In the name of Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, One God, Amen!
Sex in church
Fasting seasons are great opportunities to focus on our spiritual well being. During our fast, we should develop skills to help us control ourselves from the worldly temptations of the body and mind. One of the hardest temptations we might face are sins of sexual immoralities. Many people shy away from talking about sex due to the sensitivity surrounding the subject. However, sex and sexuality are topics that need to be addressed. A lot of us don't know the view of the Bible and the church about sex. Today, I will share the conversation that took place about this matter.
Sina: Yesterday, I watched the most entertaining movie ever. It was so romantic. It's the typical boy meets girl, they fall in love and end up married. But this one was stemmy and the characters shared the most perfect on-screen kiss. I love movies like that, ones that get you in your feelings.
Beti: What do you mean?
Sina: You know those movies that give you warm, fuzzy, feelings. I don’t know how to explain it, but it's this feeling of craving.
Beti: Not to sound judgmental, but seems like sexual immorality to me.
Sina: What? What does sexual immorality have anything to do with this?
Beti: Well, the movie served as porn for you. The feelings you described are of been aroused.
Sina: Whoa! Calm down, I don’t watch porn. Sure, the movie had sex scenes but come on it was just like a minute or so of the whole the content.
Beti: Do you know what constitutes as sexual immorality?
Sina: Yeah, isn’t it when married people cheat on each other?
Beti: True, adultery is under the umbrella of sexual immorality but that’s not it. Porn, masturbation, sexual jokes, premarital sex, and other sexual activities, marrying a divorced person, lust, marrying a non-believer, homosexuality, and divorce. All these sins fall under sexual immorality.
Sina: Are you serious? Anything you do before marriage is sexual immorality? Then, holding hands, hugging, kissing all these are sins?
Beti: Yes! If you are not married you should not be engaged in any sexual activities. Sex and other intimate sexual activities are a gift from God for married people. Sexuality outside of marriage defiles the image of Christ and the Church. That’s why our church does not support boyfriend/girlfriend relationships because it leads to sexual immorality. There is a reason why our church fathers tell us to make our engagement periods no longer than six months. And not to meet our fiance in a private setting or past day time because these are situations that might lead to intimate moments, which might lead to touching and other inappropriate sexual behaviors.
Sina: That’s too much. I know sex is off the table if you are not married but I thought other things were a fair game. On top of that, you are saying not just acting on your feelings but just having sexual feelings is a sin? Am I not even allowed to express my sexual feelings without it being a sin?
Beti: Sex is not just intercourse, any sexual intimacy is considered sex. I know it’s nearly impossible not to have sexual feelings or thoughts as a human but we have to continuously pray so that those thoughts are removed from our head. We must never entertain our sexual desires. These days porn is not just the content that is been labeled and sold as porn. Unfortunately, porn is in our everyday life. It's in the music videos we see, the movies we watch, and even the people we observe engaged in public display of affection. Anything you see that is sexual and anything that gives sexual feelings is porn.
Sina: Oh, I wish I never brought this topic. I see why they say ignorance is bliss. Does that mean masturbation is a sin?
Beti: YES! Masturbation is a sin even when you are married. Sex is not to be used for personal gratification. Masturbation is sinful sexuality because it is used for the purpose of self-gratification, while marital sexuality is about giving.
Sina: What is defined as sex in our church? What are the things you can and cannot do when you are married?
Beti: We should probably ask these questions to Deacon Abel. What I can tell you is that even when you are married there are times when you should not have sex, like when it’s fasting season. Our church has seven fasts including the Wednesday and Friday fast, during these times you should not have sex even when you are married. Our church teaches us the definition of love is giving up something you love. God gave up His only son because He loved us. Jesus Christ gave His life because He loved us. When we fast we give up something we love to show our love for God.
Sina: Girl, you just keep adding more rules!
