Real Marriage Conference – Session #4: Can We [insert something sexual]? with Q&A

Real Marriage Conference – Session #4: Can We [insert something sexual]? with Q&A

HAHA… I hope the double entendre of title isn’t too much!

This is the last post in the Real Marriage Conference series and covers the final session… “Can We __________? (fill in the blank with your sex question)”. Christian married couples often wonder, “Can my spouse and I [do some specific sexual activity]?” This question is NOT uncommon. This discussion in popular culture is also NOT uncommon… it is just uncommon in church and/or in public forums related to church.

After extensive Bible study and prayer, the Driscolls created a compelling framework for answering this question. Their goal was NOT to create a list of YES or NO answers to everything that can happen in the marriage bedroom. The reality is that scripture does not do that. Therefore, the framework is meant to assist couples as they discuss, pray, and consider their interests and curiosities. Pastor Mark and Grace are also clear to note they are explaining what a married couple MAY do, NOT what they MUST do.

In the book, Pastor Mark and Grace talked about the framework for answering sexuality related questions. They also go through a collection of specific questions related to: masturbation, oral sex, anal sex, sex toys, menstrual sex, role-playing, birth control, cosmetic surgery, cyber sex, sexual medication, and marital sexual assault. At the Real Marriage Conference, Pastor Mark only talked through the framework, NOT the specific activity questions. Buy the book if you would like to read the answers to the specific questions.

This is the chapter of the book that caused a LOT of controversy for Mark and Grace Driscoll. More liberal folks complain they didn’t “go far enough”, while fundamentalists charge they “went to far”. It is important that Christian married couples have appropriate information and context for Biblical decision making related to sexuality. Christians make a lot of conclusions and accusations on this topic, often without sound Biblical reasoning.

They have also been negatively charged by some for not more thoroughly discussing the “heart motivation” aspects of this sex conversation (more related to the specific activities mentioned in the book). Most of the book and conference is about how the Holy Spirit transforms the heart, and that our intentions and heart condition matter in everything we do. Therefore, I will trust that principle extrapolates into this discussion.

The unfortunate reality is that in popular media and many sharky (and snarky) Christian circles, this chapter also somewhat eclipses / out-shines the rest of the book. For example, check out the full interview Mark and Grace did about this book as guests on Dr. Drew’s TV show: This is the fault of the media who mostly desire villify pastors (or Christianity) and sensationalize these discussions.

Again… Overall, the book is about celebrating God’s intentional design and purpose of marriage. Most of the book is about friendship and servanthood! Technically, this chapter is also about that, but just within the context of sexual intimacy between a married man and woman.

Now… onto the conference notes!

Part One of the Real Marriage Conference Series –  Session #1: Friend (Not Plural!) With Benefits.

Part Two of the Real Marriage Conference Series –  Session #2: Sex: God, Gross, or Gift? with Q&A.

Part Three of the Real Marriage Conference Series –  Session #3: Selfish Lovers vs. Servant Lovers with Q&A.

Preface & Motives for Writing the “Can We____?” Chapter

  1. Sex is a unique aspect and distinguishing feature of the marriage relationship. It is or should not be a part of any other relationship.
  2. The Bible answers many, but not ALL questions.
  3. They want couples to think, talk, and pray about this within their marriage! The fact that the book discusses some of the things could be an easy way for couples to start what could be initially awkward conversations.
  4. The Driscolls want couples to know what they MAY do, not what they MUST do. We do not have to use all our freedom… we should never go against our consciences and convictions.
  5. The believe public and private ministry should be the same… the questions that are answered are often asked in private sessions, but rarely addressed publicly as they should be.
  6. These questions / answers are a starting point, not an ending point… they are beginning places for study and discussion.
  7. Nothing should happen in the marriage bedroom unless God, the government, the husband, and the wife all agree.
  8. The WHAT and WHY are important! It’s not just WHAT you want to do, but WHY you want to do it that need to be prayerfully and carefully considered.
  9. Parents need to be more precise in speaking about sexual matters with their children. The average first porn exposure is 11. The number one consumer of porn is 12-17 year old boys. The average person loses their virginity by age 16. It isn’t uncommon for junior and high school students to send sexual text messages and pictures with each other. The average junior or high school student does not consider anything to be sex other than intercourse… so they do everything under the sun while “wearing the purity ring given to them by their dads”… without knowing they are sinning.

