Virginity is under attack.
Our culture applauds every sexual choice except virginity.
But my concern isn’t the opinion of the world. Though I’ve had opportunity to address the secular ideology of sexuality through mediums such as CNN.com, FoxNews or in my TedTalk, I don’t feel primarily called to change the culture. It’s the Church I’m worried about.
Last year Christian bloggers spent a lot of energy decrying the Christian purity movement. It seems to have been fueled by a story I identify with that was poignantly penned by blogger Sarah Bessey whose encounters with purity preaching men made her feel like “damaged goods.” I, too, once hid in the shame of my sexual sin. I, too, once felt like damaged goods. I, too, think that inviting audience members to spit in cups creates a shallow and shame-fueling illustration about the “damaged goods” we become if we’ve had sex. And that leaves Christians looking stupid, if not intolerably graceless. (Weeks after reading her blog, I found myself in a seminar by a leading third wave feminist who used an actual photo from a purity ball to point to the agreeably unintelligent and unkind approach one purity ministry took. The image was of a petal-less trampled rose.)
The thinking of these cup-spitting preachers and rose-trampling ministries is not deep. They do, in fact, create a lot of space to move sinners away from Jesus. Not closer to him. Perhaps that is what moved the blogging world to put the entire purity movement in its place last year.
Purity has become a “problem”, one lamented.
Virginity is Christianity’s “main idol” was the accusation.
Much of their discontent is valid.
But most of the conversation seemed to fall short of having a foundation of a solid sexual theology. And I want to take a few days to speak into the stupidity. Forgive me if that sounds blunt, but so many of these articles hide behind the pretense of great writing but carry a sexual theology that’s ankle deep. I may ruffle some feathers. (I will certainly crumple some spitting cups and attempt to use refreshing water to revive trampled roses.) But may I speak into the five sexual myths that are floating around in the blog-osphere?
Myth #1: It’s OK If You Lose Your Virginity
Sarah’s blog—while beautiful in its transparency—perpetuated one of the worst myths floating around out there. She wrote:
“So, you had sex before you were married.
Really. It’s okay.
There is no shame in Christ’s love. Let him without sin cast the first stone. You are more than your virginity – or lack thereof – and more than your sexual past.
Your marriage is not doomed because you said yes to the boys you loved as a young woman. Your husband won’t hold it against you, he’s not that weak and ego-driven, choose a man marked by grace.
It’s likely you would make different choices, if you knew then what you know now, but, darling, don’t make it more than it is, and don’t make it less than it is. Let it be true, and don’t let anyone silence you or the redeeming work of Christ in your life out of shame.”
I would have loved to have heard that last paragraph when I was fifteen. I might not have spent nearly ten years living in the same shame-filled place that Sarah got stuck in. And while I understand her heart, I just have to say that a few years of learning has left me with a different response to this paragraph. I want to say this clearly and without confusion: If you’ve had sex outside of marriage, it’s NOT OK.
And you, most likely, are not OK.
I’ve counseled hundreds of women in my twelve years of ministry. Mostly because, like Sarah, I told my story. Unlike the cup-spitting trick, authentic transparency in the body of Christ makes the confession of our sin and damaged soul feel safe rather than shame-filled. (For that aspect of her blog, I applaud Sarah!) Transparency sends a clear message: “You’re not alone.” And that truth is one of the souls greatest balms. Many have come to me to pour out their spittle-filled cups of shame and ask for help to heal their broken hearts. If I’ve learned one thing in praying with these women, it’s this:
It’s not OK.
They’re not OK.
One of many reasons is that there is a chemical and spiritual bond created when two people have sex. The bonding that occurs when you have sex with someone is not just emotional and spiritual, but physiological. Some people call this “enmeshment” and some call it “soul ties.” Though Sarah mentioned them in her blog as if they were a fallacy, the science of sex suggests otherwise.
A chemical called dopamine is released in the brain during sex. It creates a sense of peace and pleasure. In essence, this chemical reminds you to come back for more because it likes the state of your brain after the pleasure that was just experienced. In essence, it’s a “craving” chemical. It makes you want more. Creates addiction. Dopamine attaches you to the source of pleasure.
Another chemical released during sex is oxytocin. A tiny dose is released during skin-to-skin touching and a much bigger dose at orgasm. This chemical is also beautifully released at the intimate moments when a mother breast feeds her baby. It’s purpose: to bond you.
Dr. Joe McIlhaney, founder of the Medical Institute for Sexual Health, claims that “the desire to connect is not just an emotional feeling. Bonding is real and almost like the adhesive effect of glue—a powerful connection that cannot be undone without great emotional pain.”[i]
It’s the undoing that hurts so much. That leaves us so very not OK.
The knowledge of sexual bonding is nothing new. The Apostle Paul wrote,
“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” (I Corinthians 6:16).
When you sleep with someone, your body takes it seriously. Thinks it’s forever.
When it’s not forever.
