My Sex: Celebration or Sin?

As I love God and love others, as I strive to let go of attachments and to forgive others, how do I honor God with my sex life? How do I determine what is joyful sex and what is sinful sex? Start by defining sin. A traditional understanding is that the Bible stipulates sinful actions. Murder, adultery, lying, and stealing are sins.

But God is a God of complexity. Was Dietrich Bonhoeffer committing sin as he helped plot the murder of Adolf Hitler? Bonhoeffer was killed for these efforts and most folks would say he was a courageous man who was attempting to follow the Holy Spirit’s direction in his life.

Many church leaders in early Nazi Germany meekly followed the law and their leaders. These folks reaped the benefits of acquiescence. They were rewarded by Hitler for their loyalty. Looking through the lens of history, we despise those cowards. To stay in that historical time, the civilian Germans who hid Jews and lied when the Nazis came looking for them lied with honor. No one would call that courageous behavior sinful.

Could adultery ever not be sinful? Consider a woman who cares for her husband with dementia for many years. She works at a job, acts as primary caregiver, and lives in brutal loneliness. If she falls in love with another man, may she act on that passion? Some would say, “God makes life hard. She just has to follow the rules.” Others would see some room for grace in that scenario.

Perhaps we should start with the premise that sin has victims. Murder, stealing, and child molesting all have clear victims. Putting anything higher than God (idolatry, greed, immorality, etc.) makes God and ourselves the victim. We evaluate the sinfulness of a behavior partly by the harm the sinful act causes.

We also consider intent. Sinful behavior tends to have selfish, lazy, or unkind intent. Good behavior tends to be done in a loving manner, and it often requires extra effort.

For example: is masturbation sinful? Consider a scenario in which the wife had a baby several months ago and is feeling overwhelmed, exhausted, and anti-sexy. The husband still has his normal sex drive. It seems to me that the husband letting his wife sleep and heading to the shower to shake hands with the Admiral can be considered an act of compassion.

On the other hand, frequent self-gratification could make masturbation an idol in a person’s life. If important things go undone because you put so much time and effort into pleasing yourself, victims emerge. Also, if the intent is selfish and lazy, it may be sinful.

By the way, if a behavior simply creeps you out, you are not victimized by that behavior. You may feel uncomfortable with the thought of men having sex with other men, but that doesn’t make you a victim, and it doesn’t make gay sex sinful.

Are there any rules for sex?

1.     Any non-consensual sex (read rape) is sin. When a husband forces his wife to have sex with him, when unwanted sexual activity happens on a date, or when a person is unable to give consent, any sexual action is rape.

2.     Any sex with a child is sin. Child molestation seems the most egregious sin fallen humanity has devised.

3.     Sex that violates a trust (such as adultery) is sin. Solomon describes a foolish young man seduced by a married woman as sin with consequences.[1] Godly sex should not create victims. This concept covers the two words (Pornea and Moichos) the Bible uses for prohibited sex.[2]

As you consider what to do or not do in your own sex life, think about doing what you can to make God smile. He loves you more than you can imagine (unless you have grandchildren, then you might have a limited idea of that kind of love). Make your sex a celebration. Act with love and make the effort to have Great Sex, Christian-Style.

[1] Proverbs 7

[2] See page 147 for definitions of Pornea and Moichos.