What Does God Think About Sex?
About the Guest
God created each one of us as a sexual being. How does that fact influence who we are? Clinical psychologist and author Dr. Juli Slattery encourages parents to talk to their children about God's design for sexuality, even if the conversation is awkward. Slattery lists some of the key points parents need to discuss with their kids, like why sex is sacred to God's heart.
Juli SlatteryDr. Juli Slattery is a widely known clinical psychologist, author, speaker and broadcast media professional. She's the president and co-founder of Authentic Intimacy. She hosts a podcast called Java With Juli, where she answers tough questions about relationships, marriage, spiritual, emotional and sexual intimacy. She has authored eight books, including 25 Questions You're Afraid to As...more
Dr. Juli Slattery encourages parents to talk to their children about God’s design for sexuality, even if the conversation is awkward. She lists some key points for parents to discuss with their kids.
What Does God Think About Sex?
Bob: Has your thinking on sex and human sexuality been shaped more by the culture we live in or by God’s Word? Here’s Dr. Juli Slattery.
Juli: The problems we’re seeing in our culture—and I can name many of them that you’re aware of: pornography, sexual abuse, LGBT issues—all of them—the problems are not the things we’re identifying. Those are symptoms. The primary problem is that we do not have a biblical sense of why God created us as sexual people.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Thursday, August 23rd. Our host is Dennis Rainey, and I’m Bob Lepine. It’s time for us to have our minds renewed by God’s Word when it comes to thinking rightly about sex and sexuality. We’ll dive into that subject today. Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. You remember the advertising campaign that the people from Apple did years ago that all it said on the campaign was: “Think different?” Do you remember that?
Bob: They had pictures of Albert Einstein and Bob Dylan and all of these iconoclastic people. I’m thinking that would be a good slogan for where we are with—
Dennis: I think you’re right.
Bob: —sexuality today.
Dennis: I wondered where you were going with that, but that’s a good introduction because the book’s title that we are talking about today is Rethinking Sexuality—
Bob: Yes, think differently.
Dennis: —Thinking Differently about How God Made Us. Juli Slattery joins us on FamilyLife Today. Juli, welcome back.
Juli: Thank you for having me.
Bob: Are you ready for the cruise?
Juli: I am.
Juli: I’m really excited.
Bob: Juli and her husband are going to be joining us this spring on the Love Like You Mean It® marriage cruise. I will just let listeners know there is a waiting list for the cruise. This one sold out in less than 30 days,—
—but there’s still a chance that you could get on. So, if you want to find out more, you can go to FamilyLifeToday.com and get your name added to the waiting list.
Dennis: It’s a marriage cruise. What are you going to be speaking on, Juli?
Bob: I know what you’re going to be speaking on.
Dennis: Well, I didn’t ask you! [Laughter]
Juli: I’m going to speak on whatever Bob tells me to. I have a feeling it will be about sexuality.
Dennis: I think it may. So, what’s she speaking on, then, Bob?
Bob: It’ll be about sexuality.
Dennis: She doesn’t know.
Dennis: Well, you have given a good bit of your adult-life—you’ve been married to Mike since 1994. You have three sons, but you’ve been involved in really doing some pioneering work in the area of human sexuality. Explain to our listeners how you got started because I think is a good place to start here.
Juli: Yes, I didn’t sign up for this, and I tell God that often—that this was not my desire to say, “Hey, I want to talk about sex every day and talk about these issues that are so difficult”; but about six or seven years ago, the Lord just really took me through a very deep, spiritual journey.
Through the course of a year, literally, like just laid this burden on my heart and just, basically, said: “I’ve got a new call for your life, and it’s addressing the pain that, particularly, women are experiencing around sexuality.”
So, it has been a faith-walk ever since then. When people ask me, “How did you get into this,” it’s not that I have some dramatic story from my past. It truly is just a burden that the Lord has put on my heart.
Dennis: Yes, I’m grateful that you stepped up in obedience to that. At the end of the broadcast, I think I’m going to ask you—because I wonder what you’re answer would be to the question: “What’s the most courageous thing you’ve ever done?” We’ll come back to that at the end of the broadcast; but here at the beginning, I want to just kind of peek into your book, Rethinking Sexuality, and get right to the core of the matter. You say there is a difference between sex-ed and sexual discipleship.
