation was that Adam was alone (Genesis 2:18), that is, he did not have a wife – a help mate. Following the fall, God gave Adam and Eve the command to “go forth and multiply” (Genesis 9:7). But the Bible is clear that sex is to be enjoyed by husband and wife. Paul tells us in Hebrews 13:4 that “marriage should be honoured by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and the sexually immoral. Marriage is honourable and the marriage bed undefiled: but the unfaithful and adulterers God will judge.” Who are the ‘unfaithful’ and ‘adulterers’? Jesus tells us in Matthew 5:28 that it can be anyone who undervalues marriage and indulges in sinful lust. “You have heard that it was said, ‘Do not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Regardless of whether the object of our desire is married or not, we commit adultery if we so much as think impure thoughts about another person.
Self-control is the key. But it is also very difficult. This leads me to a very sensitive issue which is often neglected and left unspoken. True, it is a difficult, unpleasant topic, but there are a lot of questions floating around, asking what the Bible says about self-sexual gratification. Quite simply, is masturbation right or wrong? Is it a sin? Well, first of all let’s look at what it means etymologically. ‘Masturbation’ literally means ‘self-abuse’ and I think that could not be more accurate. The Bible is strangely silent on the matter which is odd considering it does touch on issues like the sin of bestiality (Exodus 22:19, Leviticus 18:23, Leviticus 20:16, Deuteronomy 27:21). Nothing seems taboo except for this issue. Since it’s not a conversation many are willing to have there are few answers to satisfy the multitudes of questions.
The Bible calls us to be continually transformed through the renewing of our mind (Romans 12:2). It also tells us to “caste down arguments, and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5). Sin begins with a thought. Sexual sin is no different. It begins with a lustful eye, a wandering gaze and a wayward thought. Masturbation usually involves fantasy and visualisation, often utilising pornography. The Bible is very clear that these things are sins (Job 31:1-3, Matt 5:28) A lustful thought not taken captive, will eventually lead to other perversions, because sin reproduces just like righteousness does. As it reproduces, it becomes more complex and stronger. If we do not deal with our evil thoughts, they will take root in our hearts. Effectively, masturbation is an act of idolatry committed in the heart and mind before it is even committed physically.
Some sources I have consulted cite Tamar and Onan in Genesis 38 to explain that “spilling the seed” is a sin. I don’t subscribe to this thought because I think there were greater abuses playing out here – namely that Onan was going against God’s will in denying Tamar and his own brother Er the right to bear children. But I’m willing to be proven wrong on that.
Really though, masturbation and sexual visualisation is surely better than open fornication right? I may have once thought that but I’m not so sure anymore. As an action, it exists outside of God’s original plan for sex, which is designed to be enjoyed only within the marriage unit. Therefore, at best it can only be a temporary fulfillment of our permanent desires. I’ve consulted many medical sources and all seem to agree that masturbation is a means of creating a sex drive, not curbing it. The very nature of sin is that we become slaves to it. We crave it, we are consumed and it destroys us from within, often without us realising we were ever taken captive in the first place (John 8:34).
The very fact that the Bible speaks so much about the issue of sexuality acknowledges that it has power over us. It is easiest for the most beautiful of all gifts to become defiled by sin or when enjoyed outside of its season. The problem though is when we become too in love with the gift, seeking after the pleasure rather than seeking the Source of it. This is when a blessing can become a curse. First Corinthians 6:18 speaks of this fine line and warns us to “Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body.” Not that sin has varying degrees, but the Bible seems to say that this a very big sin and it means a lot to God.
If we truly believe that our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19), then we need to act accordingly. We need to flee temptation (James 4:7, 1 Corinthians 6:18). Whether single or married, we need to make a commitment with our eyes (Job 31:1) not to awaken desires before their appointed time (Songs of Solomon 8:4). It is better for us to keep the door to sexual immorality firmly closed. Indeed, this is much easier than trying to close it later. I know that it is shied upon to be considered ‘innocent’ in this world, because we equate it to child-likeness. But honestly, we are to be children before our Father in Heaven, we are to crave only righteousness and seek only what is pure (1 Peter 2:2-10). Running after sin may make us wise in this world, but it will also cause us more pain. Sex is addictive and it can cause tremendous harm to us if we use it outside of God’s original design. If in doubt about your actions, ask yourself this: ‘would I do this if my future spouse was in the room? Would I want them to know about this?’
But, I must stress this: if you have fallen into sin in this area, there is forgiveness and cleansing on offer. Next week, Andrew will explain that there is life after sexual sin, that there is freedom and healing through confessing and turning from our actions. We no longer have to live in regret.
Yours in comfort that God is in control of our lives and loves,