“The great tragedy is not masturbation or fornication or pornography. The tragedy is that Satan uses guilt from these failures to strip you of every radical dream you ever had or might have. In their place, he gives you a happy, safe, secure, American life of superficial pleasures, until you die in your lakeside rocking chair.” John Piper – October 19, 2007 Christianity Today
I was struck by this quote on a week where I have been thinking about sex and guilt and how it is a bigger problem than people might think. I was particularly concerned because of the shame and guilt that many pre-married couples feel as they prepare to join their lives together permanently.
In the privacy of the counseling room both men and women will express regrets at having crossed over boundaries that they knew to be against their values. However, not surprisingly it is women who seem to carry a bigger burden in this area. Premarital sex and extramarital affairs seem to reach deeper into a woman’s heart. I would want this message to be especially heeded by men because they might not understand how significant “casual sex” can be for a woman.
I am not implying that women alone carry this. Many men have expressed deep sadness at the damage they have done to themselves and others. They feel unworthy in relationships and disqualified from taking an active part in ministry and leadership.
It was during our teens, twenties and thirties that the “sexual revolution” flourished (from mid 1960’s to mid 1980’s) until the emergence of AIDS slowed it down considerably. During this time, the availability of new birth control, (the pill especially) changed the sexual landscape forever. With the possibility of pregnancy greatly diminished, the old sexual taboos and restraints were largely abandoned.
I would expect that my generation, being the transitional one, would carry guilt deeper than current ones, but that does not seem to be true. The younger generations may engage in sex outside of marriage at a greater rate because of changed societal values, but the percentages of associated guilt appear to remain steady, at least within the church body.
Is guilt bad?
- It isn’t when it becomes a positive change agent in our lives. It motivates us to make course corrections when we are headed in the wrong direction.
- It isn’t when it allows us to feel empathy or compassion for others.
- It is if it drives us away from God instead of towards Him.
- It is if it keeps us stuck in shame patterns that are toxic.
- It is if, as the opening quote states, it kills our dreams of doing anything significant because we think we are disqualified as a result of our sexual behavior.
I am always encouraged when a weekend sermon coincides with a blog post I had been working on, like this week’s. It validates the subject for me.
This week's sermon reminded me that God has a plan for us when we have sinned against Him and others with our sexuality. We do not have to carry the guilt, but through confession and repentance can be forgiven and restored. We are then free to move on with our radical dreams.