Changing Our Thinking About Human Sexuality
About the Guest
Dr. Juli Slattery, author of "ReThinking Sexuality," explains what it means when parents sexually disciple their children on the biblical view of sex. From outward appearances, the world has won in the sexual arena, but Slattery tells why she believes Christians need to reclaim lost territory. Every sexual issue is ultimately a spiritual issue, and what we think about sex begins with what we think about God.
Juli SlatteryDr. Juli Slattery is a widely known clinical psychologist, author, speaker and broadcast media professional. She's the president and co-founder of Authentic Intimacy. She hosts a podcast called Java With Juli, where she answers tough questions about relationships, marriage, spiritual, emotional and sexual intimacy. She has authored eight books, including 25 Questions You're Afraid to As...more
Dr. Juli Slattery explains what it means when parents sexually disciple their children on the biblical view of sex. What we think about sex begins with what we think about God.
Changing Our Thinking About Human Sexuality
Bob: In a culture that is confused about human sexuality, if we’re going to think rightly, we need to go back to the source. Here’s Dr. Juli Slattery.
Juli: You can never separate sexual issues from spiritual issues. Our choices and our thinking related to sexuality are ultimately rooted in our belief about God as the Creator, as the Healer, as the Redeemer. Jesus is our Lord, with authority to speak into every area of our lives. Not only that, but our sexual experiences actually impact our view of God.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Friday, August 24th. Our host is Dennis Rainey, and I’m Bob Lepine. God is the One Who invented sex and sexuality. How can we get His perspective on the subject? We’ll talk about that today. Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. We’ve been having a conversation this week with our friend, Juli Slattery, about sexuality and about rethinking it. I’ll tell you what came to mind for me, Dennis, as we’ve been talking about this: an interview we did more than two decades ago with Jerry Kirk. What stood out for me, in that interview, was that he said, “When a couple come together and experience marital intimacy, they are renewing their vows every time they come together.” It’s a vow renewal. I thought, “That’s a beautiful picture!”
What didn’t occur to me at the time was, if you follow that through, then when a couple comes together outside of marriage – when they’re enjoying sexuality without the covenant of marriage being in place – they’re really making false promises to one another.
Bob: Even if they say to one another, “Oh, this is just for fun.”
You know, “No promises; no commitment,” they’re still lying to one another as they give their bodies away.
Dennis: And there’s bonding that’s occurring, we know now from brain chemistry studies that have been done. You’re actually establishing multiple covenants.
Dennis: Well, Dr. Juli Slattery joins us again on FamilyLife Today. Welcome back.
Juli: Thanks so much for having me.
Dennis: She has written a new book called Rethinking Sexuality, to which her 15 year-old son said, “Mom!”
Bob: “Another one?!”
Dennis: “Another book?!” [Laughter] “About sexuality?”
Julie, you talk, in the book, about paradigms, and how we need to change our thinking.
Dennis: Let’s just quickly go through the outline of what you talk about in the book. How do we change our thinking about human sexuality?
Juli: Yes. Well, as I’m teaching on this book, I’m teaching seven paradigm shifts. The first paradigm shift is just the two words that we talked about in the last program, “sexual discipleship.” Like nobody puts those two words together! It’s how to think about our sexuality; not just what to think.
So it’s a compelling narrative—a lifestyle—of walking with somebody and understanding their sexuality.
Bob: And when you’re saying a “paradigm shift” here, you’re saying the way we’ve been thinking is not, “How do we disciple ourselves?” It’s, instead, “How do we just say ‘no’ to bad stuff?” Is that it?
Juli: Yes, somewhat. Yes, I think, by and large, the Christian approach to sexuality has been either silence—“We don’t deal with those issues.”—or it has been a problem-solving approach.
Juli: You know, “Let’s get rid of the symptoms of pornography, sexual abuse, . . .” It hasn’t been a reclaiming of the conversation.
Bob: Alright. So we’re going to rethink this whole area and start to think, “How do we disciple ourselves in this area? How do we become conformed to Christ in this area?”
What’s another paradigm shift?
