It’s been interesting to see the debates on the recent marriage decision by the US Supreme Court. I’m not going to get into the fray by saying my thoughts on that decision because it will sidetrack from one issue that is often revealed: for some reason, the idea of controlling one’s sexual appetite is seen as a bad idea.
Most of the time I am told that it is wrong to deny your feelings, that people have the right to do whatever their inclination is sexually. If it feels good to someone, they should do it (whatever “it” is) and not repress themselves.
The problem is that we see the benefit of controlling one’s appetite in other areas. People who control their appetite for unhealthy food reap the benefit of improved nutrition. Those who control their appetite for laziness don’t have soft puffy bodies. Those who control their appetite for mind-numbing media tend to be more intelligent.
The professional dancer says “no” to a lot of things in order to become proficient at dance. Those Olympic athletes have denied themselves many enjoyable moments in order to compete at the highest level. If you are going to be in top physical shape, you have to control various appetites, saying “no” to one thing so that you can say “yes” to something better.
Celibates have said “no” to sexual activity in order to say “yes” to something they deem better. People practicing chastity say “no” to sexual behavior outside marriage in order to deepen and strengthen the bond of that marriage.
There are many people who are chaste or celibate for reasons that are not religious. Some are interested in avoiding sexually transmitted disease: a topic that should be more visible in our sexualized culture. Others have been so scarred by the past they try to avoid more trauma. Occasionally there isn’t much sexual appetite to begin with because what is happening in your body affects desire.
Controlling what you feed your sexual appetite begins with the thought process. Chastity and celibacy involve more than a physical appetite. Sexuality begins in the emotions and thoughts of a person, which is why porn can be so devastating since it creates habits rewarded by pleasure. But if the porn really satisfied, the same level of porn would be enough to satisfy again. We don’t see this in the porn industry — instead there is increasing demand for different types of porn and deeper degradation.
Every person involved in the porn industry is a person whom Jesus came to seek and to save, which is easy to forget sometimes. Every person who is focused on feeding their appetite for whatever triggers pleasure is a person who needs to see that the pleasure is fleeting.
Pleasure isn’t a problem unless it is sought at the expense of the permanent.
Saying “no” to the future in order to say “yes” to something that will only last a short time is like eating the seeds instead of planting them for a harvest of many more. Jesus used the example of a seed needing to die in order to produce many more seeds, and that principle applies to our lives in many ways.
Biblical Christianity says “yes” to Jesus, who chose to say “no” to all that He had as deity so that we could be alive in Him. He chose to leave all the privilege of being God and become a fertilized egg in the womb, be born and grow into limited manhood, and die a shameful death on the cross for the simple reason that He loves us. His disciples saw Him die, were terrified of dying themselves, and then something changed.
Those who knew Jesus was dead and were hiding from the authorities suddenly came out in public insisting that Jesus was alive. Many followers of Jesus were beaten, arrested, and killed. They died unafraid, knowing that the God who overcame death would do all He promised and that this life was not the end of life.
We see people die for what they believe to be true all the time. But these Jesus followers would be dying for what they knew was a hoax — if it was a scam put on by the disciples they would be the first group in history willing to die unanimously to perpetrate a story they made up. Why would they say “no” to life and “yes” to that?
They said “no” to the temporary and “yes” to the eternal.
Jesus told us to deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow Him. This includes all our appetites, in every area of life, married or single. It doesn’t necessarily mean those appetites are bad, but it does mean those appetites are recognized as temporary.
When you think about it, people who are chaste or celibate are saying “no” to a temporary sexual urge so they can say “yes” to something that lasts longer and has more value.