What's the Goal of Sex?
We’re starting this series on sex and singleness and I’m all kinds of excited. Because I think there’s this tendency to cater to married people when it comes to sexuality in the Church. It’s more comfortable that way; it feels like there’s more freedom to talk openly. Oh, but singles! You are not forgotten here. There is this necessary place for us in the dialogue on sex. And it’s been neglected for far too long. I’ve received some questions concerning sex and singles, and I want this to be for you. I want this to be for the single person or the married person who wishes you would have heard these things when you were single (by single, I mean not married. This includes dating and engaged and It’s Complicated).
So I’m wondering, what messages have you received about sex as a single? What has felt confusing for you, or has left you feeling ashamed or bothered? What thoughts are coming to mind?
For me, I’m reflecting on the messages of virginity I heard in youth group. If you grew up in the Church, you’ve most likely sat in a room from time-to-time hearing the popular messages on why not to have sex. The one I can remember most goes a little like this: “Your body, and your sexuality, is like a box of chocolates. One day, you will give that box to your spouse as a gift. And no one wants a half-eaten box of chocolates.”
My 15-year-old self would leave those messages unsettled – I wanted to scream out that God wants those chocolates! God meets us in our mess and brokenness and pain and sin and stays because he delights in us. But also, I took those messages and internalized them, wanting to protect my virginity at all cost.
What makes me sad is that this is the only message on sex that I recall from my years and years of youth group. I do not say this to criticize leaders, pastors, and churches – I say this to highlight a trend that I, and many of my friends, experienced growing up in the Church. We heard about virginity. We heard that true love waits. We heard that we must protect our ‘offering’ to our spouse.
But I missed it. I missed the fullness of why; I missed the grander purpose God has for his people to seek holiness and communion with him.
Here are two common misconceptions I took away from those messages:
The first lie is that our worth is dependent on our sexual abstinence. Your worth is established as God’s people; God shows his deep, unwavering love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8). We do not deserve repentance; but we are worthy of repentance when we repent and turn to God (Acts 26:20). Your value as a human being and as a follower of Christ is not based on behaviors – past, present, or future. You will never be a half-eaten box of chocolates. No matter what sexual orientation you wrestle with, what abuse you have endured, and what sexual behavior you have experienced – God loves you deeply.
A second lie was the belief that purity in singleness meant virginity.
Man, did I miss the point. I knew not to have sex. But what I didn’t understand was that purity was less about what I did or didn’t do, and more about understanding God’s character and my identity in light of his character.
Maybe I hadn’t had vaginal intercourse with a significant other. But I had been operating out of an, ‘I’m good if I don’t cross this line’ mentality, failing to consider my sexual wholeness in the process. What a low view of the unmitigated design of our Creator!
I now believe that by understanding God’s purpose for sexuality, a means for deeper intimacy with him and with others for the goal of his glory, we move from mere behavioral modification to a desire to uphold the worth God has placed on sexuality. We move to a deeper adoration of God and his character, and a desire to know him and become more like him.
I want to debunk the myth that virginity is the goal in singleness. It’s not; holiness is the goal in both singleness and marriage. Holiness includes virginity in this stage, yes. But it also includes increasingly renewing our minds before God and allowing him to purify our thought life and destructive patterns and secret sins. Holiness is first recognizing the unparalleled holiness of God. Peter 1:14-16 says, “As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”
Because of God’s infinite worth, we get to embark on a journey of holiness in our singleness. That’s the goal here. I want us to operate out of that goal as we begin talking about sexual desires and masturbation and relationships and everything that comes with navigating this stage. Join me!