Most Questions Are Not NEW!

  • Most sexual questions most people have are generally not entirely new.
  • Paul had to write to the church in Corinth because they were doing some crazy, immoral, inappropriate, perverted sexual stuff… such as cross dressing, fornication, homosexual, adultery, and incest. They also had a pagan temple that employed thousands of male and female prostitutes.
  • Christians are not supposed to idolize our freedoms. We have freedom to do most / many actions [in life] AND freedom to NOT do the same actions.
  • The Bible answers SOME questions, but not ALL questions!

1 Corinthians 6:12: “All things are lawful for me,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful for me,” but I will not be dominated [also: “mastered by”] by anything.

  • 1 Corinthians 6:12 is used as a guiding principle in this discussion for asking the following main questions.

Is it Lawful?

  • What does the government say? We are to obey the government. Some things are illegal.
  • Additionally… what does God say? Some things are NOT illegal (by the government) by are defined as sinful. For example: adultery.

Unlawful (aka: Sinful) Sexual Acts According to Scripture / God

Below is a list of what the Bible says is sinful. Your opinions or preferences regarding this list being “wrong” is wrong. We observe and submit to the truth of scripture. Also, there may be other nasty things that are not in the list, that may be explicitly sinful.

Homosexuality, erotica, bisexuality, fornication, beastiality, friends with benefits, adultery, swinging, prostitution, incest, rape, polygamy, polyandry (one wife, multiple husbands),  sinful lust, pornography, pedophilia, sexually touching someone else in any way with/without clothes on that you are not married to, and sexual viewing or talking to someone that is not your spouse in any way

  • The answer to “Can we ____?” questions related to any of the above is NO. You can’t do these things and still be obedient to the God of the Bible.
  • Including any third person (physically, emotionally, technologically, etc) in the context of the marriage bed is sinful.

Is it Helpful / Beneficial?

  • Is it going to help or harm the marriage?
  • Are there things that may not be sinful… but also may not be helpful?
  • Will this build or break our marriage? Will it increase our oneness?
  • What is the heart motive? Why would we want to do this or not?
  • It may be awkward to talk about it… but it’s even more awkward to do something that you don’t talk about!… so talk about it!

For something to be helpful, it is likely to be related to one or more of them:

  1. Pleasure – If anyone is going to be physically harmed… you should not do it.
  2. Children – This is a great and beneficial reason for sex!
  3. Knowledge – Growing marital intimacy and exploring each other is good!
  4. Protection – Married couples should not deprive each other. Sometimes someone is the mood, and the other person isn’t… so this is an opportunity for the spouse to serve the other’s desire and need, without keeping a scorecard! If both couples serve each other sexually, that is a safeguard against a temptation. This is helpful.
  5. Comfort – During emotionally painful or mournful times in life, sex can be a perfectly helpful reason for making a spouse feel connected, loved, and comforted.
  6. Oneness – Does [the act] pull you together or push you apart? If a specific act pushes you away from each other, make the other feel abused / used / dirty / harassed / assaulted / pushed / taken advantage of / neglected, and the other person does not want to do it… then it could be a bad for your marriage and not helpful, beneficial, or appropriate.

Is it Enslaving?

  • We choose our master.
  • While something could be lawful AND helpful, depending on an individual’s genetic disposition, life experiences, baggage, etc… it may be enslaving and yield itself to obsessive, out of control, or addictive behavior for someone, which is not good or appropriate.
  • There are thing’s we simply struggle mastering, but may master us… we should avoid those things.
  • Sexuality is biologically and emotionally powerful… for good OR evil.
  • A husband should be a “one woman man”… only being with, thinking about, and connected to one women.
  • Spouses should build “paths of pleasure” towards each other in most things they do. “Paths of pleasure” are activities or thoughts that build a relationship connection toward something or someone. For this, picture a someone continually walking between two points, the grass and ground get trampled, constantly building a deeper and deeper rut between the points. The rut between spouses should be well worn and deep. However, this could also be a neuro-pathways toward something or someone that is not good or appropriate. We have to be aware of pleasure paths that are sinful or do not lead us to our spouse appropriately.
  • Pleasure + the adrenaline high + “neuro-pathways”  + desire for taboo + the “forbidden” = a recipe for addiction that is not good.
  • If you are single… you have NO path.

