Why Christians Need to Avoid Legalism and License

Embracing what the Bible teaches about sex is necessary. But we all have the tendency to fall into a trap of legalism or license.

I was recently teaching on the topic of sexuality at a Christian college. As I fielded anonymous questions about premarital sex—how far is too far, homosexuality, and masturbation—I felt the tension. There were some young faces streamed with tears and nodding their heads. There were others scowling, arms crossed and eyes shooting daggers at me.

Whenever I encounter this hostility, I wonder just what I have said to be offensive. I’ve had women mad because I’m too conservative and others angry that I'm too liberal. I wonder, Are they angry because I said cohabitation is a bad idea or because I didn’t give the answer they wanted on masturbation?

Conversations about sexuality have the potential to tap into the most sensitive and well-defended aspects of humanity. They are rarely theological or philosophical debates but lead to implications about the most personal choices of our lives.

If you claim to be a Christ-follower, God’s Word has pretty clear teaching on many of the sexual questions we face. We may not like it, but we know from Scripture what God says about adultery, pornography, homosexuality, and sleeping together outside of marriage. We can also see that God celebrates the beautiful expression of sexual passion within marriage. On many issues that are not so clear, the Bible gives principles that help us make wise and God-honoring decisions. Embracing what the Bible teaches about sex is a different matter. Each of us will have the tendency to fall into one of two traps: legalism and license.

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Juli Slattery

Juli Slattery is a TCW regular contributor and blogger. A widely known clinical psychologist, author, speaker, and broadcast media professional, she co-founded Authentic Intimacy and is the co-author of Passion Pursuit: What Kind of Love Are You Making?

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May 25

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