Love Me For Me (Even Though I Wouldn’t Do That For You)

One of the amazing things about Jesus is that no matter where we are, what we are doing, what our story is, He loves us.  In the famous hymn’s words he loves me Just As I Am.  I can come to know Him just as I am, receive His grace as I am and start to follow Him right from where I am now.  I don’t earn it.  In fact I can’t earn it.  God loves you and me right now, no matter what.

The truth is that we all long for that.  We long to be fully known and fully loved.  We look for it everywhere.  As a believer we realize at least intellectually and theologically that God is really the only person who can fulfill that in our lives.  But that doesn’t stop us from wanting to experience that with another person or people.  It also doesn’t stop us from feeling hurt when we don’t experience it with other people even though again, we know intellectually that no one else can do that perfectly.

What’s really interesting is how this gets twisted up when we think about looking for a spouse and frankly later in marriage itself if we get married.

One way that it gets twisted is with the idea that people of the opposite sex should just like me.  If they don’t like me then it’s God’s fault of their fault.  In other words if I ask out twenty people and they all say no, there still is no reason to look at myself.  Women should like me for me after all.  Isn’t true love about loving the person no matter what?

Here is where we really fail our people in the church a lot.  We forget that getting a date is different than being in a dating relationship is different than being married.  They are three almost completely different skill sets.  We confuse attraction and love which really aren’t the same at all.

This is where the nice guy who is intimidated of girls he is attracted to says, “but they should like me for me.” or the person who is overweight or doesn’t dress up says, “I just want someone who will love me regardless of what I look like.”

But when it comes to getting a date, attraction matters.  There’s just no way around it.  For most of history there were no dates.  Attraction still mattered obviously.  But in most cultures marriages were at least somewhat arranged.  But that’s not where we are now.  And I don’t really hear very many people clamoring to go back to that.  So if we don’t want to back to that . . .  maybe we need to think about what we can do to actually get a date.

It’s sort of like when you need a job.  You have to apply. And most of the time you need to interview well.  Not always to be sure.  But typically.  So what do you do when you interview?  Study up.  Dress up.  Speak up.  Show desire for the job without acting desperate for the job.  Now obviously you could interview well, get the job and then be terrible at it.  No doubt this happens all the time.  The same is true of marriage.  People get married and then have no clue how to be married.  But this doesn’t change the fact that you have to pass the interview stage to get the job, you have to get a date to get married.

But here’s the good thing about all of this.  Most of the things (not all) that help you get a date are pretty good for you to consider anyway.  I shouldn’t be desperate for a girl.  I shouldn’t be insecure just because I like someone or I’m afraid of rejection.  I should get in shape physically anyway.  The list could go on.  Why not improve?

Now a couple of caveats that should be obvious.  I’m not suggesting that you have to be perfect or a perfect 10.  Not at all.  I’m not suggesting beating yourself up.  I’m not suggesting that if you do “everything right” that it will happen for you.  Heck I’m not even suggesting that you should marry someone that you think doesn’t love you for you.  No way!!

What I’m saying is that you can’t expect the person who doesn’t know you yet to do that. And if we’re honest here, you’re probably not doing that for anyone else either.  You’re not thinking, “I’ll marry someone that I’m not attracted to” or “I’ll marry the first guy that asks me out no matter who it is.”  Basically our message is typically, “You should love me for me – even though I won’t do that for you.”

I’m also saying, why not work on this stuff.  Why not look at the things that hold me back and deal with them.  What I’m saying is that if you “stay as you are” then you most likely will keep having the same results. What I’m saying is it’s a good thing to actually grow and develop – even if that means growing and developing in relating to the opposite sex.

The thing about Jesus is that while He loves each of us just as we are, He loves us too much to leave us there.  He’s constantly moving us forward, not because He loves us more if we move forward but because He loves us enough to want us to be free of our sin, fears, insecurities, and wounds.

Honoring Vows: Conversation With A Priest

Several months ago I had the opportunity to hang out with a group of men that included a Catholic priest.  I could tell right away that this guy was just on fire for Jesus and we had a wide ranging conversation.  This man was significantly older than me, had a great spirit about him and was in a role that really fit his sweet spot – ministering to college students.

