Does God Care Who I Sleep With?
About the Guest
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Sam AllberrySam Allberry is a pastor based in Maidenhead, UK. He is part of the global speaking team for Ravi Zacharias International Ministries, and an editor for The Gospel Coalition. He is the author of a number of books, including James For You, Why Bother With Church? and the bestselling Is God Anti-Gay?
Does God really care who I sleep with? Sam Allberry presents the Good News of Jesus and tells how it is life-giving to those who desire to give and receive physical love.
Does God Care Who I Sleep With?
Dave: When you gave your life to Christ as a high school girl—
Dave: —what was the first question you wanted answers to, now that you are a follower of Christ?
Ann: I was 16 years old. I didn’t go to a church then, because I was brand-new in my faith; I didn’t grow up in a home that went to church. The question was: “Is it okay to have sex before you get married?” I really wanted to know, because I wanted to obey Jesus.
Welcome to FamilyLife Today, where we want to help you pursue the relationships that matter most. I’m Ann Wilson.
Dave: And I’m Dave Wilson, and you can find us at FamilyLifeToday.com or on our FamilyLife® app.
Ann: This is FamilyLife Today.
Dave: When you gave your life to Christ, as a high school girl, what was the first question—
Ann: “Is it okay to have sex before you get married?”
Dave: You weren’t the only one. I know that I came to Christ in college; that was one of the questions I had. I think it’s still a question. The culture’s views on sexuality dominate our thinking; and you wonder, “Okay; what is God’s view?”
Ann: —and “Does God care?”
Dave: Yes; I had no idea there was a book literally called Why Does God Care Who I Sleep With? We have the author of that book with us today, Sam Allberry. We are so glad you’re going to be here to answer our questions.
Ann: Sam, welcome to FamilyLife Today.
Sam: It’s good to be with you; thanks for having me.
Dave: I’m guessing you know this as well, but as an author and a speaker—you speak all around the world and written all kinds of different books—I’m sure this question is something you have heard many times: “What does God think about human sexuality and single sexuality?” Obviously, the title of your book is Why Does God Care Who I Sleep With? That’s my first question: “Does God care who we sleep with?”
Sam: He does; God is not silent on these things. Jesus has things to say on human sexuality and sexual ethics; we would expect Him to care about this issue. If we care about it, why would He not be concerned with something that means so much to us?
The good news is God cares about who we sleep with, because He cares about the people doing the sleeping; He cares about us. He cares about every aspect of our life, especially something this intimate and personal to us; so He’s not uninvolved.
Dave: Yes; and it is easy to think/I know, when I came to Christ—again, I’m a college student—the guy who led me to Christ sat down with me. Again, it was like Ann said, one of my first questions was: “What does the Bible say about sexuality, especially as a single man?”
When I heard that the answer was/all I heard was: “God says, ‘No,’” “God says, ‘No’; I don’t know why He says, ‘No.’” It didn’t sort of jive with me; I was like, “Somebody has to help me understand; why would God say something like that?” So help me/help our listeners understand: “Does God say, ‘No’?” and “Why does God say, ‘No’?”
Sam: He says, “No,” to some things; but He doesn’t say, “No,” to the totality of our whole experience of sexuality. You know, there have been Christians, certainly, over the years, who’ve given the impression that the only message Scripture has on sex is the message of: “No”; so I can understand some people having that impression. At times, the church has not been biblically balanced on this.
Sex was God’s idea, not ours; He came up with the idea of it. We didn’t discover this behind His back; it’s part of His gift to us in creation. It’s designed/in the right context, it’s designed to be a wonderful thing. The Bible has a positive vision for human sexuality, but that positive vision also has important guardrails.
Whenever the Bible says, “No,” to something, a good question to ask ourselves is: “What is the good thing that prohibition is protecting for us?” I don’t know if was Chesterton or somebody else who once said, “Before you pull down a fence, find out why it was put there in the first place.” There are various prohibitions of different kinds of sexual behavior, even different kinds of sexual thinking, in the Bible. We need to understand the positive vision for human sexuality that God gives us if we’re going to understand why there are certain things He says that we shouldn’t do.
Ann: The church hasn’t done a great job of showing the beauty and the biblical side of this area, I don’t think. You’ve talked about that in your book—share a little bit about that—of just the history of this in the church.
Sam: We’ve got this wrong, I think, in different ways. The pendulum swings back and forth.
- There are times when we’ve so prized celibacy that we sort of made people feel unspiritual for getting married. That would be one mistake.