Indicators for Enslavement / Addiction

Addicts have no comprehension of risks they are taking and completely lose perspective and control. Below is a list of indicators for addiction:

  1. A pattern of out-of-control behavior
  2. Sever consequences because of sexual behavior
  3. Inability to stop despite negative consequences
  4. Sever mood changes around sexual behavior
  5. Persistent pursuit of high-risk behaviors
  6. Ongoing effort to stop or limit behaviors
  7. Inordinate amount of time spent of sexual matters
  8. Increasing amounts of sexual experiences
  9. Sexual obsession and fantasy as primary coping tool

The Big Idea: Make Proper Conclusions WITH and SERVE Your Spouse

  • Ask: is this Godly, holy, humble?… if your heart is in a wrong position, it could be wrong for you!
  • If something is NOT unlawful to God or government, IS beneficial / helpful for the purposes in marriage, NOT prone to enslavement / addiction, IS under control, NOT a center obsession of the sexual intimacy of the marriage, IS part of what you enjoy together… then be free… in Christ… to enjoy one another… and use whatever freedom the two of you prayerfully agree is acceptable to you.
  • Use the framework above as foundation for lovingly discussing and prayerfully considering these ideas and activities with your spouse (only). The Holy Spirit will never contradict this framework, and always provide greater discernment and peace that does not contradict scripture or God’s nature.
  • If you see “sex as gross”, you may say “you’ve gone too far”… if see “sex as god”, you may say “you didn’t go far enough”… then Pastor Mark says: It is a gift from God that is to be enjoyed and stewarded in a way that is full, helpful, meaningful, purposeful, pleasurable, and passionate.
  • Spouses should be considerate, contemplative, discerning, and prayerful in these conversations.
  • Some people are doing things they haven’t thought, discussed or prayed about… you should discuss and pray about it.
  • Some couples have interests, and should prayerfully and carefully consider the “why”, not just the “what”, before you speak with your spouse against them.
  • Some people have done things to their spouse or have pressured them into things… you need to apologize, repent, ask forgiveness, and stop.
  • Some have been so fearful and timid, and haven’t explored or discussed much… as a result, you are bored with one another, so you should enjoy their freedoms in Christ.
  • There’s not one answer for everyone… some activities / categories should be prayerfully opened up … and you should be invited get to that place where sex is a gift,  your spouse is a treasure, and the two of you are working according to Biblical conviction and loving compassion. 

Questions & Answers with Pastor Mark & Grace

Where do I channel sexual passions and desires while single / dating?

  • Invest in children, learn about God, grow your faith, work (which can ultimately provide for a family), study, volunteer, grow relationships in church, etc
  • GREAT IDEA: Volunteer in the nursery at your church … it’s a nice way to meet sweet gals that love kids!
  • Intentionally practice self control (a fruit of the Spirit)  in controlling your sexual passion while single… which is also a crucial practice in marriage. Sometimes in marriage there are seasons where sex may not be available…
  • There isn’t a single place to channel the energy. It should be saved for marriage. Do other things to serve the Lord.
  • Where does scripture say to give your time, talent, and treasure? Focus on those things…
  • Guard your heart against sinful lust, pornography, or inappropriate relationships.
  • Put yourself into a position where you will be well prepared for marriage.
  • GREAT IDEA: Pray for and journal to your future spouse. Then when you get engaged, give her the journal!
  • DON’T KILL YOUR SEXUAL DESIRES! This is faulty thinking… it can help when single, but it can keep you from joy or cause trouble when married. You don’t need to deaden your desires, you just need to appropriate direct them.

Is anything off-limits in the bedroom for married couples? Is it OK to watch porn?

  • Some things are off-limits… for example: porn.
  • There is NOTHING good about porn.
  • Porn is never OK… married or not!
  • Porn is horrible.. it invites other people to share your marriage bed!
  • Porn is a dark, horrific, and tortuous world. A high percentage of people that are involved in the industry have been through different types of heart breaking physical and sexual abuse. Also, many of them are highly addicted to substances in order to get through their lifestyle. You should not participate with this demonic and evil industry because it is being complicit with evil. The videos and images are all lies and evil.
  • When discussing specific activities… explore and pray about the true issues of the heart. What are your real motives? Be honest about this.
  • Bedroom activities should bring unity in the marriage.
  • The marriage relationship grows and matures… so some things may change over time.
  • Sex is a PART of your marriage… NOT your marriage. If it IS your marriage… then there is sin that needs to be explored.
  • Some of us need to carefully and prayerfully explore more activities, others should pull back because they are sinning… this is a conversation that should be aligned with [everything discussed in this post].
  • Bedroom activities should bring holy communion and unity to the marriage.

