The culture of finger-pointing and catastrophizing others' words has grown…
I overheard a statement by a young person recently:
“Who cares who I have sex with? Who am I hurting?”
I thought to myself, “Yeah, that’s a common view today. And it can be hard to explain why casual sex matters. But it does.”
It’s hard to explain . . . but it’s even harder for people to believe when there are headlines like, “Half of U.S. Christians say casual sex between consenting adults is sometimes or always acceptable.” (See the 2020 research and detailed data here.)
Yet, throughout thousands of years of Bible history, no message could be clearer:
God does care who we have sex with.
There are dozens of scriptures that condemn illicit sex.
It is a huge deal with major consequences, despite what people may think today.
Simple. Everything God says is intended to help us experience real joy and live “abundantly” (See John 10:10), both in this life and the next. So God warns us when something can interfere with our happiness and our ability to fulfill our purpose to glorify Him. Like a caring Father that He is, He warns of danger. Like this:
Whoever commits adultery . . . lacks understanding;
He who does so destroys his own soul. (Proverbs 6:32, NKJV)
The word choice, “destroy his own soul” sounds dire, even extreme. But God is precise about what He says and how He says it. That warning is intended to stop us in our tracks and get our attention.
Reading tip: On a laptop or PC, right-click on any scripture reference and select “Open link in new tab” to keep this page open and view the scripture on a separate tab in your browser.
5 Primary Reasons
I’ve noted five reasons why we should seriously pay attention to God’s commandments when it comes to sex:
- Giving or taking human life is God’s business, not ours. (Job 1:21, Deuteronomy 32:39)
- We experience many damaging consequences in this life when we sexually sin (as one example, Isaiah 59:2).
- We will experience horrific consequences in the next life if we persist in sin. (Revelation 21:8)
- God wants us to experience true joy and holy unity in marriage. (Ephesians 5:23-33)
- Our illicit sexual acts add to the terrible pains Jesus experienced. (Isaiah 53:5)
What Is Illicit Sex?
For the purpose of this article we will refer to illicit sex as having or fantasizing about sex outside of a marriage relationship. In scriptural terms, that’s adultery, fornication, and “looking on [another] to lust after him or her” (Matthew 5:28), which of course includes indulging in any form of pornography.
1st Reason Why Sex Matters to God: Human Life is HIS Business, Not Ours
When we tamper with sex outside of His commands, we are tampering with life itself.
When we murder, we arrogantly assume the role of God by taking a life.
When we tamper with sex, we are being haphazard with bringing a life into this world.
Is it any wonder God finds sexually random behavior reprehensible and the height of disrespect?
2nd Reason Why Sex Matters to God: He Wants Us to Avoid Pain in this Life
Here’s a quick scan, partial list of the spiritually, emotionally, physically damaging, not-so-obvious effects of illicit sex, based on scripture, my own experiences, observations of the lives of others, and some scientific research:
- Damaged romantic relationships due to spiritual blindness, thinking more of the body than the person—the soul—therefore reducing your ability to truly love the person (as opposed to the scriptural description of true love in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7)
- Increased selfishness and a worldly, me-first, animal, lust-focused, physical pleasure-seeking approach to life (as opposed to this teaching: Titus 2:12)
- Decreased thought-control and self-discipline, including involuntary sexual fantasies, even around other people (Mark 7:21)
- Diminished sensitivity to spiritual learning, reduced joy through God’s Holy Spirit, and difficulty communicating with God and receiving answers to prayer (Isaiah 59:2)
- Diminished ability to believe in God and love Him more than anything else (Matthew 16:4)
- “Gateway drug” effect leading to other vices, like dishonesty, coveting what is not ours, trying to avoid God, stopping or decreasing our sincere prayers, developing patterns of sneaky behavior and self-deception, cover-up schemes, becoming experts at self-justification and rationalizing, etc. (for example, Ephesians 5:3)
- Decreased ability to commit to long-term relationships (because repeated illicit sexual encounters lead to viewing sex as pure recreation, like grabbing a snack with a friend, instead of the ennobling gift from God that it is, joining two souls for a holy purpose). See research in the article, “Science and the Bible Agree: Casual Sex Is Bad.”
