God’s Heart For the Sexually Broken
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Our world is full of sexually broken people. Juli Slattery and Ron Deal share a balanced message to encourage help and healing.
God’s Heart For the Sexually Broken
Ann: So one of the first times that we got to know each other, and we were sitting down for a long discussion, we shared openly about how we had failed in our purity. You had a history, and I had a history. And then you made a comment: “But you know, I’m going to marry a virgin.” I remember driving home, being so filled with shame and regret, because I thought, ‘I will never be able to marry someone like Dave Wilson, who’s a godly man.’”
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 Today.
Before we were dating, we had shared how we came to know Jesus. We shared our vision for our lives; I was only 18, and you were 21. We were young; but man, I knew I wanted to follow Jesus. But we had also shared openly about how we had failed in our purity.
Dave: —not with each other.
Ann: —not with each other—but yes, with other people. We were just sharing our history.
And then you said to me, “But you know, I just/I’m going to marry a virgin.” I was so quick to be on the defense; because I was like, “You hypocrite! You just shared all this stuff that you’ve done!” And mind you, I had just shared all of mine; but suddenly, I would not be good enough for you, even though Jesus had cleansed me from my sin; but you couldn’t. I was so mad at you! Do you remember this?
Dave: I don’t remember much about that conversation, because—
Ann: I do!
Dave: —because I’m just an idiot. [Laughter] But I, now, can hear it and feel your shame, like, “I blew it; and therefore, I’m never going to be clean again”; you know?
Dave: And that’s some of the problem with some of the teaching that’s been in the church—and I think I’ve even done it in years past—about sexuality and God’s heart for sex. We need to have a discussion about this, and we’ve said enough about us.
Dave: Now, we need to hear from Ron Deal and Dr. Juli Slattery, who are in the studio with us—
Dave: —to continue our conversation. Boy, you guys know as much as anybody: “This is important stuff!”
Dave: It isn’t just sex; it’s so much bigger than that! It’s really a spiritual walk with God, and sex is a big part of that; it’s not separate! And I’m preaching to the choir here.
Ann: Yes! So Ron and Juli, welcome back, again, with us.
Ron: Thank you.
Dave: I mean, Juli, you spend your days in your ministry—you’ve written a book called Rethinking Sexuality—we could let you just—
Dave: —handle this whole thing.
Ann: —and Ron too.
Dave: Yes; and [directed toward Juli] Authentic Intimacy; just the title of your podcast, or is it a podcast?
Juli: It’s a ministry.
Juli: And the podcast is Java with Juli.
Dave: And Ron’s over here, Mr. Blended Family FamilyLife Director—
Dave: All of us have a heart for understanding this.
Juli, let’s start with you. When you hear us even talk about that conversation, early in our relationship, what hits you about that?
Juli: Oh, it just hurts my heart. I think one thing I’ve learned, over the last decade of ministering on sexual issues, is that every sexual issue is also a spiritual issue. When we talk about sex—and we talk about our wounds; and the messaging that kind of goes wrong, even from the church—when we think about sex [wrongly], we think about God [wrongly].
Even what you were reflecting, Ann, is: “Am I pure? Am I clean? Am I worthy? If this godly man can’t embrace me, does God embrace me?” These conversations are essential. We see today, really, thousands and thousands of young adults deconstructing from the Christian faith primarily because of sexual pain.
Juli: Yes! Yes, really.
Dave: Wait, wait, wait. You say “primarily.”
Dave: Why do you say that?
Juli: Well, because I talk to them; and I hear their stories; and I read their books; and listen to their podcasts. It’s a sexual issue, like: “I followed the Purity Culture; I married a pastor, who cheated on me, and it broke my heart,” or “I followed the Purity Culture message: ‘Save Sex for Marriage,’ and sex is horrible. It’s been painful our whole marriage,” or “I never got married; God never brought that husband.”
