Sex: A Gift and a Responsibility
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By Chad Hills
Sex. It seems to be all around you: On television, in the movies, in magazines, on cell phones and on the Web. Everywhere you turn, sexual images and messages are coming your way. Knowing how to keep sex in its proper perspective and place is key to successfully navigating the overwhelming media and other pressures you might face each day.
For the most part, sexual messages coming from culture put sexuality on the same level as getting a new cell phone: Everyone’s reportedly trying it out (not true) and when it’s time for an upgrade, there’s no harm done in tossing aside the old one to start fresh—it’s increasingly viewed as temporary and disposable (also not true). Yet, unlike utilizing technology, sex connects with the deepest part of your being and, when experienced outside of God’s design, casual sex can leave you with pain and sorrowful experiences you never signed up for.
Bottom line: When you take sex out of the context of God’s ordered plan, it can lead to sexual diseases, out-of-wedlock pregnancies and the crushing weight of coping with sexual emotions in isolation. But God never intended it to be that way. God intends sex to be a source of satisfaction, honor, and delight to those who enjoy it within the parameters of the moral standards He has established. Biblically speaking, human sexuality is both a gift and a responsibility.
Research has found that humans are wired to “mate” for life – our brains form permanent “bonds” with sexual partners, which further supports God’s best for man and woman in lifelong marriages. There is no “safe” sex outside of marriage, as sex leaves a physical, emotional, mental and spiritual “imprint.”
In the end, most find the pursuit of “anything-goes sex” temporal, shallow and meaningless. Researcher and author, Donna Freitas, surveyed college students in the “hook-up” scene, and found that most of them were not happy or satisfied with casual sex outside of a committed relationship. Her book, Sex and the Soul (Oxford, 2008), discusses her findings about the dissatisfaction young adults are experiencing with temporary relationships and casual sex. By contrast, sex that honors God’s guidelines and standards is healthy and satisfying. He designed sexual activity to be physically enjoyable, emotionally satisfying, psychologically fulfilling, and spiritually meaningful because He delights in the joys and pleasures of His creatures. God’s guidelines for sexuality are meant to protect and increase human happiness.
The problem is, some have never seen God’s model for relationship and sexuality lived out as an example. Others have seen marriage through a dysfunctional, unhealthy and/or violent lens. Too few have seen marriage modeled as God truly intended it to be: A sacrificial, loving and intimate companionship between a man and woman for life, where the best and most satisfying sexual experience is the byproduct of a thriving, healthy relationship under the covering of God – this is the marriage you want to find and duplicate in your life. Don’t settle for a counterfeit form of sexuality that’s less than the best God has for you—and ultimately robs you of the gift of true intimacy.
A great gift requires great responsibility. Marriage is that “gift” in which sexuality can thrive. But a loving, solid, healthy marriage that yields a great sexual relationship will require maturity, communication, openness, dedication and lots responsibility. And it must always be seasoned with love and respect. (1Cor. 7 and 13 contains some great advice for how a husband and wife should treat one another).
Also, if you’ve done some things in the past that you regret and feel like you’ve already missed the mark—don’t despair. I like the way one author we’ve published worded it: “Remember that no sexual sin is beyond God’s forgiveness. Thankfully, He doesn’t withhold forgiveness or grace from those who ask for it. I John 1:9 promises that if you confess your sins, He is faithful to forgive and to cleanse you. Psalm 103: 12 also promises, ‘As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us.’”
“In addition to forgiveness, God wants you to embrace His grace that will help you move forward in life and embrace the promises He has for you with joy.”
Here are some points to consider as you seek that goal:
If you want to maintain the most emotionally and physically healthy pattern for your life, love and respect should be your focus during dating or courtship—not sexual activity. Focus on building a solid foundation for a lifelong relationship. Remember: Studies find that happily adult married couples have the best and most satisfying sexual experience. So you have a lot to look forward to!
Plus, making this kind of commitment helps you protect yourself and others physically. People who wait until marriage to have sexual relations are protected against sexual infections, which is at epidemic levels: One half of sexually active people will have a sexual infection before age 25. This is serious stuff you don’t want to treat casually: HIV/AIDS is deadly, and other infections like HPV or Chlamydia can cause cervical cancer or prevent women from having a baby. Most people don’t even know they are infected until they’ve passed the infection to someone else.
For college students—keep in mind that researchers at Rutgers University have found that living together before you are married to “test the waters” actually increases the likelihood of divorce after you are married. Furthermore, living together is not the same as being committed together for a lifetime. Sexuality has permanence in marriage, but it’s only temporary in any relationship outside of marriage. Read more about this here.
Also, guard your mind for your future spouse. Pornography is sexual fantasy that has no basis in real life. The brain is the largest sexual organ in our body, and pornography “imprints” fantasy sexual experiences in our memory. Eventually, it can create distorted sexual addictions and compromise, undermine—or even possibly destroy— your marriage in the future. It brings unrealistic expectations into marriage and creates dissatisfaction when your “real” spouse cannot become a “fantasy” sex object. It’s best to run from porn and to avoid it at all costs. Find a Christian counselor if you are already hooked on porn and cannot stop looking at it. Focus on the Family has caring counselors who would be glad to speak with students and families struggling with this issue. Our counseling department can provide your family with a referral to a licensed Christian therapist in your community. You can reach our counseling department Monday through Friday during business hours at 1-800-232-6459 (6:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. Mountain Time.)
Most importantly, remember that the meaning of life isn’t about finding your worth in a sexual identity or relationships. It’s about finding who you are in Christ. God made you, and He loves you as a son or daughter. Read Who Am I? Finding Eternal Significance.
Chad Hills is the sexual health analyst for Focus on the Family.