What To Do With Sinful Desire

The last couple of posts we have been talking about the difference between attraction and desire and whether or not sexual desire is a sin.  To sum up the second question we noted that indeed many of our desires come from a sinful heart and therefore we often desire sinful things.  However it what we do with these desires that determine if we sin or not.

So the question is, if I have a sinful desire (as we all do) then what do I do with it?  In other words if acting on a sinful desire coming from a sinful place leads to sin – how do I not act on it, and what do I do with it instead.

The first thing that I want to clarify is: what does acting on desire mean?

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Is Sexual Desire A Sin

In my last post I posed the thought that sexual attraction and sexual desire are not the same thing.  I believe this it true in general by the way.  In other words attraction of any kind is not the same as desire of the same kind.

The question that follows though is this: Is sexual desire for someone other than your heterosexual spouse a sin?

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Attraction vs Sexual Desire

One of the problems in our theology of marriage and celibacy, as well as frankly most other topics, is that we often use the certain words interchangeably that don’t mean exactly the same thing.  This of course causes all sorts of confusion and it makes it really hard to have theological conversations of any kind let alone a debate.

Now part of this is due to the English language itself.  Now I’m fan of English, but let’s face it, some of our words cause problems.  Think of the word love.  I love my car, I love my dog, I love Mizzou, I love my wife, I love God.  Obviously I love all these things differently and yet I’m given only one word to use.

But a lot of our problem comes from lazy theology and/or lazy language use.  For example, while they are to varying degrees related, salvation, justification, and election are not theologically the same word, and yet we often treat them as if they were.

This is also true when it comes our theology in the contexts of marriage, celibacy  and sexual sin.  So today, I want to break down a couple of these words we use.  I’m not expecting everyone to agree with me, but we have to at least try to talk about it because if we don’t have any nuance of language then we can’t really have much of a conversation about any of this.

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We Are All Called To Chastity

A few posts ago I wrote about that the fact that holiness is not THE point of marriage.  Without rehashing all of that here, the main points were:

  • We often act as if there is not joy in marriage and that happiness isn’t even part of it, which is super counter productive to our culture at this time.
  • We’ve sort of created a context in which marriage is the answer to our supposed uncontrollable desire for sex.  In other words we all desire sex, can’t control that desire, and therefore the only “holy” answer to that is marriage.  This is theologically bad and practically creates all kinds of conundrums in our current culture.

But this raises many other questions not least of which is: what then makes you holy?  Or maybe in this context a more exact question would be, when it comes to sexual desire, what is the path to holiness?

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We Are All Called To Reproduce

In the very beginning when God created the first people, Adam and Eve, He created them with purpose.  I like to say that God created us to be in relationship with Him, reflect Him and to represent Him.  Instead he said, “Be fruitful and multiply.  Fill the earth and subdue it.  Rule . . .”  He created us male and female in His image.  We therefore reflect who he is in our very being.  But we were also to go, to multiply, to fill the earth.  Now this was based on our communal relationship with Him.  This of course takes exactly one page in the bible before we mess it all up.

However, once we are reconciled to Jesus, he essentially gives us the same command.  “Go and share the gospel and make disciples”  In other words, go represent me in the world and multiply.

Here’s the truth I want to get at today.  We are created, each of us, with the desire to multiply.  Yes there is a biological aspect to that.  Understand that God even created that desire.  But there is more to it than that.  There is something deeper.  Something that knows that we are to multiply.

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Should You Pray For A Spouse?

One of the things I did a lot as a single person is pray for a spouse.  That took a lot of different forms.  Sometimes it was simple and relaxed.  Other times it took the form of crying out (read begging) for God to bring me The One.  Often when I really thought someone could be the one it was praying for God to “make it happen”, sometimes before I’d even been on a date (that hurts a little to type – Ha!).

But over and over again for years, it never happened.  God didn’t “answer” my prayer.

