Fifty Shades of Grey achieved unprecedented heights in terms of popularity. The book became the fastest selling paperback novel of all time, dethroning the previous title holder, Harry Potter. One major ticket purchasing company, Fandago, reported Fifty Shades of Grey was the fastest selling rated “R” movie in the last 15 years. That’s impressive.
The book has taken over our culture. An article in the latest publication of Newsweek stated, “Fifty Shades of Grey is much more than a story; It’s a movement.” This movement has sparked a global conversation about sex and romance. And if everyone is talking about sex, I think it’s time Christians join the conversation.
Understand my goal isn’t to preach or condemn. There are enough articles out there condemning Fifty Shades of Grey. Instead, I want to present God’s side of the story. I wrote in my previous article a big frustration of mine is when Christians condemn people but never explain why those people are condemned (or when Christians condemn people at all).
Well, I want to to put some “meat on the bones.” I want to do something I wished a church leader would have done before I walked into marriage with skewed expectations and toxic perceptions…talk about God’s design for sex, love, romance, and passion. In the process, I want to highlight some cultural lies that tend to rob us of joy. Understand, though, all 50 of the points are delivered through God’s lens.
One more thing. Church, it’s time to talk about sex. Not casually. Not a “birds and bees” talk. It’s time to go deep. It’s time to get serious about teaching and discipling others about God’s design for sex. If we continue to allow passivity, fear, or awkwardness to keep us from discussing sex, Satan will gladly take the ball and run with it.
Don’t simply skim over these points. Think about them. Talk about them. Use them to go back to God’s word and discover a true understanding of sex and love.
Here are 50 shades of truth about sex, romance, and passion.
1.) God created sex as a powerful expression and celebration of covenant love.
2.) There is no such thing as casual or emotionless sex.
The Hebrew word for sexual intimacy is “yada“, which means “to know or be known.” God created sex with a psychological and emotional connection, not just a physical one.
3.) God did not create sex to be boring and passionless.
4.) Porn and erotica novels are toxic because they draw us out of reality into a world of fantasy.
Fantasy like Fifty Shades distorts reality. And when we run to fantasy, it is more difficult to find joy and life in reality. God didn’t create us to long for fantasy. He created us to live in reality.
5.) Satan’s primary attack against sex is to SIMPLIFY it.
This statement was made in the book Pulling Back The Shades. Good book. The idea here is Satan wants us to view sex solely as an animalistic and physical act.
6.) God’s plan for sex, romance, and passion is designed to increase life and joy, not rob us of it.
God is the greatest proponent of our life and joy. This means he never gives a gift that doesn’t increase our life and joy. Do we believe it?
7.) Until God’s people talk about God’s design for sex, divorce rates and sexual brokenness will continue to increase.
8.) Sexual desire and passion are not a sign of impurity.
Sexual passion is a gift from God. Single people should not suppress sexual desire. It is given to us by God. We need to harness it. And for married couples, no amount of passion is excessive.
9.) The reward for physical and mental purity isn’t a great spouse or a thriving marriage. The reward is deeper intimacy with God.
10.) Sex and love will never fill voids God is supposed to fill.
11.) Marriage is a portrait of God’s love and relationship with the church. Because of this truth, sex matters tremendously.
12.) Love is not primarily an emotion. It is primarily a decision.
13.) Physical attraction should never be a primary factor in compatibility. It is fleeting.
14.) Healthy relationships are the result of mutual submission to one another and ultimate submission to God.
This isn’t an attractive statement. But it is true. Fifty Shades sends an incredibly dangerous message: there is untapped life in one person having ultimate authority over another. But God explains, in Ephesians 5, that the husband and the wife must mutually submit to one another. Mutual submission to one another and submission to God yield healthy relationships.
15.) Love, romance, and marriage are dangerous outside of community.
If Anastasia had a community of quality women around her, they would have warned her about Christian’s domineering tendencies. Pursuing love outside a community of people who loves you and God is not smart.
16.) Sex and romance produce increasing joy and satisfaction inside of a covenant, not a contract.
In Fifty Shades, Anastasia is asked to sign a contract, agreeing to the acts performed to her. But sex is not designed to flourish inside a contract. It is designed to flourish inside a covenant. If the attitude is, “Fulfill your end of the deal, or else…” sex and romance will be controlled by fear and shame.
17.) The greatest factor in the fight to live out God’s design for sex is passivity, not fantasies or porn.
To experience God’s plan for purity, passivity isn’t an option. Remember, Satan loves to be pro-active about spreading lies and darkness. But he is only as pro-active as we are passive. When the light invades the darkness, darkness will disappear. So, when Christians start telling the world about God’s design for sex, the lies surrounding it will slowly go away.
18.) Sex outside of marriage focuses on self-gratification, “right techniques,” and comparison. Sex inside of marriage focuses on intimacy, selflessness, and security.
