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Struggling with Sexual Sin? Marriage Won’t Fix That

Marriage will not fix your sexual sin problem. I’m stating that at the outset. Wherever we go from here you can return to this first sentence and be clear on what I am and I’m not saying. Let me repeat it: marriage will not fix your sexual sin problem.

Sexual Sin Distorts a Very Good Thing

In a previous article I encouraged young people to get married. In particular, I exhorted them against using education as an excuse for not getting married. This was in light of the sexual drive that God has built into each and every one of us. For this sexual drive has most young people burning with passion, choosing to exercise it everywhere but in God’s intended place: marriage.

At this point, I need to make a very important distinction, which might have been missed while reading my previous article. This distinction is between sexual temptation and sexual desire. The two are similar, even related. But they aren’t identical. Sexual desire is the natural drive that God put in the man and the woman for physical intimacy. It includes sex, but is about much more. Yet God provides one location for the expression of sexual desire: within marriage, between one man and one woman.

Most young people exercise their sexual drives everywhere but in God’s intended place: marriage.

Sexual temptation, on the other hand, seeks pleasure outside the bounds of God’s intended use and means for satisfying sexual desire. It is manifested in everything from lust, pornography, masturbation, and adultery, all the way to extremes such as homosexuality and bestiality.

God gave marriage as the proper context for expressing our sexual drives. In various forms, sexual temptation is for something other than what God gave.

What Does It Mean to Burn with Passion?

What I’m calling burning with passion is a distortion of sexual desire. Many people today desire the fulfilment of this desire for physical intimacy almost to the point of distraction. The imagery of a fire that is raging and needs to be controlled or appeased comes to mind. Because the desire is present, sexual temptation is never far behind.

As Paul so clearly puts it in Romans 7:21-23, “I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members.”

Because sexual desire is present, temptation is never far behind.

However, this sexual temptation is not the ruler of the person’s life. Think of giving into the sexual temptation as being burnt with passion rather than burning with passion. The person who is burning with passion says: ‘this desire is welling up within me and it is very strong. If I remain as I am indefinitely then I risk giving in to the perversions of sexual temptation.’ It is this person that Paul addresses when he says: “To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is good for them to remain single, as I am. But if they cannot exercise self-control, they should marry. For it is better to marry than to burn with passion” (1 Corinthians 7:8-9).

A Speculative Sidebar

If all this is clear, you might be wondering why you don’t know many people who fit the above description. This is a very valid question. If sexual desire is in all men and women and sexual temptation takes advantage of sexual desire, influencing people to perversion, why can we think of very few people who are burning with passion? The perversion is clear in the world with its unrelenting abandonment of any kind of sexual ethic. But what do we make of the marked absence of people in the church burning with passion?

We can’t keep pretending trouble isn’t brewing. Nor that sexual sins aren’t being hidden.

I cannot say for sure because different churches have different challenges. However, something might be noted, if we’re to be honest observers. To speak using an African proverb: if one isn’t eating at home and isn’t seen to feel hunger, those around must wonder where the food is coming from. Love for our neighbours in the church cannot be naïve. We cannot keep pretending trouble isn’t brewing. Nor that sexual sins aren’t being hidden.

Marriage Doesn’t Prevent Sexual Sins

Let’s return to our main topic and close things off. We mustn’t confuse sexual desire for sexual temptation. A heart and mind that are already given over to lust, pornography, and masturbation will not automatically be fixed because they paid too much for a wedding and did 11 hours of pre-marital counselling. Marital sex is not the solution to a sin problem.

For the sake of your relationship with God first and foremost, and secondly your relationship with your spouse, you must address the problem of sexual temptation. Go to God in repentance. Seek council from your church elders. Leave all you know to be sinful and run to the cross of Christ. Only that can save you. Sex and marriage were never meant to be your saviour. No amount of strategising or wishful thinking can change that. And once you have that sexual temptation under control, find a godly person to marry.

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