(Note: This article is for married couples who have questions about what God considers right and wrong in the bedroom.)
Matt and Beth had been married 3 years when they became Christians. They already enjoyed a passionate sexual relationship. They joined a church and began to grow in their Christian lives. At some point (and they really didn’t know where or how) they got the feeling that God kind of tolerated sex, but didn’t really want them to enjoy it too much, because it was “fleshly.” Beth never wanted to have sex on Sunday morning before church because it just didn’t seem spiritual. All of those “don’ts” in the Bible seemed to start putting a damper on things. They even began to wonder if some of the sexual play they enjoyed so much was sinful. At times they were caught between their passion and feeling guilty. It started to put some strain on their sex life and finally on their marriage. It even impacted their relationship with God. Matt and Beth needed some real answers from a Christian perspective regarding what was right and wrong in the bedroom.
At some point in their relationship every Christian couple will need to consider and decide what is acceptable to both God, and each other, in terms of sexual activity. While Matt and Beth are a fictional couple, they do represent a lot of couples who desire to be pleasing to God in every area of their lives. Young Christian couples who are planning to get married and couples who become Christians afterwards often have questions about this important part of their relationship. Often they are too embarrassed to ask the pastor about such a sensitive subject.
There are two assumptions and both are equally wrong. One is that “anything goes” and the other is that “almost nothing goes.”
God Created Our Sexuality
As Christians, we start with the premise that God created sexuality and everything that goes with it. He created our sexual organs, along with the intense physical and emotional pleasures. Sex was His idea. Had He not wanted us to enjoy it he could have simply removed a few nerve endings and brain cells to tone things down a bit.
A Christian couple should approach sex from the basic viewpoint that God intended them to fully enjoy it and each other. This will eliminate a lot of confused or guilty feelings and allow couples to relax and enjoy each other more.
Two Basic Scriptures Regarding Sex in Marriage
“Marriage is honorable among all, and the bed undefiled; but fornicators and adulterers God will judge.” Hebrews 13:4 NKJV
“The husband should not deprive his wife of sexual intimacy, which is her right as a married woman, nor should the wife deprive her husband. The wife gives authority over her body to her husband, and the husband also gives authority over his body to his wife. So do not deprive each other of sexual relations. The only exception to this rule would be the agreement of both husband and wife to refrain from sexual intimacy for a limited time, so they can give themselves more completely to prayer. Afterward they should come together again so that Satan won’t be able to tempt them because of their lack of self-control.” I Corinthians 7:3-6 NLT
In general the Bible is very pro-sex; within marriage. It does not describe it as dirty or something to be avoided, or only for procreation. It treats the subject as normal part of our lives and something that Christians need to deal with in a regular basis. Because it does not give a lot of specifics we assume that God leaves some discretion to the conscience of individual couple.
Sexual Sin in the Bible
Adultery, Fornication, Homosexuality, Incest,
Bestiality and Pornography
Most of the Biblical taboos relating to sexual sin have to do with adultery (a married person having sex with someone other then their spouse), fornication (sex between an unmarried man and woman), incest (sex with a close family member), homosexuality (sex between people of the same gender), bestiality (sex with animals) and pornography (revealing another person’s nakedness). All of these are declared to be sinful in no uncertain terms. There is no possible way a sincere person could read the Bible and come away with the conclusion that these things were okay.
There really aren’t any direct scriptures that speak of what is “godly” or “ungodly” sex within the bounds of a loving, committed marriage. For instance the Bible does not say, “thou shalt not ________,” (fill in the blank with your favorite sexual activity). We are left then to determine some things by spiritual discernment.
Could Marital Sex Become Sinful?
There are spiritual principles which govern all areas of our spiritual life though and these can be applied to marital intimacy as well. As we have seen sex in and of itself is not sinful between husbands and wives (your own of course). However sin is not just an act, it also entails motive and drive. It is possible for a married couple to sin in sexual areas, but as a general rule the motivation is probably more a factor then the act.
Lust Verses Love
Love should always be a motivating factor in marriage, and that includes sex. In another article I stated that “lovers give and lusters take.” Lust is always wrong, for its motivation is wrong. Lust is focused on what self wants, while love focuses on the one loved. The principle is found in the well known passage of scripture, John 3:16, “For God so loved … that He gave … ” A Christian couple should passionately desire each other. And that desire should be fueled by love. The difference is the motivation and drive. As a Christian man or woman focuses on loving pleasing their spouse, greater pleasure and more emotional bonding occurs. When a person is more interested in their own pleasure, it becomes lust and less satisfactory for their partner. Many women end up feeling that they are sex objects rather then wives.
Perhaps we should define “lust.” Lust is not just strong sexual desire. Lust is all about self-fulfillment. Lust is selfish and self-centered. Lust only gives, when it is sure it will get more in return.
