Reframing Our Sermons on Sexuality

Titles aren’t everything. A great sermon can overcome a mediocre headline. But for controversial conversations, the wrong title can confuse the audience at best. At worst, it can activate defenses, leading to deaf ears.

“What God Has to Say About Marriage” might leave the audience assuming the sermon is only relevant to those who are married. “Sex Is a Gift From God” encourages teenagers to believe that they have a right to sex and it’s God’s best gift. “The Bible and Sexuality” suggests the conversation might cover LGBT+ topics, but the euphemistic introduction increases anxiety.

Church leaders need better framing that centers God’s wisdom in Scripture for all Christians and honestly communicates our responsibility.

Instead, Let’s Talk About Sexual Stewardship.

In 1 Corinthians 6, Paul admonishes Corinthian Christians for their sexual immorality and calls them to sexual stewardship:

“Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.” —vv. 19–20

Our bodies were made by and given to us by God. All have sold their bodies to the slavery of sin with our disobedience. Yet Christ in his mercy paid the price for that sin, bought us back and chose to dwell in us. Our bodies are not our own. They are dwelling places for the Holy Spirit that we’ve been given to steward on this side of heaven until we receive our perfected resurrected bodies for the New Jerusalem.

Sexual stewardship framing is helpful because it communicates biblical posture, connects to transferrable skills, and provides proper focus for conversation about sexuality.

Biblical Posture of Sexual Stewardship

From the beginning, God has called his people to steward their sexualities. In Genesis 1:28, God calls Adam and Eve to steward all of creation, including their God-given capacity for procreation. 1 Timothy 6:7 reminds us that “we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it,” including our sexual bodies. Just like a steward, we’ve been given responsibility by a superior (God) to temporarily manage something precious and consequential (our capacity and need for intimacy and family).  

The concept of stewardship highlights our capacity for relationship as a limited resource. There are only so many hours in the day and so many days in a lifetime to love and be in relationship. We can’t befriend everyone. Marrieds are called to monogamy. We can’t do both lifetime vocational singleness and Christian marriage. We can only commit to the sacrificial kingdom work of one of those callings. We must carefully choose how to use our time and energy for our community, what relationships to invest in, and whom we give ourselves to emotionally and physically (and in what ways).

Sexual stewardship framing reminds us that we can be unthinkingly destructive or intentionally fruitful. On autopilot, our flesh attempts to meet our needs for healthy intimacy in broken ways. Poor sexual stewardship, whether out of omission or commission, can lead to loneliness, objectification of another, heartbreak, loss of trust, betrayal, divorce, violence or even sexual enslavement. Instead, we need God’s wisdom to rightly order stewardship of our sexualities. Faithful vocational singleness can lead to many times more celibate Christians leveraging their kingdom availability to serve as nurses at free clinics or teachers in low-income schools. Faithful Christian marriage can lead to many times more children nurtured to faithfully love and serve God.

Transferable Skills of Sexual Stewardship

Christians are called to faithfully manage different precious resources. They may find that developing a proper posture toward (and skills for) sexual stewardship may transfer to faithful stewardship of our finances, the environment, eating and exercise, sleep, mental health, meeting our intimacy needs in healthy ways, character development, and how we leverage our 9-to-5 jobs for the sake of the kingdom. 

Imagine a sermon series or small group curriculum where the general concept of faithful Christian stewardship of our bodies and lives is then applied to each of these opportunities. At a time when fear of focusing too much on sexuality leads leaders to avoid the topic, nesting the conversation within a larger dialogue about general Christian stewardship allows for richer conversation and addresses fears of over-focus.

Proper Focus of Sexual Stewardship

Most importantly (at least as it relates to sermon titles), framing conversations around “sexual stewardship” zooms out from focusing only on sex and marriage. How we talk about sexuality matters. Too often, a simple “save sex for marriage” mantra suggests that marriage and sex are something that we are owed and can take. That we have a right to seek our pleasure, as long as we follow the rules. Instead, a focus on sexual stewardship more broadly includes vocational singleness and suggests that marriage and sex aren’t forgone conclusions. The phrase “sexual stewardship” properly identifies our sexualities as a gift from God that we are meant to fearfully and faithfully steward before God based on his wisdom, not based on our pleasure.

We can start by establishing that God created all of us to enjoy intimacy in the context of family and designed two best ways for that to happen: Christian marriage and vocational singleness. We can recognize that God invites us to discern in our young adult years whether God is calling us to vocational singleness or Christian marriage.

Sin has bent and broken the goodness of everything God created, including how all of us experience intimacy and family. Yet the God who put this world together has offered his people wisdom for how to steward their sexualities. He’s not surprised by the brokenness of our world, and we’ll experience the most beauty and goodness when we follow God’s wisdom. We’ll find the greatest joy, the deepest meaning, and the richest belonging through God-honoring sexual stewardship.

Next time you’re preparing for a sermon series or small group sequence on sexuality, consider framing the conversation around sexual stewardship and make the most of biblical posture, transferrable skills and proper focus.