Sex in the Sermon

Over the past few years, my now 12-year-old daughter has been exposed to some rather uncomfortable subjects. Prostitution, homosexuality, whoring, menstrual cycles, bodily emissions, and rape have all been discussed in her presence.

You might wonder what type of parents we are. Do we let her watch too much TV? Allow her to listen to the wrong radio stations? Surf the internet without guidance? Actually my husband and I are fairly strict about the influences we allow into our home. It’s been one particular outside influence that has reached our daughter.

We take her to church.

We take her to a church that preaches through the Bible. All of it. Even the nooks and crannies we feel quite shocked to hear mentioned in a room full of people. A few years ago, we spent nine months in the book of Leviticus. Nine months doesn’t allow you the opportunity to skip the uncomfortable sections.

Another series was on the Book of Hosea. As I sat beside my daughter, hearing the story of Gomer preached, I realized she probably had no clue what the word prostitute meant. Prior to the sermon I never had reason to discuss the topic with her. Our church is now studying Jeremiah, and recently our passage used the word whore. Seven times. I would have carefully shielded my daughter from any other book, show, or song that used that term.

It’s not that we’re trying to insulate our children from the topic of sexuality. We’ve always attempted to dialogue openly with them. We believe in starting the conversation early and keeping the conversation going in age-appropriate stages. But while parents have a clear duty to initiate these discussions with their children, they also need the church to provide repeated input and guidance. Deliberate preaching of the “whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27) will naturally encourage parents to continue these important conversations. God’s Word is not prudish about sexuality. It is careful to illustrate the pitfalls and the trappings, as well as the beauty and the blessing.

Better in Church

What I appreciate about our church’s sermons is that they’ve forced us to discuss topics we may have otherwise failed to mention. Isn’t it better for a young person to hear about prostitution in a church service before hearing about it on a playground or school bus? Isn’t it better for them to understand the beauty of marital intimacy through a sermon series on Song of Solomon rather than a teen drama on TV? By bringing these topics into the open light of Scripture, we keep them from being taboo with our children. If God’s Word speaks about these subjects, then surely his church can learn to speak of them in appropriate ways as well.

The context in which children learn greatly effects what they come to understand. A friend recently shared how she explained to her daughter the importance of context: imagine putting mustard on ice cream. Two enjoyable items become repugnant when placed together. Similarly, sexuality discussed in the wrong setting becomes distasteful. We should carefully guard our children from images, influences, and books that may shape their understanding in unbiblical ways. However, the church has the ability to provide the proper context for these topics.

Moses commanded the Israelites to regularly read the entire law to the people. He also made sure to include children.

Assemble the people, men, women and little ones, and the sojourner in your towns, that they may hear and learn to fear the LORD your God, and be careful to do all the words of the law, and that their children, who have not known it, may hear and learn to fear the Lord your God. (Deut. 31:12-13)

The first five books of Moses speak frequently about many topics, some of which we might label as adult material. But children weren’t excluded from these discussions; in fact, the little ones were specifically invited. It seems the Lord in his wisdom gave his people a place within community to appropriately discuss sexuality. These topics were brought before the entire fellowship and dealt with honestly.

Could it be that we face so much sexual confusion in the church because we fail to preach faithfully through all of Scripture? Society shames sex by speaking of it too often in the wrong context, with smirks and innuendos. Conversely, we in the church often shame sex by failing to speak of it all, missing the opportunities the Word of God appropriates for our instruction.

Perhaps if the church discussed these biblical topics more, children would be drawn to false sources of information less. By shielding these passages from our children, we inadvertently communicate that God’s Word and God’s people have nothing to say about sexuality. This is an issue for which it’s good to recall Paul’s exhortation to Timothy: “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:16-17).

Faithful preaching of all areas of Scripture produces faithful followers in all areas of life.

  • Ron Van Brenk

    Thank You Melissa,

  • Joey E

    Our family is working through memorizing James. So far, our kids have not asked what it meant that Rahab was a harlot.

    Not yet, at least.

