Sex and Spirituality

“Man is a spiritual creature. He’s also been having sex since day one. You can’t separate the two.”
Tamara Powell

This is another post I’ve been chewing on for a long time now, for years actually, but it’s become more pronounced after my ‘return’ to God. What I’m pondering can be stated simply as – what does the Bible really say about sex, and how do Christians today apply it? I know these are tough questions to answer but I am really curious.

First off, I think I can safely say that 90% of the people around me, friends and family, are Christians, but I can also safely say 90% of these people were not virgins before marriage, and those who are single now are not virgins or celibate. So what does it mean to be a Christian and still have sex before marriage?

About nine years ago, I decided to be celibate, and it had absolutely nothing to do with religion. In 2009, I experienced significant heartbreak that was a long time coming, but it still hit me pretty hard. I loved this person immensely, and when this ten-year on and off situationship was finally, truly, really done, I walled up my heart and figured I might as well throw in celibacy for good measure. I decided that if I was going to be with someone intimately again, that person should be the one I plan to be with forever. No more games. Also, I was afraid of getting knocked up by someone that I had no intention of having in my life long-term. That’s actually one of my nightmares, to be tied to someone I don’t want to be with in such a permanent way. And don’t tell me there are contraceptives, that stuff fails all the time. And also, don’t tell me there are ways to deal with accidents. At my age, it would be irresponsible to deal with an accident that way when I do eventually want children. Lastly, in my opinion sex is not that great. I’m just being real. When I go without it for a while, I tend to think it’s great, then I have it, and I basically have to go, ‘note to self, this is shitty.’ Every single time, that’s my takeaway. Even with people I’m emotionally invested in, it’s not all that. So what’s there to really miss?

Okay, back to my celibacy – started as a way to deal with heartbreak, a way to prevent unwanted pregnancy, and also because I don’t think sex is all that. Nothing to do with God, He didn’t cross my mind once in that decision.
Over the nine years since I decided to be celibate, I’ve actually stuck to it strictly and uncompromisingly over the past five years. It’s similar to how I don’t drink, ever. I can be quite focused and anal about certain decisions, no matter how difficult.

So, I’m celibate, and then I find my way back to God recently, and now all of a sudden, I don’t want to be celibate anymore. It’s the strangest thing ever. And as I am pondering ceasing this self-imposed jail, I am seriously conflicted.
As much as I don’t see sex itself as that pleasing, I write about it quite extensively and graphically in my books. To me, it’s a part of life, love, relationships, and being. I also believe sex to be a personal choice, just as religion is a personal choice. I don’t judge people based on who they’re with or what their sexual preferences are. There are three things I don’t accept though – rape, pedophilia and bestiality. That’s a no-no because the element of choice for one party is out. Choice is fundamental for me. So overall, I have always been extremely open-minded about sex. And now, I’m just a complete and utter mess.

I am trying to learn and grow in my faith, but this is the one element (so far) that I can’t wrap my head around fully. I sincerely no longer want to remain celibate until marriage. It doesn’t mean I want to run wild, heck no. I just want to have sex back on the table as an option I can exercise if I want to.

I did some research to understand the Bible’s stance on sex, and one article provides six takeaways*:
1. We Are to Satisfy Our Partner’s Sexual Needs
2. Sex is a Reflection of the Loving Goodness of God
3. Sex is to be Done in a Way That There is No Shame
4. God Wants Us to Reserve Sex for Marriage
5. Sexual Immorality is Denounced (fornication, illicit sexual intercourse)
6. God Forgives Sexual Sin

I guess the biggest challenge of these takeaways is point number 4: sex should be reserved for marriage. That’s where a lot of us fall short. How many Church-going Christians really reserve sex for marriage? The last takeaway is also difficult, it should incite hope, but it’s actually difficult. Yes, God forgives our sins, but should you knowingly sin and then go and ask for forgiveness over and over again? Is that like choosing to become a serial killer and then asking God to forgive you after each kill?

Another article** talks about sex having two purposes: first for procreation; second for delight and intimacy. The catch? These two purposes must exist within marriage.