I think we have to handle these conversations with so much care, because we’re not just talking about sex; we’re talking about God’s heart for people—and what it means to be loved by Him, and called by Him, and what redemption looks like—Scripture is really clear about that. God’s story of sex is that He created sexuality to be a powerful earthly experience to teach us about the nature of how He loves us. And so, when I see people get healing and redemption, sexually, their connection to God becomes so much more personal and intimate. We want to see God reclaim this in people’s lives.
Dave: Yes; well, Ron, you’re sitting over there; I know you have thoughts.
Dave: You know, we’ve talked about this previously—but give us just a quick: “What’s the Purity Culture?”—because we want to understand that. And then let’s dive into some Scripture; because some of that was based on some truth that might have been, maybe, misunderstood.
Ron: Yes; before I recap that, just an additional thought: “If you’re the God of the universe, and You’re about to create, and You’re going to make these humans—and You are an intimate communion of love—three, somehow one—full unity, full cooperation and companionship, and self-giving to one another—and You want to make them in Your image, what do You do?”
Well, you create in them an ability to be one; and for that oneness to create new life. You give them the ability to do and replicate who You are so their bodily experience of sexuality teaches them about knowing and being known in a way that you can’t just communicate with words and accomplish. You give them something physical that they can actually experience.
Ann: And Ron, as I hear you say that—and Juli, what you’ve painted—is this beautiful picture—
Ann: —of the intention and love of God.
Ann: And so, if you’re the enemy of God, wouldn’t you want to totally annihilate—
Ann: —that beautiful vision?
Ron: Absolutely; yes.
Ann: And he has.
Juli: I haven’t met a person, who’s not sexually broken at some level, who hasn’t gotten some wrong teaching, and thinking, and experience of this that has skewed their perspective.
Ann: Would you guys all say that of your kids as well?
Ron: Oh, sure!
Juli: Yes, for sure.
Ann: Me too.
Ron: Absolutely, and no matter how much we try to protect them,—
Ron: —which brings us to the Purity Culture;—
Ron: —because that’s what we were trying to do—is protect our kids. We were trying to help them see some good things about God and His design for sex. It was really well-intended; and yet, we overdid it, I think. We just programmed it; we got controlling about it in some ways.
Ann: —in our fear.
Ron: —in our fear; you know? And it’s almost like we created threats that we didn’t need to create and gave promises that we couldn’t keep: threats like: “Man, if you do this, you’re like this rose. Let’s pass around this rose, and let’s beat it up.”
Ron: And then, “You’re the one, who’s been used and abused; this is you,” and “By the way, you don’t want to be that rose.”
Dave: That was literally done.
Ron: Absolutely; that’s why I’m using it as an example.
Dave: I mean, some of our listeners are like, “What are you talking about?” They literally passed a rose around and beat it up.
Ron: It was prescribed in youth groups all over the country.
Dave: And you were a youth pastor, so you probably did it.
Ron: I was.
Ann: The intent was good.
Ron: The intent was good; right? But the mechanism created a different message. We create threats, because we want to scare you into obedience, like that’s going to work.
And then the other thing we did was create promises that we really couldn’t keep: “If you do this, and you remain a virgin—and boy, you don’t even kiss until your wedding day—then you’re going to have a happy married sex life. You’re going to have children; everything’s just going to roll from that point forward.”
Again, I think what we’ve said here is: “You know, in moments where we really want to influence our kids around things that we really believe in are important, it’s easy to kind of reduce it down into something where we create these threats and promises.” I really understand how it happened.
Dave: You know, as we know, much of the discussion and teaching on purity came from the New Testament—I mean, from various places—but there was a passage that I taught, as a pastor/as a chaplain: I can remember sitting down with Detroit Lion players, who were single, and saying, “Here’s the goal.” I went to 1 Corinthians 7. Let’s read it, and then I’d love to hear your comments.
Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 7, verse 1—it says, “Now, for the matters you wrote about.” So obviously, it was a hot topic then, too;—
Dave: —this isn’t new:
It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman. But since sexual immorality is occurring, each man should have sexual relations with his own wife and each woman with her own husband. The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife and, likewise, the wife to her husband. The wife does not have authority over her own body but yields it to her husband. In the same way, the husband does not have authority over his own body but yields it to his wife. Do not deprive each other, except perhaps 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.
