Women and the Silent Struggle of Sexual Sin
Tell me how many times this has played out in your church: the pastor begins a sermon on something equally relevant to everyone; he goes on and on about the Sermon on the Mount as everyone in the pews takes notes attentively — until he gets to the part about lust. Matthew writes in 5:27, “I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” The pastor makes a joke about the topic, because it’s uncomfortable, then he herds the men into a talk about unbiblical desire and women into a talk about modesty, unknowingly shaming half of the congregation.
Time and time again, women are led to believe that lust is a sin that only men struggle with. And the church is the main instigator of this myth — mostly by accident. Even the tiniest of word choices, using “he” or “his” when referring to lust, can drive a woman to deep humiliation and isolation, feeling like she might be the only female dealing with the same thing.
Naturally, sexual impurity inflicts shame and a feeling of uncleanliness on any believer. The Bible is not sparing when talking about lust. For instance, 1 Corinthians 6 sets sexual sin apart from the others. “Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body.” Another in 1 Thessalonians 4 states, “For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality.”
What we are seeing here is that God does not take sexual immorality lightly. This is because He loves and cares for us, and He knows the detrimental effects that puncture those involved. His seriousness about all sin, but this one particularly, is because He knows how deep the wounds cut, and the ripple effect of falling prey.
This same truth applies to everyone. Both Adam and Eve were cursed in the fall.
Studies show that 87% of Christian women have watched porn — and that’s only considering those in the church walls. Another study uncovers that 89% of all women partake in self-gratification, only 6% less than the average man. Clearly, lust is not just a sin that men wrestle with. It’s universal.
Church culture is very accepting of men talking about sexual temptations. It’s actually encouraged. Most churches expect these conversations to arise, and they have battle plans and sermon series dedicated to helping men with this innate struggle. Men are advised to bring it to the light, to tackle it together, in community, with the strength and power of Christ. “But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, for anything that becomes visible is light,” Ephesians 5:13-14 says. The best tactic for fronting sexual sin is exposure, because it festers in secret.
Women hear the same sermons, and may even take the truths to heart, but she is forced to do it privately. She swallows the urge to speak up, because she already feels alone as the gaze is only directed towards the men in the room. She is pushed to the sideline with the other women who are encouraged to be more modest, and cheer for the troops of men battling against the monster of lust — never having the chance to bring her own conviction to light.
Christians must confront this matter and make a change in the church.
First, sexual immorality should be talked about with frequency. Dancing around the topic makes it more taboo than it ought to be. Scripture is brimming with warnings and truths about lust, and we all know it is prevalent and destructive, so we need to address it more.
Second, this is the only time I will ever find myself saying this phrase: be mindful of your pronouns … when talking about sexual sin in the church. Stop only addressing the men when talking about lust. Foster a space for both genders that encourages healthy confession in community.
James tells us in the end of his book to “confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed.” There is healing power in confession in a community of believers. This is the living, breathing, and active Word of God revealing that there is healing power available on the backend of us bringing our sins to light. Churches, provide your women with this same opportunity as men. Talk about the commonality of sexual immorality, equipping your church body to pursue purity — and be mindful of your pronouns when you do.