For some, it’s a “dirty word,” best left whispered or never discussed. But sex — that is, sexual intercourse — was created by God, who is good, perfect, loving, holy, and true. Sex is God’s righteous gift to His people.
But as with many of God’s gifts, it has been used for good and evil since time began.
Anything mentioned in the Bible, from money to sex, is important for God’s people to think about and discuss in a church setting.
Yet sex is often one of those difficult areas of conversation; families have different opinions about when their children should know about it, and because sex is such a special and intimate experience, it’s also difficult to gauge how comfortable people are with the topic in such a public setting.
Given all this, how should the church approach the subject of sex?
What Is God’s Intention for Sex?
The Bible indicates that sexual intercourse is part of God’s plan for His people, part of procreation and intimacy between a man and woman.
In Genesis, we’re told God created man and woman in His image and then commanded them to “be fruitful and increase in number” (Genesis 1:28).
In Genesis 2:24-25, we’re told a husband and wife are “one flesh,” and that in the garden with God, “Adam and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.”
Later, after they were expelled from the garden, Genesis 4:1 tells us, “Adam made love to his wife Eve, and she became pregnant and gave birth to Cain.”
The original Hebrew used in this last verse is yada, which means to know — in this case, intimately.
From the start, we understand that God’s original design for humanity is that men and women are designed to be with each other, as one flesh, and this is how we honor God’s command to “be fruitful.”
This is a good thing.
But as with all good things, it can be misused. And throughout Scripture, we can find more warnings about what not to do regarding sex than anything else.
What Does the Bible Say about Sex?
The Bible is clear that sex is a part of marriage, and within that boundary, it is a joy, a gift, and a delight.
The most comprehensive and lengthy treatment of sex in Scripture is in the Song of Solomon, a poetic book within the Bible about sexual love within marriage thought to have been written by King Solomon (son of David and author of Proverbs).
In this book, two newlyweds enjoy each other’s bodies as they would fruit in a garden, and it is clear God approves of this. It is part of His design and His good gift of pleasure and intimacy between a husband and wife.
But sexual love within marriage is also talked about elsewhere in Scripture. Deuteronomy 24:5 says that a newlywed soldier or public servant must stay at home with his wife for one year to enjoy the intimacy of their new marriage.
In the New Testament, writers continue to lift up marriage. Hebrews 13:4 says, “Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure.”
In short: married sex is good — very good.
But the Bible has plenty to say about impure sex, too — sex outside of the boundary of marriage.
What Does the Bible Say about Sexual Immorality?
God is clear that sexual immorality is not good. It is a sin that carries consequences.
Paul writes that we are to “flee from sexual immorality,” for it is a sin against our own bodies (1 Corinthians 6:18).
We must share sexual intimacy only within marriage and not display passionate lust for others or exhibit a lack of control (1 Thessalonians 4:3-5). We must avoid works of the flesh and earthly desires (Galatians 5:19).
The Old Testament spells out what is detestable to God: adultery, rape, unnatural desire (such as for animals, people of our same gender, or relatives), and sex work.
Repeatedly, we see people punished for detestable acts and immorality. In some cases, execution was the punishment for certain immoral acts, namely adultery.
As the Lord said after listing numerous types of sexual immoralities, “Do not defile yourselves in any of these ways, because this is how the nations that I am going to drive out before you became defiled. Even the land was defiled, so I punished it for its sin, and the land vomited out its inhabitants” (Leviticus 18:24-25).
Should the Church Talk about Sex?
Throughout the Bible, God talked about sex, as well as money, relationships, temptation, and other aspects of the human condition. Because of that, the church — which the Bible tells us is His body — should indeed talk about sex.
Just as the church approaches the topic of money (by encouraging people to follow God’s commands encouraging tithing, not being stingy or greedy, not making money or other things an idol, etc.), so should the church talk about sex and other important parts of people’s lives.
Jesus used marriage as a metaphor, at various points identifying himself as the bridegroom and his people as his bride. Paul likened Christ as the husband of the church (Ephesians 5:22-32), whom we are to submit to as our sovereign leader.
This is a good, pure, and righteous thing, just as sex within a marriage, the joining of two as one flesh, is a good, pure, and righteous thing.
Therefore, the church would do well to reflect on the positive nature of sex within a marriage and the beautiful gift God gives us in such a holy act.
That is, instead of pointing fingers at immorality and talking about the shame of sex outside of marriage, a better and more God-focused approach might be to talk about the gift of sex within marriage.
How Should My Church Talk about Sex?
It might not be appropriate to talk about sex in the pulpit. Depending on your church and its makeup, young children might attend, and talking about longing, lust, the marriage bed, and the delight of the marital union might not be appropriate for their ears.
But establishing a safe space in a church setting, where sex and other aspects of a healthy marriage can be discussed and encouraged, is something to consider. Some churches might do a couples’ Bible study, premarital and marriage counseling, marriage retreats designed to foster greater intimacy, and more.
Intimate longing is an important part of what it means to be human. The church has a duty to talk about sex, encourage people to engage in it only in the way God intends, and create a safe and positive environment for people to share, learn, and reflect in a manner that honors Him and His beautiful design for humanity.
For further reading:
Photo Credit: ©iStock/Getty Images Plus/stefanamer
Jessica Brodie is an award-winning Christian novelist, journalist, editor, blogger, and writing coach and the recipient of the 2018 American Christian Fiction Writers Genesis Award for her novel, The Memory Garden. She is also the editor of the South Carolina United Methodist Advocate, the oldest newspaper in Methodism. Learn more about her fiction and read her faith blog at jessicabrodie.com. She has a weekly YouTube devotional, too. You can also connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, and more. She’s also produced a free eBook, A God-Centered Life: 10 Faith-Based Practices When You’re Feeling Anxious, Grumpy, or Stressed.