If you take a look into many Christian bookshops today you’ll probably find multiple books (if not shelves) on the topic of sex and sexuality. Books about sex for people of all ages to read and learn; teenagers, students, parents, pastors, married couples, youth groups, books about how to teach your kids about sex and books about what the Bible teaches concerning sex. There is currently a torrent of material out there on the topic of sex. Look in a church pulpit though and you’ll probably see that sex is either a taboo or a hobby horse, some people never speak about it and others use every excuse to speak about it.
Whilst it is necessary for Christians to wrestle with the topic of sex, to see the beauty of God’s blueprint for sex and to be equipped to engage with other perspectives, I think we have enough books on the topic! It’s great to see that book publishers and authors have had the courage to publish some great stuff, but now I think it’s time for pastors and church leaders to take courage and tackle the topic in their congregations.
My concern with the amount of material out their on sex is that sex, or sexual sin, seems to be elevated above every other sin. People can speak about homosexuality, for example, in such a way that it is treated as the unforgivable sin yet they wouldn’t speak about masterbation, adultery or porn in the same way. Or people can talk about sexual sin but they don’t see pride, lying and gossip as just as sinful. I do believe that there is a difference between a falling into sin and giving into temptation and the regular, conscious decision to live in sin. But that same decision can happen with someone who decides they are going to act on their same-sex attraction and the Christian who deliberately lies everyday. No sin should be elevated, or focused on more than another, all sin is a rebellion against God.
As John Owen famously said “be killing sin, or it will be killing you”
So then why, when it comes to sex, is it either a taboo or a hobby horse?
Often it depends on people’s experience. Many of the materials written (from a conservative Christian perspective) on the topic of same-sex attraction at the moment are written by people who are same-sex attracted, but do not act upon their desires. Many of the books on marriage, which often speak about sex, are written by a married man or woman, or by the couple together. This all makes sense, we have a desire to convey God-honouring truth which we ourselves experience or live out.
But it goes a bit further than that, I think. The reality is that sex is a big topic for people in our world. You’ll realise this, for example, if you hold to a conservative Christian view on sexuality and marriage and you raise that in ‘the world’. It can often be the case that Christians are called names and judged, for their views on sexuality. Therefore, because it is such a big topic today publishers want to equip Christians to interact with those of different opinions in a helpful way. Furthermore, publishers want to produce materials that wrestle with what the Bible actually says on the topic of sex and sexuality. This is a good thing, Christians should think about these things, but there is plenty of good material out there already.
Realistically, I think the most helpful way to train Christians about this topic is not to hand them a book, but to open the Bible with them 1-1 and to teach it from the pulpit. Christians need to stand firm in our convictions and communicate them in a helpful way. This is why I’m such a firm believer in exegetical preaching (preaching through whole books of the Bible) because by doing that you expound what the Bible says, where the Bible says it. This stops hobby horse preaching (or it should, but that depends on the exegesis), but it will also stop the taboos too (or it should, but it requires confidence and boldness to stand up with a message that won’t be liked be everyone).
We need to be honest and admit that many people have been hurt by Christians and the Church in the past because of how they’ve dealt with this topic of sexuality. But the response to that should not be to run away from the topic, nor should it be to run to it and only ever speak about. But instead the response should be to rightly divide the Word of God, to stand firm in our convictions and to boldly hold out Jesus Christ and the gospel to a watching world.
When it comes to the topic of sex we need to have a true understanding of sin, this should stop us making sexual sin out to be worse than any other sin. We need to have a Biblical understanding of identity, people are not defined by their sexual preferences but everyone is a human being, made in the image of God and effected by the fall. We need to have a healthy and helpful way to communicate, Christians should be known as the most loving and welcoming community that there is. We need to have a proper understanding of what the Bible says about sex and how it is a good gift from God to be enjoyed within His blueprint and design for it. Sex is a good gift that was given to us by a good God.
In a world that promotes the idea of ‘sexual freedom’ as a good thing, Christians need to be aware and wise about the topic, whilst at the same time not constantly shouting and wanting others to abide by a form of Christian morality. We need to be wise in our communication and start with the goodness of sex and the gift that it is from God. But we also need to know when enough is enough and not get dragged into the topic too much.
Personally, I think we have enough material out there on sex. The question that we need to ask ourselves is; when it comes to the topic of sex are we in danger of either extremes, is the topic of sex a taboo or is it our hobby horse?