January 20, 2012

Of Straw Men and Shameful Speech, Part 2

by Jerry Wragg

Continuing the discussion from yesterday, I want to go on to address another of the arguments that are given in support of Christian leaders regularly engaging in sexually explicit dialogue with Christian married couples.

(2) New Christians with an immoral past are prone to swing the pendulum too drastically, becoming sexually inhibited in marriage despite our God-given freedom.  Explicit sexual honesty between married couples “breaks down” the legalistic barriers and false shame threatening so many marriages today.

Actually, such raw candor across marital lines has the opposite effect!  I’ll explain.

Where matters of sexual practice are in doubt, outside advice beyond the Bible’s explicit and implicit teaching offers nothing of substance for someone else’s relationship struggles.  Other than a physician’s counsel regarding how the body functions under normal conditions, people outside of your marriage union can only describe their own particular practices.  They are not you!  They aren’t married to your spouse.  They only know what they experience in the intimacy of their marriage, and therefore can only describe what is done in the privacy of their bedroom.  Any advice they offer, whether general or explicit, is no more a guarantee for enhancing your sexual experience than their preferred shampoo ensures your hair’s health!  You’re different, it’s that simple.

Intimacy with your spouse is unique to the two of you.  In His providence, God brought the two of you together to experience, not only the wonders of sexual pleasure He designed, but the specialized beauty, intimacy, and profound love He purposed exclusively through the union of your particular bodies and personalities.  Sex as God intended it cannot be reduced to mere biology or even the experience of sexual pleasure in general.  God designed that each couple “know” each other, uniting every distinct and extraordinary dimension of their persons.  When two people become “one” in the act of sexual love, they are not only experiencing the pleasure of intimacy but they are creating new levels of intimacy known only to them because of how God has made them to respond.  Openly discussing one’s marital intimacy with others not only betrays the sacredness of your “secret-life,” but it invites others to imagine details not their own, tempts them to experiment beyond the sexual interests they’ve already established as a unique pair, and entices the flesh to covet what belongs to another (all the above of which is forbidden by God – Prov 5:15-20).

I might also add that when couples exchange explicit advice, strugglers easily become discouraged by having unrealistic expectations introduced into their thinking.  When a couple is already devastated by a season of unmet expectations and unresolved conflict over intimacy, it’s just plain destructive for sexual enthusiasts to describe their own steamy details!  As I stated earlier, other than a resource on sexual physiology or a doctor’s advice about anatomy, explicit “sharing” of bedroom activity is never truly helpful, and it will always create an occasion for feeding sinful desires.

And if, as some claim today, newly saved couples are fearful and unnecessarily inhibited by a “dirty” past (I counsel many who respond this way to their old life), the answer is not to recklessly declare them “free in Christ” and endanger their immature conscience with an explicit guide to “sanctifying every sex act they’ve ever experienced.”  Love never imperils weak and feeble consciences in the name of liberation (Rom 14:14-15:2)!  A faithful counselor carefully brings that person’s unbiblical thinking under the power and authority of God’s word, patiently allowing the Holy Spirit to mature their conscience by replacing old fears and remnant perversions with a renewed thought-life and godly affections.  God renews our minds and hearts at His ever-flawless pace.  The old life—with its bad memories, misinformation, and self-oriented sexual ethics—will continue to lose its grip, giving way to a mature sexual perspective built on self-sacrifice for the pleasure of one’s spouse.

I can’t help but look with suspicion at any counseling approach that hastily risks a weaker brother’s conscience by strongly encouraging him to push beyond his present moral sensibilities under a banner of Christian freedom.  Is this truly motivated by a sincere desire to help others jettison cultural baggage and enter the fullness of God’s design for sex in marriage, or could this be just another subtle way of removing boundaries between couples—of engaging in verbal pornography while calling it “ministry?”  Whatever the real motives behind this dangerous trend, it does not deserve the swift momentum it seems to be gaining.