Sexual passion in marriage is part of the glue that holds a couple together. So passion is not lust. Passion, fueled by genuine love keeps the spark of marriage going for decades. How often have we heard, “the fire went out.” “The flame is gone.” Those are words describing passion. When this happens it is not long before the dying embers of sexual desire get stirred elsewhere.
The Bible tells us that love is the highest goal of the Christian life. With this as a guiding principle a Christian couple will be cautious about areas of sexuality that do not stem from love. A spouse should never demand that their partner do something sexually that they are not comfortable with. If one partner wants to try something and the other is uncomfortable they should take time to discuss it, explore and get used to it, or, decide together not to.
The old manipulation technique of, “If you really loved me you would _________,” should never cross the Christian’s lips. This very statement represents lust rather then love.
Using Sex as a Tool or a Weapon
While it is not a good thing, it is not all that uncommon for one spouse to use sex as leverage to get something non-sexual from their partner. A woman may withhold sex in order to get her ways in other areas of the marriage. A man might treat his wife with less respect to get her to do something she doesn’t want to do. These attitudes about sex are clearly sinful because they are centered on manipulating the other person for one’s own purpose. They have left the realm of love and enter the arena of self. Self is always sinful.
Violating Your Conscience with Sexual Activities
Another guiding principle in the Bible is our conscience. Paul explains that not everything is wrong, but if a person thinks it is wrong and does it anyway their conscience will be troubled and they will condemn themselves. Paul’s advice is to not violate your conscience. So it doesn’t really matter if someone tells you something is okay, unless you really come to the place were you are personally at peace with it, it will hinder you spiritually. A husband or wife should not demand that their spouse do sexual things they feel are wrong or sinful. In I Corinthians 812 Paul tells us to entice a Christian to do something he/she feels is wrong is sinning against Christ, even if the thing they don’t want to do is not really sinful.
Pornography in the Christian Bedroom
Pornography is sin. It always has been and always will be, even if both spouses are consenting to watch it. It has no place in a Christian marriage or home. The Bible is plain about not “revealing another person’s nakedness.” Pornography causes lust, and it causes people to lust after someone other then their spouse. Besides the spiritual issues involved, pornography can be very addictive. It has been proven that those who regularly view pornography have to have more and more hardcore images to get the same arousal. It is like drugs or alcohol. Often pornography leads to one spouse wanting something the other spouse does not want to do. Many couples have been destroyed because one partner got addicted to pornography. Christian couples should avoid pornography at all costs.
Fantasy Role Playing
Some couples enjoy sexual role playing as a means of foreplay. While this technique is not specifically mentioned in the Bible it is worth considering the pros and cons of it. Within reason it might be harmless enough, but fantasy can do a lot of mental stimulation and could lead to fantasizing about another person or even pornographic things. The mind is a hard thing to control. Once you start stimulating and creating images in it, it is hard to get them out.
In effect role playing is pretending to do or be something wouldn’t normally do or be. Let’s look at simple example, the wife might dress like a prostitute or get a “naughty nurse” uniform. Obviously a Christian man should not be visiting a prostitute. However if he gets aroused just playing at it with his wife, there is a possibility that he will struggle with the temptations to do it in real life. These are extra pressures a Christian and a marriage do not need. You must keep in mind that sexual stimulation causes chemical brain reactions and people can get addicted to that stimulation. Like most addictions a person requires more and more stimulation to get the same “high” as time goes on. Because of that, Role playing should be used with some limitations and caution in the Christian marriage.
What About Other Things Besides Intercourse?
Probably, at some point, most couples will at least consider some forms of sexual activity besides intercourse. Oral sex, masturbation, sex toys, anal sex, rough play and a few other odds and ends may come up. Christian couples may wonder if these are acceptable to God.
The Bible does not specifically address any of these issues, except perhaps sodomy (anal sex). However, it addresses sodomy specifically in terms of homosexuality, not as an alternate method of heterosexual activity.
Because of this area of scriptural “silence” the Christian couple will need to determine between themselves and God what is acceptable and what is not.
The only note I’ll make here is that because of a number of health risks involved in anal sex it is probably not advisable, but that does not necessarily make it sinful.
By now you’ve probably figured out that the heart has a lot more to do with sexual sin then the actual acts, at least within the bonds of marriage. The overall principle in every area of our spiritual lives is obeying the Lord as we understand His personal directions to us individually. In another scripture, Paul tells us, “Whatever is not of faith is sin.” I am therefore convinced that what might be okay to one person might be sinful to another, depending on their level of faith. In some areas of our Christian, where the Bible does not specifically give us guidance, we tend to grow as we go. That means that as I mature God may speak to certain areas of my life that He may not speak to in others (or simply hasn’t gotten around to yet). I am personally responsible to what God reveals to me, but unless I have clear scriptural backing, I should be careful about making everyone else live up to my personal convictions. The end of the matter is that God is quite capable of letting you know if you are doing something wrong.
My prayer for every couple who reads this article is that God would richly bless your marriage and grant you the same passionate, self-sacrificing love for each other that He has for you.