(Photo by Selma Komisky)
The Gospel Is Sufficient for Sexual Sin Too
By Jasmin Patterson
We’ve all heard it before. Either we’ve experienced it firsthand or somehow heard the lingo through purity culture books and sermons or listened to the experiences of friends. One way or another, the narrative has probably crossed your path: “Every sexual partner from your past will follow you to the altar on your wedding day, even if you’re now stepping into a godly marriage with Christ at the center. You will be impure for your spouse on your wedding night. You’ll be used goods.”
To my fellow Christians–especially those who would hold to those kinds of statements as truth and teach them to others as you disciple the next generation–I would ask us this question: do we truly believe in the gospel?
And if we do, why do we treat having sex before marriage like it’s the unforgivable sin? How does it square with the gospel to believe God can forgive and wipe away the sins of our past when we steal, lie, hate our enemies, or gossip, but somehow when it comes to sexual sin we are forever tainted without much hope for a vibrant future in Christ–even if we’ve repented of that sin?
We’ve been having important conversations about how some of our thinking around sexual purity and purity culture needs to be rewired because it doesn’t line up with the Bible. As we do that, I believe we also need to rewire what we believe about how God responds to us when we repent from sexual sin.
First off, it’s true that sexual sin is a serious thing. The Bible speaks to the unique ways sexual sin can impact our relationship with God, our relationship with others, and affect us personally. (1 Corinthians 6:12-20) There can be physical, emotional, spiritual, and relational baggage from past sexual experiences, either because of our own individual choices to stray from the boundaries of God’s Word or tragically, in some cases, because of situations that may have happened to you against your will.
And we may need prayer, discipleship, and counseling so we can learn how to practically follow God’s commands, find freedom from sin, or healing from emotional wounds, and step into future relationships in a healthy, godly way. But I want you to know that no matter your past, it doesn’t mean you are beyond the forgiveness and restoration of God.
Jesus is able both to forgive us for sin and call us higher to obedience in the same breath. He is–at the same time–able to say, “I do not condemn you, but go and sin no more.” (John 8:1-11) He, at the same time, calls us to obey His wise and loving commands for our lives while also welcoming us to come boldly to Him when we mess up to find His help and mercy. (Hebrews 4:14-16) He is even able to heal us from the sinful actions of others that have been committed against us. Aren’t you so grateful for Jesus?!
If you’ve given your life to Christ, and you’ve confessed your sexual sin to God, asking His forgiveness and turning away from it to walk in His ways, here’s how the gospel would speak to your situation.
You are forgiven. “But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.” (1 John 1:9 NLT)
You are not tainted. “…he has reconciled you to himself through the death of Christ in his physical body. As a result, he has brought you into his own presence, and you are holy and blameless as you stand before him without a single fault.” (Colossians 1:22 NLT)
You can have a fresh start. “…anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun! (2 Corinthians 5:17 NLT)
You can be transformed by the Holy Spirit, to live healed in your heart and holy in your conduct. “Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy.” (Ephesians 4:23-24 NLT)
If any of those well-intentioned but not-so-biblical narratives I mentioned at the beginning have caused you pain or confusion, I’m sorry. I’m praying that God would make the truth of His Word the loudest voice in your life. And I’m praying you’d have the confidence to trust Him for forgiveness, transformation, and a bright future in Christ in every area of your life you fully surrender to Him.