- There are other times when we’ve, again, we’ve sounded very, very prudish; so even talking about sex, in any context, is somehow unseemly or improper.
- At times, as I said earlier, we’ve focused on the negatives without really unpacking or even noticing the positives: “How is sex designed to be a gift to us?” and “How does that design then make sense of the various restrictions that the Bible does put on it?”
I think we’re at a different stage now where, with the cultural pressures, we find it’s either too easy for pastors just not to talk about this at all and for parents not to talk about it, in which case all the thinking and discipling is being done by our world rather than by the Word. It’s an area where we need to go as far as the Bible goes, and no further and no less, but also be mindful of doing so for the reasons the Bible gives us, not just that we know where the boundaries are, but that we know what the purpose is as well.
Dave: Help our listener understand: “Okay, if God designed this, what was His purpose?”
Sam: Yes; I think, broadly speaking, there are three purposes we see in the Bible for sex within the right context. One is, obviously, procreation. We see that in Genesis 1, where it says to “multiply and fill the earth.” The reason for that is God has made us in His image, and He wants that image to spread around the world; so that’s the most obvious purpose for sex.
In Genesis 2, it talks about the two becoming one flesh, so there’s a sense of sex being for the deepening of the union, a way of kind of expressing and deepening that sense of unity between a husband and wife.
A broader purpose we see, as the Bible unfolds, is we discover that marriage, in general—and we can presume the joy of sex within that context—together point to the ultimate bliss of our union with Jesus. As Paul talks to husbands and wives in Ephesians 5, for example, at one point he says, “Listen, I’m actually talking about Christ and the church; that’s what this is ultimately all about.”
We see, that throughout the whole Bible, this amazing theme that God is, not just the all-powerful being in the sky, but He’s actually a husband. Jesus comes to this earth, and among other things, calls Himself the Bridegroom. We realize that God has embedded, within human nature and human culture, this idea of a covenant relationship between a man and a woman that is actually embedded there to reflect the kind of God He is, and what it is He’s doing in the universe, which is making a bride for His Son, Jesus. Marriage has that purpose as well.
For all three of those purposes, therefore/actually, it requires marriage to be between one man and one woman. That becomes the context in which sex is designed to fulfill its purpose. It’s meant to be a form of self-giving; and therefore, needs to be within a context where it’s safe to give the whole of who you are to somebody else, exclusively and permanently, which is why it’s reserved for the covenant of marriage.
Those, to me, seem to be the main purposes.
Ann: I’m thinking back to myself when I was 16. Nobody ever talked about that; I’m new in my faith.
I think a lot of parents are thinking, “How do I talk to my kids about this when the culture is bombarding them with saying, ‘Yes’?” Here we are, as Christian parents, wanting to give a biblical mindset/worldview: “This is what the Bible says.” What would you say, out of love and out of God’s Word, “How would you teach us how to communicate this to our kids?”
Sam: Yes, it’s such an important question. I’m sure it’s not the kind of thing where there’s one magic formula that will work in every context.
Sam: I also think aspects of this conversation need to happen earlier on. I don’t think we need to get into talking about sex specifically with younger kids, but I think we can talk about marriage and why marriage has the particular shape it does earlier in life. Then that will provide the framework, within which some of those sexual dos and don’ts that we find in Scripture, will then make more and more sense. I think this is part of an ongoing discussion, even from a very young age, about what marriage is, and means, and points to.
I’d say to the 16-year-old—I was converted when I turned 18, so not much later than you would have been—I think I want to show people that God has designed sex to be a good thing. It’s a gift of creation, and it’s designed to work beautifully and powerfully within the context of marriage.
I don’t know who first came up with this, but I’ve heard sex likened to fire. In the right context—in a fireplace—fire is life-giving: it warms the whole house; it’s a wonderful, joyful thing to have in your presence. In the wrong context, it burns the whole place down. Sex is that powerful—that in the right context, it can be a huge blessing: life-giving, life-affirming, even life-creating—in the wrong context, it can be incredibly destructive. God has designed it to be that powerful.
I’d want to talk about how part of God’s purpose for sex is to bring about that one-flesh union; it is designed to unite and knit two people together at the very deepest level: emotionally, spiritually, psychologically, physically. It’s the kind of union that, once created, is not designed to be undone—and can’t be undone without extreme pain—without actually ripping part of yourself off as well. Therefore, there is pain in having to wait for the right context, for sure—the pain of experiencing sexual longings that you don’t feel you can yet fulfill—but the pain of misusing sex can be far, far greater.
