On God & Sex

On God and Sex. I’ve been having this conversation a lot with my friends lately. None of them went to a private school. None of them had a particularly religious upbringing. God and religion are just something they experience once or twice a year, on Christmas or Easter.

I, on the other hand, grew up hearing the word of Our Lord. I grew up with weekly chapels. I grew up memorizing Bible verses and praying before lunch in the cafeteria. I grew up in a Christian school.

I’m thankful for it. I got an exemplary education and had many close friends, mostly because there weren’t many people to choose from. The kids I graduated with were the kids I played on the playground with in kindergarten. The kids I graduated with were the kids who saw me through my awkward years. We were a family, in the truest sense of the word. Brothers and sisters in Christ, as my teachers used to put it.

I was never overtly religious. I believed in God, and I prayed every so often. My family attended church semi-regularly, and I would consider myself a Christian, just not a very devout one. I had my weak moments growing up. I drank and smoked with my friends. I swore. But then I went to chapel and sang worship songs. I was a dichotomy in the eyes of my classmates, but it all made perfect sense to me: I believed in God, but I did what normal teenagers do. I didn’t think there was anything wrong with being both a rebel and a believer. God’s whole thing is to forgive, right?

I drank and smoked with my friends. I swore. But then I went to chapel and sang worship songs. I was a dichotomy in the eyes of my classmates, but it all made perfect sense to me: I believed in God, but I did what normal teenagers do. I didn’t think there was anything wrong with being both a rebel and a believer.

Starting college was a harsh transition. I was plucked from my tiny, God-fearing bubble and placed in secular whirlwind. College is nothing like the real world, but it has been one of the greatest experiences of my life. Not only do I feel like I really found myself (cheesy, yes), but I also found great friends who I didn’t grow up with, yet who loved me nonetheless. I’d choose college over high school any day, and I’m sure I’m not the only one who would tell you that.

I haven’t lost that Christian background, but I haven’t exactly been paying as much mind to it as I did in high school. I don’t have chapel once a week in college. My friends here only consider God on holidays. Many of my original beliefs have remained unchanged, however. Except for one: sex.

Ah, the S word. A taboo subject for those unmarried. In high school, when we received the sex talk, we were told of condoms and birth control, but we weren’t instructed to use those. Abstinence was our mandate. No sex before marriage was our only option. And for a while, I followed it.

Don’t worry, I’m not going to be get into the nitty-gritty of my sex life with you. The Internet is a very open place, but I’m not that open.

In college, sex isn’t that big of a deal. Sex is a normal part of life. Multiple hook ups are a normal part of life. Sex isn’t taboo; it’s encouraged. Dating doesn’t exist—the preferred method for male-female interactions is hooking up casually after a night out at the bar. This being the norm, my opinions on pre-marital sex obviously changed. Condoms and birth control took the place of abstinence. The world kept turning.

My opinions on pre-marital sex obviously changed. Condoms and birth control took the place of abstinence. The world kept turning.

Many of my high school friends that chose to attend Christian colleges don’t share my belief. They still choose abstinence. They’re still holding out for marriage. They don’t look down on me for believing what I do, but they don’t necessarily approve, either. To them, sex before marriage is a dire sin—one to be avoided at all costs.

But here’s what gets me: they lie. They cheat on tests. They get drunk. They’re human. And isn’t to be human to be a sinner?

It’s impossible to not sin. I’m probably sinning as I type this without even realizing it. And if all sins are equal, doesn’t that mean that if I have sex with someone, it’s the same as you lying to your mom about your biology grade?

I don’t have all the answers. I’m really not sure how it all works, but I am sure about one thing: I can’t picture God keeping you out of heaven because you had sex with someone you love. I just really can’t.

Conversation around the Internet on this post:

Rethinking Sex” & “Rethinking ‘Rethinking Sex‘” By Brandon Roberstson

101.5 WordFM | The John & Kathy Show [Begins at the 12:45 minute mark]

[This is a guest post from Hannah Gordon, you can find more of her stuff at thoughcatalog.com, or follow her on Twitter @_hannahncole]

POPULAR AT PATHEOS Progressive Christian
What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • KeatonL

    ‘It’s impossible to not sin. I’m probably sinning as I type this without even realizing it. And if all sins are equal, doesn’t that mean that if I have sex with someone, it’s the same as you lying to your mom about your biology grade?’