Dennis: You’re calling the Christian community to, not merely have an education for our kids, but to begin the process of discipleship around our sexuality.
Bob: Yes, not just for our kids either—for all of us; right?
Dennis: Oh, yes.
Dennis: That’s right.
Juli: Yes. It’s really a call to the Christian church. This concept of sexual discipleship really started to rattle my thinking when I recognized it as I was working with churches and with women around sexual issues—that women that knew the Word of God and had grown up in the church still thought like the world related to sexuality.
It dawned on me that we have been discipled in our sexuality by the culture. The church, at best, has told us what to think about certain sexual issues, but the culture has trained us how to think about sexuality.
Dennis: So, what is the essence of that discipleship? What have they told women about their sexuality?
Juli: Essentially, that sexuality is your own. It’s a part of your identity.
To be a mature adult, you need to explore your sexuality and experiment. You can find truth within yourself, and you should have the freedom to do anything you want sexuality. That’s how you’ll be fulfilled as a woman. That’s a cultural narrative that we’re trained with.
If you’re paying attention to it, you see that cultural narrative reinforced in music and in TV and in movies and in just the way we talk in the news—the way the issue is framed in our educational models in schools and universities. So, we’re immersed in this thinking. Then, we start talking about biblical sexuality and God’s prohibitions and His design. It doesn’t even compute to us because we don’t know how to think that way.
Bob: Juli, I’m part of a leadership team at a local church; and as we’ve thought about this subject, here is what makes it tough. You’re going to talk about this on Sunday morning?
Bob: If you’ve got teenagers in the room?
Bob: And parents are uncomfortable that you’re talking about it with their teenagers in the room—“You’re just going to bring this up and say, ‘We’re going to have a candid conversation?’” There are going to be some parents who are going to go—“I’m offended that you did that.”
Juli: Yes, that’s true.
Dennis: And they are going to be offended. That’s what Juli is saying.
Bob: You’re saying, “Just toughen up and do it?”
Juli: Yes, I’m saying that I truly believe that the problems we are seeing in our culture—and I can name many of them that you’re aware of: pornography, sexual abuse, LGBT issues—all of them—the problems are not the things we’re identifying. Those are symptoms. The primary problem is that we do not have a biblical sense of why God created us as sexual people.
Until we reclaim that conversation, we are going to be playing whack-a-mole. You know, let’s get a support group for the men struggling with sexual addiction. Let’s help the married couple that is experiencing infidelity—I mean you name the problems. We can’t have a problem-solving approach. We have to reclaim this in our churches.
It begins with some of these very bold steps of: “We are going to have this conversation, and we’re going to have it again and again and again so that we know how to think about our sexuality from a biblical framework.”
Dennis: I’m glad to hear you saying that, Juli, because Barbara and I have spent many months working on a new book called The Art of Parenting. Where we have drawn the battle lines is for parents to say, “This is yours to take the high ground. If you’ll teach your kids God’s view of how He made them male and female—even though you won’t know all the answers to their questions and you’re going to be stumped and you’re going to be puzzled and you’re going to be embarrassed—you’ve got to push into this because the family really is”—isn’t it?—“God’s training ground for where this needs to start originally.”
Juli: Absolutely, and the key is you are teaching your kids about sexuality whether you realize it or not;—
—and you, most likely, are teaching them the wrong things by your silence and your awkwardness.
I remember hearing one quote that really challenged me, and it was in relation to spiritual disciplines; but I think it applies to this. Some things are so important that they are worth doing poorly. [Laughter] It was like—I get courage from that because it’s like I don’t always know what to say; but I know that God meets me when I step out, and I say, “This is so important that even if I’m going to mess it up the first time I bring up the topic with my kids or in the church, it’s worth doing poorly.”
Bob: So, if parents are going to be proactive with their kids on this / if churches are going to say, “Okay, I’m going to take Juli’s challenge and risk it and talk about this,” what are the core things we need to be saying that are different than what the culture is saying? What would you map out as the message that needs to be shared today?
