Our world has drastically changed in the last 30 years. The internet provides endless knowledge, opinions and images – both positive and negative. Definitions for marriage and sexuality continue to morph as culture changes. We live in a fast-paced world constantly bombarded with sexual messages. And most churches have failed to respond to the challenges and real questions that people face. Rather than focusing on sexual purity we need to strive to equip people to live with sexual integrity, no matter our age or marital status. God creates us as sexual beings from the day we were born until the day we die. Rather than a sprint for purity that we win or lose, we must strive to live with sexual integrity every day of our life.
Many of us grew up hearing strong messages about purity in church. Though well intended, the message sometimes felt manipulative and set us up for failure. Purity was this all or nothing concept. We either had it or we didn’t. It was black or white. Once we crossed lines, whether our choice or not, we felt ruined for life. We had lost our purity, and so we gave up, and some of us spun out of control.
Most messages about purity somehow suggested girls completely deny their sexuality. Any exploration or understanding of our own body left us feeling ashamed. Sexual thoughts including looking forward to sex in marriage felt wrong. Boys were supposed to be the ones that enjoyed sex and struggled to stay pure, not us. Some Christian books even suggested waiting to kiss or hold hands until after marriage. Lines were drawn with little room for discussion or real questions and left us feeling confused about sex. During baggage week of Awaken-Love class, many women share about the difficult transition from “don’t do it” to enjoying sex in marriage. Purity messages did little to help us anticipate the amazing sex God wants us to enjoy in marriage.
Purity was taught in middle or high school youth group. By the time we reached college few mentors were willing to ask the hard questions because they would rather pretend then hear the truth. Purity was all about adults making rules rather than us learning to discern what God wants. Young people navigate singleness far longer today and with less clarity than ever, and yet purity feels outdated or completely irrelevant. Purity has even less meaning for married people, divorces, or widows.
Rather than teaching purity, we need to encourage each other to live with sexual integrity. To live with honesty and transparency, striving to integrate God into every area of our life, including our sexuality. Every day, we make the choice to live with sexual integrity, whether single, married, divorced or widowed. We get to decide to live with sexual integrity whether we have crossed many lines, or none, from the time we are old enough to make decisions, to the day we die. Sexual integrity is a life time of learning to live true to who God created us to be and in more perfect communion with him.
Rather than the church providing all the answers or defining all the lines, we create safe places for honesty and transparency. Growth and direction becomes more important than perfection. While we hang onto God’s truths we extend grace to others and to ourselves. People struggling with tough decisions and situations are encouraged to seek God and hear from Him. We study the bible to learn God’s truth, like guarding ourselves from lust, or saving sex for marriage. But we also learn what the bible says or doesn’t say about gray areas like masturbation or kissing before marriage. Sexual integrity doesn’t just spell out the do’s and don’ts. It opens up discussion about how to live in our world and stay connected to God. Sexual Integrity requires that if we believe God has the answers, then we ask Him.
Living it Out
As singles we understand that God created the physical act of sex for marriage, but we also understand that He made us sexual beings from birth. Our sexuality drives us toward relationships and community with others and with God. We strive to care for our body and soul in all aspects while staying intimately connected to God and friends by living authentic transparent lives.
In marriage we strive to care for ourselves but also for our relationship. Faithfulness to our spouse, connection and undivided devotion ground our marriage. We make sex a priority because we understand that God makes into one through it. Sexual integrity calls us to openness and transparency with our spouse about everything.
Living with sexual integrity requires that we integrate God into our sex life. Decisions require openness, prayer and discernment regardless of our situation. We must seek God for revelation of our weaknesses and selfishness. He will call out the lust in our heart. God will ask us to put up walls to protect ourselves if we need them. If we ask God, He will give us answers. Are you willing to surrender your sexuality to Jesus?
Many people agree that the church needs to do a better job talking about sex, but how that happens has no easy answer. After our sermon series, “The sex talk” many people were thankful, but others literally left the church. Though our pastors have a great influence, countless times I have witnessed real ministry taking place one on one. Women mentoring women, having lunch, encouraging and praying for each other. And yes, talking about marriage and sex. We do not have to wait for our pastors to lead the charge. A sermon on sex can’t address the details and questions people struggle with. That’s part of the reason Awaken-Love is so effective. In small groups of supportive women we have the freedom to fully address topics and to provide real respectful answers.
You have the power to change lives by opening up discussions about how you are trying to live a life of sexual integrity. Share what God has taught you, what you are striving for and what a difference it makes. Create a safe place for others to share and to ask questions. But more than anything, stay connected to God.