I have a question for those who think that sex is primarily a physical act: why have you never heard of someone going to a counselor for years after smashing their thumb with a hammer? I’ve done that before. I’ve also smashed a finger in a barn door, and it was one of the most intensely painful experiences of my life.
But aside from having a silly story to tell and being extra carful around the hinges of doors, I’ve really never looked back.
One single, violating sexual act, however, can create years of trauma and dysfunction.
Because sex is far, far more than just a physical act. It’s highly relational, highly spiritual.
Each year I spend time trying to figure out different ways of saying the same thing to our students at Covenant Fellowship. In the realm of sexuality, here are the basics of a recent lesson I did on Guilt Free Relationships (AKA Great Sexpectations). (Disclaimer, much of the language and principles for this were taken from a combination of Andy Stanley Lessons on sex, especially 7 Checkpoints for Student Ministry. He’s much smarter and more concise than me, check out his sermons on Margins or books on moral boundaries.)
For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; 4 that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, 5 not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God; 6 that no one transgress and wrong his brother in this matter, because the Lord is an avenger in all these things, as we told you beforehand and solemnly warned you. 7 For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness. 8 Therefore whoever disregards this, disregards not man but God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you.
1 Thessalonians 4: 3-8
This is a powerful passage. First, it’s one of the few straightforward times that directly tells you the will of God. It gives a specific call to moral purity, holiness, and a warning that God is the avenger of those who are taken advantage of. We do well not to ignore these words.
God calls us to purity, but purity is not the ultimate goal. The goal is intimacy. By intimacy, we mean “knowing and being fully known without fear of rejection”. This is really what we all want, with other people and with God.
Purity paves the way for Intimacy.
I tell the men: Culture is lying to you. It says you need to work on your sexual skills. In truth, what you need to work on is your relational skills. Because great sex is HIGHLY relational. You practice your relational skills by learning to treat your mother kindly, listen to and care for your sisters, and interact with your Christian sisters. Yes, being nice to your mom and sisters can have a direct impact on your future sex life. Weird. Awkward. True.
I tell the women: You know that culture is lying to you as well. When a physical relationship ends, you feel insecure, angry, used. Because sex is relational glue.
Sex is this awesome, incredible gift, intended to connect two people who are merging living space, finances, meals, and dreams. That’s HARD to do, and sex is this amazing physical, chemical, relational bond that draws you together and helps minimize someone’s annoying habits.
The problem is when you spend that glue before marriage, you start minimizing warning signs, bonding to the wrong people, and stunting your communication skills because messing around physically is easier than working through differences.
And the fear of rejection goes sky high.
If you want true intimacy, walk the path of purity.
How far is too far?
Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise.
He who trusts in himself is a fool, but he who walks in wisdom is kept safe.
Given these verses as a guideline, I leave you with a Common Sense approach that I so appreciate form Andy Stanley:
- The further you go, the faster you go
- The further you go, the further you want to go
- The further you go, the harder it is to go back
- Where you draw the line determines 3 things:
- The arena of your temptation
- The intensity of your temptation
- The consequences of giving in to temptation.
So perhaps, the best question isn’t “How far can I go?” Perhaps, a much better question is “How far do I want the person I’m going to spend the rest of my life to go right before they meet me?”
Great sex is a gift from God. So is fire. In both cases, let’s use them as they are intended.
Don’t get burned.