Guest Post: Sex and the Act of Worship by Nicole Cottrell

 In Influence, Pop Culture, Teachings

Click to visit Nicole's blog!I met the Nicole, also known as the Modern Reject at Catalyst a couple of years ago, just as she was launching. I’ve been amazed at how quickly MR has become a community of people who love to ask tough questions. Nicole is provocative, thoughtful and sharp. Join the conversation at and follow her on Twitter or Facebook.

I didn’t come to Jesus a virgin. Instead, I came to Jesus with far more sexual experience a girl of 16 should have. I also came to Jesus, however, somehow knowing that He didn’t care about any of that. He saw me as a virgin. It was a new day.

I couldn't resist.

I couldn’t resist.

So, I suppose on some level, I expected the church to talk about this fact, too. I expected to hear rousing sermons on the gift of sex, ordained by God, pleasing to Him when experienced between man and wife. I expected to hear exactly what it was I was now waiting for, having once had sex, only to give it up in pursuit of Christ.

But, those messages from the church never came. Different ones did, however.

I think a youth pastor once talked about what not to do–how to not let things go too far with your boyfriend–so as to remain a virgin. You know, since virginity was the prize and all.

Virginity, it seemed, was what all young Christian people were to aspire to.

Need bad theology? Just find a Christian t-shirt!

Need bad theology?
Just find a Christian t-shirt!

It wasn’t the powerful, supernatural, superglue-like bond that formed between two people who had only had intercouse with one another. It wasn’t the protection from emotional damage and even physical ramifications that comes from waiting. It wasn’t the lifelong guarantee of a healthier and more satisfying sex life with your spouse, if both were each other’s only sexual partner. It wasn’t the holiness and clarity that comes from a life surrendered to purity–purity of mind, spirit, and body.

No, those were not the messages I heard. Those rewards and blessings from the Lord were not discussed. It was simply stated within the church that sex was not good. Virginity was good. Sex could wait…you just never knew exactly why.

The world sells the lie that sex is love. Yet, on the flip side, the church sells the lie that sex isn’t love.

Rabbits... teens... there's a joke here...

Rabbits. Teens.
There’s a joke here…

Young Christians swallow this up believing that marriage and sex are somehow not related, somehow not wholly and spiritually intertwined.

Sex, it seems, is simply a byproduct of marriage instead of an integral and intimate part. So, it becomes easy for us to dabble in sex outside of marriage. It becomes easy for us to view sex as just an action or an activity, and not the spiritual, emotional, and physical oneness described in Genesis.

And the two shall become one flesh, is quite literal. Sex is two becoming one and is nothing short of glorifying God.

Of course, when I finally got married at the tender age of 25, I had to unlearn all that I had been taught…and subsequently hadn’t been taught about sex between a husband and wife. No longer was I able to compartmentalize sex or view it as separate from love.

You see, both the world and the church have it wrong. Sex is love but…in marriage.

Song of Solomon. Read it. It's sexy.

Song of Solomon. Read it. It’s sexy.

In the context of a marriage covenant between a man and a woman, sex and love are forever and inextricably linked. You cannot love your spouse without enjoying the gift of sex God has given you both to enjoy. Nor can you love sex, apart from your spouse, whom God gave you to enjoy it with.

God receives glory when we enjoy the gifts He has given us, whether it be good food, a child, a home, a loving spouse, or…sex. To put it plainly, when we enjoy sex within marriage we are worshipping the Lord. Strange to think, perhaps. It was for me, until the Spirit revealed this truth. Now, on Sundays, my husband and I sometimes skip church and choose instead to stay in bed and “worship the Lord.”

YOUR TURN: What were you falsely taught…or not taught about sex? What is the one thing you know now, that you wish you had known then? What would you tell young people today about sex and marriage?

bio-picNicole Cottrell is…a hopeful romantic, baby wrangler, blogger on a mission, wife to her hero. Most importantly, follower of the One. She’s the Modern Reject. Stalk her on Twitter @modernreject or on Facebook at Modern Reject. She’ll be your BFF. 

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  • Amen. I realized when I was in my 20s that I had never heard a convincing message about *why* Christians should stay virgins. There was so much focus on the letter of the law (as there usually is), there was no attention paid to the spirit of the law.

  • I’m going to raise my daughters to be sluts, like Planned Parenthood wants. If they don’t lose their virginity by the ages of 11, I believe I will have failed as a father. All those uptight ‘Fundamentalists’ can go scratch and pound sand for all I care. My daughters deserve to be allowed to explore their sexuality.

    Sex isn’t a commitment. It’s what happens when guys talk girls out of their panties and their dignity. Not that this is a bad thing. Some of my fondest memories from my youth involved panty-dropping dialogue. A girl’s dignity really didn’t matter to my penis.

    I agree that preaching virginity is futile. Preach it, Matt! Yeah! Who wants to marry a virgin anyways? Yeesh. Too high maintenance.

    Chicks, I mean, er, women, need to be sexually capable before they decide to marry a fella, (or another woman, I won’t judge! Yay liberalism!). Virginity is over-rated anyways. It’s not like God really cares about sexual purity. Like Matt says, the letter of the law is always what people rant about, but we all know that everybody is doing it, so why should we try to prevent it? Pass the tithe plate? No. Pass out condoms for fellas and birth control for girls.
    *sarc off*

    Nicole, brilliant article. Sex outside of covenant is damaging, as many of us can attest. Sex within covenant is…well…you know. (prettyfreakingawesomewhat!?)

