What guidance does the church provide on dealing with sexual urges?

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Sexual urges are a natural part of human biology and psychology, intricately woven into the fabric of our being by God Himself. As beings created in the image of God, we are called to manage our bodies and impulses in a way that honors Him and aligns with His divine will. The subject of masturbation, often considered taboo in many Christian circles, is one that requires a thoughtful, compassionate, and biblically grounded approach.

The Biblical Perspective on Sexual Desires

First and foremost, it is important to recognize that sexual desire in itself is not sinful. God created humans as sexual beings, and this aspect of our identity is intended to fulfill the purposes of procreation, marital intimacy, and the expression of love between married partners. As stated in Genesis 1:28, God commanded humans to "be fruitful and multiply," acknowledging the role of sexual relations in His creation mandate.

However, the Bible does not directly address masturbation. The closest scriptural references often cited in discussions about masturbation include the story of Onan in Genesis 38:9-10, where Onan is condemned for "spilling his seed on the ground." However, it is crucial to understand that Onan's sin was not masturbation but his refusal to fulfill his duty to provide an offspring for his deceased brother by using the practice of levirate marriage.

The Role of Self-Control

In the New Testament, the Apostle Paul provides extensive guidance on how to handle our bodies in a manner that is holy and pleasing to God. In 1 Corinthians 6:18-20, Paul writes, "Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body. 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."

This passage underscores the importance of self-control and the avoidance of sexual immorality, which includes actions that lead one away from God's purposes. Self-control, a fruit of the Spirit listed in Galatians 5:22-23, is a key virtue that Christians are called to cultivate in all aspects of life, including sexuality.

Practical Guidance for Managing Sexual Urges

For those seeking to manage sexual urges in a way that aligns with Christian ethics, several practical steps can be recommended:

  1. Prayer and Spiritual Disciplines: Engaging in regular prayer and meditation on the Scriptures can strengthen one's spiritual foundation and provide the grace needed to overcome temptations. Philippians 4:6-7 encourages believers to bring all their anxieties to God through prayer, with the promise of God's peace guarding their hearts and minds.

  2. Accountability and Community: Building strong relationships within a faith community can provide the necessary support and accountability. James 5:16 exhorts believers to confess their sins to one another and pray for each other so that they may be healed, highlighting the healing power of communal prayer and confession.

  3. Healthy Sublimation of Energy: Redirecting sexual energy into productive and creative pursuits can also be a helpful strategy. This can include physical activities like sports or exercise, creative arts, or engaging in charitable works. Such activities not only distract from immediate urges but also contribute to the overall enrichment of one's life and service to others.

  4. Counseling and Therapy: Seeking guidance from a Christian counselor or therapist can provide further personalized strategies to manage sexual urges. Professional help can be especially beneficial for those who may struggle with compulsive sexual behaviors.

  5. Educating Oneself on Human Sexuality: Understanding the biological, psychological, and spiritual aspects of sexuality can empower individuals to make informed decisions. Education can demystify aspects of sexuality that might otherwise lead to shame or confusion.

The Call to Holiness

Ultimately, the Christian approach to managing sexual urges, including the issue of masturbation, is not about repression or denial, but about understanding God's purpose for our sexuality and aligning our actions with His design. 1 Thessalonians 4:3-5 calls each believer to "avoid sexual immorality" and to "learn to control your own body in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust like the pagans, who do not know God."

In conclusion, while the church may not provide explicit directives regarding masturbation, the broader biblical principles of purity, self-control, and reverence for God’s design of our bodies offer substantial guidance. By seeking to honor God in all aspects of our lives, including our sexuality, we affirm the goodness of God's creation and our redemption in Christ, aiming to live out our faith in ways that are pleasing to Him and edifying to ourselves and the communities we are part of.

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