By J. Parker, Crosswalk.com
It’s not just junior high kids who propagate myths about sex. We adults are guilty too.
Sure, some falsehoods are easy to spot, the sort of ideas that make you shake your head and wonder who would believe that. But other times, we hear, read, and absorb messages about sexuality that simply aren’t true.
Unfortunately, some of those myths even come from within our churches or in circles of Christian family and friends. While not always taught directly, these messages seep into our common culture and set up a poor theology about God’s design for sex.
What myths have been we been floating around? How are they messing up our sexuality? How do they negatively affect our view of God, the creator of sex, and our marriage beds?
Let’s look at 10 myths and replace them with the real truth about sex as God intended.
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1. Sex is private, so we shouldn't talk about it.
I’ve heard this one plenty, but here’s the problem: God talked about sex. Once, I decided to read the Bible aloud to my young children, and I quickly found myself wanting to skip over some sections. Because you cannot get very far in the Bible before coming across Scriptures about husbands and wives making love and having children, stories of sexual desire and misconduct, warnings against sinful sexual practices, and poetic passages about sexual intimacy in marriage.
We’re only in chapter two of the Bible, before we get to this gem: “This explains why a man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.” (Genesis 2:24). “United into one” includes physical consummation, or sex.
Now of course we shouldn’t know specifics about others’ sex lives. But we can discuss God’s teaching and principles and give Christians biblically based advice on how to handle challenges in the marriage bed. We can talk about godly sexuality without invading bedroom privacy. Indeed, if we intend to speak where God speaks, we must step up and share God’s design for sex.
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2. Song of Songs is simply an allegory about Christ and the church.
This was a common belief in the Church for centuries. However, the allegory theory is an outgrowth of Gnosticism, a movement denounced in the New Testament and by early Church leaders. It hung in many respects because of a misunderstanding about the physical versus the spiritual, and frankly some people’s discomfort about an erotic book being in the Bible.
With better resources and more study, scholars now believe Song of Songs addresses marital, sexual love. Yes, the Bible does periodically make comparisons between a husband and a wife and God and His people (see Isaiah 54:5 and Ephesians 5:31-32), but this particular book addresses the intimacy of a married couple.
The inclusion of Song of Songs in the Bible demonstrates that God delights in married couples enjoying physical intimacy to the fullest. “Oh, lover and beloved, eat and drink! Yes, drink deeply of your love!” (5:1).
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3. Sex is for procreation.
Well, yes, it is for procreation. Indeed, God’s first blessing to humans included His command to “be fruitful and multiply” (Genesis 1:28). But the Bible also instructs that we are to make love throughout our marriage, outside of conception.
As Proverbs 5:19 says to a man about his wife, “She is a loving deer, a graceful doe. Let her breasts satisfy you always. May you always be captivated by her love.” Always means even beyond those times when conception is possible.
Also, in Song of Songs, not once do husband or wife mention conceiving children. Rather, it’s clear that they enjoy sex for how it expresses and nurtures mutual love. It helps them to be united into one (Genesis 2:24).
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4. When good Christians get married, sex falls into place.
A number of couples have told me that this is the advice they got in premarital counseling: “Sex? You’ll work that when you get married” or, “Sex is pretty straightforward.” It’s unfortunate that too many pastors and counselors overlooked an opportunity to share God’s design for sexual intimacy in marriage and to leave the door open in case a couple needs to return for assistance.
Because the truth is that sex can be a struggle for many married couples. Among the potential issues are physical challenges, emotional baggage, difficulty switching from purity to passion, or a mismatch in libidos.
Just being Christian doesn’t mean that everything will work swimmingly. But being Christian means that God has answers and His community of believers should be there to help. We must reach out to struggling couples in compassionate, concrete ways to help them find godly answers and to embrace healthy, holy intimacy.
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5. Sex is for him.
Oh my, this is a prevalent myth! Since men are viewed as the ones with a high sex drive, the emphasis gets put on taking care of his desire for sex.
Many well-meaning Christians have thus encouraged wives to “meet his physical needs.” You’ve probably heard such suggestions as, “Remain sexually available to your husband,” “Don’t say no when he wants to have sex,” and even suggestions that if a woman doesn’t meet her husband’s sexual desires he could be tempted to cheat. As biblical support, they cite 1 Corinthians 7:3-5, where the apostle Paul writes about fulfilling one another’s sexual needs in marriage, and assert that wives therefore owe their husbands sex.