    This seems self-defeating. So premarital sex IS sinful, but no more sinful than lying to your mother? So premarital sex is therefore fine. And so, presumably then, is lying to your mother? Not sure that’s a great basis off of which to butt up against centuries of accumulated wisdom. Also not sure it makes sense as a logical system. Finally, all sins are understood as being equal in the sense that they all alienate you from God, but some tally up a hell of a lot larger emotional and relational credit card bill than others.

    Further, ‘I can’t picture God keeping you out of heaven because you had sex with someone you love,’ kind of implies a weird soteriology. From what I understand, most conservatives (I guess I’d lump myself in here) believe that salvation can come in spite of just about every sin in the book, so long as a relationship with Jesus is established by way of his death and resurrection. So I imagine the conservatives who really flinch at this post would say something like, “I can’t imagine Him doing that either. I can imagine Him forgiving the premarital sex, though and advising against it.”

    Essentially, the argument here is that once experience reveals that certain beliefs aren’t as black and white as we previously believed, the only answer is to throw up our hands and say ‘well, I dunno then’ and discard these beliefs. The problem here is that allowing social proof to rule your moral life is a disastrous proposition when you really get down to it. The fact that something is hard or impossible doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be undertaken. Something being easy and convenient doesn’t make it advisable. Logical validity is no guarantee of truth. Fortunately, I’m not sure there is even logical validity here. I sincerely hope this person will continue searching.

  • http://allthingsareyours.wordpress.com/ Heather Goodman

    The Bible doesn’t say all sins are equal. In the case of sexual sin, the Bible actually refers to it as one of the more injurious sins – here’s the text on the topic:

    “1 Corinthians 6:18 Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. 19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, 20 for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.”

    I’m not sharing this with you to heap condemnation on your choices or anything like that; but I do think it’s important to know how sex historically was and is viewed by believers. It’s not that it’s more “damnable” of a sin per se but it’s that it has greater immediate ramifications than say, lying or cheating or a test. Not that those things are ok either, but it’s not just about a moral code; it’s about respect for God’s value upon our bodies and our selves.
    The whole issue with “sin” for a Christian isn’t just about keeping some moral code, but it’s about wanting to live in a way that puts a relationship with God first and foremost over our own whims. Anyway, just thought I’d share that perspective.

  • Artscreativity Twothousandandt

    This is a really good point.
    Not equally but all have the same consequence eternally.

  • http://kch.me/ silent0

    News Flash: Christians have sex outside of marriage! Hey, at least you are choosing to be honest about it.

    Hannah, your thoughts on this subject may be an attempt to provoke discussion among your Christian peers (“what counts as a ‘really bad’ sin?” and other questions arise) but…please don’t consider Christianity and the Bible to be the pinnacle of moral goodness. Who says that enjoying sexual relationships before marriage is a sin? It’s not exactly clear from the Bible even. In the Old Testament, the emphasis is on virginal purity and “cleanliness.” Women who had their hymen broken (which can happen without sexual intercourse) were considered “damaged goods” in that tribal, patriarchal culture. If they got married and couldn’t show “proof” of their virginity then they would be stoned by the entire town! Pre-marital fun was simply not an option in a system where you were owned as a good in the same way that someone would own livestock (please re-read those 10 commandments). Some Christians may be willing to entertain thoughts this radical, to look beyond the mores of the Bible and find a way to moral truth which doesn’t rely on following a collection of pre-scientific myths and legends (with a bit of history sprinkled in, I don’t deny). You may end up finding yourself in such a liberal, accepting group. In the off-chance that you can’t find such a religious group to belong to, don’t despair. The problem (the disconnect between your actions and so-called “Biblical morality”) is not with you…the problem is with Christianity. Enjoy the journey.

  • http://allthingsareyours.wordpress.com/ Heather Goodman

    I have never had sex outside of marriage. I’m not saying this to brag, I’m just saying that there are many Christians who DO walk what they talk when it comes to this stuff. It’s not because I don’t want to be “damaged goods” either – whether male or female, we are told to honor others and honor ourselves and honor God with our sexual choices. I don’t know how the “hookup culture” where people have sex with strangers, without love, without meaning, can be construed as honoring anyone or treating ourselves or our emotions or our bodies kindly.

  • http://kch.me/ silent0

    “I have never had sex outside of marriage.”

    Good for you. To clarify my statement: Many Christians have sex outside of marriage. I was speaking generally and that’s why I didn’t say “All Christians…” but rather “Christians.” Apologies if my post offended you. I do wonder what the author of the post above thinks about your characterization of premarital sex. I don’t really have a bone in this theological controversy since I no longer adhere to Christianity (thoug I do stand by my statements about the ancient attitude towards sex, I’m not going to rigorously defend that point…anyone interested can pick up a copy of the OT and decide for themselves if what I am saying is on target).