Juli: So another one is that every sexual issue is, ultimately, a spiritual issue. What we see in our culture, particularly in our Christian culture, is that people feel that their sexuality is kind of split off from their spirituality.
Kenny Luck, who runs a ministry, uses this term: “sexual atheist.”
Juli: I think [it] really describes, particularly, how a lot of young Christians view their sexuality. “I can serve God with my life, but this one area of my life is very personal. I can think and act the way I want.”
So the paradigm shift is that you can never separate sexual issues from spiritual issues. Our choices and our thinking related to sexuality are ultimately rooted in our belief about God as the Creator, as the Healer, as the Redeemer. Jesus is our Lord, with authority to speak into every area of our lives. Not only that, but our sexual experiences actually impact our view of God.
So how many people are walking away from the Christian faith because they’ve had an experience, that they can’t make sense of, related to their sexuality. They can’t understand “why a loving God would allow this” or would “give me this restriction.”
So we’ve got to understand that when we talk about sexual issues, we’re really talking about spiritual issues.
Bob: Some of our listeners will recognize the term Gnosticism. The Gnostic way of thinking, which was prevalent in Jesus’s day, was that the spirit is good and the body is bad, so you’re kind of separate. Your spirit’s over here and your body’s over here, and you can do whatever you want with your body, because it’s going to burn someday; just protect your spirit.
When you think about sexual atheists, I think there’s a level of Gnosticism here, where we say, “Our body and our spirit are separate, and what we do in the body doesn’t affect what we do in our spirit.” Jesus says those are connected together. Body and spirit are inexorably tied. What you do in the body affects everything about you.
Juli: Yes, and, specifically, related to our sexuality. In 1 Corinthians, Chapter 6, Paul starts by talking about food. It really doesn’t matter what you eat, because it will pass away, but what you do sexually has spiritual significance.
Most people here the verse, “Your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit,” and they think about it in terms of food or exercise; but the context was sexuality.
Juli: Every sexual choice you make is linked to your spirituality. No matter how much you tell yourself that it’s not connected, it will always be connected.
Dennis: Julie, in your book, you make this statement—I want you to unpack it. You say it this way, “What you think about sex begins with what you believe about God.”
Dennis: What are people believing about God today that is impacting their sexuality?
Juli: Well, I think a predominant message about God that we’re believing is that God exists for us, instead of the other way around. “God exists for me to be fulfilled; for my pleasure, and, because of that, I can edit God’s Word or work around it, because, ultimately, a God Who loves me wants me to be fulfilled and happy.”
So that walks itself out in so many decisions that we make sexually. Like, “I’m not happy in my marriage, so I have the right to seek sex outside of my marriage.” Or, “I’m single, and God hasn’t brought a spouse, so I can get my needs met.” Or, “I feel attracted to the same gender, and God is perfectly fine with me acting on that, because He exists for me.”
When we look at true theology, we find that it’s actually the reverse! We were created for God and for His glory, and our greatest fulfillment comes when we recognize that.
Dennis: That’s good.
Bob: Alright, time for a third paradigm shift. Give me another one.
Juli: Yes. A third paradigm shift is one that we talked about on the last program, but I’m going to phrase it in a way that most people will have to really think about: “The gospel is written within our sexuality.”
Actually, the drive that we have—the desire we have—for sexuality is meant to draw us into covenant and [an] understand[ing of] the covenant love of God; the redemption of God.
How God gave Himself for us. So, when we read a passage like Ephesians, Chapter 5, and we read about marriage, what we don’t really realize is that what’s more important than what it’s saying about marriage is what it’s saying about God’s love for His people; Jesus Christ’s love for His Church. In our sexuality, we get a physical way of experiencing that to help us understand the deeper truth of the gospel.
So that’s something that, as you can imagine, can take hours to unpack and really apply, but that’s, I think, perhaps the most critical paradigm shift in this book (striving to grasp that).
Dennis: It seems to me that the gospel is all about redemption, forgiveness, and hope.
Dennis: In an area that’s broken in your life, we’re going to need to ask for forgiveness, grant forgiveness, and experience reconciliation and hope time after time after time.
Is that a piece of what you’re talking about?