Beti: It may seem a lot but it is actually very simple if we understand the purpose of our sexuality. Traditional sexual norms are consistent with living a Godly life, if we are doing anything that is ungodly for the sole purpose of our sexual gratification it is a sin. Sexual norms are supposed to reflect the reality of Christ and the church. If our sex life is a reflection of the relationship between Christ and the church, we can naturally understand why somethings are sexual immorality. For example, divorce is sexual immorality because it would mean that God fell short in His unconditional devotion to His church. Same goes for adultery meaning that God fell short in His loyalty to His church and all the other sexual immoralities can be understood in this lens.
Sina: All I understood from our conversation is that sex and any other sexual activities are evil.
Beti: That’s not the message I want to get across. Sexuality is one of God’s beautiful and blessed gift to us. When we express it appropriately, within the mystery of marriage it can be an intimate expression of love God has put inside of us. God wants us to share and enjoy a holy kind of love that is likened to the love of Christ and His church. However, sex outside of what God has intended for us is destructive.
Sina: So, what is the purpose of sex and sexuality according to our church?
Beti: Well, Deacon Abel can add more but from what I know sexuality has three purposes. First, to express intimate love to one another. Second, to help us fight sexual desires that lead us to sin. Lastly, for procreation.
Deacon Abel: I couldn’t have said it better, you have answered it perfectly. The verse below is to remind us how serious of a sin sexual immorality is and the measures we should take to prevent such sins. The Bible says, “If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and throw it away; it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body goes into hell.” I would also like to emphasize that sexual immorality is not only the act of sexual activity outside of marriage or before marriage. Even sexually immoral thoughts are a sin. We are told in Matthew 5:28, “...whoever looks at a woman to desire her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”
Sina: I am learning a lot. I have completely misunderstood the purpose of sex.
Deacon Abel: Let me tell you a story one church father told me that really helped me understand our church's view on this topic. If we were to take a big sharp chef’s knife and place it in the hands of a toddler who runs around and bumps into everything and everyone, the knife, in this case, is considered extremely dangerous and a hazard. However, if we place the same knife in the hands of a world-class Chef, the knife becomes a tool to create a wonderful meal. The problem is not the knife; it is the person that will hold the knife, the context and the purpose of its use. Extrapolating the example to the subject of sexuality we can see where the confusion comes from. The Church does not condemn sex or say that it is bad, it just tells us to use it to be holy or Christ-like.
Beti: I think the problem is that we don’t understand the price of our body and what it means to be sexually immoral. Saint Paul explains it best, “...The body is not meant for immorality but for the Lord and the Lord for the body…[our bodies are members of Christ]...he who joins himself to a prostitute becomes one with her? For, as it is written ‘the two shall become one.’ But he who is united to the Lord becomes one spirit with Him… Every other sin, which a man commits is outside the body; but the immoral man sins against his own body. [Since our bodies are] a temple of the Holy Spirit within [us], which [we] have from God[,]... [we must] glorify God in [our] body” (1 Corinthians 6:13-20). The weight of sexuality is much greater than we know and not understanding the impact leads to death.
Sina: That’s really heavy, I never thought of my body as a member of Christ or weighed the price of it. But what do you mean by it leads to death?
Beti: Well if you think about it in a worldly matter sexual immorality leads to many issues including incurable disease like AIDS and HIV, human trafficking, child abuse, addiction to porn and masturbation, etc. There is also the eternal death, which is hell.
Sina: This is all too scary.
Beti: Indeed, sexually immoral sins rob us of our purity and make it difficult to get it back. These types of sins are the hardest to get rid of because they become imprinted in our brains and hunt us through our memories.
Sina: So what shall we do to be free of these sins?
Beti: Pray without ceasing. Control your food intake and sleep. Learning to control our stomach and our sleep habits will increase our ability to control sexual passion. Also, avoid situations that trigger lust such as dancing and drinking. Most importantly, speak with your spiritual father, he will always have the best advice to help you overcome your struggles.
Glory to God, Amen.
Bezawit & Beza-natu
Practical Spirituality by Fr. Athanasius Iskander