19.) When minds are conditioned by porn and fantasies, spouses and partners become sources of shame, anger, and frustration.
Why? When porn or fantasy consume us, we ask a spouse or partner to do something they aren’t capable of doing. This leads to anger, frustration, and shame.
20.) Passion and roughness are not the same thing.
Fifty Shades leads us to believe Christian is immensely passionate about Anastasia because he is forceful, direct, and rough. But authentic passion in love and sex is undergirded by authentic tenderness and respect.
21.) Sex is holy. It is meant to leads us towards God.
22.) Sex is fulfilling only when it is mutually enjoyable.
Fifty Shades tries to tells us one partner can experience true fulfillment by forcing the other partner into total submission. Sex is only as enjoyable for one partner as it is enjoyable for the other.
23.) Sex is a reflection of the gospel.
Jesus chose the broken version of us. He chose us despite the scars, issues, and problems. In a similar way, the beauty of marriage, in general, and sex, in particular, is the acceptance of your spouse despite the brokenness, struggles, and scars. It is a beautiful picture of the gospel.
24.) The problem with secret addictions is they never stay in secret.
What we do in private will eventually be revealed in public. Man people are hiding addictions to erotica novels or porn. It is our secret. But secret addictions and struggles are never private.
They affect our marriage, distort our perception of the opposite sex, and skew God’s design for sex and marriage. Secret addictions also require energy to remain secretive. Energy that could be applied to job, marriage, God, etc. When we fight to keep addictions secretive, other areas of our life don’t get the energy and attention they deserve. Don’t buy the lie that secret addictions are private.
25.) A healthy relationship isn’t when one partner tries to change the other. It is when one partner allows the other to change them.
Some find redemptive value in Fifty Shades because (spoiler alert) Anastasia eventually changes Christian from a domineering, sex-crazed freak to a “semi-normal” partner (BTW, I haven’t read the books, just a lot of overviews). The problem is this isn’t God’s plan for relationships. We aren’t Jesus. We don’t save people. And many toxic relationships are the product of “Anastasias” entering a relationship thinking they can save the other person.
26.) Until entertainment is attached to holiness, distorted perceptions of sex, marriage, and romance will permeate our relationships.
27.) People who use power, influence, or strength to domineer over weaker partners will never experience true love and joy.
This is Christian in Fifty Shades. He wants to control Anastasia. But using power or strength to force the weaker partner into submission is not love. The only way to experience true love is to model God’s use of it.
28.) Sex is not the foundation for a good relationship.
Fifty Shades indirectly says, “Great relationships are the result of great sex.” Don’t believe the lie.
29.) It is possible to experience great sex outside of God and marriage, but it is not possible to experience the fullness of sex outside of God and marriage.
30.) The beauty of God’s design for marriage and sex is it focuses us on the desires of one man or woman, in particular, instead of society’s fleeting view of attractive men or women, in general.
Gary Thomas talks about this idea in his book, Sacred Marriage. I highly recommend the book.
31.) Using porn or erotica novels to enhance sex is dangerous because they contribute to the lie that great sex is primarily physical.
32.) When sexual passion is used correctly, it has the power to increase passion in other areas of life.
When sexual passion is stewarded well as a single person or used well in the covenant bond of marriage, that passion spills into other areas of life, such as career and calling. In this way, sexual passion used in a Godly way is valuable for a passionate life.
But if this is true, the opposite is also true.
33.) Sex has covenant-making power.
Tim Keller, in his book The Meaning of Marriage, says, “Sex connects us deeply to a person, even when used incorrectly.” This is why “marriage like” ties accompany pre-marital sex. This also explains why people remain in toxic relationships (i.e. Anastasia can’t leave Christian even after discovering his “dark side”).
Keller also says there is only one other option for pre-marital sex: numb the feelings associated with it. Tragically, this approach diminishes the covenant power of sex, making us less able to commit and trust.
34.) God didn’t design sex as a performance. This is the lie we believe when fantasy and porn invade our perception of sex.
Christian and Anastasia are actors. What you read or view isn’t real. The same is true for porn. The lie we believe when we allow these performances to fill our minds is, “If I can just perform better, sex with my partner will be more satisfying and enjoyable.” But sex isn’t a performance. Performances are fake. You aren’t an actor. Neither is your partner.
35.) Sex inside marriage has the power to expose layers of selfishness and reveal issues in a relationship.
This is the beauty of covenant sex. It is so intimate and sensitive, it can reveal selfishness, bitterness, and other layers hidden in the heart. The “temperature” of your sex life can be a microcosm of the quality of your relationship. How powerful?!
36.) Mutual respect between males and females is essential for authentic love, meaningful romance, and passionate sex.
Women are not “hoes, b——, or tricks.” Men are not animals whose only thought all day, every day is more sex. We must learn to respect one another before we can experience God’s design for sex and romance.