Juli: Yes, that is a big piece of what I’m talking about. Even to go further, another piece of it is this mystery that Paul talks about, that even in our bodies, as two become one flesh, and the difference between male and female physically and emotionally, there’s an echo of Christ’s love for His Church, and of Christ sacrificing Himself; laying Himself down for His Church; washing her with the Word; to present Himself a pure bride.
There’s this echo of an eternal love that our sexuality should be reminding us of. In the Catholic Church, actually, Pope John Paul II, before he became pope, spent most of his priesthood—I guess you’d call it that—researching/studying this concept that our sexuality reveals something of the heart of God.
We see it in the Scripture,--
--but I think we haven’t dug deeply enough to see how practical it is as we’re wrestling with real-life issues of sexuality.
Dennis: Okay, let’s talk about the fourth.
Juli: Okay; the fourth paradigm shift is that we are all sexually broken. It’s a paradigm shift because I think that, particularly within the Christian church, we define certain kinds of sexual temptations or struggles as “broken,” and others of us as “whole.”
In some ways, even the purity narrative has kind of set us up for this. It’s like, “If you can stay a virgin before you get married, and you get married, then you’re pure; you’re whole. But if that doesn’t fit you, then you’re broken.”
Juli: Whereas the gospel would say that all of us are broken and have fallen short of God’s glory.
Bob: Jesus said, “If you have looked on a woman to lust, you’ve committed adultery in your heart.” So how many guys can say, “Well, I’ve never done that!” Right?
Juli: Yes. Or women!
Juli: Or even, once you get married, how much brokenness is there in our selfishness, in our lust, in our fantasies.
We’re broken, and I think a large part of the conversation we’re having with culture right now is failing, because we’re still using this paradigm of, “Hey, we’re whole! We’ve got the message. You’re all broken.”
Dennis: Yes; pride.
Juli: Yes! Instead of recognizing that we’re a mess within the body of Christ (related to sexuality).
Dennis: You call this a pandemic in your book.
Juli: Yes! It is.
Dennis: That’s a strong word.
Juli: Well, I think it’s very accurate, and I think most people, if they think about it, will agree when you look at the divorce rate in the church; the use of pornography among Christians; when you look at Christian leaders who are having sexual failures. It’s everywhere, but we’re not allowed to speak it out loud until it hits the headlines.
If we were to start with the reality that we all need forgiveness and grace and healing in this area, it would change the way we address this in the church and in the home.
Bob: And it’s interesting, when you think about the sexual brokenness that is revealed in John, Chapter 8, when a woman who has been caught in the very act of adultery is brought before the Scribes and the Pharisees. They are ready to condemn her for that, and Jesus steps forward and says, “The one who’s not broken. . . “—
Bob: That’s really what He is saying! “The one who hasn’t had any sexual brokenness, you go ahead and throw the first stone.” And they all drop their rocks.
We would be in a different place, dealing with one another about our sexual brokenness, if we could all just admit we’ve got our own issues, right?
Juli: We would! And we’d be in a different place in dealing with the culture.
Juli: They’re not the problem.
Dennis: No, no, no. I’ve got to have her—
Bob: Okay. Alright!
Dennis: No, I’ve got to have her do this really quickly. She says in the book, “Although I wasn’t abused as a child, I don’t look at porn, and was a virgin on my wedding night, I am sexually broken.”
Dennis: That’s an interesting admission—
--because there would be people listening to us who may be smugly sitting back thinking, “I didn’t participate in any of that, so I’m not really that broken.”
Dennis: You would say--?
Juli: I would say we define brokenness based on how we see wholeness, and if we see wholeness as the absence of a certain kind of temptation or problem, then we’re going to miss the boat; but if we see wholeness-sexual wholeness-as fully embracing and living out the metaphor of God’s covenant love, then we all far short of that. And I fall far short of that.
Dennis: Number five.
Bob: Now paradigm five, yes.
Juli: Paradigm five is that Jesus came to redeem our sexuality. Because we have this division between the spiritual me and the sexual me, we really can’t imagine that God would care about redeeming our sexuality. We don’t feel safe even inviting Him into that space.
