Love Connection – 3/22/09 – Part 2

Ok, this may be the most “scandalous” blog that I have written to date.  Wait, a minute… probably not.  The “Gay-Bath House” series was a bit scandalous too, huh? (Gay-Bath House article).

love-connection-jpgOh well, apparently my lot in life is to get involved in the dirty, messy and controversial subjects.   So, let’s jump right into the final question for this week, which almost gave me a coronary attack as I read it knowing I’d have to answer it!  Thanks everybody…  Let’s just get back to asking questions that are “safe,” huh?  LOL.

Question #3:
What are your views on masturbation?  Is it okay?

Wow, so we’re gonna go THERE now?  Ok.  I guess I should have known that we would eventually get here.   This question doesn’t necessarily have to do with relationships, however it is an issue that could impact relationships on many different levels.   So let’s go ahead and discuss it.

This is a very difficult question to answer.  On the one hand, many people believe it is wrong.  But, on the flip side, many Christians believe it is not.  Either way I answer I do two things:  1) I make half of everybody angry.  2) I assume that I actually know the answer.  (LOL)

So, let me give you my best effort at an answer.  It may not be perfect, but for better or worse, it is what I believe by faith right now.

First, the Bible has nothing to say directly about this issue.  The word “masturbation” is not in the Bible at all.  It is a subject, like dating, that isn’t discussed.  And without making too much of an “argument from silence” it does at least gives us a little bit of flexibility here.

However, there is one Bible text that has been used to condemn the behavior and it is worth mentioning here because its often use in this manner is not only unwarranted but flat-out coercive and wrong.

onanGenesis 38:8-10:  “Then Judah said to Onan, “Sleep with your brother’s wife and fulfill your duty to her as a brother-in-law to raise up offspring for your brother.  But Onan knew that the child would not be his; so whenever he slept with his brother’s wife, he spilled his semen on the ground to keep from providing offspring for his brother.  What he did was wicked in the LORD’s sight; so he put him to death also.”

Wow!  How’s that for a little provocative Bible reading?  Just tell your parents: “Hey, you wanted me to read the Bible.”

Now, when I was a teenager (like 100 years ago), this verse was quoted to me as God’s ultimate word against masturbation.  The line went like this, “See, Onan wasted his seed  (sperm) and God’s punishment for him was DEATH!!”

Nothing like a little fear that God will strike you dead to keep you from masturbating!

However, this story has ABSOLUTELY NOTHING TO DO WITH MASTURBATION.  It is a story about a strange, but merciful Jewish law that took care of widows and passed on family inheritance.

In the Jewish culture, if the husband of a woman died, his brother was required to marry her and save her from widowhood.  And if she did not have a son to pass the deceased husband’s land and assets to, then the brother was required to father a son with her.   This son would not be considered the brother’s son, but the deceased husband’s son and thus he would inherit the land.   It was God’s way of providing for families in crisis and ensuring rightful land inheritance.

In this text, then, God is not addressing masturbation at all.  He is punishing Onan for purposefully being disobedient and not taking care of his brother’s family.

So, if the bible doesn’t directly address this question, than what are we to make of it?  Is it okay?  Is it a sin?

Well . . . to say that it is a sin goes beyond what we have God directly saying to us in the Bible.  Because of this, theoretically, I believe that the act itself is not sin.

looking with lustHowever, while this makes sense theoretically, there is a very practical reality to consider.  Maybe most compelling are the inevitable thoughts that go along with this act.   And while no Bible text deals with masturbation, per se, Jesus does have some pretty radical things to say about our thought-life.

“You have heard it said that you should not commit adultery.  But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”  — Matthew 5:27-28

What Jesus is saying here is that our “thoughts” are as important as our “actions.”   The intention behind what we do or don’t do is as crucial as our actual actions.

Now, even if theoretically, masturbation isn’t a sin, think of all the thoughts that usually invade your mind during those moments.  I would say that it is extremely rare that one engages in that action without some sort of impure thoughts about another person, whether you know them or don’t know them (in the case of most pornography).  And these thoughts are IMPORTANT, because they affect our relationships with other people and how we see other people.  Particularly for guys, this type of visualization reinforces “objectification” of women–seeing women as “objects” to possess rather than people to be honored and loved.

Couple that with the fact that masturbation is about selfish gratification (as opposed to sexual intercourse which when performed “in love” as intended is done as much for the other person as for you) and you at the very least have a less than beneficial activity.