37.) Love doesn’t exist apart from truth.
In a world where whatever feels good is right, real love can’t exist. Real love is truth. Tim Keller says, “Love without truth supports us but keeps us in denial about our flaws.” Transformative love is one where flaws are exposed. This doesn’t exist without truth.
38.) Despite culture’s picture, it is far more exhilarating and life giving when we commit to one partner for life than when we pursue multiple partners for a season.
39.) Sex is not the search for something that’s missing. It’s the expression of something that’s been found.
Say what you want about Rob Bell, but in his book Sex God, he hits the nail on the head. We don’t run to sex because we are looking for validation and acceptance. We experience sex because we are validated in God, and through covenant sex, we know our Validator more intimately.
40.) God created us in his image as sexual beings, so any idea that sex is “dirty” or only useful for procreation is not just wrong, it is a mockery to God.
41.) The power of sex lies in its exclusivity.
When other faces, relationships, or fantasies enter our marriages, the exclusivity is destroyed. And when the exclusivity is destroyed, the power associated with sex is destroyed as well.
42.) Until we see sex and marriage as temporary, they will never accomplish the goal God intended.
This is why sex, marriage, and God are woven together. Sex and marriage were not given to us solely for our pleasure. They were given to us so we might give God glory. When we don’t give God glory for sex and marriage, we will use them as gods. When this happens, it is a virtual certainty sex and marriage will disappoint and leave us longing for more.
43.) Covenantal sex is a picture (albeit it incomplete) of heaven.
The ultimate longing we have as humans is to be fully known and fully loved. This is why people crave sex. The problem is sex outside of the covenant bond of marriage will never provide this. Inside of marriage, however, we see a depiction of heaven. We see two people fully known to one another, yet fully loved. It is a picture of God’s relationship with us. A glimpse of what is to come.
44.) Men and women are designed in God’s image to COMPLIMENT one another, not COMPETE against one another.
God’s design for men and women is timely and relevant. In Gen. 3:23, Adam says, “This is bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh.” The Hebrew word for “bone” symbolizes strength, and “flesh” symbolizes weakness. In essence, Adam is saying, “Where I am weak, Eve is strong, and where Eve is weak, I am strong.” Powerful!
45.) Hollywood’s portrait of romantic love is crippling to God’s design for romance.
Hollywood elevates romantic love to an unachievable level. It is the noblest of pursuits. It is an intense feeling of passion. And we are incomplete unless we have this romantic love.
God wires us for romance, love, and intimacy, but these things aren’t primarily controlled by feelings. And our completeness isn’t dependent upon them. That is God’s job.
46.) The problem with lust is the more we pursue it, the more difficult it becomes to catch it. It never satisfies. And the more we pursue it, the more it takes control of our life.
47.) What we watch and view shapes how we think. And how we think eventually becomes who we are.
Matthew 6:21-23. Proverbs 4:23. Proverbs 23:7. 2 Corinthians 10:5. Movies and books that distort God’s design for sex (or anything else) are not simply entertainment. They are shaping who we become.
48.) Gratification, pleasure, and satisfaction are not instant. They can’t be microwaved.
In fact, anything worthy of pursuing and believing happens over time. This is the lie, however, most movies try to sell. They prey on human emotions and manipulate those searching for gratification and satisfaction to believe these things can be experienced instantly. They can’t.
49.) Culture says sexual desire is uncontrollable. It equates sex to food.
In other words, sex is something, like food, that we need to remain alive. And anytime we feel the desire (like hunger), the only logical thing to do is feed it.
The problem is this view makes humanity nothing more than animals and makes God a liar. Humans are superior to creation because we have the power to exercise restraint. We have the ability to recognize needs. And the truth is we don’t NEED sex. It’s not like food. We won’t “croak over” if we don’t have it.
But when we believe we have no control over sexual desires, we deny our humanity. We deny the very essence of what separates us from the rest of creation.
This is the message culture sends us. Be an animal. You don’t have the power to resist sexual urges. Just feed them. But God has a different message. God tells us we are not animals. We are men and women created in his image. We have the power to exercise restraint.
50.) The church, generally speaking, has failed miserably in proclaiming God’s gift of sex, love, romance, and passion to the world. And for this failure, the church needs to repent…and get busy redeeming these gifts.
I hope the words in this post show the world God has a unique design for sex, love, romance, and passion. God’s design is certainly different from the culture’s design, but it is not boring and passionless. The world needs to hear this message. Christians need to hear this message. God created sex. And he loves it. Let’s get the message out to the world.
I would love to hear from you. What perceptions of sex did you have growing up? What perceptions of sex do you currently have? Is there anything about God’s design for sex I didn’t mention? Leave a comment below, and let’s keep the conversation going.
I love you all. To God be the glory forever. Amen!