I decided to use this three-letter word to get your attention, trusting some of you will read this just to know what I might say about this saucy subject. I will admit, I’m not sure why it came to mind a few days ago. I mean what would an old widowed woman have to say about sex in ministry?
Unlike the elderly single woman who always made her “Better than Sex” cake for our church socials, I can at least speak on the subject from experience! I have two sons to prove it.
I won’t go into more detail than that, but I do address this subject on this Mission Monday, because whether you like it or not, it is very important in the life of people on mission. I’ve experienced its importance on both ends of the spectrum — as a single missionary and as a married one.
I’m going into this subject, because it’s important to bring into the light in normal circumstances, but I think it’s even more critical now, when single and married believers are quarantined for weeks on end due to the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic. Without the regular release mechanisms of ministry or physical exercise, sexual tensions can build.
What does God want us to remember about sex?
He created it to be a natural part of the married relationship between a husband and wife. God’s the one, after all, who told Adam and Eve to “be fruitful and increase in number.”* The Bible tells us that he did this as a blessing, so obviously sex was not something that was wrong. This is before the Fall — part of the seeing-everything-was-good plan.
The entry of sin into the lives of men and women is what has distorted the “good.” A new tension came up between couples, and the intimate sexual relationship became something that could be lorded over one and used against the other. It also became something that was distorted further through immoral relationships outside the bonds of marriage in just about any form you can imagine.
In Christ, God can bring restoration, not only to our relationship with him, but with each other — and this includes sex.
When two believers come together in marriage, allowing Christ to be the center of their lives in life and ministry, sex can be a beautiful thing, as God intended. When a husband loves his wife as Christ loved the Church, he will care for her, put her needs above his own and consider her. When a wife lives in godly submission to her husband, she shows him honor in life and love, meeting his needs in the home and in the bed, because she also knows he loves her more than himself.
When a single believer commits to Christ in life and service, he beats his body into submission, practicing self-control as a fruit of the Spirit, which includes sexual desires. A single person who is surrendered to Christ can do amazing things for God.
Satan wants none of this.
He’s working to tear down and destroy the beauty of your sexual intimacy as a married couple just as much as he’s working to tempt the single into sexual immorality. We must be on guard as Christians of these attacks. The battle over our sexual desires is a spiritual battle that Satan’s winning in our culture, and it can travel across the ocean too.
What you do in the darkness affects how you live in the light.
When a married couple’s sexual relationship is broken due to anger, pride, selfishness and immorality, it will come out in ministry. When there was tension in my relationship with my husband, my children were the first to know, but I also knew that I was not serving with a full heart, because I was too mad or hurt with my husband, or he with me.
When a single person gives in to sexual desires, it’s only a matter of time before they’re exposed. I know the guilt of falling into wrong relationships on the mission field. My boss threatened to send me home immediately. It was only through tears and profound pleading that I was allowed to stay. Yet, it required me to renounce the relationship, confess to my parents and remain under tight accountability for the months I had left.
There can be forgiveness when we’ve committed sexual sins.
I will be the first to tell you that I’m grateful that my husband and I did not go to sleep angry at one another. We worked out our hurts and differences and constantly strove to improve our sexual relationship. Sex is only easy in the movies. It takes effort in real relationships, but it can be restored and made beautiful again. (Reading Song of Solomon to each other helps).
Falling and crashing as a single over sexual sins does not mean that life is over if we take it to God. I am not proud of some of my exploits as a single, but I am forgiven. To be forgiven, we have to confess and turn from the wrong. Thankfully, through Christ, God forgives and enables us to find fulfillment in ways that “are better than sex.”
Sex is not the be-all-end-all in relationship.
I’m not downplaying its importance at all, because it is wonderful in the place God intended, but it is just a part of the married relationship. It should not be ignored, but enjoyed often with mutual agreement. Couples need to talk about how to improve their sex life and ask how they can best meet the need of the other.
Singles, who are committed to Christ, need to focus on how to build meaningful relationships with others outside the bonds of marriage. Becoming isolated and being drawn toward visual sexual images is the greatest danger to those on mission at home and abroad. Find ways to engage with others that allow you to burn off energy and find a satisfaction that is also “better than sex.” Find accountability partners who can help you work through times of struggle.
Eros love does not last.
The only love that lasts for eternity is agape. This is the undeserving, unconditional love of our Heavenly Father. As we learn to practice agape love toward others, our eros love comes under the control of the One who loved us ultimately on the cross.
That love will not let you go. Hold on to him.
Grace and Peace