Juli Slattery

by Juli Slattery


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Sex and the Great Commission

Several years ago, I shared with a friend the vision of Authentic Intimacy. My friend listened patiently and then shared her honest opinion, “Why is it important to help people have better sex lives? Shouldn’t we be spending our time feeding the poor and sharing the gospel instead?” That same friend is now an avid supporter of this ministry. What changed? 

Sexuality has historically received very little attention from Christians. In the wake of the sexual revolution, youth pastors and parents crafted purity messages, hoping to incentivize teenagers to save sex for marriage. This generation is now reaping the fallout of silence and simplistic approaches to the complexity of human sexuality. 

You may think that sexuality is a peripheral topic, delegated to specialized ministries and counselors. In this blog, I hope to convince you that reclaiming biblical sexuality in western culture is now absolutely essential to accomplishing the Great Commission . 

The core of Jesus’ commission to His disciples is two-fold: make disciples, baptized in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit (evangelism) and then teach them to obey everything I have commanded (discipleship). Individuals and ministries that are ill-equipped to enter the space of sexuality will be hamstrung in their efforts to both evangelize and disciple.

 

Sexuality and The Gospel

I had just finished speaking at a conference in St. Louis and was exhausted. My coworker, Kristi, and I stopped at a local coffee shop to kill a few hours before our flight home. As we worked on our laptops, we could not help overhearing a very intense conversation in the booth behind us. A young woman was meeting with a mentor, sharing agonizing details about how her marriage was failing apart because of sex. After about thirty minutes, the older woman left and the young woman sat alone, still obviously emotionally hurting. 

I looked at Kristi and we both knew this was a “divine appointment.” I approached the young woman and said that I couldn’t help but overhear her conversation. I briefly explained that I run a ministry helping people navigate sexual issues and asked if there was any way I could encourage her. She ended up joining us in our booth, gave us a brief rundown of her situation and finally asked the question that was on her mind. “Will I go to hell if I divorce my husband and marry a woman?” 

This woman was not primarily asking a sexual or marriage question. As a lapsed Catholic, her agony was spiritual. How could she navigate her sex life in a way that wouldn’t destroy her relationship with God? 

In this generation, sexuality represents one of the most pressing issues standing between people and God. Daily, we see teens and young adults walking away from the faith of their childhood over questions about sex. 

  • Does God love trans people? 

  • Where was God when my uncle sexually abused me? 

  • How can I trust God when the church is filled with hypocrites and predators? 

  • Why would a loving God give me desires that I can’t act on? 

  • Is God a misogynist, telling women to essentially be sexual slaves for their husbands? 

History has proven that Christian doctrine is robust enough to entertain every question of the human heart—even our sexual questions. However, the Church is woefully ill equipped, falling back on quoting verses without a compelling explanation of God’s heart for human sexuality. Evangelists and apologists regularly remind me that if we can’t engage sexual questions, seekers want nothing to do with Chrisianity.

In his exposition of John 4, John Piper  explained that Jesus knew that “the quickest way to the heart  is through a wound.” To reach the woman at the well, Jesus had to identify the source of her thirst. In the same way, we must be ready and equipped to enter into the sexual wounds and questions as we share the Living Water with a lonely and thirsty world. 

To be frank, many have experienced the Christian church as a source of deeper sexual wounding rather than a place of healing. The shame, silence and hypocrisy (not to mention the atrocities of clergy abuse) has pushed people further from the mercy of God. This will only change as God’s people intentionally push past long-held traditions and humbly step into the hurt with the hope of Jesus Christ. 

 

Sexuality and Discipleship

Jesus did not call us to make converts, but disciples. Christian discipleship means the whole-hearted pursuit of stewarding our lives under the sovereignty and Lordship of Jesus Christ. 

Following Jesus goes way beyond our actions. We are new creations in Christ Jesus, set apart and called to be transformed in our thinking and desires. There is perhaps no arena in which discipleship is more necessary today than sexuality. 

God created us as sexual people. He is the One who invented sexual desire, reproductive organs, and the pleasureable brain chemicals involved in sex. Although you may blush reading this sentence, can we agree that God created the orgasm? God is also deeply aware of how painful and destructive our earthly experience of sexuality can become. Yet, most Christians act as if they must manage their sexuality on their own, never thinking to integrate biblical truths in this area of their lives. 

As a result,  the majority of committed Christ-followers (including Christian leaders) have no idea how to steward their sexuality. They have real-world complex questions like:

  • Is masturbation a sin? 

  • How do I stop looking at pornography? 

  • Should I get a divorce if my spouse had an affair? 

  • What is the purpose of my sexual desire as a single Christian? 

  • Would God allow me to attend my son’s gay wedding?  

  • How do I deal with the impact of past sexual trauma on my marriage? 

  • If my wife never has sex with me, do I have grounds for divorce? 

  • Do I call my niece by her requested male name and pronouns?

  • Are sex toys OK within a Christian marriage? 

I promise you that every one of these questions (and many more) are top of mind for the men and women (young and old) to whom you minister. 

The good news is that you can be equipped to engage in sexual conversations! In Ephesians 4, the Apostle Paul instructed the early church on how to be unified and equipped to do the work of God. He reminded them that God had granted the members of His Body spiritual gifts for the purpose of unity and spiritual maturity. As each part does its work, we will no longer be like spiritual infants, tossed around by the thinking of our culture. This is not the work of a single ministry; it is our work together. 

Jesus did not leave us alone to figure out how to accomplish the Great Commission. As with the first disciples, He promises “I will be with you always!” The Father has given us the Holy Spirit who will lead us into all truth, giving us everything we need right here, right now. 

 

 

If you would like to learn more about sex and the great commission and how to address tough questions like the ones mentioned in this blog, consider becoming a member of Sexual Discipleship today!

 

Comments

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  • Gregg Pitts

    Gregg Pitts

    Thanks for sharing this Joy, and thanks Juli and Kristi for taking the risk to engage in this conversation. This is real life stuff that is not going away even if we continue to ignore it.
  • Janna Nordeman

    Janna Nordeman

    Great article! These are definitely questions coming up frequently in my counseling office. I am so thankful for you and your ministry that is equipping me to feel comfortable to have these kind of conversations. I’m always hungry for more. I cannot wait for the Reclaim conference!!
  • Joy Skarka

    Joy Skarka

    I'm glad this was so helpful. Janna, we can't wait to see you at Reclaim!

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