It’s true that we should meet one another’s emotional needs and deepest longings in marriage. However, what Paul actually said was, “The husband should fulfill his wife’s sexual needs, and the wife should fulfill her husband’s needs.” The wife’s needs get mentioned first, so clearly God believes wives have sexual needs too and wants them met in marriage. God wants both husband and wife to experience and enjoy sexual intimacy. Sex is for both spouses.
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6. Anything beyond the missionary position is wrong.
God laid out some sexual practices as wrong (see Leviticus 18), and others are unwise because they involve a health risk or don’t demonstrate love and respect. However, God gave us a lot of freedom in the marriage bed, including positions our bodies to make love.
There’s nothing particularly spiritual about the missionary position, and Song of Songs shows that we can explore and experience many sensations in the marriage bed. Indeed, those of us who are older might have discovered that a different position is easier on our muscles and joints. Go ahead and try some positions to see what works best for you and your spouse. It’s okay with God.
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7. Enjoying passionate sex is indulging in the "flesh."
Several New Testament passages address living by the flesh versus living by the Spirit. Following that thinking into the sexual realm, some have concluded that little could be more flesh-like than pressing your flesh together in the act of sex? So while it’s necessary for procreation and unity in marriage, maybe we shouldn’t enjoy it quite so much.
However, “flesh” refers to sinful practices that emanate from physical desires. Later translations chose “sinful nature” to more accurately convey meaning. And look at the list of what comes out of that “flesh” or “sinful nature”: “When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God” (Galatians 5:19-21). There’s nothing that even comes close to marital sexual intimacy.
Think of it this way: Our flesh is involved in spiritual activities like giving to the poor, feeding the hungry, and singing praises. It’s good to use our bodies to honor God according to His will, including sex in marriage.
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8. Husbands have high sex drives, and wives don't.
Almost all of our marriage resources presume a sex-eager male and a less-interested female, leaving higher-drive wives and lower-drive husbands wondering what’s wrong with them. Let me assures those couples that you are not alone. In 15-30 percent of marriages, the wife is the higher-drive spouse.
By solely addressing the majority, we miss a substantial minority—millions of wives—whose experiences don’t align with our message. We need to speak to those couples, assuring them that they are normal and providing wisdom and resources to deal with a mismatch of sex drives. Let’s stop assuming who the higher-drive spouse is and deal with real marriages.
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9. Sexual feelings before marriage are sinful.
When I was growing up, the church conveyed that it wasn’t just sex outside of marriage that was wrong. Rather, sexual feelings themselves were dangerous and needed to be shut down. As a result, too many teenagers and young adults either became repressed in their sexuality all the way into their marriage or chucked the whole idea and became promiscuous instead.
But it’s not the feelings themselves are not the problem, but what we do with them. God created us as sexual beings, but, wanting the best for us, provides proper parameters. We are not to have sex outside of marriage or to engage in lust: “But I say, anyone who even looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:28). But we need to define lust more clearly, so that we can embrace our sexuality while keeping ourselves from sin.
We should teach singles how to avoid lust and sexual sin, but their sexuality should be acknowledged, channeled, and placed in the right context—a covenant marriage.
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10. If we talk to our kids about sex, they'll have it.
If your kids never hear about sex from you, their curious minds will look for the information elsewhere. And that perspective likely won’t include the values we want to teach them about sex as God created it.
This approach to parents and mentors discussing sex and their values with kids has been shown to have positive results. Research studies show that kids whose parents communicate about sex are actually less likely to engage in risky sexual behavior and more likely to wait.
God encourages us to talk to our kids about what’s in the Bible, and He didn’t exclude the parts with sexual content. We must be wise about age appropriateness, but if we have a duty to teach them about God’s plan for sexuality—how it’s a good thing for marriage, and how to pursue holiness in this area. Psalm 119:9 says, “How can a young person stay pure? By obeying your word,” but that means they need to hear and know God’s Word. Which can start with you.
J. Parker is the author of Hot, Holy, and Humorous: Sex in Marriage by God’s Design and blogs at Hot, Holy & Humorous, using a biblical perspective and a blunt sense of humor to foster godly sexuality. She has been married for 23 years and holds a master's degree in counseling, yet it's her personal story of redemption that fuels her passion for passion.
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