Many of the greatest names in church history felt the need to remove sexual references and spiritualize their interpretations of the Song of Solomon but the book clearly refers to sex. Sex itself is spiritual and is an act of worship in its own right.
-Paraphrase from CJ Mahaney’s Sex, Romance and the Glory of God message found on John Piper’s Desiring God website.
While watching the Forensic Files recently, I was saddened to see an episode in which an apartment complex handyman – who grew up a pastor’s son – purposely intruded into a female college student’s apartment while she took a shower. As the semester went on, he intruded again and murdered her. While I realize he’s certainly not excused for his evil actions and deserved to face the consequences, and obviously not all sexually repressed people turn out to be murderers, I wonder if he grew up in a prudish and legalistic environment. I wonder if this tragedy could have been averted if he knew that sex is a natural thing and an amazing gift from God. I also wonder if Josh Duggar would have turned out differently if he didn’t grow up in a legalistic Christian environment.
I feel the need to further discuss the struggle first mentioned in Skydiving without a parachute, as topics relating to sex and intimacy don’t get the attention they deserve in Christian circles, thus millions of Christians suffer in silence.
Take for instance a Christian woman who I estimate to be about 40. She blogs about joy in hard circumstances and recently wrote her first post about sex with great trepidation and reluctance, admitting her fearful apprehension in the article’s opening statement.
There is no biblical reason to be petrified to discuss a beautiful gift to which an entire book of the Bible is devoted, a gift that keeps humanity going. Sure, sex is a subject to be handled with care, but the tendency to throw the baby away with the bath water is one we Christians must overcome. God in His infinite holiness wasn’t afraid to talk about sex, so there’s no reason we can’t emulate His holy but candid approach to sexual dialogue.
As a matter of fact, if you’re a Christian who’s too “holy” to discuss sex, there may be some moralistic pride in the picture. There’s a chance you think you’re holier than God.
I know some Christians are too frank and explicit and talk about sex too frequently, although the vast majority of Christians swing towards the other extreme. Having a moralistic, “sex is bad and dirty, so pretend it doesn’t exist” attitude only hurts Christians.
The moralistic, prudish Christian who refuses to engage in biblically edifying sexual discussion is just as dangerous as the irreverent one who discusses it crudely and explicitly.
Like I said in Skydiving, the key to maintaining a healthy balance is to discuss sex in biblical, carefully worded, non-arousing ways. Avoiding sexual discussions altogether is equally dangerous. The moralistic, prudish Christian who refuses to engage in biblically edifying sexual discussion is just as dangerous as the irreverent one who discusses it crudely and explicitly.
We don’t live in the sky. Believers don’t yet have glorified bodies that have no desire for intimacy. We can’t pretend that sex doesn’t exist when we’re single. When it comes to sex, unfortunately, most of us Christians fail to be realistic.
Some would say “keep your ANR desire to yourself. Why insert this eroticism into other Christians’ minds?”
Because thousands of other Christians want this intimacy in marriage, but are told to keep it to themselves. Someone had to speak up. This blog was borne out of necessity.
And I do my best to keep it clean, please forgive me if anything here has ever caused you to stumble.
I said in a comment that I’ve been divinely convicted to ponder whether I, being a single man, am qualified to discuss sexuality and intimacy. Scripture however, never forbids Christians at any stage of their walk from discussing sex. The apostle Paul was a lifelong bachelor and he wrote about sex. Since our sex drive is a gift God grants us before marriage, there’s no biblical reason to avoid discussing it in wholesome ways prior to marriage. Obviously, I don’t mean one-on-one conversations with a girlfriend. In view here are group discussions and same-sex discipleship sessions.
If I told a female cashier at my neighborhood grocery store or a random sister at church “I want to have an ANR with you”, I could understand how utterly sinful and shocking that would be, but we’re not talking about random strangers or mere church acquaintances here. I mean a woman with whom I’m considering spending the rest of my life, and being intimate with like Christ is with the church- with His indwelling Holy Spirit, so I think Christ would be okay with me very cautiously letting her know of this desire that is bound to affect her greatly. I have never regretted bringing this up to any prospective girlfriends, and they’ve all been great at receiving this with a maturity that understands it’s okay to bring up such matters in the context of a would-be romance. We Christians ought to be more willing to give believing boyfriends and girlfriends more leeway to discuss matters that God endorses but aren’t guaranteed to happen. A wise intern would have his/her biblically genuine concerns addressed before signing a permanent employment contract. It shouldn’t be any different for Christians considering marriage.
I thank God that only through His Spirit, I don’t have mental ANRs with women I come across in my day-to-day life. Rather, my desire is mostly attached to the hope of enjoying this gift in marriage alone. With God the Spirit dwelling in us, being very sexual and very monogamous is an absolute possibility, more than that, it’s the expectation for the regenerate.
If we read God’s Word in its entirety, we’ll see it views sexual desire as something wonderfully God-glorifying. The Bible endorses sexual desire and speaks against those who abuse it because the desire isn’t sinful, it’s what you do with it that may or may not be sinful.
“Don’t deprive each other”, says the Holy Spirit in 1 Corinthians 7. In this chapter, we see that God knows sexual desire is something natural and that deprivation only causes problems. While the passage refers to married couples, some of its principles apply to singles. If for example, you enjoy cuddling, don’t deprive yourself of your God-given freedom to marry a believer who enjoys the same.
I’m a Christian who chooses to be wise and realistic. I choose to plan ahead, because desiring great sex and intimacy in marriage and working to make it happen is not condemned in Scripture. I’ve received comments and emails from fellow believers of both sexes who have felt the tension, depression and isolation that ensues when one lives among Christians who gasp in horror at the most innocuous mention of sex, and add to that a society that views ANRs as super weird. These comments includes one from a married woman who feels heartbroken and emotionally distant because her husband has absolutely no interest in an ANR. Sadly, this woman is a casualty of society. ANR-desiring Christians are caught between a rock and a hard place, for how is one supposed to deal with a strong desire for something most people consider weird and for which your fellow believers would judge you if you dare mention? Again, God has nothing against single Christians maneuvering to optimize their sexual and intimate lives after marriage. It’s when we actually do the deed before exchanging vows, lust, fantasize about it, masturbate or view pornography that He has a problem with. And thank God we have a Cross to run to whenever that occurs.
Sexual desire is neither sinful nor scary. Indeed, what’s scary is having no sexual desire at all.
If you desire an ANR in marriage or any other biblically encouraged but socially frowned upon form of intimacy, don’t let non-believing society or moralistic, prudish Christians stop you. It’s completely okay to pursue it, as long as you’re being extremely cautious and Christ-dependently pursuing purity. Don’t let anyone stop you from being realistic, reasonable and applying God-given wisdom.
God is unspeakably holy and will pour out His unrestrained wrath on sexual sin. He is also scandalously gracious and loves when His saints bond extremely well in marriage. Let’s keep things in perspective. Let’s avoid being narrow-minded about our Creator and His design for marriage.
The knowledge that God will utterly crush the sexually unfaithful should only move us towards marrying someone who fits us in every way – including sexually.
“Binding another human being’s conscience is equivalent to playing God.”
– Pastor JF, a friend of mine