But of course, as I write a blog about singleness, at one point I had to corner him at the end of the table and talk about celibacy and ask a lot of questions about how he viewed that.  How could I not right?

I’ve written a lot here about celibacy and how that calling and commitment is different from what we call singleness in our culture.  I’ve talked about different ways we can come into that calling.  I’ve also discussed how we have a major problem in protestantism as it relates to this because frankly we have no theology of celibacy.

But I must honestly say that while I can perhaps give some great theological pictures of it and biblical support for it, I sometimes feel that I’m not much help to the people who are actually called to it, other than being on their side and fighting for them where I can.

I’m hoping that parts of my conversation with this gentleman might be of help at some level as well as give more understanding to those of us who aren’t called or gifted with celibacy.

Let’s first back up for just a second and refresh our thoughts on what exactly I’m talking about here.  I’m not talking about the not yet married, the divorced or the widowed, although I think some of this applies to them at some level.  What I’m talking about here is people who are called and/or gifted with celibacy.  Those who have made a commitment or even vow to celibacy for the Kingdom.

As one priest put it – we all make a first vow – that is to Jesus.  But then we make a second vow – some of us to God and another person (marriage vow – serving God from that context) and some of us to God and no one else (celibacy vow – serving God from that context).

This man, long ago, made that second vow to celibacy.  Here’s what I learned.

This man had great freedom and he lives joyously in it.  I want that to be an encouragement.  In no way did this man feel he had “missed out” on marriage.  He uses this to serve God in ways that others can’t.  As an example of this he left our gathering at midnight because he had a meeting – with a college man he is mentoring – at 2 AM**.  He couldn’t wait to get there.

My point in sharing this is that a lot of times there is sense of feeling sorry for those called to celibacy.  Or at the least a feeling of, “I could never do that”.  But the truth is, if you are called to it, not only can you do it, but you’ll probably love a lot of it.  If you are called to celibacy there are great advantages and opportunities to live in that.  It’s not a second class place in the Kingdom.  Not in any way.

A second thing that I took away is that the vow, while real, is just that.  What I mean is that just as you make a vow to a spouse and then have to choose over and over again to honor that, the same is true to vow of celibacy.

We tend to have this belief that if we are called to celibacy and make the vow that there are not struggles or questions about that.  In other words there is no temptation to break that vow.  But he assured me that this if false.

I asked him about what that looked like.  His answer was refreshing.  He said, “It is a vow.  And yes I sometimes have to fight to honor that vow.  There are temptations.  I have sexual desire from time to time.” He joked, “Heck every time I have a hard on I have to remember my vow.”

That may seem crude but he didn’t mean it to be.  His point was that a vow is something that will be tested and that is no different just because his vow was different than mine to my wife.  Just like not every man who makes a vow to a woman honors it, not every person who makes a vow of celibacy honors that.  It’s not just a one time ceremonial moment.  It’s an over and over again living out of and choosing that vow.

If you are called to celibacy and have made that vow or are thinking about it, I think this would be both sobering and encouraging.  On the one hand, just like the marriage vow, you could break it.  There will be temptation.  On the other hand, just like the marriage vow, you can choose not to break it, even when everything in you wants to.

It’s also important for us as the church to realize that just as we try to help people live out and honor their vows of marriage, we can do the same for those who have made a vow to celibacy.  If we have a better understanding of what celibacy actually is, we can do that.  Supporting a person called to celibacy is completely different than supporting those not yet married, the divorced and widowed.

 

** I understand that this freedom comes from not only celibacy but also his particular job.  However it is still an example of living joyously within his calling – which is the point.

It’s Time To “People Up”

I have a confession.  For a long time, I thought the way to fix things was simply fix the men.  In fact I remember a meeting where another guy and I were planning a men’s retreat.  We said basically that if we could just fix the men, then the rest would fall in line.

This is the general consensus of a lot of evangelical leaders today.  I’ve talked about this ad nauseam here.  I’ve talked about blaming men, the man problem, the idea that if only men would ask women out, and on and on.

While I think that there are a few people waking up to this complete over simplification of the problems in our culture, it’s still rampant.

