Through the discussions posed by many Christian writers and thinkers, a realization has been made that the “big” sins associated with physical infidelity are behaviors that are the natural end of increasingly sinful thought lives. In other words, if a woman asks the question, “How close can I be with my co-worker without having technically cheated on my husband?” then, according to Scripture, infidelity has already occurred. When Jesus taught, He addressed this correlation between the thoughts and the actions of man. “You have heard that it was said, ‘Do not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matt. 5:27-28). He also told his followers, “The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks” (Luke 6:45).
While the issues of fornication, adultery, and homosexuality must be addressed and the behaviors replaced with good, godly behaviors, the Scriptures are clear in teaching that the real issues began not at the moment of physical immorality, but at the moment the thought of infidelity was first entertained. This is a concept that is lost on people today. Society tells people that anything is ok as long as you are not caught. Christ taught that the mind, the inner thoughts that can technically never be caught, are the starting point for sinful living.
For the person counseling a woman involved in sinful sexual behavior, the key to being restored to right relationships is an understanding that the root issue is not the behavior, it is the heart. While it is the behavior that has shattered relationships, if there is not change in the heart and mind, the change in behavior will not be a lasting change. “Though people involved in sexual sin say that they ‘fell in love,’ suggesting a response outside their control, every person has the ability to choose his or her actions. Choosing to sin sexually generally results from pursuing a feeling of closeness to another person without risking true intimacy or responsibility.”
In his letter to the church in Rome, Paul gave this explanation to the Romans concerning the relationship between the thought life and the behavior of believers: “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God–this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will” (Rom. 12:1-2). Simply stated, if a woman will study the Scripture, will submit herself to intensive discipleship that is focused on the “renewing of your mind,” then the offering of her body as a living sacrifice will the natural response.
I was hoping you would explain this piece of part 2 in part 3, but alas you did not.
“…celibate marriage as sexual behaviors that are strictly forbidden”
Is this referring to being celibate the entire marriage or just periods of time?
It is interesting to me that this suggests that one should have sex with their spouse even if they do not desire to at the moment.
Yes, when discussing the idea of celibate marriage, it is generally assumed to mean long term celibacy that is not mutually agreed upon. This in no way means that one spouse has the right to force the other into having sex, but if one spouse refuses to participate in sexual activity for long periods of time with no explanation, that tends to be an indicator of deeper problems in a marriage. In the Bible we are taught that when one enters into a covenant marriage relationship, you are in effect giving yourself to your spouse physically and emotionally in a sacrificial manner. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 7:3-5, “The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband. The wife’s body does not belong to her alone but also to her husband. In the same way, the husband’s body does not belong to him alone but also to his wife. Do not deprive each other except by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.” There are times when the self sacrificing thing to do would be for the one spouse to give herself to her spouse sexually even if she don’t necessarily “feel like it.” At the same time, the spouse who is “in the mood” should also take the time to be self-sacrificing and put the needs and emotional state of his spouse above that of his desires and not force the issue. That’s part of the give and take of a marriage relationship. I’m not talking about times of physical illness or emotional distress, but times of general preference.
But in this instance, I was speaking of long-term celibacy that is forced upon one spouse by the other with no explanation as to the reason for avoiding sexual contact. One of the purposes of sex is to keep a couple united emotionally as well as physically. When one spouse is denying that connection to the other, damage is done and distrust arises in a relationship. At this point, the spouse that is denying sexual unity is behaving in a selfish manner, considering her wants and desires above those of her partner, and that is a sinful action when you consider that, as Christians, we are to die to self and consider others above ourselves.
I have been married three years, my husband and I are in our fifties. From the beginning of our physical relationship, which occurred after marriage, our sexual relationship has been difficult to impossible as my husband suffers from ET. No mention was made of this possibility before we married. He has gone to many doctors, many tests, all sorts of drugs tried. It’s now supposed to be emotional or “in his head.” He doesn’t want ANY physical contact, no hugs, kisses, caresses etc. My problem that I struggle with daily is that, with God’s help, I can control my mind while awake. While asleep….Oh boy…. Is this sexual sin?
Great question, Katie. This is something I have thought about a lot, because Scripture talks a lot about the condition of our hearts and how we should control our thought lives. My first reaction to this situation was, “How could it be sin? You can’t control what you dream!” I would consider a dream much like a thought– you can’t control what you are tempted with, but you can control what you do with those thoughts, dreams and temptations. Paul says we are to take every thought captive and make it obedient to Christ. When you wake up, do you dwell on your dreams? Do you enjoy them and think about them? Or do you counter what you have dreamed about with the truth of Scripture concerning a believer’s sex life?
The Psalms are full of places where the psalmist asks God to protect his mind day and night. Part of doing that is by reading and meditating on Scripture. We are told that “as a man thinks in his heart, so is he.” Our dreams are a good indication of our thought life; by dwelling on godly things when we are awake, it is more likely those things will be what surface in our dreams. By meditating on the Word, by countering unbiblical thoughts with biblical truth and by praying at night that God would protect your mind from temptation even while sleeping will all help to keep your mind focused on godly things.
This is by no means a “cure-all” fix to your problem, but it is definitely a starting place. I will be praying for you and your husband and hope that you will both be able to overcome these difficulties.
I just wanted to thank you for your posts on this topic. I’m a young college student, and had grown up in a very protective, christian home; however, that bubble burst about a year ago when I fell into a pattern of sexual sin that still haunts me. Most christian resources directed towards women and sexuality simply say, “Don’t have sex,” which is true, but they fail to address other forms of sexual sin women can commit. In my research, topics like self gratification and lust are directed only towards men. The church too is so silent to women who suffer under the guilt and confusion.
As God has been slowly guiding me through this, my despair always lessens when I find out I’m not the only girl who has dealt with this, and that God does not look upon me with disgust. The shame and condemnation attached to these sins so often paralyze. Thank you for the hopeful words.
Could you recommend any books, ministries, etc that also delve into these issues and could help me as I work to mortify these sins?
First of all, thank you for your courage and honesty. It takes a lot to admit a struggle that so many feel they are fighting alone. Bringing it to the light only encourages others to deal with their weaknesses and seek freedom as well. You are so right, God does not look upon us with disgust! He looks upon us often with the broken heart of a loving Father who wants what’s best for His children, but He loves us unconditionally and is willing to do whatever it takes to draw us to him.
There are several websites, articles, and ministries that deal with sexual sin from a female perspective. Here’s just one article that was recently posted online: dsr.gd/oAZehc
Send me an e-mail with some specifics of what you are struggling through, and I can send you some articles and other practical resources as well as some ministries that offer accountability and support.