It’s funny the things that you remember from college classes. I remember one of my favorite classes was an introduction to philosophy. I loved this class because the professor was very unbiased and we got to write some really cool papers. (One of my papers was: Is the judaeo-Christian ethic sufficient for handling environmental issues. The answer was of course yes – which I proved rather convincingly I might add).
One of the great moments of the class that has always stayed with me was a video in which a female pastor of some kind said, “The thing that separates humans from everyone else is our ability to sin. Nothing else on earth can sin.” That, friends will preach.
I bring that idea up today because I want to look at a couple of important things that we have sort of accidentally gotten backwards in the western church when we talk about singleness, marriage and sex. That is, that you are just an animal instead of a person.
It seems to me that when it comes to sex and to some degree dating, we have taken choice out of the equation.
We’ve made men animals that cannot control their sexual desire. The message is that sexual desire for men is king. You can’t possibly contain it. I remember as a young man hearing a lot about how all men lust. In fact you can’t help but lust. Men are “always” thinking about it, acting upon it in one way or another, and of course seducing women who oddly enough according to many church leaders do not have this out of control sexual desire.
Women you see are also not able to control themselves. The difference we’re taught is that they don’t desire sex as much and only give into sex because they are tricked by the men who are being overcome by their sexual desire. So men are the perpetuators of out of control sexual desire that they can’t control and women are the victims of sexual desires that men can’t control.
There is a lot wrong with this and a lot of bad results.
We all, men and women, are created sexual beings. Every.Single.One.Of.Us. God created us, and He created sex. But unlike animals, God created us in His image. And because of that He gave us moral agency. We can choose what to do with our desires (not just sex).
If we say that men can’t control sexual desire then we are taking away their God given moral agency. On top of that, while church leaders are trying to not call women out, they are actually taking away their moral agency as well. They can’t possibly say no to men’s lack of moral agency.
But in reality, sin is a choice. Attraction is not a choice. Action is a choice. Desire is not a choice. What I do with it absolutely is a choice. When we take that choice away, in essence we are taking away the responsibility of sin.
This teaching makes sexual desire itself bad. We also then say essentially that “sexual desire is bad, and the only way to redeem sexual desire is marriage.” That is ridiculous and completely backwards and leads to all sorts of problems.
God gave us marriage pre-fall (before there was sin). He gave us sexual desire to bond inside of marriage. This is what God meant when He said the two become one flesh. God did not create marriage to redeem sex. He created sex to enhance marriage. Feel free to tweet that.
It also completely rules out celibacy as a gift, calling or vocation in the Kingdom. It says that you can’t be holy or complete without marriage. If no one can control their sexual desires then they can’t possibly be expected to be celibate, let alone called to it. And yet both Jesus and Paul say that celibacy is an option, and actually a picture of what the Kingdom will be like.
As a bonus this also cuts us off at the knees when it comes to the same sex marriage debate. If sexual desire is something that can only be redeemed in marriage then we have no answer. If marriage makes you holy then we we either have to come down on the side of same sex marriage or tell people that are attracted to the same sex that they can’t really be whole or holy. We’ve created a false choice and churches are choosing one or the other. Both are completely wrong.
We are not actually animals though. We are persons. We are not victims of our actions, we are responsible for them. We, both men and women, have moral agency. Not only that but in Christ we have the Holy Spirit. Sexual desire is not king, Jesus is. That has to be the starting point to the discussion.