Are sexual desires inherently sinful?Question: "Are sexual desires inherently sinful?"
Answer: Sexuality and reproduction are fundamental parts of being alive. All living creatures have some sort of reproductive urges because God decreed sexuality to be the way most of creation would perpetuate the various species. For animals, sexual urges are merely physical drives like hunger or thirst. But for human beings, sexuality also involves emotional bonding, spirituality, self-control, and psychological intimacy. Our sexuality is an integral part of who we are, but it does not define us. We are more than our sexuality, and God expects us to master it, not allow it to master us. Being designed by God, sexual desires are not inherently sinful. They are good, but they are to be controlled and brought under subjection to God’s moral law (1 Corinthians 7:8–9).
We cannot separate our identity from our sexuality, our gender, or our desires. Sexuality is a basic part of our personhood; however, sexuality is not synonymous with our personhood. We are not our sexuality, our gender, or our desires. Those are aspects of, but not definers of, our personhood.
We were created in the image of God, and we cannot understand ourselves unless we begin with that fact (Genesis 1:27). Created in God’s image, human beings, unlike animals and plants, have an eternal spirit just as God has. We were designed to live in continual communion with Him in our spirits, but in order to do that, we must keep our physical bodies in subjection to that spirit (1 Corinthians 9:27). When we allow sexual desires to determine our lifestyle or dominate our behavior, we are living like animals rather than the highest form of God’s earthly creation. When sexual desires are given free rein, we live as if we did not bear God’s image.
Sexual desires, although not sinful in themselves, become sinful when they veer outside the boundaries that God established for them. When God said, “It is not good for man to be alone. I will make a helper for him” (Genesis 2:18), He instituted marital sexuality as part of His good plan (Genesis 1:31). God’s design for human sexuality was that it would be a physical and spiritual consummation of a man and woman becoming “one flesh” in a lifelong covenant (Genesis 2:21–24). Jesus reiterated this concept when He was asked about divorce. He answered, “‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate” (Matthew 19:5–6).
Satan has always perverted whatever God creates as good. Sexuality is one area in which he has had great success by convincing millions of people that their sexual desires should determine the course of their lives. The evil one gains control of our sexuality through various means, and he exploits the selfishness in every human heart. By perverting God’s good gift of sexuality, Satan twists our healthy sexual desires into something dirty, evil, or harmful. When we tune in to his suggestions rather than adhere to God’s design, we fall into one of his traps. Satan’s handiwork is seen in the proliferation of homosexuality, child abuse, sex trafficking, rape, abortion, bestiality, gender identity crises, and transsexualism. All those disorders are perversions of natural sexual desires.
We can compare sexual desires to electricity. Electricity is a wonderful discovery, and when harnessed correctly and channeled, electricity greatly benefits humanity. But the power of electricity must be used correctly, or it can destroy. When an electrical cord is plugged into a well-grounded outlet, good results. But if we stick a fork into that same outlet, destruction results. So it is with sexuality. When we limit our natural sexual desires to those avenues God designed for them, good results. But when we violate His design through immorality, adultery, or some perverted expression of sexuality, destruction results. God’s gifts come with instructions. When we follow those instructions, we experience the good He intended for us.
Recommended Resource: The Act of Marriage by Tim and Beverly LaHaye
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Questions about Sin
Are sexual desires inherently sinful?