  • Artscreativity Twothousandandt

    Sorry. Read revelation 21:8 all sin keeps you out of God’s eternal grace… If you continue to live in sin then you are reprobate… You are not born again… 1 john clearly teaches this. If you love someone, that you are having sex with and you are not married in the eyes of God, repent, get married and continue to walk in The Spirit…. It is the Kindness of God that leads us to Repentance…. Turn to God. Every Spiritual Blessing in Christ – alone.

  • Jess

    Woof. There’s no grace in your comment, so I could possibly assume that you are reprobate. All Paul talks about when confronting anyone is that you do it gently. From a modern conservative standpoint I can agree that there are problematic things in this article, but I would ask you to stop giving Christians such bad name and give your two cents about condemning someone to hell where it is due – which is rarely anywhere.

  • Artscreativity Twothousandandt

    What is Woof?
    Also it is scripture that condemns, not me… Its application to our lives is objective, it cuts but it heals. It cuts because it it true and we are in sin, it heals (when we repent from sin) because it brings us to Jesus who takes away all sin.
    The Condemnation we feel is because the Word is true, it leads us to repentance… If you would like me to stop applying truth to questions to do with sin then you might have to re write the bible.
    Christians get a bad name when they deny the truth by their lives and become politically correct avoiding offence and watering down the Word of God.
    However I was blunt, that was not helpful, I apologise.
    Finally what is Grace?

  • Emily

    Hannah, thank you for your honesty. I know there are a lot of loud voices that will shriek because you even broached this topic, so I just hope you hear me when I affirm the courage it took you to say what you have said. Life is muddy more often than not, and I hope that whatever choices you make, you never doubt God’s unending love and care for you. I also hope that you encounter people with whom you can talk honestly without fear of judgment.

  • Scott

    Not sure if Hannah sees these comments or not, but if she does, what I would say to her is to simply be more careful with the people that she chooses to share such an intimate part of her life with. Her justification at the end of the article (having sex with someone you love) is both contradictory of her previous statements (Dating is non-existent. The preferred male-female interaction is a hook up after the bar.) and also somewhat naive (understandably so – I was completely non-chalant about sex and sexuality up through my late 20’s, so I get it completely).

    However, what I would caution her is that God speaks so strongly through the Bible about sex and sexual immorality because it is one of the most intimate acts humanly possible. It may not seem that way now, especially with the pervasiveness of pornography and sexualization of our culture in general, but sharing your sexuality with someone is an incredibly intimate act that you can never undo. It creates a bond between the two partners, whether it feels like it at the time or not, and that bond is not easily undone.

    I’m thrilled by Hannah’s openness about the topic but I would caution her again that God warns us heavily about sexuality for good reason. I didn’t realize that until it was “too late” for me, but I hope she will take my word for it I guess.

  • Mireille

    If the centuries of accumulated wisdom about sex by the Church really worked we wouldn’t see the terrible effects of sexual repression and sexual perversion that even ‘genuine’ believers endure. The ‘gift’ of celibacy has been unwanted reality for many … toxic shame surrounding masturbation, pornography drives their inability to sublimate the desire into dark corners where they can confess to no one … biological and God-created desires become tangled. The ‘luck’ of having a young christian marriage (so as not to burn) equally fraught. As the writer suggests sexuality is part of being human, part of normal life. Life without some way of expressing it is very unnatural. But sex with “anyone” is equally tangled and dangerous. Regardless, having sex does not put a curse on you or your body. Getting tangled in your guilt, church-bred shame and sense of failing God does mess you up. Shake free. God loves.

  • Free Indeed

    It is sad to see that the comments that that made the most sense were from a non-Christian. Silent0, although I agree with you on most points, I disagree that the problem is with Christianity. The problem is people making Christianity into what they want it to be.

    Hannah, relax, premarital sex is not a sin. Hebrews 13:4 is not talking about pre-martial sex. 1 Corinthians 6:18 does not specifically define immoral sex. I don’t actual believe that the bible ever addresses premarital sex except maybe all the virginity laws of the OT which apply to the Isrealites and are comparable to the eating laws such as ‘don’t eat pork’. Those ceremonial laws were in place to protect the Isrealites and separate them from the Gentiles. Also, Pre-marital sex is not part of the 10 Commandments. You may find the thoughts of http://www.libchrist.com to be insightful. I disagree with them on some of their points but other points they make helped me find truth.

