Dr. James Emery White Christian Blog and Commentary

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Do Christians Understand Sex Like Jesus Does?

Photo Credit: ©Unsplash/Jared Sluyter

First, the “what.”

Then, my stab at the “why.”

The “what”: According to a recent Pew Research Center survey, half of all U.S. Christians say that casual sex (meaning sex outside of a committed romantic relationship) between consenting adults is okay. Take away the “casual” label, but still unmarried, and it climbs another 10 percentage points.  

Now for the “why”: I would contend that this response is because most professing Christians have exchanged the true gospel for what Christian Smith once termed “moralistic therapeutic deism.” A mouthful, I know, but so spot-on. It means a faith of being good and feeling good.

Applied to sex, it means the “purity culture” that makes abstinence before marriage everything, as opposed to being in a relationship with Jesus that leads you to want to honor Him sexually. There really is a difference.

If you make faith and sex all about how not to have sex outside of marriage, then you set people up for despair. They intuitively know that they will not be able to keep that “rule.” So what do they do? They either abandon the faith or, as we see evidenced by this recent research, they simply amend their faith to no longer condemn sex outside of marriage.

This loses the gospel entirely.

The message of the gospel has nothing to do with maintaining sexual purity. In fact, the message of the gospel is that no one can maintain sexual purity. The message of the gospel is that we can come to Jesus and receive forgiveness for any and all sins through His work on the cross and, from that restored relationship with God, receive a transformed heart that seeks to flesh out sexual purity. And when we fail in that pursuit, we can drink again from the well of forgiveness.

This is not a license to sin so that grace may abound. But it is a license to realize that the whole reason for our need for Jesus is that we cannot live the Jesus life.

But the answer is not to call sexual sin “acceptable.” The answer is to still call sexual sin… sin. The even deeper answer is to allow the transforming work of Jesus in our life to call us to ever-increasing levels of sexual purity in both deed and thought. To so cooperate with the energizing presence of the Holy Spirit that increasing acres of our sexual lives are given over to His leadership and transformation.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but the goal is this:

... to be sexually more like Jesus now than we were a year ago.


Jeff Diamant, “Half of U.S. Christians Say Casual Sex Between Consenting Adults Is Sometimes or Always Acceptable,” Pew Research Center, August 31, 2020, read online.

James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, NC, and the ranked adjunct professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, where he also served as their fourth president. His newest book, Christianity for People Who Aren’t Christians: Uncommon Answers to Common Questions, is now available on Amazon or at your favorite bookseller. To enjoy a free subscription to the Church & Culture blog, visit ChurchAndCulture.org, where you can view past blogs in our archive and read the latest church and culture news from around the world. Follow Dr. White on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.    

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