Evangelicals appear to be preoccupied with sex.
One megachurch pastor and his wife have written a book challenging married couples to a “sexperiment” of making love for seven days straight. Mark Driscoll’s controversial new book on marriage contains a chapter titled “Can We?” in which he and his wife answer questions they are typically asked in counseling situations, questions related to different sex acts.
This post is not meant to be a critique of Driscoll’s book (I haven’t read it and don’t plan to). Nor do I want the comments section to degenerate into a fiery back-and-forth about what activities are appropriate for married couples.
Instead, I want to offer a pastoral look at the underlying issues that prompt these questions, and encourage pastors to go for the heart, not merely the surface, when approached with questions of this kind.
1. Recognize the legitimacy of the questions.
First, we should not be surprised that new converts are asking pointed questions about what activities are appropriate for a married couple.
We live in a pornified culture. The majority of young men today have drunk from the polluted wells of porn for years. Perhaps previous generations of young couples didn’t find it necessary to seek pastoral counsel regarding sex acts. (Many of these discussions have historically been relegated to the family anyway.) But we must also recognize previous generations were not drowning in a sea of simulated sex acts in the way ours is.
Therefore, we cannot and should not chastise new converts for asking specific questions regarding sexual activity.
Paul did not chastise the Corinthians for asking about meat offered to idols. We should expect new believers (and old believers, for that matter) who have at some time or another been hooked on pornography will have a view of sexuality formed (or better said, deformed) by what they have witnessed.
There are specific, graphic kinds of questions that arise in this cultural context, and a pastor who seeks to be a missionary in a pornified world ought to expect the uncomfortable questions.
2. Go beyond the surface of the questions.
Many pastors recognize the legitimacy of the questions but don’t go any further. They offer a few reflections about mutual consent, relegate the decisions to the couple in the privacy of the marriage bed and stress the principle that all (or most) acts are permissible.
This approach may be regarded as relevant and in touch, but, frankly, I don’t think it is culturally contextual enough. I believe we are better missionaries and pastors when we use the questions as a way of discerning the heart’s motivations. The questions are the entryway into deeper, richer conversation about the beauty of marriage.