I was raised in a relatively sex positive household. We didn’t talk about it all the time, however I did see my parents being flirty and romantic with each other. We also had a rule in our house that I could ask my mom any question about sex and she would answer it without asking how I heard about the topic. Therefore, as I started dating and eventually got married I was able to be really excited about sex.
Unfortunately, many of my friends did not have the same experience. Many of the Christians I know feel that they have been conditioned to not talk about sex and have an almost undefinable wariness and fear surrounding the topic. My purpose here today is to talk about how to be a good Christian who loves sex. In my mind, these two things go hand in hand. However, others may not feel that is the case. Let’s talk about it!
Everyone has a Unique Story
Let me start by qualifying that everyone will have a different story. As Emily Nagoski talked about in her book Come as You Are, imagine we are all born with a plot of dirt. As soon as we are born our families, society, and culture start consciously and subconsciously planting ideas about sex in our patch of dirt. Therefore, we will all end up with a completely unique garden. Please know that what I talk about in this post may not apply to you, or you may have experienced it a different way. That is completely valid. Hopefully, my words here will inspire you to be thoughtful about the plants growing in your garden and what you want to do about them.
What’s the Issue?
I love being a Christian. I firmly believe in Jesus Christ, and that belief is the foundation of everything that I do. Unfortunately sometimes growing up in a Christian culture includes well-meaning people establishing harmful patterns to enforce noble principles. This is especially true when it comes to sex and sexuality.
In most Christian religions the law of chastity is heavily emphasized, and for good reason. It is a worthy principle to only participate in sex within a marriage, and it’s a healthy and safe practice as well. However the means to achieving this end has led many church leaders to put a heavy emphasis on staying “pure” and avoiding sexual thoughts or actions. Often, fear and shame are used to compel kids and teenagers to avoid sex. The issue here is that this fear and shame towards sex and individual sexuality don’t go away once someone gets married. Many Christians still feel hesitant to talk about, learn about, or even think about sex even once they are married. Feelings of guilt and shame can taint marital intimacy.
Law of Chastity
Jacqlin Guernsey talked about this on our podcast. She explained that for her (and it’s the same for many people I know) it’s not that she can remember anyone ever overtly teaching her that sex is bad. Instead, it was the fear-based emphasis her religious leaders put into their law of chastity lessons every year, combined with the covert message of shame in the hesitance of her parents or any other authority figure to talk about sex. She felt uncomfortable asking questions and so developed an idea of sex that was very different from reality. For Jacqlin, this caused problems in her marriage as she felt so much fear around trying anything different than the “acceptable” basic missionary position in her relationship.
The law of chastity is a wonderful thing. Saving the intimacies of sex until you have found the person who will be your partner in all aspects of life is wonderful for many reasons, and it’s something that we here at Get Your Marriage On advocate! But the fear so many Christians have of talking about or learning about sex can hinder their relational, sexual, and even spiritual development.
Spiritual Progression and Maturity
If you are a person in this situation, you may feel conflicted. You want to deepen your marital intimacy, but you feel as though you might be betraying your religious principles. Jaqlin talked about feeling a crisis of trust, where she didn’t know what messages to believe. The first step to becoming a good Christian who loves sex is learning to trust your connection to God.
As children, we learn what is right and wrong from external sources like parents and church leaders. This is normal and natural. However, once we become adults the next step in our spiritual progression is to understand how to tell right from wrong internally. We can have God’s Spirit with us and trust in our connection to our loving Heavenly Father. Once we strengthen that connection to God, it can be easier for us to sort out what flowers we want to nourish in our garden, and what weeds to pull out. This is how we can navigate being a good Christian who loves sex. Here are my suggestions for helping yourself learn how to live your faith in your sexual relationship.
1. Center on Jesus Christ
The most important step is to solidly center yourself in your faith in Jesus Christ. Christ is the source of all truth and light.
As Hebrews 12:2 says, “Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.”
Learn to access His grace and truth. Build your foundation on Christ and He will not lead you astray. And when you do stumble, trust His grace is sufficient to pick you up and help you start again.
Have patience with yourself and with your spouse. Especially if you are implementing changes in your life, don’t expect your mind or your body to flip a switch immediately. Change takes time.
3. Trust your Connection to God
Related to the first two, trust in God. And trust that you may not know all the answers right now, and that’s ok. Trust in God’s love and His hand in your life, and trust in His timing. Trust in your relationship to Him to guide your morality and not the cultural traditions passed down due to habit and fear.
4. Communicate with your Spouse
Sex is relational. And while there are things we can do to learn about our own bodies and our innate sexuality, the fruit of that sexuality is a beautiful union of two people. The best way to make that relationship better, including the sex, is to do it together. Talk about your feelings, your goals, your desires. So many suffer, feeling alone and depressed, not knowing that their spouse is going through the same thing. Because of the shame some feel built in around sex, it can take an act of courage to open the door to discussions with your spouse, but the more you do it the easier it becomes. And the emotional intimacy that comes with fully honest and compassionate conversations benefits every part of your life.
5. Practice Discernment
Humans are really good at creating and living patterns–patterns of doing and thinking and feeling. And often, going against habits feels strange and foreign. If your habit is to feel shame about talking about sex, you are going to want to avoid doing it because it doesn’t feel good. It feels wrong. But feelings aren’t always right. So it takes work to stop and discern if something feels wrong because it’s truly against your values, or if it’s just because it’s new and outside of your conditioning. Also, again, it takes time to sort out what are the true principles we believe in, and what are cultural traditions. Practice discerning the difference.
Remember, being a good Christian does not mean suppressing your sexuality. It means living in a way that is true to your beliefs and values, while also respecting yourself and others in your sexual relationships. Learn to make decisions using God’s Spirit and your own values. Communicate with your spouse and talk about your sexuality together. If you need help, try our Next Level program to get advice and help from relational coaches and couples just like you.
Written by Amanda Severson with Get Your Marriage On!