Alright; I know you’ve read this, taught this, studied this many times. As you hear it now read, in this conversation, what comes to your mind?
Juli: Well, I think first, we have to understand—and you understand this, as a pastor—that this was not written in chapters. It’s a whole letter; and as a matter of fact, if we rewind into 1 Corinthians 6, Paul is talking about how: “You were bought with a price; therefore, honor God with your bodies.” He’s talking about sexuality; that everything you do with sexuality spiritually matters.
Dave: Your body’s a temple;—
Dave: —it hosts the Holy Spirit; yes.
Juli: Right; yes. And there’s something significant about our sexuality. So we take that in context; and if you keep reading in 1 Corinthians 7, Paul then instructs singles about their sexuality. We have to understand that this instruction is within the context of a whole letter; and it’s also responding to something specific that the Corinthians were asking about, that we don’t really know.
Again, one of the dangers here, just like with Purity Culture, is taking a piece of Scripture and building a whole theology out of one piece, without seeing it in the context of everything else that the Scripture teaches about sex, about marriage, about love. There are some beautiful pieces in this passage; but if you only read this passage, without the context, here’s what you hear: “Sex is a really bad thing, and so God created marriage to control it. If you want to control your sexuality, you owe each other sex. You owe it to your spouse; it’s your duty; and if you don’t give it to them, then Satan’s going to tempt them, and they will sin sexually.”
Juli: That is really the message that, again, if you just read it at face value, without putting it into context, you can see how people get there,—
Juli: —which is extremely dangerous, both in the message to singles as well as the application of that to marriage; so we’ve got a lot of unpacking to do.
Dave: Well, how do we, you know, understand this passage and others, of course,—
Ann: Yes, teach us the correct way of understanding it.
Dave: Yes; a healthy, godly view of it; because it’s an awesome, beautiful gift from God.
How do we get there?
Ron: So in verse 1, there’s a question that the people in Corinth are asking. Apparently, someone’s going around teaching: “You know what? This whole physical body thing is something we should just avoid. So even sex with your spouse, just don’t even do that; because you’re engaging the flesh, and you want to run away from the flesh; and you just want to be wrapped up in the spiritual things.”
Dave: Sort of a gnostic view of the body.
Ron: Right; exactly.
Ron: And he’s addressing that, and he’s saying: “No, this is a good thing; this is something created by God, and this is something that you share with one another.”
I’m really curious about the language when he says, “should give to his wife”—the ESV says—“her conjugal rights and the wife give her husband conjugal rights.” Throughout the entire Old Testament—covenant of marriage—you made a promise to give food, clothing, and conjugal rights. That was in their wedding vows; that’s how they articulated what they were going to do for one another, and it was metaphorical.
The Hebrew people/the Jewish people would have been very familiar with this language. He’s saying, “You made a vow; this is part of the relationship. This is something that is good and right, and God has created it to be such. It’s a part of the sexual, intimate relationship of knowing each other and coming to know God through your sexuality. So yes!—be responsible to one another—engage one another in sex.”
It’s not out of duty, as in: “Oh, my gosh! I hate this! This is a horrible, awful thing; and you just have to do it, even if you don’t want to,”—it’s not that at all. It’s to have a heart of love, and sacrifice, and giving to one another. This is a part of your commitment to one another, so there’s a responsibility there; but it’s not begrudgingly having to do sex. That’s not what it’s teaching at all.
Juli: It’s beautiful to paint that context/the historical context. You know, one thing that has really helped me understand this passage, and so much else about sex, is really going back to that idea that, when a husband and a wife get married, they are echoing the covenant love of God. God’s covenant love to us has all different elements to it. It has His faithfulness to us; it has this journey of intimate knowing—of us knowing Him more—and Him being intimately involved with us; sacrificing for us; and us sacrificing for Him, laying down our lives as He did for us.