- And then there are the obvious, typically-cited consequences like diseases, unwanted pregnancies with children growing up in tragic circumstances, broken marriages due to betrayal, domestic violence due to anger over infidelity, and more.
Consider reading through that list again with a prayerful heart to let the impact of each of those consequences fully sink in.
Seriously. These are real, painful consequences.
Since we know that God intends to build Christlike character in us and He wants to lead us out of worldly, selfish lifestyles, is it clear how illicit sexual behavior leads to the exact opposite of what God intends for His children? (See 1 Thessalonians 3:4-5.)
(Here’s additional reading that offers an impressively comprehensive look at many more consequences. Also, if pornography challenges you, I strongly recommend an outstanding resource by a pastor who openly admits his own past, hidden porn addiction as well as the way out: Jesus is Better than Porn.)
3rd Reason Why Sex Matters to God: To Spare Us the Horrific Consequences in the Next Life
Whether you view hell as a literal burning or a figure of speech intended to make a searing impact on the mind, nobody can read these scriptures without realizing this is very serious business.
In simple, bottom-line terms: We cannot persist in sexual sin and live with God in the afterlife. We pay an eternally horrible price.
Hebrews 13:4: “Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral,” NIV.
Ephesians 5:5: “For this you know, realizing that any fornicator, or unclean person, or covetous man, who is an idolater, has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God,” BSB.
Revelation 21:8: “But to the cowardly and unbelieving and having become abominable and murderers and the sexually immoral and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars, their portion is in the lake burning with fire and brimstone, which is the second death,” BSB.
1 Corinthians 6:9-11: “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God,” ESV.
4th Reason Why Sex Matters to God: He Wants Us to Have Joy and Unity in Marriage
Here’s a lovely quote from an outstanding, widely-read book, “The Meaning of Marriage,” by Timothy and Kathy Keller.
God isn’t trying to spoil our enjoyment. He seeks to help us find it. Sex is God-created and God-approved. It’s the proper view and use of sex that God seeks to teach us.
The opposite of adultery is fidelity, which means faithfulness. But another word—that’s less common today—is chastity.
Sometimes we mistakenly think of chastity as abstinence from sex. This is not correct. The Latin root of the word chastity means “purity.” The Russian tradition calls it the “wisdom of wholeness.”
You cannot have God’s full measure of inspiration and strength if you “split yourself” and become “unwhole” by developing a romantic relationship with another person or fantasize about relationships with countless others via pornography. Unchaste behavior is a prime example of what Jesus meant when He said, “Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat” (see Luke 22:31).
Adultery was often used in the Old Testament as a symbol of betrayal and forsaking God. Just as God wants us to be wholly dedicated and loving Him, so we are to be wholly dedicated to our spouses.
The beauty and unity of God’s intended marriage relationship is described more fully in Ephesians 5.
5th Reason Why Sex Matters to God: Jesus Paid the Price for Each Sin
If we carelessly persist in sexual sin, including pornography, we are consciously or unconsciously adding to the awful pains that Jesus bore during his atonement and crucifixion for our sins.
With each sin, we add to His pain. For each sin, He paid the price to enable our freedom from those sins.
Thinking that “Well, He already bore my sins two thousand years ago,” is a callous, dreadful thought.
It is much better to think, “Because of his atoning sacrifice for me, and with His grace and deliverance, I can stop, I can change, I can become more spiritual and less a person of this world.”
Is it Easy to Be Chaste?
That’s why believing in the name of Jesus, learning to love Him above all others, and trusting in His love and forgiveness are so important. We are lifted, changed, and forgiven. (Read more about this below.)
If this is a challenging or gut-wrenching topic for you, consider these final thoughts:
The battle is never over. God surely doesn’t approve of sin but His love for you is not one iota, not the tiniest bit diminished because of your sins or mine.
God still—100% for certain—loves you now as much as He will when you are living a more fully chaste life. He still believes in you. He is still rooting for you. He stands ready to run to you. (Read this post about this beautiful story of God running to anyone who makes the slightest effort to come back to Him.)
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