    • Teren

      Context is King isn’t it? We were memorizing Hebrews 11 when one day my then 5 year old daughter declared, “That’s who I want to be like: Rahab the prostitute.” :)

    • Gary

      Wait a second…isn’t the more important thing to remember about Rahab is that she is a part of Jesus’ genealogy?

  • Mark Soni

    Agreed. The failure to be ‘real’ about the brokenness of sexuality in the world comes from the fact that we don’t talk about it at all in our churches. Its a cultural thing because we know how crass and perverse our current culture is, so we think that talking about it in our own churches and homes must be perverse. We should be, with wisdom and tact, talking about it in our homes, but also very blunt when we exposit the Scriptures with Truth and clarity.

    I love the Word of God for portraying and telling accounts of what the BEAUTY of sexuality is: it is something God thought of within marriage! A starting point in our sermons is to show how it is for God’s Glory.

    Than I love the Word of God because when read carefully, there are very gritty accounts of how sexuality is abused and causes immense pain and suffering. I think of passages in Genesis, Judges, and even Hosea, and the constant terminology of ‘whoring’ is used in Ezekiel to describe the people of Israel in their idolotary (which includes us).

    We will still struggle with sexual immorality, but confronting it now Biblically with our children will help them see sexuality as beautiful in God’s design, and we can fight through the Word to take it back from the world; to put it back in its proper place in marriage relationships, to glorify the Lord.

  • Mark Zellner

    While it is important for churches to faithfully preach the whole text of Scripture, the attitude they take towards subjects such as sex, intimacy, and sexual crime are just as important. We can’t allow the pendulum to swing so far in the opposite direction that we are just as brash and insensitive about these matters as culture is. I have seen it happen.

    An urban preacher in inner city Chicago was going into gross detail about the way a woman athlete can have her hymen tear while jumping hurdles, and the subsequent results. I honestly have no idea how this related to the sermon, but I remember a bunch of middle school boys in the front row going ballistic that they were hearing this stuff ‘in church’.
    A bold and confident preacher I heard elsewhere spoke brazenly about his intimacy with his wife in a manner that caused my face to redden (and many others I’m sure) during his sermon.

    I could go on, I have plenty of stories of preachers and youth pastors abusing God’s word by ripping off the veil on a subject which should be dealt with modesty. Certainly we cannot avoid speaking of it, but a good standard would be sex is spoken of in a way that is reverent and holy, as well as honest. Unfortunately, all too often in our rush for the latter, we neglect the former, and thus the ‘godly instruction’ we offer comes off all too like what the world says anyway.

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  • Steve Cornell

    Good conversation starter! We also need to be more direct and specific in pre-martial counseling on this subject. When couples, for example, do not understand the differences between men and women when it comes to sex, other problems will be in the mix. Our youth need more than “don’t have sex” and “save sex for marriage” talks. Yes, as with most other areas, teaching is needed. But on this one, if we remain silent, other voices and images will fill the void.

  • Mark B.

    I agree that it is much better for these topics to come up in church rather than on the school bus. Kids need to be taught.

  • Phil Darke

    Thanks for these wise words, Melissa.

    Our churches absolutely need to be talking about these issues from the pulpit and beyond. And as parents and leaders, we absolutely need to be talking with our kids about all of these things early on in their lives, and regularly as they grow up in our homes. Otherwise, they’ll hear about it from others who likely will not be giving them a Biblical perspective on the issues. Yes, they can be awkward conversations (I recently had one with my 11-year-old daughter) but they are so very important to ensuring they understand what the Bible says about sex and their sexuality (i.e., that it is an incredible gift from God to enjoy within the context of marriage).

    I recently preached a sermon on Ephesians 5:3 (i.e., sexual immorality and covetousness). It called out what constitutes sexual immorality and focused on the only antidote that works against it – knowing our identity in Christ and understanding and truly believing that “God’s enough” for us is sufficient. (you can find the sermon link at if you’re interested in hearing more). I am so glad that the Jr. High and High Schoolers were in that sermon with their parents because I was able to strongly encourage them to talk with each other regularly about a healthy and Biblical view of sex.

