God Cares About Who I Sleep With
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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?
Why is it a big deal who I sleep with? Sam Allberry addresses the value of sex for our whole selves and explains how we find our ultimate fulfillment in Christ.
God Cares About Who I Sleep With
Sam: We think it’s bad news that God cares about who we sleep with because we think: “He’s just going to come into our lives and restrict us, and get in the way of our pleasure, and make us miserable,”—is what we tend to think. But God cares who we sleep with, because He cares about us; He made us.
Ann: 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—
The first time that I can remember—and I’m almost sure, because I’m always right—[Laughter]—that we heard or that I heard a message on sexual intimacy from the Bible—
Dave: —from God’s perspective was, literally, two weeks before we got married at the Weekend to Remember®.
Ann: I remember this because of my past—and there was sexual abuse—there was no/I had never seen affection in a healthy way in our family. I sit down, as a 19-year-old, and for the first time, I’m hearing a biblical perspective of married sexual intimacy. It blew me away; I have never heard this in my entire life. I was thinking, “How have I never heard this?! This is amazing; this is a good plan.”
Yet, the only thing I had heard was the worldly plan, and how it would satisfy me; and it had left me so lost and broken.
Dave: Yes; that’s one of the things—obviously, as we were sitting there, you realized—“Man, if you do it the way the Creator intended, it can be glorious and beautiful in a covenant of marriage, between a man and a woman.” If you miss it and sort of follow the culture, you don’t hear about the damage and about the brokenness that is going to result.
Yet, we were sitting there, and we both could feel—both at the same time—it was presented in such a way that we were like: “We want that; we want God’s way,” “Can God repair what we’ve messed up?” and “Can He lead us to a new future?”
So/so many people didn’t get to sit in that ballroom; they haven’t been to a Weekend to Remember to hear this message.
Ann: I hope they will go to one.
Dave: You can go to one now; they are back on. You can go to FamilyLifeToday.com and sign up for one right now. By the way, that isn’t the only thing we talk about all weekend. It isn’t all about sex; but there is one message in the weekend, because it’s so critical that people understand God’s perspective on this.
We have an author with us today, Sam Allberry, who wrote a book about God’s perspective on sex. Sam, welcome to FamilyLife Today.
Sam: Good to be with you. Thanks for having me.
Dave: By the way, as we talk about your book—which has/what a great title—Why Does God Care Who I Sleep With? because I think that’s a question a lot of us have. You’ve written other books. You are a pastor, an author, a speaker; you speak around the world. I could go on and on about your bio.
As you write this book, Why Does God Care Who I Sleep With?, help us understand—you, obviously, are tapping into—this is an important question to help people understand: “God does care.”
We’ve already talked a little bit about why He cares; but tell us again, “Why does God care so much about this thing that we seem to be flippant about?” We don’t think it’s that big of a deal—the culture says, “It’s not really that big of a deal,”—but God says, “No; it’s a really big deal.” Help us understand, again: “Why is it a big deal?” and “How did a loving God create this and give it to us really as a good, beautiful gift?”
Sam: Yes; we think it’s bad news that God cares about who we sleep with because we think: “He is just going to come into our lives and restrict us, and get in the way of our pleasure, and make us miserable,”—that is what we tend to think. But God cares who we sleep with because He cares about us; He made us.
I love what Jesus says in Matthew 5, in the Sermon on the Mount, about not looking at someone with lustful intent. You realize, “God even cares about the people we are thinking about sleeping with.” He cares about them so much that it matters to them how they are thought about, even in the privacy of someone else’s mind. All of us have that kind of sexual dignity in God’s sight that He is protective of how others, even in their own hearts, are thinking about us.
It’s good that He cares about these things, because He would not be a good God if He didn’t. It is such a profound, personal, sensitive, vulnerable part of our human experience; He would be negligent not to care about this.
Dave: In a sense, as you write in your book, God’s perspective on human sexuality and married sexuality really highlights the value—tell me if I am right or wrong—of a person. One of the analogies or illustrations you use is Rachael Denhollander, who was one of the first to sort of bring up the whole Larry Nassar thing at Michigan State. We are from Michigan, so it’s just an hour from us. It was pretty close to home; but one of her questions, as victim after victim came forward, was: “How much is a girl worth?”; right? “I mean, what are we going to do about this?”
As you’ve mentioned also in the book, the whole Me Too Movement sort of came out of this whole area of sexual abuse, and women saying, “I have experienced this as well.” Again, if sex isn’t that big of a deal, why are all of these people saying, “Me too”; but they are speaking out to get at something very deep that was taken from them.
