No matter where you are, they will find you. Flip on the television to watch your favorite show, there they are. Go to the supermarket and buy your groceries at the checkout stand, there they are. Drive down the freeway, there they are. Turn on the radio in the car or your home, there they are. Log on to the Internet and navigate to your favorite websites, and, yup, they are there. Sexual images are everywhere, and advertisers as well as media content programming executives know that "sex sells." Yet, the most troublesome issue with these images is not their pervasiveness nor even sex itself, but rather the image of sex they are perpetuating. As Laurie Abraham, the executive editor of Elle magazine, stated, "The worst thing about women's magazines is how much we lie about sex."
Last month, I participated in a panel discussion at a local church on the topic of female sexuality in which over 800 women participated, either by attending the sessions in person or by logging in online. The number of attendees, along with the quantity and quality of their questions about biblical sexuality, made one thing clear: as Christian leaders, especially female Christian leaders, we need to talk more about sex and we need to talk about it more deeply.
It's not that the Church, as a whole, is silent about the issue; it's just that compared to the messages we receive from the culture about sex, the message we receive from church is something like comparing the pressurized gush of a fire hydrant to the trickle of a leaky faucet. As leaders, we need to be open about the topic of sexuality and move beyond the typical "Just don't do it" answers. We need to present a compelling vision of healthy sexuality and talk about the emphatic "Yes" that God says to sex the way he intended it.
By far, the most common question (at least for single people) about sexuality is some variation of, "How far can I go in this or that area before I'm sinning?" As a person who has thought deeply about the matters of spiritual formation and the role our bodies play in how our spirits are formed, my response is: "That's the wrong question."
To move toward a more holistic image and healthy practice of sexuality in our lives, the critical question is: "Is what I'm doing making me more like God? Is what I'm doing with my body drawing me and those around me closer to God?"
Single or married, our bodies matter to God, and what we do with our bodies can either draw us closer to God or cause us to drift further away from him. This is the filter we should use when considering what it means to have a holy and healthy sex life. Approaching the question this way fundamentally shifts the focus from ourselves (i.e. what makes me feel good) back to God. It honors moral imperative Jesus issued in Matthew 22:37-40: "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets."
Like the Apostle Paul, who never shirked away from the topic of sex and devoted a large portion of his writing to matters of sexuality, as Christian leaders we need to make this issue prominent in our ministry in order to provide a meaningful corrective to the false image of sexuality portrayed in our culture.
Is sex something talked about much in your ministry?