It was probably the most bizarre moment of my life.
I was doing some English teaching in central Thailand and had been invited to contribute to a regional training day for high-school English teachers. As a “native” English speaker, I was there to help with things like pronunciation and conversational English. Or so I thought.
The first indication that this wasn’t going to go as I’d expected was when they invited me onto the stage. After they introduced me they said we were going to open the day by singing the song chosen as the theme for the day. Or rather, their very own native English-speaking guest was going to.
I really can’t sing, not in front of actual people.
The song was 'I Just Called To Say I Love You' by Stevie Wonder - admittedly a great song, but not necessarily what you’d immediately associate with teaching the language of Shakespeare. I was already well out of my comfort zone, but that wasn’t the worst of it. The background footage on the karaoke screen was rather raunchy - a procession of writhing bodies in various states of undress. Somehow I had to follow the words while ignoring the incongruous imagery they were accompanied by. And try not to turn the colour of beetroot while doing it.
All of which is to say that it is impossible to avoid the subject of sex. If it pops up in as innocuous a setting as I was in that morning in Thailand, there really is little hope of steering clear of it in any and every area of life.
And if I’m honest, short of repeating my karaoke experience from that morning, writing a book on sex is about as bizarre a thing as I can imagine myself doing right now. But, like I say, it’s impossible to avoid—because it means so much to all of us.
The biggest question
For the past few years I’ve been working for a charity whose main task is to address the most urgent questions people have about the Christian faith. Top of the list for most people invariably has something to do with what Christians think and believe about sex.
It is not hard to see why. We know that our sexuality, sex, and the relationships we form are a part of life that really matters. It is not inconsequential. Every single one of us has a range of powerful emotions that come into play as we talk, think and react to sex and sexuality in our lives and culture. And that means that Why Does God Care Who I Sleep With? could be a difficult book for you to read. You may at times find yourself wanting to grunt in disgust or hurl the book across the room—because what I am suggesting conflicts so deeply with your own views and experience.
Sex matters to all of us. I’m writing this as someone who is single and expects to remain so for the future. As a Christian that means I am committed to being celibate—to not having sex unless it is with someone I’m married to. This issue matters to me, just as it does to us all.
There are significant challenges for Christians in discussions about sex. More and more, sexual freedom is regarded as one of the greatest goods in Western society. A huge amount has changed over the past decade or so. Just 15 years ago Christians like me, who follow the teaching of the Bible, would have been thought of as old-fashioned for holding to the traditional Christian understanding of sex being exclusively for marriage. But now, increasingly, we are thought of as being dangerous to society. Our views on sex have become that significant. Who we sleep with is seen as a supreme human right. Anything that seems to constrain our choice in this area is somehow viewed as an existential threat.
So the Christian claim that sex is for a very particular context is far more of an offense than it is a curiosity. 'Why should God care who I sleep with?' is perhaps less a question and more just a freestanding objection that doesn’t really require an answer.
And yet an answer exists. Christians continue to believe what we believe about sex, and it is a belief that isn’t going away, however much it might be derided today. And it is a belief for which there are compelling reasons.
God cares who we sleep with because he cares deeply about the people who are doing the sleeping. He cares because sex was his idea, not ours. He cares because misusing sex can cause profound hurt and damage. He cares because he regards us as worthy of his care. And, in fact, that care is not only seen in telling us how we should use sex, but also in how he makes forgiveness and healing available to us when we mess this up.
Sam Allberry is a global speaker for the Zacharias Trust on topics of sexual ethics and sexuality, a founding editor of LivingOut.org and an ordained minister in the Church of England. His latest book is Why Does God Care Who I Sleep With? (The Good Book Company)
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