I think I’ve figured out why people hate the idea of sexual restraint.
There’s of course the obvious reason: it’s real difficult to practice sexual restraint. It doesn’t sound fun, easy, or like anything that’s going to make you a member of the cool kid’s club.
But I think there’s a deeper reason our culture hates the idea of sexual restraint: We reject anything that appears to curb our personal freedom and by extension our self-fulfillment.
In 2017, we now live in a time where the height of self-actualization is dependent on our ability to live into our personal freedoms. This could be the freedom to pack up and be a nomad, freedom to practice any religion, freedom from a 9 to 5 job, the freedom to have sex with whomever we want and even the freedom to choose our own gender.
It’s the same foundational reason people reject Christianity; Christianity, with its instructions not to live into any and every whim and impulse, appears to be a religion clinging to a God who is both angrily conservative and a killjoy, one who wants to slowly eliminate the parts of ourselves that offend him; namely, the personal freedoms people believe they have a right to.
Sex is a point of special contention in the quest for fulfillment through absolute freedom.
One doesn’t need to look far to be inundated with the cultural belief that having sex whenever, however and with whomever is an act one is entitled to, a fundamental right that represents personal fulfillment through sexual identity and practice. Sex, and how we practice it and with whom, has become a facet of who we assert ourselves to be in our western culture. To ask someone to not have sex is not only perceived as unfair but as a violation of one’s very identity.
It does seem unfair sometimes, I know. But people perceive sexual restraint as unjust only when they do not understand how sexual restraint was divinely designed to impact our life.
I come from a generation that grew up in the nineties and were formed through messages about “purity” and kissing dating goodbye. The message of waiting my peers and I grew up with was one of straight-laced behavior modification and deeply conservative messages about modesty, sex, intimacy and dating, rather than an understanding of God’s big picture for sex.
As a result, we rebelled. Chastity was a prison – sex on our terms represented liberation.
What my generation now fails to see is that the restraint God commands of us, both in regards to sex and other areas of our life, is actually designed to give us freedom. If God is asking us to deny ourselves sex outside of a marriage relationship, it is because he has a grander design for our freedom: emotional freedom, spiritual freedom and freedom from the things that ultimately work against us and others.
God gives us boundaries in order to give us freedom.
For example, the ten commandments aren’t a list of rules simply for the sake of being rules – they represent certain boundaries to place on our lives because these boundaries keep us whole, healthy and free from sometimes disastrous consequences.
Think about it: ultimate freedom can actually have hugely detrimental effects on us, especially when it comes to sex.
If my conviction regarding sex is that freedom is my right, it won’t be long before I see just how detrimental absolute freedom can be. Freedom to sleep with whoever I want, whenever I want, can lead to emotional baggage, lowered self-esteem, emotional confusion, hurt feelings, etc. (and hey, maybe it won’t lead to these things – but it certainly opens the door to them).
It can also lead to physical baggage like STD’s or STI’s, which in turn lead to even more emotional hardship. There’s a lot there. Complete sexual freedom puts us at a higher risk of not only hurting ourselves, but hurting others as well. Sexual freedom impacts our self-identity and both our current and future relationships.
But the freedom God seeks to give us in sex are relationships and self-identities that are not defined by sex and everything that can come with it. By choosing to practice sexual restraint, we invite into our lives a whole host of freedoms:
The freedom to cultivate a relationship that is truly based on knowing one another and not clouded by sexual intimacy.
The freedom from shame.
The freedom to not worry about STD’s, STI’s or pregnancy.
The freedom in marriage from comparison (if both partners have practiced waiting).
The spiritual freedom that is cultivated in our minds and hearts when our actions are aligned with God’s desire for us.
God’s boundaries for us do not limit our self-identity – rather, they allow us to find our true identity (and freedom) in Christ.
Freedom is the divine purpose behind sexual self-restraint.
Julia writes about relationships, faith and identity at hellosoulblog.com.