God-Honoring Pleasure in a Shades-of-Grey World
Dear Mr. Grey
I want you to know why I felt confused after you spanked, punished, beat, and assaulted me. Well, during the whole alarming process, I felt demeaned, debased, and abused. And much to my mortification, you're right; I was aroused . . . What really worried me was how I felt afterward. And that's more difficult to articulate. I was happy that you were happy. I felt relieved that it wasn't as painful as I thought it would be. And when I was lying in your arms, I felt . . . sated. But I feel very uncomfortable, guilty even, feeling that way. It doesn't sit well with me, and I'm confused as a result.
The letter above is a direct quote from the series Fifty Shades of Grey, which has now sold more than 100 million copies. Ana's letter to Christian is just one example of the many ways that women are confused about right and wrong—particularly related to sexuality. The whole spirit of the Christian bedroom is to bless each other. We should avoid anything that causes harm or humiliation, and the sadomasochism mentioned in the letter above involves both.
Satan has always had the agenda to confuse us about right and wrong, and he has succeeded. Christians commonly justify what the Bible has stated as sin: Christian couples sleep together before marriage. Christian friends openly gossip and slander one another. Christian wives harbor bitterness and unforgiveness for an offense committed decades ago. Christian women unabashedly read "mommy porn," justifying the explicit sex scenes because of the seemingly redemptive elements: It's a story about healing and about love, they think. It gives you ideas that can revive your sex life.They end up getting married in the third book, so it's all okay.
People sometimes say that it's "old fashioned" to define morality based on the Bible, but nothing is more old fashioned than wanting to define right and wrong for ourselves. Relative morality isn't progressive—it's ancient! Let's look back to the beginning of time—Satan's strategies haven't changed much:
The serpent was the shrewdest of all the wild animals the LORD God had made. One day he asked the woman, "Did God really say you must not eat the fruit from any of the trees in the garden?"
"Of course we may eat fruit from the trees in the garden," the woman replied. "It's only the fruit from the tree in the middle of the garden that we are not allowed to eat. God said, "You must not eat it or even touch it; if you do, you will die."
"You won't die!" the serpent replied to the woman. "God knows that your eyes will be opened as soon as you eat it, and you will be like God, knowing both good and evil."
The woman was convinced. She saw that the tree was beautiful and its fruit looked delicious, and she wanted the wisdom it would give her. So she took some of the fruit and ate it." (Genesis 3:1–6)
Notice that the name of the tree Adam and Eve were not supposed to eat of was "the tree of the knowledge of good and evil" (Genesis 2:17). Think about that name—from the beginning of time, God said that it is off-limits for people to define for themselves what is right and what is wrong. Satan planted doubt in Eve's mind about God's standard, about the consequences of sin, and about God's goodness. He does the same thing today. Can you discern his whisper?
Satan's greatest assault is to cast doubt on God's motive. Satan subtly told Eve that God didn't really care about her. Satan claimed that God wanted to keep her in bondage and that she couldn't trust him.
Satan whispers these lies about sexual standards too. He paints the "good girl" as the one who misses out on life and the sexually immoral woman as the mature, fulfilled one. Is Satan right? Is the woman who follows God's standards really missing out?
John Piper states that our problem is not that we like pleasure too much, but that we settle for too little. Piper wasn't the first to suggest this paradox. C.S. Lewis diagnosed the human race as "far too easily pleased." He wrote, "We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea" (The Weight of Glory).
As you consider your own temptations with sexuality, do they occur because your drive to experience pleasure is too great or because you settle for a cheap version of satisfaction? Every choice to compromise sexually is more than a moral failure; it is a choice to refuse the ultimate joy and pleasure for which we were created.
Through 19 years of marriage, Mike and I have discovered this personally. We have faced struggles, temptations, and years stuck in our own selfish perspectives. We have, individually and as a couple, found our greatest joys only through yielding our wills to God's will. In the moment, the choice to look away from temptation or lay down my needs for my husband appears to be one of selflessness. But ultimately, it is a choice to pursue a far greater pleasure and joy.
I don't believe that selfishness, fornication, and pornography are bringing pleasure to people. I don't believe that there's a greater joy among those who feel free to experiment with bondage, pedophilia, cyber sex, and other sexual perversions. And I don't believe that by forbidding these things, God is desperately trying to keep men and women from great joy and deep sexual satisfaction.
God is the greatest proponent of your pleasure—not the pleasure that is sweet for a season, but the deep, profound satisfaction that only grows sweeter with time.
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This article was adapted from Dr. Juli Slattery and Dannah Gresh's newly released book, Pulling Back the Shades, and is used with permission from Moody Publishers.
Read more articles that highlight writing by Christian women at ChristianityToday.com/Women
God-Honoring Pleasure in a Shades-of-Grey World
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