So when it comes right down to it, I’m not sure I can make that judgment call for you.  I don’t know what goes on in your head.  Only you do.  And I don’t know what God’s Spirit convicts you about.

But it might help as you think through this issue for yourself to be reminded that sin is not primarily a legal infraction.  Sin is not like a speeding ticket.  God isn’t necessarily keeping track of all your tickets and waiting for you to “pay-up.”

Instead, I believe sin is more like an infection.  It is something that messes up your relationships with God and other people, like an infection messes up the way your body is supposed to work.

With this in mind, I don’t think God is going to kill you for it and you won’t be sent to hell for masturbating too much.   However, it may warrant a bit of caution.  Just because something may not be sin, doesn’t necessarily mean that it is good for you or for your relationships with other people.   And if this issue causes problems between you and God or you and other people, you would be wise to listen to that prompting of the Spirit and choose differently.

Ok.  Hope that helps.

By the way, for those counting at home, I said the word, “masturbation” nine times.  Oops, make that ten.


5 thoughts on “Love Connection – 3/22/09 – Part 2

  1. Nick,

    As the mother of two teenage boys this was a very well written response to the question that even us Christian mothers have to deal with. Thanks for the insights from another view point.

    • Hey, April:

      Nice to hear from you. Long time, huh? I’m glad that you found the posting helpful. Interestingly enough, the biggest response i received on this post (through emails and comments) came from Christian mothers. I didn’t really anticipate this, but it seems that it is a topic that of course parents, but particularly mothers, have need for some discussion and explanation in relation to their children (mostly sons).

      Anyway, thanks for the comment.

  2. Nick–I’ve really enjoyed the blogs I’ve read thus far…I think this is the first one I sort of disagree with.

    Can I offer some thoughts? I worked with freshman college boys for several years in residence life, and so of course this was a frequent topic of conversation.

    I’m inclined to say that masturbation (like many things) can be a very good, and very bad thing. Of course there is no biblical injunction against it, and of course there is the matter of looking at one’s neighbor lustfully. Certainly the NT picture is that matters of heart are at least as important as matters of action.

    Masturbation can also be associated with more destructive habits; addiction and pornography, primarily.

    That said, I also believe masturbation can be a gift. We often forget how biological we are. There is certainly something very ‘earthy’ or low to the ground about our biological habits. Some of these are involuntary, some are not. It’s easy to associate these with “flesh” and to associate flesh with evil. There’s a whole topic…

    A young man will struggle (or won’t bother with the struggling part) with lustful thoughts, almost without exception. And while masturbation can be a way to further these thoughts, it can also be a way to self-regulate the hormones that tend to drive these thoughts.

    In the end, for most young men, there will be a vivid dream and a nocturnal ejaculation anyway. That doesn’t necessarily justify all our actions, but I think it points to SOME amount of biological inevitability about this process.

    Our bodies were created with reproduction in mind; that doesn’t mean we need to be reproducing inappropriately. But I do think that if we are to properly develop our sexuality, prepare for marriage, and have outlets for strengthening our abstinence, masturbation may be the best option we have.

    Many marriages suffer because of a lack of masturbation. Men who haven’t learned the art of self-control. Women who go years without experiencing the ecstasy and intimacy of orgasm, often because they haven’t learned to direct blood to the right places, or because they have associated their sexual areas with sin.

    Or there are the times when, say, a woman isn’t feeling well and a man is feeling, say, particularly hormonal. Yes, he can be kind and just abstain, but I’m guessing most women would tell you that isn’t quite the gift it is cracked up to be. The women I know who are in touch with their men’s hormonal cycles (every bit as true for men as women) would tell you that their squished need for ‘release’ comes out in a lack of patience, gentleness, and several other fruits of the spirit.

    In the end, I think we are all sexual creatures. Whether or not we are married, we are sexual, and we have to deal with this fact. It’s not as if at the altar we get permission to become sexual; it’s that we get to share that sexuality in the context of absolute commitment.

    Even many young children experiment with masturbation. I know one person who did and was gifted with parents who suggested that their child do this in private from now on, but that this was a special behavior between their child and God. This person has the most healthy attitude about sexuality of any person I know (and also will tell you that imagery isn’t absolutely necessary for masturbation).

    If we have a sexuality that we have to limit, shouldn’t we be working with it by engaging it, rather than running from it and hoping that works?

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