". . . and having done all . . . stand firm." Eph. 6:13


Sex Is Not About Sex; We Are Not Our Own.

Scripture speaks of virgins and a Virgin Birth, of the erotic and the carnal, of heterosexual and homosexual behaviors, of the body and the flesh. Does the youth group your son or daughter attends ever address these issues? If not, the morning paper does, the evening television news does, the weekly news magazines do, their peers do, and their schools may. … Do the churches have a heart for teenagers who live in a sex-laden atmosphere? If so, if our teenagers are to be light and salt in their own environment, someone must help them make sense of sexuality. What is the effect of such a sex-laden atmosphere on teens today?” — Barbara Kohl

Sexuality is no longer a taboo topic in our culture, yet it still is within the church. This is detrimental to our society and needs to change. Abstinence until marriage teaching, the widely employed form of sex education within the church, will not suffice on its own without diving deeper into biblical sexuality that can stand against the modern sexual ethic.

We are blessed to live in a nation that was founded on many inherently biblical ideals. Jesus’s death and resurrection is responsible for the widely accepted values of equality, love, and respect for all humans. Because of this, we still see the appeal to love as the highest good of our society even if it has been widely secularized and distorted. Except now, God is not love, but “love is love.”

Since God has been taken out of the equation in American society, there is no anchor to what constitutes real love. Americans follow their heart, yet Jeremiah 17:9 says the heart is the most deceitful thing. Why is this the case? Because we are fallen. Eve questioned God’s intent and direction regarding the fruit just as we today question God’s intent for human sexuality. Our current cultural predicament is a perfect example of the predatory effects of looking to our hearts to define reality rather than scripture, even if we do everything in the name of the biblical principle of love.

It’s time to ask where has following the heart gotten us?

This initially small deviation from scripture laid the groundwork for the American sexual revolution in the 60s and eventually, in 2010, a complete defunding of abstinence-only programs in public schools. This radical change supports a new culture that believes that love is whatever we want it to be, and sexual promiscuity is real freedom. Sex used to be seen as an expression of love — hence the term “making love” which continues to be a reference hinting at its original purpose. Yet now, without an understanding of what love even is, it has been almost entirely separated into a selfish exchange resulting only in momentary pleasure. Since then, the cultural message pushed continues to be “my body my choice” in every. sense. of. the. phrase.

The popularity of birth control pills in the 60s, the Supreme Court’s invention of a right to abortion in the 70s, the perpetual rise of fatherlessness, and the recent obsession with LGBT “rights” are all products of this shift but also continue to enforce the destruction of what once was at least a traditional view of marriage and sexuality. Operating under this selfish sexual ethic, we got the hook-up culture — men seeking out women for their own sexual fulfillment and women not only allowing it but catering to the disrespect in the name of sexual liberation. In all of this, sex is seen as a means for pleasure. Yet Scripture says the opposite. Sex is intended only within the confines of marriage because it is a physical, spiritual, and emotional connection that serves a purpose. It is a gift from God that unites the couple to each other but also has the potential to produce offspring.

What is the church's role in this slippery slope?

Through it all, the driving principle of the world is that giving into the desires of our flesh will result in our enjoyment, and to deny them is to live an unfulfilled life in bondage. Yet this is in direct opposition to the biblical teaching of chastity outside of marriage, and the church must challenge it head on. This is a widespread issue that impacts every area of our society: relationally, personally, politically, and culturally. We have idolized sex and completely rejected its purpose.

As ambassadors for Christ, our calling is to shed light on these lies because no one else will. We know that the most loving thing to do in the face of sin is not to stay silent, but to lovingly correct and guide in the right direction. The problem is the church rarely even addresses sex, and without doing so, passively accepts society’s take on the issue.

A Pew Research poll conducted in 2020 showed that only 41% of evangelical Christians would never approve of premarital sex. While I do not negate that the evangelical Protestants had the highest score on this graph and therefore seem to hold truest to biblical teachings, that still leaves 59% of churchgoing evangelicals who would rarely, always, or sometimes approve of premarital sex. This is a problem that the body of Christ cannot allow; something must change.

Sex was created by God and therefore is good and meant for good. Most Christians are raised to not really talk about it because the church shies away from the issue, and therefore encourages families to do the same. Waiting until marriage is the focus of many sermons, and in turn seems to be the solution to sexual temptation. This approach simply doesn’t do justice to God’s glorious plans for his creation.

It leaves children, teens, and adults within the church with the question of why? Why is sex meant solely for marriage when society says the opposite? Why does purity matter if society ridicules me? How do I tackle the temptations until marriage?

When the church only teaches “sex before marriage is bad” or even “sex in marriage is good,” there is still so much of the societal ethic left unaddressed. This orients the Christian to put their hope in having sex one day, just not today. The teaching goes, “You just have to wait because that’s how God intends it.” The assumption is that this hope will be enough to curb the day-to-day temptations for someone in a relationship or those who will be. It leads the hearer to believe that the ultimate fulfillment of their desires will be in marriage rather than the Lord — opening a massive door for idolatry.

The hope of marriage will not equip anyone with power to withstand temptation. Ultimately, sex signifies something much greater, while marriage signifies something transcendent — the union of Christ and the church. Time and time again Scripture refers to the Lord as the bridegroom.

Isaiah 62:5 is a perfect example of this, “… As the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall your God rejoice over you.”

The untainted desire to be united with the one you love should ultimately point to Christ and mirror his desire to be with us in eternity.

Ultimately, our desires find their fulfillment in their Maker. What we need is not a spouse or an accountability partner, but intimacy and trust with the Father who made us. What we need is not the hope of marriage but the hope of Christ. We must address the oversexualization of sex itself. Sex is not about sex, because we are not our own. Trying to combat lust and temptations in general while misunderstanding the God-glorifying purposes of sex and marriage will only lead us to idolatry.

There is much to say about sexuality in scripture, churches just need to be bold enough to step out against the norm of abstinence teaching alone and directly challenge the cultural ethic of today. We are called to be Christ’s ambassadors so we must teach biblical sexuality that is focused on the Lord and his purposes in our churches — and therefore in our homes and communities as well.

Baylie McClafferty and Deniza Toma serve as interns at Family Research Council.