Another article lists the top 25 verses that directly or indirectly quote sex, and if you read all of them, and you call yourself a true Christian, you wouldn’t have sex before marriage or outside marriage. Here are a few***:
1. Ephesians 5:3 – But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people.
2. Hebrews 13:4 – Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral.
3. Matthew 5:28 – But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.
4. 1st Thessalonians 4:3-5 – It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; 4 that each of you should learn to control your own body[a] in a way that is holy and honorable, 5 not in passionate lust like the pagans, who do not know God.
5. 1st Corinthians 6: 13-20 – You say, “Food for the stomach and the stomach for food, and God will destroy them both.” The body, however, is not meant for sexual immorality but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. By his power God raised the Lord from the dead, and he will raise us also. Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ himself? Shall I then take the members of Christ and unite them with a prostitute? Never! Do you not know that he who unites himself with a prostitute is one with her in body? For it is said, “The two will become one flesh.” But whoever is united with the Lord is one with him in spirit. Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body. Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.

Reading all these verses stopped me in my tracks, unfortunately it was only for a moment. It’s like all the public service announcements (PSAs) regarding texting and driving, drinking and driving, smoking, sugar and health, etc. You know drinking and driving is dangerous, you know there can be dire consequences, yet somehow we still do it. I’m reading clearly from these verses, and everything else, that I shouldn’t engage in sex before marriage, but somehow, I can’t bring myself to commit that I never will, I just can’t.

Here are some additional, interesting statistics and comments that I dug up (USA based, I didn’t find anything Ghana related):

The majority of American adults believe cohabitation is generally a good idea. Two thirds of adults (65%) either strongly or somewhat agree that it’s a good idea to live with one’s significant other before getting married, compared to one-third (35%) who either strongly or somewhat disagree. (Barna Group, “Majority of Americans Now Believe in Cohabitation,” June 24, 2016)
Of the 65 percent of American adults who are okay with cohabitation, a good number of them identify themselves as Christians. In fact, 41 percent of practicing Christians surveyed (defined by Barna as “those who attend a religious service at least once a month, who say their faith is very important in their lives and self-identify as a Christian”) approved of living together before marriage.

The New Catholic Encyclopedia of 2003 says that the Bible has no explicit prohibition of premarital sex.

“Because religious people, Christians included, pick and choose which parts of a religion suit them. They aren’t actually doing this or that because it’s in the Bible. They use the Bible to support things they’re already doing, and discount it entirely when it doesn’t suit their purposes.
That’s why Christians have premarital sex, and commit other sins the Bible clearly forbids: Christians eat pork, wear polyester, and masturbate. Basically, they live their lives however they want, and then when it aligns with what’s in the Bible, they say that’s why they do it. When actually following the Bible would inconvenience them, they come up with some half-assed explanations of, “not everything is meant to be taken literally,” or, “that was only in the Old Testament, I just follow what Jesus taught.”
That’s nonsense, of course. Jesus told his followers to avoid amassing wealth and possessions, for instance — Matthew 19:21 Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” But that’s inconvenient too. So instead we have Christians living in bigger houses than they need, driving fancy cars, and voting against government programs designed to help those in need.
Theoretically, not all Christians are like this. I’ve never met a single one who isn’t, but it’s not impossible that sincere Christians exist.” Shelley Stein, 2014, University of Waterloo

Go Shelley!

There’re also the two great Commandments upon which everything Christian hang: First, love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. Second, love your neighbor as yourself.  Is it possible to engage in pre-marital sex and abide by these two great commandments fully? Is it possible to love God with all your heart while breaking some of His other instructions?

I know people aren’t honest with themselves and others when it comes to sex and spirituality. A lot of people who regard themselves as Christians won’t admit that they do not abide by the Bible’s direction on sex. More than anything, when it comes to spirituality, for the sake of appearance we pretend we abide by all the covenants, when we don’t, not by accident, but deliberately.

If you’re going to comment, please do so honestly, not by judging others, but through reflection of what you believe and practice, and what you find challenging or confusing when it comes to sex and spirituality.

So, go for it. Talk to me.

References:
* https://www.beliefnet.com/faiths/christianity/6-things-the-bible-says-about-sex.aspx?p=2
** http://www.livingout.org/what-does-the-bible-say-about-sex
*** https://www.biblestudytools.com/topical-verses/bible-verses-about-sex/