This really begs two different types of questions.  First, should we, and if so how should we, pray about gaining a spouse.  Second, why is it that God doesn’t seem to answer this prayer or as I like to say, why doesn’t God just “poof” us a spouse.

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Attraction Before Rescue

Back in 2001 there was a book called Wild at Heart by John Eldredge.  It was a book that sort of came out of left field for me and there was so much in it that as a man I resonated with.  In it, Eldredge talks about many things but one of the key premises that he shares is that men are tying to answer the question, “Do I have what it takes?”

I really do believe that in some form every guy is asking that.  It’s a value question.  In other words, as a man, I get my value from the answer to that question.  The book goes much deeper into that question and how it was or wasn’t answered by our fathers.

As Eldredge dives into that question he further shares that men desire three main things.  A battle to fight, an adventure to live, and a beauty to rescue. It’s this last desire that I want to talk about today.  As with all of these desires – there’s a lot of ways to mess this one up.

When I read that book, I was 29 years old and single.  I was going after my full time ministry work hard.  I was living the adventure and fighting the battle.  No doubt about it.  But as a single guy, I thought, “What do I do with that last desire?”

I think the desire is real.  I say that because it’s ingrained everywhere.  It’s in movie after movie, story after story.  Hero guy sees girl in distress.  Hero rescues girl.  Hero gets girl. But like most things in life, it’s not quite as simple as a 90 minute movie.

In real life, not every girl in distress wants to be rescued.  Not every girl in distress should be rescued by you.  And, just because you rescue the girl (or have a part in it) doesn’t have much to do with getting the girl.

Right now a lot of good, nice guys are thinking, “Damn straight!” I hear you.  I lived it for far too long.

Here’s how it works.  You are attracted to a girl.  You see her beauty and you see that she needs rescued – usually from dating someone other than you – the “bad for her” guy.  You are there for her, listen to her, give her advice, and in the Christian world “minister” 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 “rescue her” she would be.  In some circles this is called The White Knight Syndrome.

But it gets worse.  “Christian” dating advice to men just exasperates the situation.  You’re trying to be a Godly man and do things right.  So what do they tell you?  To man up of course.  Be a good guy.  It’s your job to protect women even from yourself.  Guard her heart.  Be clear about your intentions.  Be nice.  She’s the victim of the last bad guy she dated (or in some circles the guy she was married to).

No where are we called to do this in the Bible by the way.  I’ve heard people say (and I’ve said) that wives submit to your husband does not mean girlfriend submit to your boyfriend. Fair enough.  But neither does it say, boyfriend love your girlfriend as Christ loves the church . . .

We teach people who they should marry but not how to meet them. We tell people what not to with their date, but not how to get a date. We tell men to man up and women to dress up without explaining why that matters. We can help you break up with the wrong person, but we can’t seem to help you learn how to approach the right one. We tell men to guard girls’s without telling them how to win them to begin with.

Here’s the reality.  The desire is good, but there are only two ways you can help rescue a girl so speak.  The first is if you don’t want to date her and you just want to help her. Sometimes in ministry this actually happens.  As a strong male leader, you can have impact in women’s lives.  Nothing wrong with that.

The second way is to get the girl and then rescue her.  This is what Eldredge, and for that matter Ephesians 5 is referencing.  It assumes you are married to the beauty – and for that matter that the one you are married to is the beauty.

We don’t rescue the girl to get the girl.  We get the girl to rescue her.  And then you fight for her the rest of your life.  Sometimes that fighting for her will mean fighting with her and you can’t do that if you are constantly trying to get her to like you.  And get this, sometimes you’ll have to do it even when you don’t feel like it.  Crazy.

Here’s what we need to get a hold of.  Attracting the girl and rescuing her are not the same thing.  They aren’t even in the same sphere.  Learn to do the first, and you’ll have a chance at the latter.  You don’t rescue her with the goal of getting her because then what?  Get her and then spend the rest of your days trying to figure out how to love/rescue her.

The thing about the hero in the movie – the girl already liked him.