Christians love to talk about the theory behind sex and relationships, but we can get a bit squeamish when it comes to actually talking in a meaningful way. As for me, this is the first time I’ve done a post on the topic, but there are loads out there. Just Google ‘Christian dating advice’, ‘how far is too far for a Christian’, ‘what does God think about sex before marriage’ or any number of related things and you’ll get a shed load of articles with the answers. Some of those answers are probably pretty good, some probably aren’t, but the problem is that it’s all well and good to read something, but it’s another thing to put it into practice. This post isn’t going to be about what God thinks about sex and relationships. Of course, I have a pretty good idea of what I believe, but right now I don’t think that you reading what I believe will have any effect on your life. Instead, this post is a call to talk about this stuff in a personal way, and in a way that makes you do something.
One thing I quickly realised, growing up through the education system and now living in university halls for the second year running, is that non-Christians talk about sex and relationships quite a lot, probably an unnecessary amount. In the halls common room it’s not uncommon to hear someone talking about their relationship, somebody else’s relationship, or their exploits in the club last night. It’s open, it’s raw, and it’s not helpful for anyone, especially someone looking to pursue God. By contrast, I don’t think Christians talk about sex enough.
Oh it’s easy to read about, to talk about the theory of Godly relationships, and to go to talks on it at Christian conferences, but we don’t talk to each other, in a personal way, about what we’re going through and what we’re struggling with. I don’t know so much about Christian women, but I know this to be the case with Christian men. I’m fortunate enough to have had a youth leader who was willing to do challenging sessions and have direct (awkward, for me) conversations with me (which I appreciate now far more than I did at the time!), and trust me, talking about it in that way is far more challenging than hearing it from a page or reading it on a blog post. Recently, I co-led a session in my church’s student small group that I go to at university on sex and relationships. As part of that session, myself and my co-leader opened up a group discussion and gave some of the theology behind what we were saying, but the main part of the session, and the most beneficial in my opinion, was when myself and the other three guys went off into a separate room and were completely open and honest about the struggles with sex and relationships that we had faced.
There is something incredibly powerful about sharing with a small group of trusted people the things about yourself that most people find it incredibly difficult to share. Once this taboo subject has been broached, I think you’ll find it far easier to trust one another and to be open and honest about other issues in your life. In terms of deepening Christian relationships, I think this is a fantastic way to start.
What’s the point in sharing in this way? Can’t we work out our personal struggles on our own? Maybe. But one of the key strongholds of sin, especially sin of this kind, is its secrecy. Now I don’t know what it is about our society that makes sexual and relational sin something that we find particularly easy to keep secret, but something makes it that way. When we share these things with people that know us and love us we break down some sort of barrier. Sharing with someone you trust face to face is, I believe, infinitely better than sharing anonymously on an online forum or something. That’s fine, and is maybe a good first step, but someone you trust can see your face and your body language and can work with you to provide helpful, practical steps and support for coming out of that sin. Then they can meet you again and pray with you again until it’s not an issue anymore. No online anonymous group can do that.
Vulnerability is the key here, along with trust and honesty. If this is to work we need to be vulnerable, able to show ourselves as flawed. We need to be able to trust that the people we’re sharing with won’t abuse our honesty, and that they will not judge or condemn you. We need to be able to be honest and not hold things back. This works two ways, both the teller and the listener need to bear these things in mind. In a successful, face-to-face encounter, both participants are responsible for making it work. I also believe that same-sex interactions are best for this, if only because someone else of the same-sex and gender experiences is likely to be able to understand your mind set more completely than someone not of the same sex, but really it’s about finding someone that you are comfortable with.
I believe that if more people start encouraging one another in this, and setting examples of vulnerability and honesty where they want to see change, then attitudes towards the whole issue can be transformed. It’s a snowball effect thing, the more that people model it the more that other people will want to see it in their lives. So let’s make a joint effort not to keep our fears and failures in this area locked up, and let’s start eroding the strongholds that the devil’s built in our hearts.