Juli: So, for example, if a woman has been sexually abused, and she’s dealing with that trauma, she’s going to get one of two answers probably. Either, “All you need to do is pray and read your Bible and this trauma will go away,” or she will get the answer, “The church doesn’t deal with that, so go see a psychologist.”
There’s not this sense of integration; that God desires to bring deep healing. Not just the absence, again, of painful memories, but the restoration of the territory that has been damaged by the enemy.
Juli: And that involves the Scriptures. It involves restorative, healthy relationships. It involves what we know of the science of psychology; the wisdom that God created the world with, but all of it is meant to reconnect us to Who Jesus is. He is the Truth that sets us free. Really grasping that, I think, is a paradigm shift for many individuals as well as couples that are struggling: God really wants to reclaim this area of your life.
Dennis: And you ask a pretty pithy question at this point, in your chapter on this. You say, “Why don’t we pursue spiritual and sexual healing with the same tenacity as (you know) we might have another problem?”
Dennis: “But we kind of whisk this away with a broom underneath the rug.” You go on to say, “As Christians, why don’t we pray and fast, believing that God can mend the wounds inflicted by sexual abuse, rescue us from sexual addiction, heal brokenness in the marriage bed, and free us from the shame of the past?”
Bob: Paradigm shift number six.
Juli: Yes; truth and love must co-exist. Whenever we talk about sexual topics, particularly in today’s day and age, I think that Christians feel like they’re forced to choose between the two. Like, “I either have to be a person that stands on what I believe is the truth of God’s Word, or I have to be a loving person.”
And I can’t hold those two together. There are very practical situations that put you in that place of feeling like you’re at a fork in the road, but when we look at the life of Jesus, we see that He was described as being “full of grace and truth.”
Juli: And He knew, because He was God, how to perfectly apply truth and grace in each situation. You know, the paradigm shift is: don’t ever feel like you have to choose between those two, because Jesus didn’t.
As we follow Him and ask the Holy Spirit to make us more like Him, He will show us what it looks like to walk that fine line of being somebody that is full of both grace and truth.
Bob: Here’s where the challenge comes: you’ll have a friend, or maybe a son or a daughter, who is same-sex attracted, and they will come to you and they’ll say, “Mom, Dad, I’m gay,” or “Friend, I’m gay.” They know what you believe about this, and they will say to you, “If you can’t accept me for who I am, then you don’t love me.”
Bob: They’re putting you on notice that you can’t have it both ways; you can’t be full of grace and truth. “You either have to believe the way I believe and endorse my lifestyle, or you are an unloving person.”
Juli: Yes, and that’s a false paradigm. It’s not only individuals that are feeling that need to choose.
Juli: It’s churches and denominations; but we’ve got to recognize it as a false paradigm set up, really, by the enemy. The quality in Jesus’s life that made both truth and grace fully possible was the character quality of humility, because our humility before God keeps us grounded in truth. We don’t have the permission to edit Him. He defines morality. Our humility before men keeps us grounded in love. I don’t have the right to judge you. I can still speak truth, but I’m as broken as you are. I’ll approach you with that perspective.
Instead of feeling like, “Hey, get your stuff together and be like me!”
Juli: So I believe, as individuals and as a church, we have to be pursuing the humility of Jesus.
Dennis: And truth really needs grace.
Dennis: For broken people.
Juli: Yes, absolutely.
Dennis: They’re just not going to make it every time, you know? That’s why we’ve got to be grace people.
Juli: Number seven is that it all begins with us. I remember being in a place, when God had first called me to this ministry of addressing sexual issues, of being on my knees before the Lord. I had really had the privilege of interacting with a few women who had been so severely sexually abused—sex trafficking. You know, my heart was just broken for what is happening in our culture.
I was on my knees and I was crying, “God! Why don’t You do something!? Why don’t You expose these people? Why don’t You stop this?” I kept asking Him, “God, why don’t You do something?”
And I just sensed the Lord say to me, “Juli, why don’t you do something?” Boy, that was not what I expected to hear! But we are the body of Christ here on earth, and if we’re heartbroken, and if we’re angry about what we see happening in our world and in our culture, we’ve got to remember that we are God’s solution. As humbling as that is, because we know how limited we are, God works through willing, broken vessels. He works powerfully through them.