It’s not OK.
We find ourselves broken whether or not we’ve been exposed to lousy preaching. We find ourselves ashamed whether or not the Church has clumsily agitated the wound.
And I’m not sure that those agitations are entirely bad. The line is fine between shame and guilt. And while shame is a tool of Satan, guilt is a good gift from God. Shames says, “You’re bad.” Guilt says, “Oh, you’re worth so much more than the bad thing you chose.” Guilt—like the ability to feel heat that could burn us— calls us away from things that burn our soul and invites us something better. If we are not careful, we end up allowing an “it’s OK” mentality to dull our conscience. And the enemy of our souls would love nothing better. For, you see, the Holy Spirit speaks to us through our conscience. (I Tim. 1:5; I Peter 3:16; Romans 12:2) In Romans 9:1 the Apostle Paul says, “I speak the truth in Christ–I am not lying, my conscience confirms it through the Holy Spirit–…” Oh, that we would graciously welcome the pricking of our conscience whether it comes clumsily or through intelligent eloquence!
I want to plead with and beg those with a voice in the blog-world to write prayerfully that we may never impose a denial of the conscience. If there is a need for the Holy Spirit to prick the conscience of the Church, it is in the area of sexuality. Sex is sacred and deserves incredible honor. Holy sex is a picture of the redeeming work of Christ in our lives (Ephesians 5:31,32), which is what makes it so sad when we dishonor the sacred gift.
Saying it is OK to dishonor the sacred act of sex is like saying it’s OK for a bride to wear a skimpy bikini to a formal wedding ceremony in Westminster Abbey. (An unbelievably new and tasteless trend in bridal fashion.) And yet some will choose to be more offended at the photo than what is happening in the Church’s sexual theology.
Treating sexual sin as normal is an ignorant and offensive faux paux when you have a deep understanding of the sexual theology. We cannot just say “it’s ok” when we treat sexuality as common and dishonor the marriage bed. There’s more at stake than our shame and broken bonding systems. We must get over ourselves and think beyond “me” to see what is really at stake when we sin sexually.
Look back at Genesis, Church. Sex was not created only for us to have fun, nor to pro-create. It was God’s intention that he provide a magnificent way for us to understand the passionate love he has for us.
The perfect Artist’s interpretation of original Love.
Sex is meant to be a masterfully crafted picture of His love for us. His grace-filled, void-of-shame love. And while we can walk in that love no matter what moral choices we’ve made in the past, why do we ever want to send a message that “it’s OK” if we’ve spray-painted God’s masterpiece with grafitti?
Did I just join the the cup-spitters and rose tramplers?
No. This is not that.
This is an intelligent conversation about something that deserves to be protected and honored. A treasured work of art created by the Master Artist. While I’m one who has been guilty of marring the portrait, I refuse to devalue it by saying that what I did or how I felt after was OK. It’s not OK. Every act of sexual sin makes the conscience of the Church at large duller and duller. And that risks the loss of this beautiful work of art that portrays the love of Christ.
As Pastor John Piper so eloquently puts it in Sex and The Supremacy of Christ:
“Sexuality is designed by Christ as a way to know God more fully; and knowing Christ more fully in all his infinite supremacy is designed as a way of guarding and guiding our sexuality. All sexual corruption serves to conceal the true knowledge of Christ, and the true knowledge of Christ serves to prevent sexual corruption.”
I want to know Him. I want others to know him. And that is why we must declare sexual sin and it’s aftermath very much not OK! Dr Peter Jones claims that a solid sexual theology is critical to letting the lost world see Him. He wrote: “If Christians do not find the courage to address the biblical teaching on sex, we will wake up one day to find themselves and the gospel completely marginalized.”[ii]
The knowledge of this led me to bravely say, “I’m not OK.” That, I have found, is the first step in healing. The second is telling someone, “I’m not OK.” (James 5:16) I rushed to find safe places in the Church for healing. And found them. Those places are a plethora of Christians who carry an intelligent faith.
- They apply grace-fueled, shameless healing.
- They do not use cup-spitting and rose trampling to call us out.
- They are not afraid of sexual sin and it’s graphic confessions.
- They carry the power of miraculous prayer to fix the unholy soul ties.
My story of redemption included a brave truth-filled sexual theology that called me to embrace what the Holy Spirit was speaking to my conscience and to pursue holiness and purity.
A fresh start…
And, then…I was OK.
“The ultimate reason (not the only one) we are sexual is to make God more deeply knowable.”
Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure.”
Read my 8-year study of sexual theology for college-aged women in “What Are You Waiting For: The One Thing No One Ever Tells You About Sex.”
[i]Joe S. McIlhaney & Fred McKissic Bush, MD Hooked: New Science On How Casual Sex Is Affecting Our Children (Chicago, Northfield: 2008), page 37.[ii] Peter Jones, The God of Sex, (Colorado Springs, CO, David C. Cook: 2006), page 9.