The good husband is almost always the butt of the joke in secular culture media and perhaps worse in a lot of Christian media.  Divorce is almost always seen as the guys fault – in the courts and in the church.  Men are the sexual sinners, not women.  40% of births in our country are out of wedlock – that’s just the men’s fault – which makes absolutely no logical sense really.  Delayed marriage in our culture – men won’t commit.  Lack of guys at church or as volunteers – can’t be anything that we are doing wrong – must be the men are worse now.  It’s everywhere.

We have a man problem we say.  A father problem.  An immaturity of men problem.  A video game problem.

The solution to this of course it to get men to “man up“.  So we create all sorts of web pages and sermons.  Some attempt to be encouraging. In other words “come on men – we can help you fulfill all of your societal responsibilities and save everyone else.”  Others are more “challenging”.  Just beat on the men, yell at them and about them until they “get it”.  Of course there is now even a MAN UP APP.  No lie.  It’s true.

It’s not that some of the thoughts and advice on these sites aren’t good.  Some of it is good.  But the problem is the premise.

The truth is that we don’t have a man problem.  We have a people problem.  We have a sin problem.  And men are both people and sinners.  You know what though?  Wait for it.  So. Are. Women.

This is true even when it comes to singleness, dating and marriage.  Want proof?  40% of births are out of wedlock – up from 10% in 1969.  It takes men and women for that to happen.  Women can be controlling and aggressive in relationships too.  Women are more likely to initiate divorce.  Women cheat as well as men and celebrity women think thats ok.  I could go on and on.  The point here isn’t to bash women.  By no means!  The point is twofold.

First and foremost we are all sinners.  Second, you won’t hear many sermons or websites pointing to that last paragraph and saying we have a woman problem.  In fact I would be willing to bet you can’t find one.

There are a bunch of reasons we as the church have fallen into this.  Male pastors like being the best man in the room.  We want the culture to like us and right now the culture says we have a man problem.  We want to be feminist friendly.  Many sincerely believe that if men were better that the women would just automatically fall in line (which is actually sort of demeaning to women if you think about it – do they not have moral agency?).  Men in the church will either take it or leave.  These are just a few of the reasons.

All of this is extremely counter productive.

We have to stop doing this if we want any of the trends we don’t like to change.  The singleness and delayed marriage – or total lack of marriage – trend is a prime example.  It is not a man problem either.  It is a people problem.  We have to start addressing it as such.

When it comes to men specifically, maybe, just maybe we should ask ourselves why we are where we are.  What I mean is, lack of guy volunteers, lack of guys coming to church, lack of guys asking out our favorite single women etc.  Maybe we should resit the urge to look at them, call them names, tell them how bad they are and challenge them to get on board with us.  Instead how about we start with this question: What are we doing/have we done to create this?

Here’s what I know.  There was no secret men’s meeting where we all got together and said, “Let’s quit volunteering.  Let’s quit going to church.  Let’s play video games instead. Let’s delay marriage.”

If less men, and for that matter less singles period, go to church, perhaps we should look inward first for why, before calling them out and blaming them.  Maybe instead of asking singles to suck it up and men to man up we ought to ask everyone to people up.  And maybe, just maybe, we ought to take a good hard look in the mirror and “church up”.

You Can’t Serve Your Way To Attraction

In my last post I began talking about this idea of being a servant leader that we toss around in Christian circles.  I’m not going to rehash all of that here.  You might start by reading that post.  Today I want to talk about the servant part and in another post I’ll talk about the leadership side.

I want to clarify a couple of things quickly.  I’m not suggesting here that we shouldn’t serve people.  Not at all.  We often should.  Again, Jesus served.  He called us to serve others.  What I’m suggesting that serving and leadership are not the same and our motive for serving matters.

Jesus did not serve in order to gain followers.  He didn’t serve to earn relationships.  The reason Jesus is the greatest servant is because he didn’t have to serve at all and yet chose to.  Not only that, but He gave the ultimate service in dying for us.  Jesus served His followers.  But again He didn’t serve to get followers.

Not only that, but Jesus knew what people actually needed not just what they wanted.  He didn’t serve them based on what or how they wanted to be served.  Think of the washing of the disciples’ feet.  At no point did the disciples think, “we’ll like Jesus more and follow Him more if He would wash our feet.”  In fact Peter saw it as an affront at first.  He knew who Jesus was (or at least was coming to know) and he knew that Jesus was the one who should be served.  That’s what made it so incredible.

