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I usually see one of two looks on people's faces when I say I am a Christian wife who speaks and writes about sex in marriage.
Either they become nervous and want to change the subject.
Or they become enthralled and want to hear more.
Interestingly, I think both reactions tell me what I already know:
The church doesn't talk enough about this important area of sex in marriage.
I'm not saying it is solely the responsibility of church leaders to initiate authentic dialogue about sex. BUT, church leaders typically are the ones who plan the sermons, worship services, Bible studies and conferences.
And though countless married Christian couples struggle with sex, the leaders may be hesitant to explore the topic.
Because sex in their own marriages may be a discouraging, frustrating, painful and on-going issue.
I consistently receive emails from pastors, deacons and small group leaders who praise me for what I'm doing, but at the same time, vulnerably admit that sex is a source of contention in their own marriage.
And they don't know what to do about it.
Some of them want to speak up, because they know if their own marriage is struggling, certainly others are as well.
Speaking up is challenging, though, especially if they have a spouse who is adamant to keep the struggle a secret -- or if the leader feels compelled to present their own life as if they "have it all together."
Well, none of that is helping anyone.
I'm a firm believer that God works in the light. Satan works in the dark. And Satan has the most to lose from Christians who courageously talk about their own struggles and dysfunction.
When leaders bravely talk about difficult issues, Satan begins to lose his advantage of working behind closed doors, in the mire and muck of unresolved heartache and struggle.
Don't get me wrong… I know the Christian community has come a long way in looking closer at the sin of pornography use and the devastation it is wreaking in marriages and families. This "out of the shadows" focus is good.
Praise God for the many ministries equipping people ensnared in pornography to confess, repent and, in many cases, repair the damage pornography has done in their lives.
But I think sometimes we have focused so much on the sin of pornography that we have overlooked other sins that also negatively impact intimacy in a marriage.
Like the sin of sexual refusal (which, ironically, is often on the scene before pornography use, making the temptation of pornography all the more alluring).
As a body of believers (shepherds and sheep), we need to courageously speak up about sexual refusal, particularly in situations where one spouse has arbitrarily decided sex "isn't necessary" in the marriage.
There is room to talk about all sexual sins. We have to be willing to carve out that room.
I'm not saying we need to become completely transparent about the details of our own sexual intimacy. Not so at all.
But talking about sex in a way that actually helps couples means that we have to understand and learn about pleasure and orgasm -- and we have to give couples the information and encouragement to explore the God-designed role sexual pleasure plays in a marriage.
The church doesn't have a good track record in this area of talking clearly and biblically about sexual pleasure.
Fortunately, there are many Christian resources (including the Bible) that can help with this dialogue.
It's desperately needed. So many couples are operating under false theology that sexual pleasure is wrong. Or they are paralyzed by inhibitions and lack of understanding about their bodies.
And their marriages are suffering because of it.
Let's face it, we don't get a lot of practice talking authentically about sex. It is no surprise that pastors skim over the topic of sex or don't address it at all in pre-marriage counseling with couples.
And it's no wonder that we become tongue-tied at the mere mention of anything sexual.
The only way we are going to become more comfortable talking about sex is to actually talk about it. Honestly, I think much of that awkwardness begins to dissipate when we actually acknowledge that it feels awkward.
Here we arrive at the real issue for many Christians not wanting the church to talk about sex. They do not want the accountability and Holy Spirit conviction that sits ever so closely to exposed sin.
If a husband or a wife has been careless with sexual intimacy in their marriage -- and then attends a sermon series or Bible study or small group where that exact topic is explored -- they are then without excuse to not do something about it.
I'm not saying they had many valid excuses before hand, but the matter becomes particularly apparent when fellow believers sitting right next to you are coming in agreement with God's Word about sex.
We are often a stubborn people, fiercely protective of our sin and our carelessness and our ignorance that serves us.
Marriages are suffering, though. All around us, marriages are suffering from lack of nurtured sexual intimacy.
And the church -- the body of believers -- is in a unique position to speak into that.
Because we have the truth.
It's all right there in God's Word -- the truth about why a husband and wife shouldn't withhold their bodies, the truth about redemption from sexual brokenness and heartache and promiscuity, the truth about arousal and orgasm, the truth about not just a figurative one-fleshness, but a literal one-fleshness.
We have the truth that sex is sacredly crucial to the spiritual and emotional strength of a marriage.
We have the truth about sex.
Copyright 2014, Julie Sibert. Intimacy in Marriage Blog.