We live in a sexualized culture. We are surrounded by allures every day, bombarded by images and messages — and we don’t always mind the onslaught.

Sex sells. Walk through your happy local mall and you are blasted by sexualized ads and music inviting you in like the seductress of Proverbs, “Come, let’s drink deeply of love till morning.”

We are beckoned to spend our hard-earned dollars by beautiful people often captured in what must be seriously uncomfortable poses. The beauty of the human body is happily gesticulated for your cash. Sexualized advertising stirs in the most deceptive of ways, routinely used to sell things that are not sexy in the least.

You really notice this when you are in a different culture. Get outside the normal air you breathe, look at how things are peddled using seductive imagery and you laugh — until you realize your culture is no different; and you are twice the fool.

Sex controls. Even partners in relatively healthy marriages can use the promise of or the threat of withholding sex to get their way. Sometimes it’s used jokingly, but even the “joke” reveals something disturbing. Using the God-given joy of intimacy to selfishly control another like a pawn is darkness.

Sex—either having it or not having it—can control the emotions, almost to the point of irrationality. The horrific April 2018 rental truck attack that claimed multiple lives in Toronto was linked in some form to the accused’s connection to the “incels” (those who are involuntarily celibate). Clearly, this young man had a host of problems, but the controlling nature of sex contributed to his tipping point.

Sex—either having it or not having it—can control the emotions, almost to the point of irrationality.

Culturally, sex has begun to control how we shape law and understand our identity. More individually, sex can control the thought life, control your view of yourself or others made in the image of God, including causing those who think they are more sexually “holy” to dismiss as “dirty” those who aren’t as pure. Even this self-righteousness can be an unwitting capitulation to the controlling power of sex.

Now, we would all acknowledge we’ve been sold or controlled by sex. None of us are immune or can speak detached about this. All of us are human and made in the image of God with sexuality a part of our wonderous created intent. And, we’re all broken and vulnerable to the way sin has distorted intimacy in us. This should elevate humility, repentance and compassion both toward others and ourselves.

But, if we could step back, we’d recognize that anything with such controlling capacity should be called for what it really is: a spiritual power. We were meant to bring our sexuality under the dominion and purposes of the Creator, to control it for beauty, but instead we find ourselves so easily sold trinkets and controlled by that which we were to rule over. This means the apparent sexual freedom culture promotes is not toward our greater dignity, but a robbery of it. We are the enslaved. We are the controlled. This is beneath our dignity.

If we could step back, we’d recognize that anything with such controlling capacity should be called for what it really is: a spiritual power.

The early church learned in their discipleship of those coming out of brokenness that they would often come up against this power ruling over good people. In fact, sexual adventure or twisted intimacy was named as one of the four dominant addictive powers that new followers of Jesus needed deliverance from. They didn’t just need to read a book or have an accountability partner to whom they could confess their latest sordid tale (as helpful as both of those are). They needed to renounce a power they had willingly submitted to.

They were called to apply their new identity as the new humanity under the Lordship of Jesus. As the risen and redeemed sons and daughters of God, they were to take back their authority and send the addictive spiritual power back to where it belonged. Having done so, they could then submit their bodies—including their sexuality — to a new Master who has freedom from guilt, shame and fear in mind for those who are the beloved of their Father in Heaven.

So, we might ponder at this point: Am I set free like this? Or, am I sex-controlled?

PHIL WAGLER has known this journey of finding freedom and joy as a man who is controlled, not by sex, but by His Saviour. He serves as a Mission Mobilizer with MB Mission, has been a speaker at Promise Keepers events, and lives with his beautiful bride and clan in Surrey, BC.
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