So what does this have to do with being a single man in the church?  Here are some thoughts.

First of all, we need to understand a very important fact.  Despite what we are sometimes lead to believe by evangelical leaders, you can not serve your way to attraction.  What I mean is that there can be this idea that if I serve a woman she will be attracted to me.

Let’s say you really like a girl.  You are attracted to her and you want her to be attracted to you.  One line of thought is that you need to get to know her and do things for her or even “minister” to her.  She is moving and needs help so you volunteer to help move her.  You’re in college and she needs help studying so you help her study.  You offer to carry things for her.  You open every door for her.  You look for every opportunity to serve her.  She is going through a hard time and you are “there for her”.

Those are all fine things.  But none of those things will make her attracted to you.  If she is already attracted to you, those sorts of things could help advance the relationship at some level.  But they are probably at best neutral in terms of attraction.  However, if she is not attracted to you and she knows you are attracted to her it could be a negative.  You could end up in the nice guy/friend zone.  You are meeting her needs which is great for her, but that won’t make her attracted to you.

On top of that, and this gets back to how Jesus served, if you are serving to get her to like you (be attracted) really you aren’t being a servant.  There are strings attached.  Women see right through this.  They might take the help.  But that’s as far as it is going.

This is one of the ways that nice guys get clobbered over and over.  “I did all of this for her and yet she chose this other guy.  He does’t do anything for her . . . ”  Well that might be true.  But too bad.  First of all, that’s not part of the deal.  Service means just that.  Pure servanthood operates without expecting anything back.  Also it doesn’t matter because if the other guy who doesn’t serve her is who she is attracted to, then . . . well . . . she is attracted to him.

What I’m saying here is that serving the girl is fine.  That’s your choice.  But if you do it so that she will date you, then that’s really on you.

Jesus served out of strength.  He did it out of love.  Not romantic love or “feelings” love. He doesn’t call us to do it out of those things either.  He wasn’t qualifying himself as worth being with by serving.  He was already worth being with and they knew it.

This by the way carries over into marriage.  We tend to sell guys on this idea that if they do certain things they will get certain results.  Serve your wife to “earn” points (I’ve actually seen Christian leaders say things like this).  But that’s not sacrificial service.  That’s selfish service.  It’s for sure not leadership.  I don’t do the dishes so that my wife will like me better.  I do it because why should I not do it.  I do it because she made a great meal and the least I can do is help clean up.  But I don’t do it expecting her to have sex with me. And I’m not counting on it making her want to.  I’m for sure not doing it to bank “points”.

Let me be clear once again.  I’m not anti serving.  But I’m saying don’t serve with an expectation of a result for you.  Don’t serve to be more attractive because it won’t make you more attractive.  Don’t serve to get something in return.  Serving is not a tactic.  And it won’t work.

Finally let me add this.  If you are serving someone in an effort to chase or get them to like you, I’d stop.  Stop being the nice guy.  Stop putting yourself in the friend zone.  Stop trying to earn it.  Don’t be used in that way.  I spent significant time there in my life.  It’s not effective and it won’t help you.  Don’t let anyone tell you different.

Why It Doesn’t Matter If You Would “Treat Her Better”

So recently I heard a song by Sean Mendes aptly titled “Treat You Better”.  This song frankly encapsulates how guys (especially young guys) often see the dating scene completely wrong.  Especially “nice” guys.  Especially Christian “nice” guys.  I know this, because for a long time, longer than I care to admit, I was this guy.  In my teen years (Mendes is 18) I could have written this song.  Heck, I wrote some songs like this.

When I was a teenager, I always liked the girl that dated the guy that was “bad” for her. Pretty much literally all of my high school crushes could be summed up in that.  I was the good guy friend.  Sometimes I actually was a real friend, but other times that was just the line they told me to be nice instead of telling me to get lost.

I was seen as the nice guy.  The guy who would make some girl happy one day, just not that girl.  She instead dated the guy who was crazy, dangerous (read exciting) and who they were typically sleeping with (read sexually attracted to).  I was none of those things.

Now when things went bad, I was confided in often.  I was their ride home, their “brother”, or the type of guy who they wanted to end up with, but not date.

