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 this wasn’t going to go as I’d expected was when they invited me on stage at the start of the day. After introducing me, they said we were going to open by singing the song chosen as the day’s theme. Or rather, their very own native English-speaking guest was going to.
The bad news: I really can’t sing, not in front of actual people. The good news: the song was in English. The other bad news: the karaoke system they were using. It was weird enough that it was early morning on a Saturday, that I was in the middle of an unfamiliar country, that I’d agreed to come and do this as a last-minute favor to my Thai hosts, and that I was now about to sing solo to several hundred teachers.
The song was “I Just Called to Say I Love You” by Stevie Wonder—admittedly a great song—but not necessarily what you’d 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 being projected (while trying not to turn the color of beetroot!).
All of which is to say: it’s impossible to avoid the subject of sex. If it pops up in as innocuous a setting as that morning in Thailand, there really is little hope of steering clear of it in any 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 doing right now. But, like I say, it’s impossible to avoid—because it means so much to all of us.
For the past few years I’ve been working for a charity whose main task is to address the most urgent questions people ask about the Christian faith. Other books in The Good Book Company’s Oxford Apologetics series will give you a feel of what some of those questions are; but top of the list for most folks involves something to do with what Christians think and believe about sex.
We know that our sexuality, sex, and the relationships we form are a part of life that really matters. It’s not inconsequential.
It’s 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’s not inconsequential. I’m conscious that 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. We have memories (both good and bad) that shape how we think and behave. Some will have painful memories and experiences that continue to haunt us. Some will be restless, seeking some form of deeper satisfaction than we’re currently experiencing. Some will be confused by various things we’ve experienced. And some of us will be perfectly happy with our sex life as it is, and perhaps wonder what all the fuss is about.
And that means Why Does God Care Who I Sleep With? could be difficult for you to read. Whether you’re a Christian or not, you may at times want to grunt in disgust or hurl the book across the room, if what I’m suggesting conflicts deeply with your own views and experience.
I’m writing this as someone who is single and expects to remain so for the future. As a Christian, that means I’m committed to being celibate—to not having sex unless it’s with someone I’m married to. This issue matters to me, just as it does to us all.
Dangerous to Society
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’ve been seen as old-fashioned for holding to the traditional Christian understanding of sex being exclusively for marriage.
But now, increasingly, we’re seen as being dangerous. Our views on sex really have become that significant. Who we sleep with is seen as a supreme human right, and anything that seems to constrain choice in this area is viewed as an existential threat.
So the Christian claim that sex is for a particular context is far more of an offense than a curiosity. Why should God care who I sleep with? is perhaps now less a question and more just a freestanding objection that doesn’t really require an answer.
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.
And yet a glorious answer exists. Christians continue to believe what we believe about sex, and it’s a belief that isn’t going away no matter how much it’s derided. And it’s a belief for which there are compelling, even beautiful, reasons. I’d just love you to understand these reasons and weigh them properly before you decide what to do with them.
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 inflict profound hurt and damage. He cares because he regards us as worthy of his care. And, in fact, that care isn’t seen only in telling us how we should use sex, but also in how he makes forgiveness and healing available when we mess this up.