    As to my daughters, the rule of their father is simply this:
    “Do nothing with a boy you wouldn’t do in front of me. And if he tries to make you break that, break his penis,”

    No, I’m not kidding.


  • I just wish the church hadn’t made sex so scary. I felt like having sex before marriage would ruin you for all other relationships. It was never portrayed in a beautiful light as a gift. I also wish I understood my value and the value of women. That shift in thinking would have helped me put sexuality in a healthy perspective.

  • Toothpic

    On a related note to this… I was under the impression that somehow you’d turn off your sexual attraction and desires until you got married and it was natural to not be sexually attracted or driven because that was sinful….
    Now I see that it’s natural to be sexually attracted to people. And the idea that you can just switch it off is stupid.

  • Kris Overtoom

    I didn’t grow up in the church. My mom did and she did tell me to wait because it was a gift to your husband. I wish she would have said it was a gift to yourself and all the things you mentioned–” …protection from emotional damage and even physical ramifications that comes from waiting… the lifelong guarantee of a healthier and more satisfying sex life with your spouse, if both were each other’s only sexual partner… the holiness and clarity that comes from a life surrendered to purity–purity of mind, spirit, and body.” I also wish that she would have sat me down and given me some pointers about how to avoid temptation and how to spot the guys who were after that “gift”.

  • Tony,
    “Scary.” That’s such a simple word, but you’re right. The church makes it scary and the quieter they are, the scarier it seems.

    And oh man, great point about wishing people discussed what it means to value yourself and a woman. That is good…and if taught, I believe, would be life-giving and life-changing.

    Thanks for coming over Tony and sharing!

  • Oh gosh, I think many, many Christians believed they same thing until reality slapped them in the face. I’ve heard of people then feeling guilty, convicted, and confused about being attracted to someone before marriage.

    What a jumbled, unhealthy mess the church has contributed to. To be fair, I hold parents responsible too. They have to be the ones telling their children about the awesomeness of sex too!

  • Kris,
    I wish those things were given to you, too. Thankfully, God can redeem what was unsaid or undone. Praying He does for you.

  • Matt,
    So well-said. Bam. The letter of the law versus the spirit of the law. (sigh) We so need to hear this message and understand God’s truth in it.

    “For freedom’s sake, Christ set us free…”

  • Donald,
    I think you pretty much nailed the callous, perverse, and aloof view of sex that the world (and sadly, many Christians) project.

    As for your rule for the girls. I love it. Seriously I wish my parents had taken that kind of stand with me. It would have saved me a lot of heartache.

  • Agreed… it’s tragic we’ve felt the need to use fear to “protect” sex, rather than celebrating Celibacy as every person, no matter their marital status, participating in the Love of God.

  • Absolutely. Did you catch Darren Vesterfelt’s post on that earlier this week?

    Really good stuff.

  • Yup. I always knew the “right answer” but never WHY it was the right answer. I didn’t have a holistic view of my body, how my body is integral to my participation in the Gospel Kingdom of Jesus.

    I hope that we’re starting to tell a better story.

  • Jcamp13

    So many thoughts. You’ve hit on a huge key. That we need a right theology of sex and for that matter marriage and singleness. Sex in the Bible is either in the context of marriage or the context of sin. It is meant to be a huge, great part of marriage. Great point.

    The one caution I would have is that we need to not count on the fact that we will get married. In other words it is important not to tell people that they should wait just because they will get married. What if they don’t? Of what if they don’t for a long time. This can lead to resentment towards God. I’m waiting so why haven’t you brought me anyone etc. This goes into a lot of other things but all that to say, I totally agree we need to talk about the beauty of sex in marriage. But we need to not promise they will get to experience it.

  • Steve

    I love the fact that in the context of marriage, sex is worship. But anything else is idolatry. I can’t figure out why churches don’t just talk about it, but celebrate it.

  • sherry

    yeah you always hear about the godly christian dads teaching their daughters to remain pure until marriage so they can give the ‘gift’ of their virginity to their husband…i never hear godly christian dads teaching their sons the same thing, as though ‘boys will be boys’ until they grow up and decide to commit or whatever. why is this ALWAYS directed toward the women?? if i was ever married i would rather marry a virgin guy. do they no longer exist????

  • Kayla

    I once heard Dr. James Garlow say, “Sex was God’s idea – and second to salvation, it’s the best idea He ever had!” 🙂

  • Too often we’re tempted to see God as a depriver rather than the giver that he is. The lie started in the Garden and the message of abstinence for abstinence sake plays right into it. You’re right, Nicole. Sex is a gift that God wants to preserve for us in all its fullness, and yes, glory.

  • Vagabond


    I can say with Certainty that they do as I am one! I know that I have had to leave my girlfriends home a number of times early to make sure I did not cross the boundary that I knew if I crossed I would have a hard time stopping at. (yes I left out where that is to avoid legalism)
    I once asked my best frind after he got married if it was worth waiting for because I was needing reassurance from a godly brother. His answer was that it was worth waiting for. I know that when that time does come from me it will be a lot of fun and very enjoyable. That will be in Gods timing.

  • Vagabond

    FYI I am over 30

  • Tshegofatso Mogotsi

    I’m happy I found this, I can’t wait to talk to my daughter about this,though I’m not married to her father. I wish I had the same talk with my mom but she never spoke to me about such and I don’t want to deny my daughter that. But I’m waiting now and want to honour Jesus with my body and I know that He’s renewing it (if not already). I like the direction the article is coming from, love and not fear. Be blessed.

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