Talk about that a little bit. Obviously, it gets at the value of a person; but what was going on with that whole thing?
Sam: Yes; there are lots of things that have been happening culturally that are very revealing and very significant. We’ve been telling ourselves—kind of a secular context—for so many years: “It’s just a physical act; it’s just the exchange of bodily fluids. Why are you so hung up about it as Christians?”
But if nothing else, the Me Too Movement has shown us that the abuse of sex is far more than physical. There is an emotional, psychological component to it that can be lifelong in its harm. Actually, we’re realizing, “It’s not just physical.” Being sexually abused is not the same as breaking your leg. It’s not just a physical wrong that’s gone on there, but something much more profound.
Again, it’s because, in the right context, sex is meant to involve your entire psychology and your emotional life and everything else. It’s meant to involve the whole of your personality. Therefore, the abuse of it is similarly widespread in its affects. I’m glad the Me Too Movement is making us more aware of, not just the existence of sexual abuse, but of the extent of the harm that it causes. We’re becoming a little more sensitive to these things, culturally, than we have been in the past.
At the same time, it gives us, as Christians, an opportunity to say: “This just shows us we are not dealing with just bodily fluids here. It’s not just physical; something far more profound is at play when it comes to human sexuality,” and “It’s that something profound that actually guides what the Bible says about these things.”
Ann: It’s interesting—as you were talking, I was thinking about—yes, when there is sexual abuse, there is no choice; and you feel like something was stolen from you. But I would also say—and this isn’t talked about very much—that for myself, I was reciprocal in the sexual relationships I had before I got married that were sin. Because I had a say in it, I felt like, “Well, that’s on me.”
There was a new kind of shame; it’s a different kind of shame—that, yes, with abuse, it was stolen—with my promiscuity, I gave it away. Yet, I still felt deep shame about it. I couldn’t really explain it when I was in it, because I was making those choices for myself. I still felt a sense of emptiness—and a shattering, a little bit, of my soul—when I felt like it wasn’t reciprocated in love by the other person. I’m imagining how many shattered souls there are in our world; but we don’t really speak about it very often, because we feel like we’ve done that to ourselves.
Yet, Jesus walks into this—the Great Restorer, and the Redeemer, the Forgiver—and I am so glad that He does restore. When we watched those/the whole court case of these girls telling Larry Nassar: “This is what you’ve done to me,” “This is what you’ve stolen,” I sat—and I think many of us sat—and just wept at the pain that these girls felt. I was angry, too; there was a righteous anger in that moment.
Sam: Thank you for being so honest about your experience, Ann. I hope some of these things are becoming easier for us to talk about, and we need to make our churches places where it’s safe to talk about that—it’s safe to articulate that without feeling kind of undue levels of embarrassment—because we need the gospel at this very point. We need someone, who can come into our lives, as Jesus does, to fill our lives afresh again; to restore to us what has been lost; and to redeem what has been broken, which He does so wonderfully.
Dave: Yes; let’s talk about that a little bit because I know, as couples would even ask us, “What regrets do you have about your past?” It’s interesting—as I think about my life, as a non-believer before my junior year in college—I was copying the sins of my dad; and I didn’t even know him. He was not a part of my life after I was six years old. Yet, here I am on a college campus, drinking like my dad did, womanizing like my dad did. I was living out this life. Obviously, there were consequences.
So we get married—and again, when people ask me, “What do you regret?”—I don’t regret/I mean, obviously, I wish I wouldn’t have done any of that—but the one thing that comes to my mind is the sexual involvement [with other women], before marriage, because of the effects it had on our marriage.
Dave: The first year/the first couple of years of our marriage, we had to struggle through—
Ann: —it was all our baggage.
Dave: —all this baggage that; nobody ever told us—“There will be consequences. Yes, you can live it up; but yes, there will be consequences that you bring in, not just to your bedroom, but to your whole marriage.” Yet, God met us. I could talk about how God met us; but I’d love to hear you, Sam.
Talk about: “Okay; how does God meet a person, who has messed up in this area/who hasn’t followed God’s plan? And now they are listening/they are saying, ‘Can God restore my soul?’ How does He do that?”
Sam: Well, let’s be clear. God doesn’t meet people, who aren’t broken in this area of life, because those people don’t exist.
Sam: One of the kind of big moments of clarity for me, looking at the Sermon on the Mount when Jesus talks about lust, is what He is doing there is He is showing us that the Ten Commandments were never given so that we could prove how good we are. The Ten Commandments were given to show what is in our hearts. Jesus is saying: “All of us have adulterous hearts. Some of us may have expressed that physically more than others, but we are all made of the same stuff on this; therefore, we all need the grace of God; and that’s exactly who He is.”