    I pray that I heed the advice from that sermon and that my children feel 100% comfortable to talk with me or their mom about any questions they might have about anything as they grow up. But that won’t just happen on its own. We can’t be afraid to talk about sex in our churches or homes, and we need to initiate the early conversations no matter how difficult and awkward they might be.

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  • Brian Morgan

    Good discussion.
    The Scriptures certainly address it, but without the raunchiness that we see around us. We should not reduce our pulpit delivery to the “level” of the world in our attempt to make the topic “cool.”

    It is the biblical model for the instruction of our children to be rooted in the home. The pulpit should be a witness of the same. The level of intimacy in discussion will be different.

    Remember, it is all to be for the Glory of God!!

  • daniel

    agree with the article, but man alive does the gratuitous nature of this verse serve as a counter point hahaha:

    Yet she became more and more promiscuous as she recalled the days of her youth, when she was a prostitute in Egypt. There she lusted after her lovers, whose genitals were like those of donkeys and whose emission was like that of horses. So you longed for the lewdness of your youth, when in Egypt your bosom was caressed and your young breasts fondled.”

    • Earl

      A great passage reminding us of how many women think after they’ve given themselves away in their youth.

  • Patricia Weetrakoon

    As a sexologist (Sydney Australia) and author of a teen sex book (Teen Sex: By the Book) I know the Bible IS the best sex education source ever.

  • Gary

    The church needs to talk more about sex???? Why,it seems like every single seeker sensitive,purpose driven pastor has done a series on sex, usually based on The Song Of Solomon. (See Ed Young)

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  • Clifford D. Tate, Sr.

    I agree with your entire assessment of the need to have the whole counsel of God declared. I firmly believe that it is the will of od for every Church no matter name or denomination to go through the Bible verse by verse. I am 52 years old now and I can honestly say that although I grew up in church, there were many things in Scripture that I never heard as a kid and young person in the Church. I had a very weak knowledge of Bible truth and went on to lead a life of sexual immorality. Praise God I now have been transformed by our Lord Jesus and by His grace live a life for His Glory.

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  • vehoae

    Good article, Melissa. The principles & practices you discuss are equally important for children who are deciding with their parents on which university or college to attend. Recently, I became aware of sex courses and forums being taught/conducted at universities/colleges throughout this country. These are courses that teach students how to have intercourse and how to masturbate. Shocked to learn about these, I went to a number of such universities’ websites to check their curricula and forum pages. Sure enough, the online news agencies’ reports were accurate. This made me very relieved that my support has gone to Hillsdale College in Michigan. I would strongly encourage parents of university-bound children to be aware of what the selected university will be making available to your children on campus.

    The most recent report on this involves Allegheny College in Pennsylvania. Read about this at:

    Blessings …. vehoae

  • Trevor Bauknight

    It strikes me that it must be very difficult to teach, from a Christian perspective, that marriage is between one man and one woman when the second-wisest man in the Bible is described as having 300 wives and 700 concubines. To boot, his son turned out all right anyway.

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  • Wendy Blight

    Hi Melissa,

    Wow! What an powerful post. I love your heart and your call to teach our children the “whole counsel of God.” It is always a true blessing to find women who unabashedly LOVE and TEACH God’s Word.

    I live in Charlotte, NC as well, and Bobbie Wolgemuth gave me your name. I am so glad she did and that I stopped by for a visit. Erik Wolgemuth is my agent. I am a wife, mom, teacher and speaker for Proverbs 31 Ministries.

    Do you do guest posts? I would love to have you guest post on my blog. I love to find women who truly love God’s Word and share that love and passion with women…especially when it comes to parenting. My daughter is about to be a junior at University of Georgia and my son is going to be a sophomore in high school. So I am nearing the end of one phase of parenting and entering the next. It would be great to have your perspective on my blog.

    If you are interested, it can be something pre-written that you already have or a question and answer. I would love to connect with you if you have time.

    I pray God continues to use you mightily as you set forth with wisdom and power the Truth in His Word!!!



  • Wendy Blight

    Forgot to leave you my e-mail…