God knows us; He made us; He knows what works best for us. There’s kindness in all of His ways. He’s not there with a big stick, giving us rules just to see if we can comply or not. These are kind instructions from the Creator, and we only end up damaging ourselves if we disregard what He says.
Dave: Yes; and I was never taught anything beyond the “No.” It was like, “God says, ‘No,’ before marriage/outside of marriage”; and it’s like the culture’s view seemed better. “It can’t be that big a deal! It’s not life-threatening, so why is it such a big deal to not have sex?” Can you help us understand why God would say, “No”?
Sam: Yes; it’s such a good question. I think the reason is because, if it’s designed to be a way of mutual self-giving at the most deep level that can happen between two human beings, then you need to know you’re ready for that, and that the other person is ready for that; because that’s an irreversible step to take.
Part of the issue we have in our culture—and it’s been like this for, I’m sure, many, many decades—is we’re trying to find a way to experience sexual gratification without having to have the commitment of my entire life being given to somebody else. So we’re trying to withhold from someone what is meant to be given to them. Included within the act of sex, it’s designed to be a way of giving the whole of who you are to somebody else.
When we try to have the sex bit without the commitment bit, it’s actually/I would say it’s a form of theft. We’re trying to use someone else’s sexuality for our own pleasure and gratification—but we’re not willing to give that person what the sex act is designed to be, a kind of communication of our giving—so we’re withholding something.
You know, the question is not—“Do you both love each other?”—but—“Is that person worth the rest of your life?” If they are, tell them that: make that covenant; make that commitment. That’s why marriage is not just covenantal, but it’s publicly covenantal; because that’s the only context in which it is safe to fully give all that you are to someone else exclusively. To try to have a sexual relationship outside of that context is to put yourself in an extremely vulnerable position—where, in one sense, you’re giving your heart to someone—without really knowing if they’re planning to stick around or not.
There was a really weird Tom Cruise movie about 20 years ago called Vanilla Sky; it came out in the early 2000s. In the movie, Tom Cruise’s character has a one-night stand with Cameron Diaz’s character. Later, in the movie, she catches up with him and challenges him. She says to him, “When you sleep with someone, your body makes promises, even if you don’t.”
Sam: I love that line—in a secular movie, it speaks a lot of truth—when you have sex with someone, your body makes promises, even if you don’t. Sex is designed to express covenant love and covenant commitment, so to try to have it outside of that context is to go against the grain of how it’s designed to work. It’s going to cause short-term pleasure and long-term pain—maybe not for you—but perhaps, profoundly for the other person.
Ann: I so relate to that. I’m thinking of Howard Hendricks, who was a Dallas prof and teacher, author. We heard him in his 80s; we were in a question-and-answer time with some friends. Somebody asked him, “Howard, what’s sex like in your 80s?” Without even a second, he said, “Oh, it’s the best it’s ever been.” We’re like, “What?!”
It was so interesting; because he said, “You know, until you’ve been married over
15 years, you think that sex is all about the physical: it’s just a union of the bodies.” He said, “Sex, when you grow older—when you understand who God is and why He created sex—you realize it’s a union of your souls together. It’s so much more than physical intimacy; it’s that union of every part of your soul.”
I’ll never forget—I kind of sat back in my seat—I was recalling: I’ve had sexual abuse; our family wasn’t very affectionate in any way, so the only type of affection that I had was sexual affection. So then I was promiscuous later on; and yet, I felt emptier than I had ever felt in my life.
I thought, before knowing Jesus, “What kind of a God would stop me from wanting to express my love in a physical way with another person?” What I’ve come to realize: “Oh, it’s a loving God, who wants to protect me: who wants to protect my heart, my soul, my body. And there’s a Father, who loves us, who wants to restore us and can restore us.”
The world is saying, “No; just be free!” But freedom comes from Jesus more than anywhere else that I have found.
Dave: Yes; so Sam, as you hear that, how would you respond to a listener that maybe has a similar experience to what Ann was saying. They’ve been hurt in this area, or they’ve given themselves away, not knowing what you shared—there’s a soul involved here; it’s much more than physical—and they’re wanting to do it God’s way from now on. What would you say to them?
Sam: I would say that you are not alone in feeling that way. Jesus says all of us are broken in our sexuality. We’ve all misused our own sexuality, and that of other people. It means that He’s come to be good news for sexually-broken people.