Psalm 51 is David coming to terms with his own sexual sin. His sin was far more than sexual, but it was certainly driven by kind of improper sexual desires. David knows that there is mercy, even for his pretty horrific sexual sin. God is able to restore the things that we mess up; He is able to give back to us the very things we’ve had taken from us/the things that we have damaged ourselves. God is able to give those things back to us better than they were before. It’s just the kind of God He is.
He is not limited by our sins, as if, “Well, now, I’ve sinned myself into such a place that God can’t do much with me now; the raw materials are so messed up.” This is the God of resurrection—the God of Creation/out of nothing—so He is able to bring back into our lives far, far more than we would have ever been able to accomplish and far more than certainly we deserve. So no one is ever too far gone for God to be able to intervene in a beautiful way in their lives. However crazy and destructive our sexual history might have been, God can still bring sexual health to us.
Ann: Well, I love what you say; you say, “This is why God cares who I sleep with: our sexuality is meant to tell a story.”
Ann: What do you mean by that?
Sam: It’s one of the great things we see in the Bible. The Bible begins with Adam and Eve getting together. The reason it begins with that, rather than something else, is because Adam and Eve getting together is going to become a picture of how heaven and earth are going to come together through Jesus Christ through the whole rest of the Bible. The end of the Bible is the New Jerusalem coming down from heaven to earth—you know heaven and earth meeting—in this new community of God’s people.
Human sexuality is designed to point to that great reality. Human marriage is meant to point beyond itself to the ultimate marriage. Jesus comes announcing Himself to be the Bridegroom because He is saying, “I am the divine husband the Old Testament always spoke of.” Jesus coming into this world is God wanting to put rings on fingers and to say, “Let’s make you Mine now; come to Me.” I’ve heard evangelists like Michael Green, over the years, talk about when Jesus is hanging on the cross. It’s as if the Father is saying, “Savior, will You take this sinner—
Sam: —“to be Yours?”—you know—“to love them, to honor them, to cherish them now and forever more?” By hanging on a cross, and stretching out His arms, Jesus is saying, “I will; I will.” The question to us is: “Well, sinner, will you take this Savior to be your husband?”
Our human sexuality is meant to be about that. We don’t have to be married for our sexuality to be about that. I’m single; so what that means is, when I feel sexual yearnings and sexual desires that have to go, for now, unfulfilled, I can let those yearnings and those desires remind me that there is a deeper yearning and deeper desire in the human soul that is fully met by Jesus. These unmet sexual desires are but a temporal picture of that eternal satisfaction that all of us can find in Jesus. He is the One for whom we have been made.
Eve was made out of Adam’s side, and Jesus was wounded in His side at His death. Out of that wounding comes His bride the church, that we can know Him and know that full union with Him.
Dave: I mean, Sam, what a beautiful picture, that I’ve never really considered it the way you said it—
Ann: Me too.
Dave: —of thinking, the next time any person has sexual urges, instead of the culture saying, “Go with it,”—
Ann: —“Fulfill them.”
Dave: —“those are from your body, and there’s nothing…”—you are saying—“Those urges can point you to the gospel; they can point you to—
Dave: —“a Savior who chose you.” So you don’t have to fulfill those fleshly desires, which in our mind, we know this is going to have negative consequences.
Most of the time, we say, “That’s okay; I’m going to deal with it.” No, no; this can push us the other way—it pushes us to the cross; it pushes us to forgiveness—it pushes us to a Savior, rather than away, to be embraced. That’s a beautiful picture of what God wants.
Ann: What does that look like, Sam, practically speaking?—because I’m thinking, unless you are really connected to the Father/that you are in an ongoing dynamic relationship—it would be really easy to get sucked back into the cultural view of: “You should satisfy your own fleshly yearnings.”
What does that look like? How have you done that? When you’ve had that urge, how do you go to Christ?
Sam: Truth internalized makes a big difference—and realizing that Jesus was never married; He was never sexually-active; He never dated—and yet, He was the most fully human and complete person who ever lived. That tells me, when culture says, “Hey, if you miss out on this, you are really missing out on authentic, full life,” I know that is not true; because otherwise, Jesus wasn’t fully human. That can’t be the case.
It helps to think, “Well, okay; no, this is not—however deep these feelings go and however painful some of those yearnings may be at times—I’m not missing out on something ultimate. The thing that is ultimate, I actually have in Jesus. I could have no sex in this world and have far more of that ultimate fulfillment than someone who has tons and tons of sex in this life but doesn’t know Jesus, because the real consummation is going to be experienced and enjoyed at the marriage supper of the Lamb as Revelation shows us.
