Tuesday, January 27, 2015

The Purity Movement part 2- Sexual Desires a Sin?

Galatians 5:16 “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.”

After discussing dating in the Purity Movement in my last post, I now want to discuss another topic that was been running rampant among ultra-conservative Christianity.  The topic now is about Sexual Desires and sexuality among the Christian culture.  Are sexual desires or sexual arousal sinful?  What do Christians face regarding this topic? What is acceptable and what isn’t?  For the most part it appears there is a trend in the Purity Movement that encourages Christians to feel ashamed of their sexuality.

Instead, they must suppress their sexuality in order to avoid sin. Because of this mentality, plenty of Christians have felt guilt and  shame whenever, they felt  physical attraction to the opposite sex, felt sexual desires with special person in their life, longed to kiss or hold them or even fear physical contact with friends of the opposite sex etc.  Even when couples marry, sometimes they have trouble with intimacy with their spouses due to suppressing their sexuality so much in the past.   Many well-meaning but misguided churches have played a role teaching Christians about purity and avoiding lust at all costs so as to not give in to temptation to sin, with distorted information and facts. This is mostly prominent in the purity culture of the typical “I Kissed Dating Goodbye” philosophy and the “True Love Waits’ among teenagers. 

The fact remains, many churches believe people can’t control their impulses and will give into lust so easily and many have a long list of man-made rules what leads to lust.   It is true there are plenty of bible verses that state against sexual sins and lust.  Matthew 5:28 “But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”  1Thessalonians 4:4-5 “That each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God.”   1 John 2:16 “For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world.”  James 1:14-15 “But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire.  Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.” 

It is true that as Christians, we are not to give in to temptation built on pure lust.  However, we need to have a real understanding exactly what is lust and what isn’t.  First the Greek word for lust is “epithumia” which means strong desire, longing, craving, desire for what is forbidden.  Although sometimes the word is used in positive way in the Bible, often times it is used negatively when referring to sexual behavior.  However, we shouldn’t confuse lust or epithumia with the sexual desires or sexual arousal as they are not necessary the same thing. To further explain, I want it to be clear that sexual arousal or sexual desires are not necessarily the same thing as lust and therefore not a sin.  God created us humans to be sexual beings, and thus gave us sexual desires especially for our spouses and they are natural human instincts.  Sexual arousal is a involuntary physical response we humans get that are also quite natural especially in a marriage.  These are not necessary lustful even outside of marriage. 

The problem isn't having these kind of feelings as a whole, but I we act on or handle them. It’s true we need to learn how to control these feelings rather than let them control us but suppressing them based on shame or guilt isn’t the answer. Maybe knowing in what circumstances where they are acceptable and how to manage the correctly.  I would like to take the time to list several situations of sexual feelings that are not based on lust in itself and quite normal and natural. Physical attraction or arousal people feel when they see a very attraction person of the opposite sex.  The sparks and arousal people feel whenever they engage in any form of physical affection(that doesn’t include sexual intercourse) between a couple.  Perhaps curious to what it would be like to make love to their boyfriend/girlfriend one day that there are in love with(as long as they don’t act on it). 

Maybe a teenager discovering his/her sexuality by being curious about physical or sexual intimacy and what is like. Or even adult wanting one day experience the joys of being held, touched or kissed by a future love interest or to have a sexual pleasure with a future spouse. These are normal natural and even healthy feelings that all people have once in a while, and it would be unrealistic and unfair to suppress, deny or shun them under a misguided notion of avoiding lust. However, I can list several examples of feelings that are just built pure lust an nothing else.  When a person eyes up someone of the opposite sex and has the desire to engage sexual activity with him/her simply for self-gratification. 

Having the urges to have sexual intercourse, simply to get laid because you’re horny and don’t care who the person you do it with.  Looking at or watching porn and maybe fantasizing engaging in illicit sexual activity.  A Married person sexually desiring someone else other than their spouse.  Simply, regarding members of the opposite sex as mere objects for their own sexual pleasure.  These circumstances are obviously not acceptable and should be avoided but shutting down our sexuality altogether until marriage is not the answer.  Besides the fact, this in itself could create new problems especially for newlyweds who are ill prepared on who sexually pleasure each other because they have been taught to shut down their sexuality for too long.  I’ve actually read from several former members of the purity culture complain about this very thing and how it affected their marriage. 

The Bottom line is that we as Christians really need is to find better and more realistic understandings on how to express and channel our sexuality that reflect the new era while staying true to the biblical teachings.  We do this by simply, accepting our sexual desires as natural human feelings we all get when relating and feeling attraction to the opposite sex that shouldn’t be feared but be allowed to be expressed, yet managed by setting reasonable boundaries.  We do this by not allowing our desires to control our actions instead we should always stay control our actions instead.  Which actions are permissible and what isn’t should be something we need to figure out by using sound judgment with Lord’s guidance.  

Luckily, more Christian authors, speakers, bloggers and ex purity culture members are speaking about more modern and practical ideals on sexuality, sexual desires, etc among believers.   For the next post I will discuss what is acceptable among physical behavior in dating relationships.