In my mind I wanted to rescue them.  I was better than that guy who treated them wrong. I was holier than the guy they were sleeping with.  I loved them after all.  And if they would just see that I was right for them everything could be better.  But that’s not how it works.

As I got older this became less true.  Although I still had no understanding of how to be attractive to the girl that I wanted to date/marry, by my late 20s I wasn’t trying to get the girl dating the “bad” guy so much.

But today I want to share some thoughts for all of the young men out there who are faced with these similar scenarios, many of whom I’m sure are feeling the Mendes song deeply.  I know I would have felt this song.

Here is my first thought.  If you listen to that song and think it’s you – you are in trouble and you need to seek something different – now.  It’s time to grow up a little.

Here’s where you are at.

You’re attracted to a girl.  You see her beauty and you see that she needs saved from dating someone other than you – the “bad for her” guy.  You are there for her, listen to her, give her advice.  If you are a young Christian you might call it “ministering” to her. You of course tell her how great she is and that she deserves better.  She’s not into you, but you want her to be and if you can just convince her she would be. You may or may not have told her how you feel.

Worse, in Christian circles we actually often set you up for this.  We’ve taught you that women’s sin is tied to men’s.  So anything she is doing bad is actually the “bad” guy’s fault. We’ve taught you that it is your job to man up and chase her.  Even more devastating, we’ve taught you that if you are a good Christian nice guy, she should like you.

But, that’s not the truth.  Pretty much none of that is the truth.  I’m not saying that out of any sort of anger or bitterness from my story.  I’m saying it because deep down you know it too and part of being a man is seeing the truth, owning it, and doing something about it. Don’t beat yourself up, just be willing to learn.

She isn’t attracted to that guy because he’s bad.  She just is attracted.  Attraction is not a choice.  Maybe she shouldn’t be with him.  But it doesn’t really matter.  She is with him and not with you.  Maybe she wishes she was attracted to you.  But she’s not.  And despite what a lot of really cheesy movies, songs, and Christian speakers say, she probably won’t be.  And if she were to end up with you, it won’t be because you are going to “treat her better” as it were.

So here is what you need to do if this is where you are at:

  • Stop chasing this girl.  Right now.  She isn’t the one.  There will be someone else.
  • If you are legitimately friends with her and you are a teenager – that’s ok.  You can be her friend.  But don’t be her special friend or her confidant.  You are done being the one who does all sorts of things for her as if you are a boyfriend without being her actual boyfriend.  If you are over 25, stop hanging out with her.  Now.
  • Quit being the nice guy.  Don’t be the “He’s nice but” guy.  Avoid that.  Grow out of that.
  • Become a student of attraction.  Not romance, not sex, and not marriage.  The Church can teach you all about being a husband. But that has nothing to do with attraction.  Learn what attracts women.
  • Think about how you act with girls you hang out with every day, vs. how you act when you are chasing a particular girl.  How do you view each, and how do they view you.
  • Do not become a “bad” guy.  That’s not actually what is holding you back. Good and bad have nothing to do with it.   It’s about confidence both in who you are, and in how you interact.
  • Learn to avoid the friend zone – even if it means walking away.  Again, you can be friends, you can’t be “that friend”.  Don’t allow it.
  • Work on how you view your self.  Your insecurities.  Your sin.  What you think of your looks.  What you think of your sexual ability.
  • Work on being respectable instead of likable.
  • Figure out where you are going, and go there.  Find someone who wants to go with you.  Not someone you have to chase or drag with you.

I have no idea if Mendes is singing from the heart of his own story or not.  I don’t know if the video is personal.  What I do know is I’ve been there.  What I do know is that a lot of young men feel this. What I do know is that the guy in the video does not end up with that girl.

Some Help For The Ladies

Most of my usual readers know that this blog is written mainly for men.  Lots of ladies read this and probably 70% of what I write here is pretty applicable to both sexes.  This is especially true of all that I’ve said theologically about celibacy, family and the Church.  It’s mostly true of the things we discuss having to do with living in the context of being unmarried including things like dealing with sexual desire, community, touch, money, dealing with loss, etc.