Juli: Yes, absolutely. You know the first thing is recognizing that stories are always more—
—powerful than a list of things to remember. A large portion of our teaching on sexuality has been lists: “This is what God says, ‘No,’ to. This what God says, ‘Yes,’ to.”
And people don’t have a paradigm to hang those lists on which is why we hear young adults today saying, “Why would God care if I slept with somebody outside of marriage? I mean it’s just—what’s the big deal?” Or you’ll hear people say, “Why would God care if two men get married; you know? Isn’t it about love?” They don’t have a narrative that is powerful enough for them to make sense of biblical sexuality.
So, the very first place is recognizing that there is a narrative in the Scripture / story in Scripture that explains to us the why of why God cares about our sexuality. That’s where we have to start. When we’re parenting our kids, you can only get away with “Because I told you so” so many times.
Juli: But I feel like we keep saying that in the church related to biblical sexuality—“Because God said so”—without painting the picture for why sexuality is so sacred, why it’s so near to God’s heart, and how I can make sense of my sexuality in the bigger picture.
Dennis: Give us the first chapter of that story.
Juli: The story is that God intentionally created our sexuality to be a metaphor to help us understand His covenant love. So, when we breakdown the sexuality and we start to say, “Hey, it’s sexual desire that makes us desire and draws us in a covenant; sexual intimacy is the celebration of that covenant promise; and sexual fidelity is the promise of the covenant—the faithfulness of covenant.”
We see—you know I’m painting with broad brushes; but if you read through Scripture, you see all of that throughout the Old Testament and New Testament that this is a powerful metaphor. So, that’s the first part of this story.
The second part of the story is God has an enemy that will try to destroy what is most sacred.
So, we have an enemy that is very active in destroying that picture of covenant love for us in our sexuality. Every single one of us have experienced the enemy’s destruction of that in our lives.
Then, the final piece of the story is that Jesus came to redeem all of our humanity including our sexuality. He cares deeply about restoring this picture so that we can understand at a deeper level God’s love for us / His covenant love for us.
Dennis: So, the story is God designed you, and—
Dennis: —there is an enemy that wants to distort that design.
Dennis: By the way, I’ll never forget a statement made by Dan Allender at a conference that Barbara and I went to, to find out more about this subject. He said, “The hardest stone the devil of hell throws at a human being is sexual abuse.”
Juli: I agree.
Dennis: And we have a lot of people who are suffering under the distortion of what the enemy did. Then, third the Gospel—the Gospel of Redemption.
Bob: That’s what I’m hearing—creation, fall, redemption.
Dennis: Hope—there’s hope. I mean there is forgiveness for all the foul-ups. We’re all broken. Welcome to the club.
Juli: Yes, and that’s so key—is that when we start seeing our sexuality in light of the larger narrative—of Jesus and His love and the Gospel—it changes how we address all of the questions we are dealing with. It changes, for example, why a married couple would say, “This has to be an important part of our marriage. This can’t just be like a—‘Well, I guess, this is the best it gets.’” When you understand that you are participating in a sacred part of that metaphor, then, all of the sudden, it’s worth fighting for.
Dennis: Now, I have to tell you. Around the country as we speak, we hear an increasing number of married couples that are moving toward low sex or no sex. What would you say about that—because the enemy is distorting / he’s robbing some of God’s children at that point?
Juli: Yes, you know, I think one thing I would say is we have got to recognize that as a form of sexual brokenness. I think so often we define sexual brokenness in these other categories of pornography, sexual abuse—kind of the big picture. Those are forms of brokenness, but so is any distortion of God’s design. God’s design is that sexual intimacy within marriage—Timothy Keller puts it in a beautiful way. It’s like a covenant renewal ceremony. It’s doing with our bodies what we are doing with whole lives—giving myself completely to you. It’s an act of service to one another in love and receiving love.
When we neglect it, we are actually playing into the enemy’s hand of distorting that metaphor that God has created. I know that, kind of, grasping that bigger picture changed my view of sexuality within my marriage. It totally changed my motivation when I was like—“This isn’t just a marriage issue.”
