A version of this article appeared in Relevant Magazine earlier this week. The real takeaway in life comes from when we all realize we are the woman caught in the middle of whoring our souls away and are casts at the feet of a beautiful, merciful Savior. As long as there is breath, there is hope for those who realize their brokenness.
By the time we’ve reached our mid-twenties, two things have become very apparent:
Sex is far more powerful than we imagined, and each of us are sexually broken in one way or another.
Sexual brokenness affects every person born under the weight of a fallen nature and a damaged culture. Whether you experimented as a teenager or went crazy in college, whether you were sexually abused as a child or wrestle with same-sex desires you can’t seem to shake, whether you’re addicted to porn or having sex with your girlfriend, the reality is either because of sin or suffering, sexual brokenness affects every single one of us. No, marriage won’t change that. No, counseling won’t change that. And no, morality won’t change that. However, the Gospel reminds us of a Healer who knows how to meet our deepest needs, fill them with Himself, and heal every part of our broken soul.
In John 8, we see how Christ responds to sexual brokenness, and I think it’s one of the most encouraging stories for those of us aware of our need. We’ve all heard the story before. One morning, Jesus went to the temple and began teaching. Soon after, the scribes and Pharisees brought “…a woman who had been caught in adultery…” threw her down at the feet of Jesus and reminded Jesus (ironically, who actually wrote the Law, see John 1:1), that the Law of Moses commanded them to stone such women. Now, here is where the Gospel is seen so richly. After Christ put the men in their place asking them to throw stones if they were without sin, his words to the woman caught in sin are some of the most comforting to those of us who have spent years living under the weight of our own brokenness.
Christ looks at her and says: “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go and from now on sin no more.” Wait. Did you see it? Can you feel the ground shift beneath her feet? Can you see the faces in the crowd? This woman, who had likely spent her life trying to earn acceptance and love in the arms of lovers was suddenly given the thing her soul ached for the most: to be fully known, and fully loved. The people in her life didn’t fully love her, and those whose love she tried to earn she never let fully know her, but here, here was a Man who knew her darkest secrets and loved her completely.
Jesus didn’t give her a command, a rule, a moral to go do before she earned acceptance. No, he accepted her fully, then she was told to go and sin no more.
Do you see the beauty of the pattern? True change, wholeness and healing from sexual brokenness comes from realizing you are accepted in Christ, just they way you are. Not because of what you did, but because “God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses (as was the woman) made us alive together with Christ.” (Eph. 2:4-5) It is “for by grace you have been saved through faith…it is the gift of God.” (Eph. 2:8-9), not your own doing.
Love and acceptance is the soil where true change and healing grow.
This is what I’ve learned from all my years of trying to free myself from my own sin and brokenness: God’s acceptance of me is the power that frees me from sin, not what I attain apart from my sin. God looked at me, called me his son, and just as he said to the woman, he said to me: “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Rom. 8:1). When I grasped the reality that the adulterous woman grasped, the sun broke through, and I finally saw the freedom I had longed for years for.
It is only the power of the love, pleasure and acceptance of our Creator that will free us from our sin and heal us from our brokenness. When we pursue sexual activity outside of God’s design, it screams of a soul desperate and aching for acceptance and value that can only be found in Christ. Why? Why can’t you have sex any way your flesh pleases or your soul aches? Why, when your desires feel so intense for pleasure or value can you not satisfy them anytime you desire? Because, as God reminded Jeremiah: “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you…” (Jer. 1:5), as Job says “you clothed me with skin and flesh, and knit me together with bones and sinews.” (Job 10:11), as David praises God saying: “For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust.” (Ps. 103:14). People of God, remember: He designed you, he knows your frame, he breathed breath in your lungs and put blood in your veins. He crafted your soul to know and worship him. He designed sex to be a wondrous, glorious, mind-blowing gift, and he designed it for your good and His glory (Rom. 8). He knows what will satisfy you, and anything outside of his design will only bring damage.
The whole of the Christian life is growing into the reality of what Christ has declared you to be. You are his workmanship (Eph. 2:10), and you were designed to be satisfied by Him, and him alone.