Sam: He’s come to be good news for people who’ve misused others, and hurt and harmed others sexually; and He’s come to be good news for those who’ve been abused/those who’ve been taken advantage of. If He’s not good news for sexually-broken people, He’s not good news for anyone; so we need Him to be good news in this area of life. It’s never too late for us to come to Him.
Mess is His specialty. [Laughter] We may feel like there’s too many years of sexual mess in our lives/too much baggage that we don’t even begin to comprehend, but that’s His thing; that’s what He does. You just can’t out-mess Him. [Laughter]
Romans 5 says, “Where sin abounds, grace abounds all the more.” Some of us may feel as though: “Well, there has got to be a limit to quite how much He can deal with, and I’m sure I’m past that limit.” There is more grace in Him than there is sin in us; and it’s often our sexual sin that feels uniquely shameful, again, because this is an area that is meant to—in the right context—is meant to positively involve every area of life. As you were saying, it’s a union of souls, which is why the misuse of sex can harm every area of life.
I think it’s appropriate to say that there was a sexual dimension to the humiliation and abuse of Christ before He died. He was stripped naked; He was sexually exposed in order to be humiliated. You know, we want to be careful with the language of Jesus being a victim; He wasn’t a victim in the sense that this was completely out of His control. He voluntarily went through those things for us. But it means, in the language of Hebrews 4, He’s not unable to sympathize with those who’ve been sexually exposed, or humiliated, or in any other way abused by others. He knows what the pains of this life are like. That makes Him uniquely qualified to understand.
The other thing I love coming back to is: Jesus saying that a bruised reed He will not break. We can trust our most tender bruises to Jesus. We can find, in Him, a Savior, who is both incredibly powerful, but also incredibly gentle. We can come to Him with our greatest vulnerabilities/our greatest hurts, and we can know that He will be tender and merciful with us. We come to Him at our most broken, our most messy, our most needy—and we don’t need to tidy ourselves up first—because if we could tidy ourselves up, we wouldn’t really need Him in the first place.
Bob: We live today in a culture that has come to view God’s perspective on human sexuality as restrictive and even punitive, when in reality, God’s plan for our sexuality is meant for our thriving. And yet, all of us are broken people when it comes to the area of sexuality. Many of us have scars that we bring into a relationship with us.
Author and speaker, Sam Allberry, does a wonderfully helpful job of pointing us back to God’s design and the goodness of God’s design for sexuality. He’s written a book called Why Does God Care Who I Sleep With? that is a book that can be shared with those who are wondering, “Why does it matter? Why is it important?” The culture says who you sleep with is not a big deal; God says it should be one person for a lifetime.
Let me encourage you, if you have questions about this subject, or if you know someone who’s wrestling with this, order a copy of Sam Allberry’s book, Why Does God Care Who I Sleep With? You can order it online at FamilyLifeToday.com, or call 1-800-FL-TODAY. Again, our website—FamilyLifeToday.com—the number to call is 1-800-358-6329; 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.” Sam Allberry’s book, again, is called Why Does God Care Who I Sleep With?
You know, addressing subjects like this, and pointing people back to what the Bible teaches about marriage, family, relationships, sexuality, gender—these kinds of things—this is at the heart of what we’re all about as a ministry. FamilyLife Today exists to effectively develop godly marriages and families. We want to provide practical biblical help and hope for your marriages and your families.
There are some of you who listen, who share this passion with us; and we know that because you have helped make today’s program possible through your donations: some of you are monthly Legacy Partners—we are grateful to you for that—others of you give from time to time; thank you for that.
If you’re able to make a donation today, we’d love to say, “Thank you,” by sending you Janel Breitenstein’s new book, which is called Permanent Markers. It’s a very practical book to help parents know how we can help shape and mold our sons and daughters, and point them toward Jesus/mark them with the gospel message as we raise them. That book is our thank-you gift to you when you make a donation today to support the ongoing work of FamilyLife Today. You can do that online at FamilyLifeToday.com, or you can call 1-800-FL-TODAY to donate. We look forward to hearing from you, and we appreciate you.
We hope you can join us back tomorrow. Sam Allberry will be here again. We’re going to continue looking at God’s good plan for us when it comes to marriage and sexuality—and explore the question: “Why does God care who I sleep with?”—hope you can be here for that.
On behalf of our hosts, Dave and Ann Wilson, I’m Bob Lepine. We’ll see you next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.isHis image
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