“This is actually a spiritual issue. I do not want Satan to have a foothold anywhere in my life / anywhere in my home / anywhere in my marriage. So, it’s not okay if this just not good, or we’re just not going to pursue this.”
Dennis: To that couple who may be struggling in that area or maybe because of past abuse or however else the enemy has distorted what’s taking place there, what would you say for them to do? Practically speaking, how can they fight back against the enemy?
Juli: Well, first of all, I would say, “You have to have the resolve to fight.” I kind of expressed that already. You have to understand that this is not a negotiable thing where it’s just okay to settle with some brokenness; but recognize that it is worth fighting for.
The next thing I would do is I would invite God into the struggle. I’ve met so few married couples that actually pray about their sex lives. They even feel weird hearing that, like—“Really?! You pray about your sex life?”
Absolutely! Invite God into that healing, pray regularly, but then also recognize that God has given us the body of Christ with different gifts that can help in that healing process.
So, many couples that are struggling are going to benefit from books, podcasts, conferences that give a godly perspective on how to pursue healthy sexuality. Many couples are going to benefit from meeting with a Christian counselor that can guide them through how to communicate, how to begin to pursue healing from things like abuse or addictions or betrayals.
Dennis: How would your book contribute to that process of healing?
Juli: Yes, so, this book, Rethinking Sexuality, really gives you the paradigm. It challenges your paradigm and how you were addressing sexual issues and how God calls us to address them. So, again, it’s that big picture view. When people read this content / when they read this book,—
—it’s like—again, it’s a paradigm shift: “I’ve never thought about sexuality from that perspective before.”
Dennis: It’s not a how-to manual, then?
Dennis: It’s approaching it with the most important sexual organ in the body, which is the brain.
Juli: Absolutely; yes.
Bob: You mentioned conferences and events. We spend an hour at our Weekend to Remember marriage getaways talking about this. An hour goes by pretty quickly when you’re talking about this; but I don’t know how many couples I’ve had come up to me and say, “Thank you for that,” because they’ve never been anywhere in any kind of a spiritual environment where this subject has been broached.
They have felt like—“It’s off-limits. We can’t talk with one another about it. We can’t talk with our friends about it. We’re not going to talk with our pastor about it.” So, this is a struggle area in their marriage. Nobody’s talking about it, and they just wind up in defeat as a result of that.
Juli: Yes. Yes, actually, we do whole conferences for married couples on sexuality;—
—and it’s modeling for them and giving them the permission to talk about these issues because you’re absolutely right, Bob, people have been married for decades that regularly have sex that don’t know how to talk about it.
Juli: So, they are not experiencing the true intimacy that God has designed for them.
Dennis: So, Bob, you’re a pastor. How many messages do you suppose you’ve given in all the years at your church around sexuality?
Bob: Not many. I’m trying to think when we’ve talked about it, we’ve talked about it in a biblical understanding of how the culture differs from what the Bible teaches about sexuality. We’ve had that conversation, but I don’t know that we’ve ever had any kind of a series where we’ve said, “Here’s God’s design for married couples and sex.”
Dennis: And there is a series in the Bible. Song of Solomon is a good series of messages.
Bob: Do that when the kids are at camp for a week, though, I’m telling you.
Juli: Yes. I would even challenge you—
—people think about having a series on God’s design for sex in marriage, but how about just God’s design for sexuality? We’ve got to broaden the conversation of—because in our culture, we’re getting bombarded with messages about “Gender doesn’t matter,” “Sexual orientation doesn’t matter.” You know all of these things impact our thinking—sexuality and singleness, pornography. So, we have to broaden our conversation and approach.
Bob: But, Juli, you know there are people who are uncomfortable that we’re talking about this on the radio right now.
Juli: Yes, I’ve gotten used to that.
Bob: But they’re going—“This is a private area. This is something that is so personal, so intimate. It cheapens it to have this kind of public conversation, and it’s embarrassing. You shouldn’t talk about this in public this way.”
Juli: Yes, I would challenge that person to ask the question: “Is that tradition, or is that truly biblical?” When we read the Scriptures, we see very—
—frank conversation and teaching on all forms of sexuality including God’s design, sexual passion in marriage, sexual unfaithfulness. We see stories of rape, incest, homosexuality.