However most of what I’ve offered here in terms of what to do with attraction, how to attract people, how to get a date and how to date, have been very guy centered.  I’ve had several requests from female readers at different times for thoughts on what they can do in those areas.  So I want to offer some thoughts today.

I’m not going to write several posts on this although I surely could.  But that is not the main format of the blog and not really my wheelhouse because after all, I’m a guy.

So instead I want to offer some things that the ladies can do with some tidbits on what not to do mixed in.

Here are some things to do:

Go ahead and initiate contact

There is a difference between initiating with someone and pursuing them.  We all know that women want to be pursued (not chased).  But as a guy it can be hard to know who to pursue and a little help on the front end can go a long way.  It can be as simple as being the first to make eye contact and smile.  There is nothing wrong with introducing yourself or starting a conversation with some guy you might be interested in.  I wouldn’t advise asking them out.  But you can talk with them, laugh with them, be friendly and even a little flirty.  There’s nothing wrong with that.  It creates a comfort level.  I think this is especially true in the church setting where sometimes guys are being too careful (which is sometimes merited).

Make yourself available

This could mean showing up at events that you know good men will be at.  It might mean letting a certain guy know where you’ll be.  I had a good friend share with me how she once had a guy she met at church who she wanted to know more.  She loved biking and found out that he did as well.  She shared with him that her and some friends biked at a certain place at a certain time and that he was welcome to come.  It wasn’t a date.  But it gave him a chance to show up.  Which he did.  And then he asked her out.

Being available might mean seeing that a guy goes out the same door every Sunday and choosing to go out that door – sort of setting up the opportunity to run into you.  It might mean online dating.  I know that there are pros and cons to that, but it for sure puts you in a place to of availability to meet men.

Put your most attractive self forward

Dress feminine.  I’m not saying dress sexual.  But it’s ok to put some effort into it.  And don’t downplay that.  Don’t talk about your “faults” when you are with a guy on a date.  I had women do this all the time.  They would tell me all that was wrong with them.  They’d tell me how much weight they gained or lost.  They’d tell me how they were difficult or couldn’t change this or that.  I guess there is a place for that but it’s not early on.  Maybe they wanted to lower the bar or make sure I wouldn’t run at the first negative thing.  But frankly here’s the deal.  If a man is on a date with you, he was at least fairly attracted to you.  You should just go with that.  Don’t sabotage it.  He likes you a little or he wouldn’t be there.

Learn to just say no and yes and be respectful either way

If someone asks you out, there are only two possible answers to that.  Yes or no. Anything else is disrespectful.  If you don’t want to go out you can be nice – but say no nicely.  You aren’t dating Jesus.  You don’t have other plans that day. You’re not working on you right now.  You just don’t want to.  That’s ok.  If he keeps asking you out, then say no a bit more firmly.  But don’t go nuclear with it.  If you do want to go out with him then for the love of all things holy say yes.  If you don’t know if you want to out with him and he meets your qualifiers, my advise is say yes – at least once maybe twice.  You don’t have to know you want to marry him.  It’s a date.  If you want to go out with him and he is not a good guy – then say no and stay the heck out of that situation.  Become unavailable.

Readers – maybe you could throw some other thoughts out.  Ladies – what has been helpful to you.  Guys, what have you appreciated.  We don’t need comments here just ripping each other – that’s pointless.

 

Sexual Sin Myths

Coming into adulthood in evangelical culture one of the constant messages was that sexual sin was different and more important than other sin.  Now of course the official line was that all sin was “equally” bad.  This is sort of true and sort of not true and therefore super confusing.

Let’s clear up a couple of things about sin to sort of set the table for this topic.

First, and this is the best way I can think to describe it, there is a difference between Sin as a core issue and sins that we commit.  Sin as a core issue is really about idolatry.  In other words the first sin for all of us is not being God focused.  We choose to be God of our own life, write our own story, run our own lives.  We worship other things, principally ourselves, instead of God.

It is out of this condition that we commit other sins.  Both what we do wrong, and what we don’t do right.  In a sense, these are the symptoms of the bigger issue.

The cost of this condition is death.  Regardless of the consequences of a particular sin.  We can’t fix it because it’s a heart problem not an action problem.  This is why Jesus came and went to the cross.  Amen.

However, our sins (the symptoms part) have different consequences.  This is just the truth. So sexual sin has different consequences.