God is inviting us to do something to reclaim this territory.
Dennis: A person who has written this many books on sexuality never has any problems with her husband.
Juli: [Laughing] Right! You know, a person who has written this many books on sexuality realizes that she’s in the cross-hairs of the enemy.
Dennis: Oh, yes!
Juli: So my husband and I are very, very aware that we are constantly vulnerable to the enemy’s attacks, and they come in all different forms. We tell our three boys that, too.
We need to be extra on-guard. We still struggle, and, you know, I love that we still struggle, because it’s what keeps this real and what keeps me humble and pathic as I teach. This is not an easy journey. It requires constant dependence on the Lord.
Dennis: Well, thanks for stepping into spiritual battle.
Dennis: Because I think we know a little bit about that here at FamilyLife.
Juli: You do; yes, you do.
Dennis: Thanks for putting your work in on a book that will help us rethink an area where, if we need to be reprogrammed—if this is not in first place, Bob, what would be?
Yes, in this culture, this is what’s jumping out at us every day in the headlines; every day in our private lives, with our friends, and with our family members.
And to rethink sexuality really is about renewing your mind around what God’s Word has to say about this subject.
Dennis: And I would suggest you get one copy, alright? Husband takes black ink and the wife takes red ink, and you read a chapter at a time, and you both underline, then you talk about it.
Bob: Who reads first? Husband or wife?
Dennis: You play hopscotch, you know?
Bob: Switch off.
Dennis: Husband goes first, then the wife; then the wife goes first, then the husband. Just see if you can make it all the way through the book.
Bob: Alright! So there’s your assignment: go to our website, FamilyLifeToday.com, and get a copy of Dr. Juli Slattery’s book, Rethinking Sexuality, and then let us know how the back-and-forth reading worked out for you.
You can order the book from us online, again, at FamilyLifeToday.com, or you can call to order: 1-800-358-6329. That’s 1-800-FLTODAY.
1-800-F as in “family,” L as in “life,” and then the word, “TODAY.”
Now I hope you and your family are planning to worship together in your local church this weekend. In fact, let me just say a word about your involvement with your local church. Here at FamilyLife, we believe that for families to be strong and healthy families, they need to be regularly, actively engaged with their local church; not just attending, but participating and giving and doing life together with others.
We would also say that you ought to be supporting your local church financially. That should be your first priority when it comes to financial giving. We’ve said to people for years: we don’t want any of you who feel led to give to FamilyLife—we don’t want you—to take away from giving to your local church to do that. So please continue to make that your top priority.
With that said, we want to ask you to consider supporting the ministry of FamilyLife Today as well.
Our goal here is to effectively develop godly marriages and families. To the extent you’re able to help us with that goal, we’re able to extend the reach of this ministry—to reach more people, more regularly with practical, biblical help and hope.
Right now, we have a matching gift opportunity that we’re trying to take full advantage of. Some friends of the ministry have offered to match every donation we receive during the month of August on a dollar-for-dollar basis up to a total of $500,000. We still have a ways to go, so would you consider going online today to donate?
Or call 1-800-FL-TODAY and make a donation, knowing that your donation is going to be matched dollar-for-dollar. In addition, we’re going to send you a copy of Dennis and Barbara Rainey’s new book, which is called The Art of Parenting. That’s our way of saying “thank you” for your partnership with us in the ministry of FamilyLife Today.
Again, you can donate online at FamilyLifeToday.com or call to donate at 1-800-FLTODAY.
And make sure, when you go to church this Sunday, that you put some money in the offering plate, too, alright?
And we hope you do have a great weekend! Hope you can join us back on Monday. We’re going to be talking with our friend, Ron Deal, about how important it is, in a blended family, that the husband and wife understand that, as husband and wife, they should be in the front seat, and the kids should be in the back seat. I’m talking about that as a metaphor. We’ll explain more about it on Monday. I hope you can be with us for all of that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I’m Bob Lepine. We’ll see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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