So, we’ve been brought up in a culture that says, “Christian people don’t talk about sex”; but it’s not a biblical tradition. Any tradition we are holding on to that isn’t rooted in Scripture, we need to be willing to let go of.
Dennis: I think one of the reasons why people don’t preach on it is I think we feel like we don’t have a message personally. I think everybody is broken, everybody struggles in it; and for a pastor to stand up in front of his church with his wife on the second row from the front, and she’s there with her arms folded—I mean that’s a challenging picture right there.
I promised you I was going to move back to another subject at this point—maybe, not though.
It may be the same thing. You’ve done some courageous things in your life. You told us about one at the beginning. What’s the most courageous thing you’ve ever done in all your life? Courage is doing your duty in the face of fear.
Dennis: I mean here is somebody who is speaking to audiences of men and women, young people—I’m sure—parents about sex; but what’s the most courageous thing you’ve ever done?
Juli: Boy, I don’t know. That’s a hard question. I will tell you. It’s more difficult to talk to my own children about sexuality than to talk to anyone else. So, that’s probably the things where I have to gather my courage the most—particularly as a mom with three boys—but I’ve learned that courage—I can’t manufacture it in myself. It has to come from God. He gives me courage that I don’t have, and I need it every day.
Dennis: Here’s a professional admitting it, Bob.
Don’t you love it?
Bob: I’m wondering when the publisher sent you your copy of Rethinking Sexuality did your 15-year-old go—“I want to read that?” [Laughter]
Juli: My 15-year-old says, “Mom, another book on sex; really? Can’t you write on anything else?”
Bob: Well, we have copies if you’re interested in getting a copy of Juli’s book. It’s called Rethinking Sexuality. You can order it from us online at FamilyLifeToday.com, or you can call to order at 1-800-FL-TODAY. Again, the website is FamilyLifeToday.com, or call to order at 1-800- 358-6329. That’s 1-800- “F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”
By the way, I just did this recently. I got out the app for my Amazon smart speaker. I have one of those devices, and there’s an app that goes with it. So, I got out the app;—
—and I enabled the skill for FamilyLife Today. You type in “FAMILYLIFE.” Then, you enable the skill; and then, all you have to do is talk to your smart speaker and call her by her name and say, “Play FamilyLife Today.” Then, all of the sudden, we are right there.
It’s one of the ways we are trying to make sure that what we do here at FamilyLife can be heard by as many people as possible, not just in this country, but all around the world. Our goal at FamilyLife is to effectively develop godly marriages and families; and we want this kind of practical, biblical help and hope that we’ve talked about today to be in as many places as possible, easily accessible, to as many people as possible.
We’re grateful for the those of you who share our burden for this and who share in this mission. Really, when you support the ministry of FamilyLife, you are partnering with us to reach more people, more regularly, with God’s design for marriage and family. We appreciate your partnership.
The month of August is a key month for us because we’ve had some friends of the ministry who have offered this month to match every donation we receive on a dollar for dollar basis up to a total of $500,000. We are on our way to meeting that match, but we still have a way to go.
So, we’re asking all of our FamilyLife Today listeners: “If you have listened for a while, never donated, now is a great time to go online or to call to donate. If it’s been a while since you’ve donated or if you can help us out this month, we’d love to have you go to FamilyLifeToday.com, make an online donation; or call 1-800-FL-TODAY to donate.”
Not only will your donation be doubled, but as a thank-you gift, we’re going to send you a copy of Dennis and Barbara Rainey’s brand-new book, The Art of Parenting. This the book that gave book to the video series we’ve created along with the movie that we produced called Like Arrows. We would love to send you a copy of this book as a way of saying, “Thank you for your partnership with us.”
Again, donate online at FamilyLifeToday.com or call to donate, 1-800-FL-TODAY, and thanks in advance for your support.
Now, tomorrow, we’re going to continue our conversation with Dr. Juli Slattery talking about sex and sexuality and thinking differently than the culture thinks about this subject—thinking biblically about it. Hope you can be back with us for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I’m Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas; a Cru® Ministry.
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