A truly traditional view of sex (and other appetites)

book heart

A truly traditional view of sex. * (and other appetites)

“I was born this way.”

“I just wish God would take this desire away, it isn’t fair!  Is he punishing me?”

“What if God put this desire in me and never gives me a way to satisfy it?”

These are statements I have heard from men unsatisfied in their own marriages, single men struggling to stay pure, and those whose bodies were severely damaged from tragic accidents.

Let’s examine a few of these a bit more.

A young man in his mid-twenties married a delightful young lady who ended up having almost no sexual drive.  The normally good-natured young man found himself regularly exploring other outlets sexually.  He, like most who come in my office in a moral dilemma, worked to emotionally pull me into their situation.  “Can’t you see how hard this has been?  What else was I supposed to do?”

Another young man came to me who, for lack of a better way to state it, wasn’t attractive at all.  It wasn’t his fault and he was actually a wonderful individual whose company I enjoyed.  As he aged his fear of not having an outlet to satisfy his sexual desires pushed him ever further away from what he felt was his moral center.  By the time he came to me he was afraid he would never have a sexual outlet with another person.  In desperation with no other option, would a prostitute be a viable option?

No matter what situation is presented me in counseling I find a common thread – all of us tend to hang primarily on causation and use it as permission.  When people come into my office they often try to emotionally convince me that the painful cause of their struggle should permit them to act as they see fit.  Moreover, I have found that people also will tell me all the morally good things they are trying to do in their situation…they are trying to witness in their affair, they are praying that God would provide a better solution or change their appetite.

Here is my thought.  What if debates over the cause alone is the wrong place to focus our energy?

The meta-themes (overarching ideas offered) in the Bible juxtapose (to place apparent opposing ideas alongside each other) the call for man to be holy as God is holy (1 Pe 1:16) and that all have fallen short of the glory of God and cannot be righteous without Christ’s work (Rom. 3:21-26).  We are called to be holy but literally cannot do it on our own.

So here we have something really interesting emerge.

There is a perfect example we are to strive toward but all of us have things that prevent us from achieving it. The vast sea of causes would be impossible to list here, yet I find it interesting the like causes tend to draw people together and they often belittle people who struggle in ways they don’t.  For example, a relatively wealthy, suburban Christian church filled with mostly traditional families may be full of pride, arrogance, gossip, and material gluttony and not even see it in themselves.  While blind to their sin they vocally denounce the struggles that very few of them have.

The older and more well read I become I find myself evermore gracious towards those who struggle in ways that I do not.  Now I find myself encouraging everyone to pursue the ways and nature of Christ instead of keeping our focus on causes.  I now ask people this question: What actions and heart conditions could move you most towards the nature of Jesus?  My objective is to move their focus off their obsession with their struggle and on to the work, nature, and ways of Christ.  I love the way C.S. Lewis says it, “Every disability conceals a vocation, if only we can find it, which will turn the necessity to glorious gain.”

Therefore, when someone comes into my office obsessing over their perceived disabilities and the life permissions they believe it gives them I change the conversation to the holiness of Jesus and ask how they could move that direction.

“I was born this way.”

Maybe this is so, but the deeper question remains.  Are you moving more toward the ways and nature of Jesus or are you using your life allotment as reason to excuse yourself from this journey?

“I just wish God would take this desire away, it isn’t fair!  Is he punishing me?”

Possibly this struggle was allowed to hone you spiritually.  So, are you moving more toward the ways and nature of Jesus or are you using your life allotment as reason to excuse yourself from this journey?

“What if God put this desire in me and never gives me a way to satisfy it?”

Appetites unfulfilled happen all the time.  Just ask the young wounded soldier I met a few years ago who will never know many joys that others have.  The core question still remains.  Are you moving closer to the ways and nature of Jesus or are you using your life allotment as an excuse not to pursue the ways and nature of Jesus?  Moreover, as you pursue Jesus you will find your appetites fulfilled in other ways.

Finally, I have found when a pastor or Christian counselor places primary efforts towards the spiritual direction one is moving rather than just obsessing on a single issue you give them a spiritual life skill that will carry over into many areas of living.  You also show them how to make Jesus famous in their struggle.  As the Apostle Paul so eloquently states, he can now “…delight in weakness, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties.  For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Cor. 12:10) Just maybe your struggle, whatever it may be, could make your satisfaction in Jesus ever more profound and visible.  That I believe is our primary objective.  Jesus satisfies most. I quite enjoy the way Dr. John Piper says it, “God is most glorified when we are most satisfied in him.”  And this should be our primary objective – to glorify God.  In the light of eternity this is our greatest pleasure.

Can you see it? Our hurts are often the very places Jesus shines the brightest.

Two things to pray:

  1. Father help me to forgive those who sin differently than I.
  2. Lord help me to become aware of sin I have allowed in my own life by causal justification.

Two things you can do:

  1. Work to befriend someone whose struggle is different than yours and show them grace and encouragement to move towards “be holy as I am holy” and what that means in the greater story of Scripture.
  2. Stop obsessing over specific sins and always work to help people see how they could make Jesus famous through their areas of imperfection, whatever it may be.

Back to the cultural hot topic of our day.  Sex.  Like any appetite it can be abused, twisted, worshiped, obsessed over, and made into a god itself.  Whatever the hunger, whatever the perspective of it, I still ask the same question.  How can you move more toward the ways and nature of Christ with what you have?  No one gets this fully right and that is where the work of Christ on the cross comes in. 

* I must state that I am going to do my best to transliterate, if you will, the works of a few authors, most notably C.S. Lewis into a colloquial format.  For more information, please read the letters between Sheldon Vanauken and Lewis as well as his book The Four Loves.

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