Just trying to keep myself oriented to that perspective really helps and makes a big difference. Therefore, to see behind those sexual yearnings—disordered though they inevitably are—to see them as breadcrumbs pointing back up to that ultimate union of heaven and earth in Jesus Christ.
Dave: You know, it’s interesting—you say in your book— “Sex is God’s appointed way for two people in marriage to reciprocally say to one another, ‘I belong completely, permanently, and exclusively to you.’”
Sam: Yes, I think I’m quoting Timothy Keller—
Dave: Are you?
Sam: —with that particular line. That sounds too good to be me.
Dave: I mean, that quote is such a beautiful picture of the sexual union in marriage—
Dave: —but it’s also a beautiful picture of what Jesus says to us: “I am completely, permanently, exclusively yours.” That’s why the sexual union in marriage is a picture of the gospel in a really beautiful way.
You’ve helped us with your book, and with this interview, to just say, “Man, that is the image we need to center our minds on around sex.”
Ann: You said it earlier, Sam: these conversations with our kids have to begin when they are younger, that they have an idea of: “This is the God who loves us,” “There is the God who wants the best for you.”
And then we have those conversations about sexuality. The world and the culture is having those conversations; but what would it look like to have these conversations around our dinner tables, and at bedtime with our teens/ our little kids?—so they grow up, having a biblical mindset. Dave, so that one day, they don’t sit in a conference, thinking, “Oh, is that God’s plan for married sexuality?”
We should be telling our kids this plan from the time that they are little, in appropriate ways, until the time they are adults. Then they can look forward, not only to what God has for them—whether they get married or not—but this journey that God the Father has for them in relationship with Him.
Sam: Absolutely; amen to that.
Dave: Thanks, Sam. It’s been great.
Sam: Thank you.
Bob: We have good news and a good message to share with people when it comes to human sexuality. I know people see the Christian view of sex as outdated, or restrictive, or judgmental. They see cohabitation as normal. For many people, this is a barrier to considering the Christian faith.
Sam Allberry has written a wonderful book called Why Does God Care Who I Sleep With? It’s what we’ve been talking about this week, and we’d love to send you a copy of Sam’s book. You can request your copy online at FamilyLifeToday.com, or call to order at 1-800-FL-TODAY. Again, the title of Sam Allberry’s book is Why Does God Care Who I Sleep With? Order online at FamilyLifeToday.com, or call 1-800-358-6329; that’s 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY,” to request your copy of Sam’s book.
Dave and Ann Wilson mentioned the FamilyLife Weekend to Remember marriage getaway as a place where we teach God’s design for marriage and for our sexuality. We are excited; we’ve had four of these getaways already this fall in Chattanooga, and Augusta, Cedar Rapids, and Tampa. Next weekend, we are in Raleigh and in San Diego/actually, La Jolla. We’ve got conferences continuing through the fall.
David Robbins, the president of FamilyLife, is here with me. David, it’s exciting for us to have these Weekend to Remember getaways happening again.
David: Man, we are so glad to be back, in person, to see, firsthand, God meeting people where they are at. We have all gone through so much over this past year or so. Meg and I were just recently at a Weekend to Remember. We had some people email us and tell us how it impacted them. One of them said, “We came here in pieces, and we are leaving as one.” Another one said, “We don’t need to panic in our pain. Our issues are common and expected in marriage. There is always hope.”
That’s what we see, time and time again, at these Weekend to Remembers. People come, bringing in wherever they are at in their marriage: some are doing great and are strong, and it’s a great weekend away; others are really needing God to meet them in some deep places of where they are at. We see God show up, time and time again; I just want to invite you and ask you to make this a priority in your marriage.
Bob: If you need more information about where and when a Weekend to Remember is coming to a city near you, go to our website, FamilyLifeToday.com; there is a link there. It will give you all the information you need so you can join us at an upcoming getaway. We hope to see you at one of these.
David, thank you.
We hope you have a great weekend this weekend. I hope you and your family are able to worship together in your local church, and we hope you can join us back on Monday when Dave and Ann Wilson are going to talk about how powerful and how important our words are in marriage—the way we communicate to one another, what we say, the tone we use—all of this makes a huge difference in our relationship. We will hear more about that on Monday. I hope you can tune in for that.
On behalf of our hosts, Dave and Ann Wilson, I’m Bob Lepine. Have a great weekend. We will see you Monday for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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