    But, you know what? The beauty of what defines us as Christian is that you don’t need to be a bible scholar to be close to God. We are imperfect, as we are created to be, but the perfect love of God provides us a way to be close to him. You are on the right track with looking to love. Let love govern your life but be very careful to know what true love really means.

  • Free Indeed

    Another thought, read Romans 14, specifically versus 14-16.

  • http://www.authentictruths.com/home.html Lisa Marie

    Having been a single teen parent- graduated high school, finished college, I’m sad that empty sex with someone you claim to love, though you mentioned it was all ‘casual’, is the norm. The problem is the lack of respect for each other that comes from casual sex. I’ve enjoyed reading your stuff, though I’m a bit lost on exactly where you stand. Of course Jesus loves all- with that in mind, would we still talk through many of our ‘actions’ you’re writing on, if He was sitting, standing, laying, walking, and running by our side? I’d say actions would change if that was the case? No?

  • http://theoperspectives.blogspot.com/ James Goetz

    I’ve taught against all sexual relations apart from a marital covenant (marriage) for nearly 30 adult Christian years. This includes no what I call *technical chastity*, which is sexual relations short of coitus apart from marriage. Recently, however, I deeply question if I should continue to condemn technical chastity while I suppose it is debatably not universally condemned in Christian scripture, despite unacceptance in conservative churches. I’m currently unsure how I should continue to teach about this in my writings, but I might go in the direction of telling Christians within the hookup culture to save the *home runs / big one* for marriage and don’t feel guilty or less spiritual if you’re enjoying respectful 2nd and 3rd sexual relations apart from marriage while using common sex education wisdom to avoid STDs. Within this context, keep pressing on to what God says are the two most important commandments: love God and love your neighbor.

  • http://www.www.patheos.com/blogs/andygill/ Andy Gill

    One of the more thoughtful, reasonable, and fair comments I’ve read from a pastor who holds to more of a conservative ethic of sex.

  • http://theoperspectives.blogspot.com/ James Goetz

    Thank you, Andy. I’ll clarify that I’ve not been a credentialed minister since 2007, which was volunteer work, but all of my
    philosophy and theology since then includes pastoral concerns.

    I suppose my ethics were considered as you say *conservative* until last summer when I agreed and signed up with Accepting Evangelicals (http://www.acceptingevangelicals.org). In that context, nearly a year went by before I seriously questioned if technically chaste sexual relations apart from marriage could possibly be morally acceptable to God. If that were the case, then there would also be some guidelines that I have not yet written.

    I hope to dialogue more about this. May I ask you your
    views on this?

  • Kimberly Thrasher-Soesbee

    Glad you’re not my kid’s pastor.

  • Brecka

    “I can’t picture God keeping you out of heaven because you had sex with someone you love. I just really can’t.”
    This is a favorite line used by people to justify all kinds of immorality. “God won’t keep me out of Heaven for looking at a little porn!” “God won’t send me to Hell for one little lie!”
    Do you think you can continue in sin knowingly and say “oh well, God will forgive it!”
    News flash: God will send you to Hell for your sin. If your sinful record has not been replaced by the perfect one of Jesus, then you will go to Hell. Absolutely God will send you to Hell. You directly disobeyed Him and laughed it off as no big deal.
    Now, the issue is, can you lose your salvation because you sinned? No, you cannot. But if you choose to live a life of unrepentant sin, then there is great question as to the validity of your salvation.
    1 John 1:5-6 This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth:

    You cannot claim to walk with Christ and live in sin. 2 Corinthians also makes it clear that you light does not have fellowship with darkness.

    The other thing is how we like to change our language about sin to make it sound loving and kind and healthy. Consider her statement again. “I can’t picture God keeping you out of heaven because you had sex with someone you love.” Because you had sex with someone you love. *sniff* So romantic! Poor poor girl! Poor poor SINNER. God does not give exceptions to His rules. Honor thy father and thy mother unless you think they’re unreasonable.
    Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy unless it’s not convenient for you.
    Thou shalt not steal unless you are hungry.
    Thou shalt not commit adultery unless your spouse did it first and you like your coworker better anyway.

    So . . . will God send you to Hell for having sex with someone you love? Is this an illicit relationship? Is it sin against God? Then yes. He will.