I know the bible says to not lust after women in general… as an engaged man, is it OK to masturbate while thinking of just my fiance?

  • NO! Engaged and married are not the same!
  • In this, you are creating a pleasure path that does not involve your spouse (you aren’t married yet!).
  • What if something happens and this person does not become your wife?
  • Scripture says to “not arouse or awaken love until its time“. You aren’t married yet, it’s not the time for any degree of sexual activity.
  • Maybe you need to move up the wedding date!
  • HILARIOUS: “If your fiance is a godly woman, and her father is involved and a godly man… go ask him if this is OK!… that might alleviate the entire… feeling that you are struggling with” HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

Can we marry withought the intention of having kids?

  • Everyone should desire kids… but there are some situations where some people should not have kids… because of how they treat the kids… because they are just horrible people and treat children wrong. God’s grace can cover that… and heal those
  • The question goes back to the selfishness issue. To not want to have kids is selfish. Children are a blessing. They
  • There’s probably an underlying condition of heart that needs to be explored.
  • Scripture says that children are a blessing… why would we not desire a blessing?
  • From Grace: “As women, we are saved and redeemed (not eternally in a salvation sense… that only comes from Jesus) through child-bearing and day after day after day as we raise our children because they show us our sin in a way that we probably can’t see otherwise. It gives us opportunities to repent and grow in holiness.”
  • A lot of people go into marriage with no plans for children, but have them… and grow so immensely.
  • Is it because you don’t want to be inconvenienced?… if so there is selfishness. Repent of the selfishness.
  • You should get rid of the selfishness, fear, or the sin… not the children.
  • If you struggle because of sexual abuse and worry about or are protective about bringing children into the world… then there are deep hurts and fears, so maybe you need to pursue healing and that could change.
  • If you are worried about the man you are marrying and don’t think he can provide or that you will be able to depend on him… then don’t marry that guy!
  • The Holy Spirit leads us in how many children we should have.
  • If you are two selfish people getting married, and you are so selfish that the selfishness compels you not to have children… don’t think you are going to have an awesome, lifelong marriage of servanthood.
  • Crazy Story: Pastor Mark speaks of guys that got vasectomies in their 20s so they could sleep around and not use condoms so as to not fear getting a woman pregnant… later they get saved, renewed, and want to get married… and Pastor Mark would not officiate the wedding until the guy got a reversal.

What can we do if we have already had sex before marriage? Is there more to it than repentance and confession?

  • Pastor Mark: “Well… that was our story”…
  • Repentance is the biggest part, then ask the Lord to experience those places of guilt and shame.
  • Truly seek the freedom from condemnation offered in Christ. Live in light of that truth… and trust the Christ will continue to heal that.
  • Are there deeper issues [from the past] that need to be explored? For example, this could lead to other hurtful relationships that are hard to deal with (sexual sin, partners, abuse, etc.) that you need to be healed from.
  • For engaged couples, repenting from fornication can open honest conversations about issues in life and potential issues in marriage.
  • These conversation are for engaged people headed to marriage… if you have them prematurely, you may open hurt or create closeness too soon. 

Part One of the Real Marriage Conference Series –  Session #1: Friend (Not Plural!) With Benefits.

Part Two of the Real Marriage Conference Series –  Session #2: Sex: God, Gross, or Gift? with Q&A.

Part Three of the Real Marriage Conference Series –  Session #3: Selfish Lovers vs. Servant Lovers with Q&A.

Buy the Book: “Real Marriage: The Truth About Sex, Friendship & Life Together” by Pastor Mark & Grace Driscoll


1 Comment

  1. Matt

    This is a great post, and I’m glad you are telling people about this book. I picked it up in the book store a few weeks ago and I believe everyone should read this. For so long as Christians we have let the world tell everyone about sex, and often times Christians have questions because no one has taught them a Biblical perspective. I am glad the Driscoll’s are be bold and being a voice where there was a void.

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