Some have defended the new tactic reasoning that a counselor’s answers must be as graphic as today’s prevailing questions.  Young couples, they claim, want to know what particular sexual acts, learned in the secular culture, are permissible for Christians.  A few biblical presuppositions will help anchor our answers to God’s design for sexual love in marriage:

  • Sex in marriage is pure and holy (Gen 1:31).
  • Sex in marriage, even after the fall, is pure and holy (Heb 13:4).
  • The primary goal of sexual love in marriage is to provide sexual satisfaction to your spouse (1 Cor 7:3), and is, therefore, the highest pleasure.
  • God Created both partners with the equal capacity, under normal health conditions, to satisfy one another.
  • Pleasure in sexual union is not sinful or forbidden, but assured and encouraged.
  • If giving sexual satisfaction to one’s partner is the ultimate goal, and if both are to mutually learn how to bring such satisfaction to the other (1 Cor 7:3-5), then the issue of “how” will always be governed by a desire for mutual satisfaction rather than self-fulfillment.

Since God created our bodies for the pleasure of one another, two people are free in marriage to explore what is mutually satisfying and thoroughly agreeable.  However, where normal human anatomy and healthy bodily function would be threatened or endangered by an attempt at deriving sexual pleasure, true biblical love would never risk it.  If a person has been taught—by experience or the selfish, undignified practices of culture—that the highest pleasures are found in testing the boundaries of health or personal tastes, they should refrain from experimenting and be content to build a new life of spiritual intimacy and selfless abandonment to the pleasure of the other!  They should trust God that during seasons of more conservative pleasure-seeking He is strengthening them in the selfless pursuit of Christ-likeness.  He will rebuild the best possible intimate life as they mature in their self-sacrifice for one another.  The bottom line: when in doubt, ask God for wisdom, ask your spouse about their tastes, ask your doctor regarding health risks, and seek the mutual pleasure of each other according to God’s complimentary design for your bodies.

Jerry Wragg

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Jerry is the pastor-teacher of Grace Immanuel Bible Church in Jupiter, FL. He also serves as the Chairman of the board of The Expositors Seminary.
  • Super. Well put!

  • Pat Howell

    Very well said on all counts, Jerry.

    • Jerry Wragg


  • Excellent, and well reasoned with scripture. And as a plus, not having to use “missional”, “conversation”, Jesus “follower”, or any other trendy terms. Thanks Pastor Wragg.

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  • Anonymous

    Thank you Jerry. I appreciated the entire article and I particularly enjoyed your closing paragraph. I believe a memorisation of the points you make in your closing application will go a long way to help couples and to instruct counsellors on this incredibly important yet sensitive subject.

  • Wow. Brilliant post Jerry. God honoring!

  • Graham and Nicola

    Well said! It seems that some evangelical gurus have forgotten the meaning of sex; it is the foundation of family, and the source of the next generation. Sex has an intrinsic meaning which we need to honour. We also need to remember the meaning of our bodies:

    “Because every part of us has meaning, our very bodies have a language of their own; they say things by what we do with them. Bone speaks to bone, organ to organ, skin to skin. A smile means something friendly; you cannot give that meaning to a slap in the face. You can use a kiss to betray, but that is only because a kiss, in itself, means something else. Conjugal sex means self-giving, making one flesh out of two.” J Budzisewski, “What We Can’t Not Know” pp 93-94. Budzisewski then points out that it is unethical to put a part of ourselves that means new life, into a part that can only represent expulsion and rot.

    And we need to remember more than the meaning of our bodies. Culturally, some of the acts that the gurus permit are associated with humiliating women, or with sexual preferences opposed to procreativity. Our bedrooms are private places, but our marriages have public meaning.

    These are troubling times. We’re glad that “Cripplegate” is addressing this issue in a mature and thoughtful manner.


  • Graham and Nicola

    PS: the practical advice in this column far outweighs all that we’ve heard from some of the self appointed “sexperts”! Much more grounded, much wiser, much more measured.

  • Michael Delahunt

    I loved this article, particularly the statement that the Holy Spirit kills old sinful perversions and transforms into godly affections. The entire post was again a great reminder that sexuality is a way to serve, not take. Thanks!

  • bmh

    Here’s the money quote: “Where matters of sexual practice are in doubt, outside advice beyond the Bible’s explicit and implicit teaching offers nothing of substance for someone else’s relationship struggles.”

    Amen. There is a rapid decline in the sanctity of marriage these days, a lack of reverence for what God graciously gives to the marriage bed even when it’s well intended.

    “There are three things that are too amazing for me,
    four that I do not understand:
    19 the way of an eagle in the sky,
    the way of a snake on a rock,
    the way of a ship on the high seas,
    and the way of a man with a young woman. – Proverbs 30:18-19

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