  • Marysanicole

    Just like all sin in the world, sex outside of marriage is a heart issue. I have a considerably large christian community around me and I am 100% positive that there are students at my christian university, college group, and church having sex. In fact one of my best friends who is a self proclaiming Christian is 8 months pregnant at the age of 19. She is allowing her situation as a way to draw closer to God. Sex outside of marriage is a sin according to the Bible, its crystal clear, black and white. Although it maybe foggy in the Old covenant (weather or not it was a moral law or a law regarding cleanliness for the temple) sexual purity is enforced again in Paul’s letters

    1 Corinthians 6:18, Colossians 3:5 Thessalonians 4:3 Galatians 5:19-21.

    So we can assume that because these letters were written after the Second Covenant was established AND to many different churches at many different times (So as not to be just situational letters) that sexual immorality is in fact a sin. Now the question remains what exactly is the sexual immorality Paul is referring to? Is it premarital sex? beastality? orgies?I understand that each individual church had its own unique struggles but honestly what it all comes down to is what was God’s original design? For that we can turn to Genesis chapter one for an example of the perfect marriage. Adam and Eve were married and were allowed to enjoy each-others bodies, in fact married christians are commanded to do so! Don’t believe me? Take John Piper’s word for it : “That celebration is not optional for the married. We are commanded to
    enjoy each other’s bodies. “Let your fountain be blessed, and rejoice in
    the wife of your youth, a lovely deer, a graceful doe. Let her breasts fill
    you at all times with delight; be intoxicated always in her love” (Prov.
    5:18–19). “Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth! For your love
    is better than wine” (Song 1:2). Husband and wife are meant to pursue
    the pleasures God has created for this relationship” He also goes on to comment on Hebrews 3:14 “The writer is jealous to protect the marriage bed. He wants it to begood. He does not want it to be ruined. He exhorts, “Let the marriage
    bed be undefiled.” He is not thinking about ceremonial defilements.
    We know that because he says, “God will judge the sexually immoral
    and adulterous.” He is thinking about all sinful defilements. Ultimately,
    sin is anything that does not come from faith. That is what Paul says
    in Romans 14:23: “Whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.” So
    the writer is saying: Guard sexual relations in marriage by not doing
    anything that does not come from faith…Sin is what you feel and think and do when you are not taking God
    at his word and resting in his promises. So the command of Hebrews
    13:4 can be stated like this: Let your sexual relations be free from any
    act or attitude that does not come from faith in God’s word. Or to put it
    positively: Have those attitudes and do those acts in your marital sexual
    relations that grow out of the contentment that comes from confidence
    in God’s promises.”
    This is why I say its a heart issue!

    Sin is what you feel and think and do when you are not taking God
    at his word and resting in his promises. So the command of Hebrews
    13:4 can be stated like this: Let your sexual relations be free from any
    act or attitude that does not come from faith in God’s word. Or to put it
    positively: Have those attitudes and do those acts in your marital sexual
    relations that grow out of the contentment that comes from confidence
    in God’s promises.

    Sin is what you feel and think and do when you are not taking God
    at his word and resting in his promises. So the command of Hebrews
    13:4 can be stated like this: Let your sexual relations be free from any
    act or attitude that does not come from faith in God’s word. Or to put it
    positively: Have those attitudes and do those acts in your marital sexual
    relations that grow out of the contentment that comes from confidence
    in God’s promises.

    Sin is what you feel and think and do when you are not taking God
    at his word and resting in his promises. So the command of Hebrews
    13:4 can be stated like this: Let your sexual relations be free from any
    act or attitude that does not come from faith in God’s word. Or to put it
    positively: Have those attitudes and do those acts in your marital sexual
    relations that grow out of the contentment that comes from confidence
    in God’s promises

    Faith, he says in Hebrews 11:1, is “the assurance of things hoped
    for, the conviction of things not seen.” In other words, faith is the
    confidence we feel in all that God promises to be and do for us in all
    the tomorrows of our lives. Now, how does such faith produce sexual
    attitudes and acts that are not sin? In the context, the writer shows us
    how this works in relation to money. We can then make the applica-
    tion to sex.

  • Kimberly Thrasher-Soesbee

    Sin is sin in God’s eyes. You’re right – whether you tell a lie or have sex with your best friend outside of marriage. It is sin. However, there are sins that have more dire consequences to our lives than others. They don’t separate us any further from God, but they have the power to wreck our lives here on earth. Giving yourself away sexually has huge emotional, physical, and psychological impacts. “Casual sex” catches up with your self-worth, your understanding of what a healthy sex life is, and your ability to give yourself fully to the one you marry.

    You may not know or see the down the line consequences of a sin. (Lying, sex, or whatever) But God knows what’s coming down the pike. He sees it all. And that’s why He gives us the guidelines that he does. It is a grave danger to be so blasé about sin with the tagline “God will forgive it anyway, so what does it matter what I do?” That’s assuming you can manipulate the creator of the universe to forgive you with your lip service. God doesn’t work like that.