I think the church needs to do a better job talking about sex. There; I said it.
I feel more than qualified to make this statement. Not because I’m an expert on anything. It’s because multiple areas of my life have been/will be affected, and I’m just not satisfied that the church is stepping up to the plate and talking about the things it needs to be.
Where did we go wrong? How did we manage to let so many different places- school, movies, music, friends-be the only places where we talk about sex? When it comes to Christians, we are notorious for hating on sex outside of marriage. That’s pretty much all we are known for on the topic-by Christians and Non-Christians alike. As someone heavily involved in youth ministry, it’s the most frustrating thing in the world.
We spend a lot of time talking about a lot of things-tithing, prayer, service, worship-all incredibly important things. Yet when it comes to sex? We brush it off. Or when we do talk about it, we talk about it in negative terms. So how do we change this?
1. Stop talking about sex (and the people who engage in it) as disgusting.
Sex isn’t dirty or shameful. It isn’t something we should shy away from. God made a lot of cool things, and sex was one of them. God did create sex to be between two married people, but in an attempt to express this we started shaming anyone who had sex outside of marriage.
What the Bible says is clear; no one is questioning that. Yet there are so many sins that people are committing every day, and although we don’t celebrate them, we don’t freak out as much.
You lied? “Well, don’t do it again.” You got a divorce? “That is unfortunate, but no worries.”
You had sex outside of marriage? “WHAT? You are a disgrace!”
We started casting sex in this negative light that makes people view it as awful. It seems like a valid way to prevent premarital sex from happening now, yet what about when people actually are married and the church says it is fine to have sex now? Do you think that all of those years of reinforcement that sex is awful simply disappear? Sadly, no.
2. Stop using shame as a scare tactic to prevent sex.
Using shame as a scare tactic to try and keep people from sinning isn’t effective, especially not in a Christian view. Because now, we are having young people (especially women) growing up, getting married, who can FINALLY enjoy the gift God created for them without shame or regret-but the shame and regret are still there. Because we’ve grown up in a setting where sex isn’t talked about at best, and is shamed at worst. Even when it’s okay, even when you do it in the right context it still ends up feeling like you’re doing something wrong. You can’t undo years of conditioning in one night. Married couples shouldn’t have to deal with the lingering stigma that they are doing something terrible when in fact, they should be enjoying every second of it.
3. Don’t promise people that if they save sex for marriage, they will have a perfect sex life.
Let me be clear: I’m not encouraging people that they should have sex before marriage necessarily. I understand that people have good intentions when they tell people this because we know God blesses us and He really wants to bless us when we get married. It’s one of the the most symbolic expressions of the way God loves us.
Here is what I am saying: If you make promises like this, you are setting these couples up for disappointment.
Sex is something that is beautiful and intimate…and sometimes awkward. Especially if you’ve never done anything sexual before, it’s going to take some learning and getting used to. It won’t magically be amazing because you waited until your wedding night to have sex. It will be special between you and your partner, and that bond will be strong. But just like any other two individuals, it takes time to learn each other. It will take some practice. It doesn’t mean it won’t be worth it, it just means it probably won’t be perfect initially. And that is totally okay.
4. We need to talk about this in our Youth Groups.
I know that this is where some parents might cringe and want to throw a Bible at me. “Talk about sex to our teens? No!” Yet the one thing parents don’t always want to realize is that it’s very likely your teenager is hearing about sex from other places. Their friends, music, movies, books, and programs at schools just to name a few. If by some incredible feat you’ve managed to shield your child from all of these things, you won’t be able to do so forever. Eventually your child is going to hear about sex.
Parents should be heading up the discussion, but wouldn’t you want the second place for your child to really hear more about sex be at church, where they can hear God’s take on it? The Bible has a lot to say about sex – and not just verses on sexual immorality and homosexuality. I’m grateful that in my youth group, we talked about sex in an open manner. There is a whole entire book dedicated to two people falling in love, dealing with sexual temptation, withstanding it, getting married, and enjoying sex in their marriage. (Song of Solomon is super interesting guys!) Teenagers have more questions than they want us to think, and they (along with young adults) are some of the bigger targets experiencing sexual situations. If we want them to learn about sex in a Christian perspective, we have to start talking about it with them. It’s really that simple.
5. We need to stop telling people who have been sexually active that they have lost their “value.”
This is something that seems to be more directed at young women, but it applies to guys all the same. Your value is not in your virginity. It never has been. When God created us, he formed us in specific and unique ways. When you lose your virginity, you do not suddenly become worthless in the eyes of God and you shouldn’t be worthless to anyone else.
It appears that the church doesn’t always do the best job of letting people know that if they have had premarital sex, that they are still valuable. We tend to generalize things into “God still loves you, no matter what you’ve done.” Yet we still manage to send the message that if you’re a virgin, you are worth more than someone who isn’t. Let me tell you, the world is already putting a huge stigma on women who have had sex: slut-shaming is an issue in modern culture. The church shouldn’t be giving a “Christian version” of that same message. We need to still be validating people who have had sex as worthy people of God’s love and grace, because God has not written them off due to their sexual history. Neither should we.
6. We need to talk about the other things surrounding sex.
Let’s be real; the majority of Christian teens and young adults can tell you, “We can’t have sex outside of marriage.” That message has been emblazoned on our foreheads since we were old enough to understand the sentence. Yet what we don’t always mention is that sex isn’t the only thing on the table. Oral sex. Anal sex. Foreplay. There is so much more to sex than just the act itself, and majority of the time these other things are what people are doing to “keep themselves from going all the way.” We don’t talk about the fact that foreplay wasn’t meant to be the only thing you do, it’s meant to get things going and lead up to actually have sex. We don’t talk about the fact that oral and anal sex are things that shouldn’t be used as a substitute for intercourse.
I have dated almost exclusively Christian guys, with a few exceptions. The general message was clear. “We can’t have sex! NO. But…we can do this.” We were all pretty confused because no sex was “good” and sex was “bad” but everything in the middle? We wondered if it was really wrong, so we just acted like it wasn’t. We grew up in this cloudy culture where sex is barely talked about, but the other stuff is talked about even less. We don’t address how these things affect us, because even someone who hasn’t had sex, but has done sexual things, can be left with baggage and confusion that they don’t know how to handle. It’s time we step up and start talking about it.
7. Let’s not pretend we have all the answers, but let’s give it our best shot.
I will be the first to say that I don’t have all the answers. The thing I do know is that there is a real need in the church to talk about sex and the things surrounding it. People in church are not people who are dumb-some of the most creative people I know are Christians. Shouldn’t we be able to find a way to talk about this stuff without freaking out and shying away from something God thinks is awesome? I know that either way, something needs to change. The church should be a place where we can ask the bold and uncomfortable questions, and do so in a way that honors God as well as helping us all gain a better understanding of sex.