But this is where we need to get a hold of some important facts and to debunk some myths.

Myth 1 – Sexual Desire Itself Is Bad.

First, sexual desire is not a bad thing.  It is part of God’s creation.  It’s pre-fall.  This is important.  We are sexual beings.  God made it powerful because it is to be used to bond two people together inside the context of marriage. There are even chemical reactions to it in the body.  It bonds us physically, emotionally and spiritually.  This is why separating sex and marriage (or even orgasm from sex) is not good.

Sin, in many respects, is really the manipulation of what God has created as good into something that is not.  Sexual sin is no different.

But desire is not a bad thing in and of itself.  If it’s seen as a bad thing then we end up trying to kill the desire.  This is the “eastern” religion answer: Don’t desire anything.  We need to submit the desire to God, but we don’t need to kill it.  We should flee sexual immorality, but we don’t need to kill sexual desire.

This is also important because if we say that sexual desire is bad we end up doing theological gymnastics when it comes to marriage.  For example I’ve heard people say that marriage redeems sexual desire.  That gets confusing real fast.  Sex is for marriage, as stated above, but that sex doesn’t need redeeming.  That’s just one example.

Myth Two – All Sexual Sexual Sin Is The Same

I’ve discussed this before, but looking at a woman lustfully does not have the same consequences as sleeping with the same woman.  It comes from the same place, but it doesn’t have the same consequences.  We need to quit teaching people, by accident or on purpose, that it’s all the same.

Now we shouldn’t use this fact as an excuse to sin less boldly so to speak.  I’ve spoken before about what I call lazy sexual immorality.  There are still costs involved.  It’s still wrong.  But its important to realize that the resulting problems are different.

Myth Three – Sexual Desire Always Leads To Sexual Temptation Always Leads To Sexual Sin 

This is the idea that sexual desire is so strong that I can’t possibly have victory over sexual sin . . . at least not outside of marriage.  Again, I need to submit the desire, along with all other desires, to the Lord.  But the thing is, I can actually do that.  We don’t have to fail.

It also creates a situation where we end up saying that celibacy for the Kingdom is not a viable vocation or calling.  This is part of the reason that in evangelical culture we have no room for those called to celibacy.  Frankly most protestant leaders don’t really think this is even possible.  We don’t have any sort of plan for it.  As I’ve written many places here, with no theology of, or plan for, celibacy, we set up everyone to fail, even married people.  The reason they don’t think it’s possible is that they don’t think that anyone can avoid sexual sin.

We are not just animals with no moral agency.  We can, with the Lord, avoid moral failure.

Myth Four – Men Are Responsible For All Sexual Sin

This is worthy of at least a post itself.  But let me see if I can briefly go at this.  We have to quit talking about the issue in this way.  The idea is that men want sex all the time.  If a man and woman have sex outside of marriage it is the man’s fault.  He is the sinner – she is the victim.

Don’t believe me?  Check out this example from Matt Schmucker on Boundless:

We do not want a brother standing at the altar on his wedding day looking at his beautiful bride only to imagine behind her the boys and men who took advantage of her and robbed her of the trust and confidence that she now needs for her husband. We do not want a sister standing at the altar on her wedding day looking at her handsome groom only to imagine behind him a string of relationships with girls and women he failed to honor, and knowing that images in his head from pornography use and past flings may stick with him for a long time.

Do you see it.  Evil boys and men have victimized the woman.  But the man has failed morally. This is just one example.  I could link hundreds.

There are so many factors in this.  But what I can tell you is that this teaching is not helping.  I do believe that the man should lead, even in a non marriage relationship.  But telling men that they are basically animals forcing women to have sex is not productive and frankly it’s not true. Really it’s a shot at both gender’s moral agency.  It also sets up married sex in the wrong way*, but that is for another day.

The Bible clearly calls us to flee sexual immorality.  It’s important, not just in terms of our personal purity and becoming married, but also because of our witness.  However the right view of it is part of the key to doing just that.  Taking short cuts and getting it wrong, just leads us back to the same cycles we are in.

 

*Examples of this include but are not limited to: teachings that husbands have to earn sex from their wives, that men cheat and women don’t, that men evolutionally (married or not) are always looking for the next person and women are not.