This blog post is the final in a 3-part series on God's Design for sex. This series is rooted in our ministry's three core Statements on Sexuality. This post is focused on expounding Statement 3: Sexual Integrity.
We believe God created human beings to steward their bodies, desires, and identity in accord with God’s Word in pursuit of holy character and behavior.
The above statement can be broken down into 3 main points that will be explored further:
To steward their bodies, desires, and identity
In accord with God's Word
In pursuit of holy character and behavior
To Steward their Bodies, Desires, and Identity
"We believe God created human beings to steward their bodies, desires, and identity…"
Since we established the framework for “God created” in the first blog post of this series, we won’t revisit it here. This is the foundation of all three of our ministry statements on sexuality: sex and everything about it was created by God.
Sexual integrity (and even sexual identity and sexual intimacy) is about stewardship, not ownership. Since we didn’t create our sexuality, we don’t own it; it is a gift from God we must learn to steward according to His design and instruction. What we steward when it comes to sexual integrity is our bodies, desires, and identity.
Stewarding the Body
God created the human body with the capacity for reproduction. This occurs through the act of sex. But human beings are not sexual merely because they can copulate. Sexuality is also experienced outside of the sex act. And the experience of it is connected to the body. Therefore, how we steward our body and its actions matters to sexual integrity.
God placed boundaries around human sexuality as a way to protect and instruct. Sin caused us to worship self, thereby distorting our capacity to use our sexed bodies in a way that honors God. But sin did not nullify God’s design or mandate to “be fruitful and multiply.” God’s law was given so we could both understand the proper use of our bodies before God and one another, as well as realize our inability to control our bodies apart from faith and submission to God.
To live with sexual integrity, one must steward the body God has given in the way God designed it to be used.
The body is not disconnected from the soul. In fact, the body cannot be animated apart from the soul; they must go together for the body to be alive. The soul is the seat of the mind, emotions, and will. It is the part of us that reasons and feels and decides. Because the soul is connected to the body, and the body is designed with sexuality, the soul is “sexual” too. Sexual desires are embedded in the soul.
When Jesus taught on the topic of “law” he drew a distinction between right behaviors and right desires. One could do the right behavior but with wrong desires, and Jesus called that sin. For example, Jesus said, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (Matt. 5:27-28) It was possible to “not commit adultery” behaviorally while violating that law “in the heart.” And whenever God’s law is violated in the heart (i.e. soul) it is sin.
We must be careful of trying to separate body and soul when pursuing a life of sexual integrity. Behaviors are important, but they are only the fruit of desires in the soul. Jesus also said, “Out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks.” (Luke 6:45) Jesus was pointing out that whatever is on the inside of a person eventually makes its way out through behavior (i.e. the body). Don’t be deceived into thinking that just because you haven’t “acted out” in sinful behavior that you haven’t broken God’s law regarding stewardship of your desires.
To live with sexual integrity, one must steward desires of the heart in ways that honor God and his Word.
You cannot define who you are, you can only discover who you are. Identity is a gift from God, not a construct of man. In the same way you were given a body and soul, you were also given your identity. Your identity is what makes you you. It is comprised of your personality, gender (male or female), name and more – it is who God made you in all your uniqueness.
Because identity is a gift, it can be mismanaged. This is why we must consider identity in the same way we consider our body and soul. You did not create your body. You did not create your soul. You also did not create your identity. All gifts from God are to be stewarded according to his design.
Stewarding our identity is not complicated. It is as simple as agreeing with who God designed us to be and living according to his instruction. This means I agree with God that I am a male created in his image to glorify him in all that I think, say, and do. I agree that I have sinned against a holy God and that apart from his salvation provided through Jesus Christ, I cannot be reconciled to him. I agree that sexuality is a gift from God to give me clues for discovering a transcendent intimacy with him and that, as I obey his Word in managing my sexuality, I will experience deeper peace and joy.
To live with sexual integrity, one must steward their identity as a gift from God and not try to redefine it as a construct of man.
In Accord with God's Word
"We believe God created human beings to steward their bodies, desires, and identity in accord with God’s Word…"
Because God is our Creator there is nothing about our lives that he does not have the right to speak into. He knows better than we ever could how we are to live. And he has provided for us clear instructions for an abundant life: His Word, the Bible. If we are going to live lives of sexual integrity, we must know and obey God’s Word.
God’s Word is certainly more than just an “instruction manual” for life, but it isn’t less than that. It contains all that we need to know God and live as he created us to live. But the key to living “in accord with God’s Word” is that we understand it is about a relationship and not merely rule-keeping. Obeying God’s Word regarding sexual integrity isn’t about keeping a checklist of do’s and don'ts and then hoping you come up with more positives than negatives. No, obeying God’s Word is about trusting in him and learning to walk in step with him as he instructs and guides your life.
Galatians 5:16 says, “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.” You don’t need a checklist to mark off, you need a closer walk with God.
This doesn’t mean we sit cross-legged in a corner humming in some attempt to conjure up an emotional sensation of God’s presence. God’s Word is found in a book, the Bible. God intends for us to read it, study it, wrestle with it, and submit to it. To “walk by the Spirit” is not detached from reading and studying the Bible. In fact, the more we read and study the Bible, the more we understand how to walk by the Spirit.
To live a life of sexual integrity requires knowing, believing, and obeying God’s Word.
In Pursuit of Holy Character and Behavior
"We believe God created human beings to steward their bodies, desires, and identity in accord with God’s Word in pursuit of holy character and behavior."
The aim of the Christian life, not just in relation to sexual integrity, is to live like Jesus. This means who we are and what we do aligns with Christ. Though we are not Christ, we are to follow him wherever he leads. And where he leads when it comes to sexual integrity is holy character and behavior.
Holy character is forged by battling temptation. We do not become mature in stewarding sexuality by everything being easy and not experiencing any resistance to holiness. It is through repeated struggles against temptations that holy character is developed and refined. Though we don’t always resist temptation, even in the failures we can learn and grow.
Holy behavior is born out of holy character. Do not be deceived into believing that you can perform righteous acts out of unholy character. Jesus declared such hypocrites “whitewashed tombs” that appeared righteous on the outside but are lawless hypocrites on the inside. (Matt. 23:27-28) As holy character is refined by temptation, the fruit is holy behaviors. There is ever-growing congruity in the life of a faithful follower of Christ.
Living with sexual integrity requires a relentless pursuit of holy character and behavior amidst any and all opposition.
God has given you a great gift in your sexuality. This gift includes your body, your desires, and even your identity. These are to be stewarded by understanding and obeying God’s Word. As such stewardship unfolds, holy character is formed through resistance, and holy behaviors follow. A life of sexual integrity is not one of “missing out” but rather of ever-increasing peace and joy.