But it also has this aspect of passionate celebration. So when we worship together as the bride of Christ—in church, or in personal gatherings, or even in our own devotional time—there is a time to celebrate our covenant with the Lord, with singing, with dancing, with joy! And in essence, sex is that piece of the covenant; it’s the bodily celebration, remembering the covenant love we have.
Tim Keller says it like this—
Juli: —he says, “When you have sex as a married couple, it’s like a covenant renewal ceremony. You’re doing with the body what you’ve promised to do with your whole life.”
Now, when you read 1 Corinthians 7 in that context, what it’s really saying is, “Don’t neglect this covenant celebration!” Even within our bodies—the oxytocin, the dopamine, the endorphins that happen during sex—are a beautiful way of recharging our intimacy, reminding us of the vows we made, even in our bodies. But that also means that we minister to one another.
I think it’s really important that we say: “What God is calling us to, in the larger picture of love,”—remember 1 Corinthians 13 is in the same letter as 1 Corinthians 7—“Love is patient, love is kind, love does not envy or boast…it’s long-suffering.” All those things apply to how we remember a covenant together; how we learn to celebrate together, which is a long journey of communication, of grace, of mercy, that needs to be read into the context of how we apply something like 1 Corinthians 7.
Ann: I mean, this is a beautiful picture of God’s design, God’s intent, God’s hope.
Ann: And then you have two very imperfect people coming together—maybe not even grown up in the church or maybe they did—but they’re still damaged. They come together, so damaged, so broken, so skewed in their view of sexuality/their view of God. Help us!—like help that listener, who is like: “Okay, I was raped,” “I’ve been abused,” “My husband is addicted to porn.” Where do we even start?
Dave: —and it may not even be that extreme.
Ann: —extreme; right.
Dave: It can be anywhere along that continuum.
Ann: —or “Our marriage isn’t very good; so our intimacy, physically, isn’t good.”
Juli: You know, one thing I think we need to take note of is the mutuality Paul talks about in this passage, which was not at all—
Ron: —unheard of.
Juli: Yes! For him to say, “Start with the men:—
Juli: —‘You have the duty to meet your wife’s sexual needs.’” That doesn’t always mean to give her sex. For most women, it means: “Study her, nurture her, make this a safe environment; help her discover her sexual response.” And then it says about the wife’s duty to the husband. This mutuality is so often missed in the way this is taught, and that’s a great place to start.
Ron: I just want to echo that. The same thing is true about Ephesians 5. We read that, and think, “Wow! What Paul’s saying to women—oh, man, that is tough—I don’t know; he is really harping on women in that passage.” Actually, he’s harping on men;—
Ron: —because what he said to men was radical. That did not fit the cultural context.
Ann: What did he say?
Ron: Well, he told men to love their wives as Christ loved the church—
Dave: You know what, Ron?
Ron: —and gave Himself. Okay; wait a minute; let’s—
Dave: She just wanted to hear you say that.
Ron: She did; she did. [Laughter]
Dave: I know what she was doing! [Laughter] I’m like, “She knows exactly what it says.”
Ann: I just want listeners to know.
Ron: Juli used a word a minute ago: “demand.” Can you imagine 1 Corinthians 13 being read with, “Okay, you get to demand out of your spouse: breakfast in bed, peeled grapes; you know, sex whenever you want it; sex how you want it. You know, that they would serve your schedule rather than you ever having...” Like can you imagine us reading 1 Corinthians 13 with that tone? But we read 1 Corinthians 7 with it: “Demand your spouse to give you sex, because it’s their duty to fulfill that obligation.”
No! Read 1 Corinthians 7 as: “Okay, me as a husband, who’s trying to die for my wife the way Christ died for the church—and by the way, I’m part of the church; by the way, Christ died for me!—I don’t demand; I’m the guy who gives; I’m the guy who serves; I’m the guy who woos—that’s what I’m after! ‘How do I lose myself in this relationship, so that I love and give to her?’”
Now, bring that attitude into: “Yes, I do have a responsibility to my wife sexually. What does that look like for us?”—“I don’t know; that’s something she and I have to figure out as a part of our us-ness. But I’m serving our us-ness by being responsible with my sexual being and what I bring to the equation.”
As soon as we turn it into—“What do I demand out of you?” “What rights do I have?”—we’ve totally flipped the passage upside down and we’ve lost the meaning.
Bob: We are not the first generation or the first civilization in human history to get God’s design for sexuality wrong; and yet, our desire should always be to want God to be glorified in how we express both purity and appropriate biblical sexuality in marriage. That’s what Ron Deal and Juli Slattery have been talking with us about this week.
Juli has actually written a very helpful book on this subject called Rethinking Sexuality: God’s Design and Why It Matters. It’s a book that I think every married couple will benefit from reading together and talking about. We’ve got copies of Juli’s book in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center. You can order it from us online at FamilyLifeToday.com, or you can call 1-800-FLTODAY to request a copy of Juli’s book. Again, the title is Rethinking Sexuality by Dr. Juli Slattery. Order online at FamilyLifeToday.com, or call 1-800-FL-TODAY to get a copy.
Juli is going to be with us on the Love Like You Mean It cruise in February. If you’re not already signed up for the cruise, let me encourage you to get more information. Go online at FamilyLifeToday.com and find out more about the Love Like You Mean It marriage cruise.
Then, as you’ve listened to today’s program, you may have thought of someone who you know might benefit from hearing FamilyLife Today and this topic being addressed. Let them know that FamilyLife Today is on this station; or point them to FamilyLifeToday.com, and find the link to the FamilyLifepodcasts so they can listen to Dave and Ann, and Juli, and Ron and this discussion.
You know, this issue of purity is something that, here at FamilyLife, we have been encouraging moms and dads to be engaging with their children about from an early age. In fact, there’s a resource we’ve developed called Passport2Purity® that many of you have used to help introduce your kids to issues related to sexuality, dating, peer pressure, the kinds of things they’re going to face during adolescence.
David Robbins, who’s the president of FamilyLife, is here with me. David, you just had the opportunity to go out on a Passport2Purity getaway with one of your kids; right?
David: That’s right. It was actually my third kid, which was crazy to me, that they’re growing up that fast! But what I love about this resource is that it presents biblical principles in a way that sets up hard conversations like peer pressure, and pornography, and the reality of where babies come from in a way that gives a great connection between the parent and a kid.
Each time we’ve gone through it, I have cherished the depth of bonding that happens between me and my child, where, sure, my kid told me, “Dad, you know, this is a little weird”; but at the same time, he left, just beaming of that time, going, “Dad, thanks for this time together. I’m so glad I can come to you to ask questions that I have. I believe you when you say you’re up for any question; and you want me to hear from you, as a parent, and not just from what my friends are saying, who may not know as much.”
We have an opportunity to shape our kids. This resource was so fun to do, yet again; and I got to see the value of it first-hand.
Bob: Yes; the thing parents have said to us, for years, is that Passport2Purity opens up the dialogue. It sets up the opportunity for parents to talk with young teens about what’s ahead for them in this area. I’d just encourage our listeners: if you have not taken a
10-,11-,12-, or 13-year-old child on a two-day getaway, where you can go through this content with them and help them get ready for the avalanche of pressure they’re about to feel when it comes to all kinds of issues, Passport2Purity is a great resource.
There’s more information about it on our website at FamilyLifeToday.com; you can go there to order. Or if you have any questions, call us at 1-800-FL-TODAY.
Speaking of adolescence, one of the issues that kids are facing in adolescence these days is the issue of bullying, both live and in-person; also, cyber-bullying. Tomorrow, Dave and Ann Wilson talk with Jonathan McKee about what we can be doing, as parents, to help our kids know how to respond, either when they’re being bullied or when they see a friend who’s being bullied. I hope you can join us for that.
On behalf of our hosts, Dave and Ann Wilson, I’m Bob Lepine. We will see you back tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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