Do Not

Don’t Kiss.

Don’t Touch.

Don’t lick.

Do not what?

While Marc and I got donuts this morning, we were talking about how Christians do not like to talk about sex until it’s time for pre-marital counseling.

It’s like Christians are afraid of sex or something.

It’s such a mind trip to go from memorizing Song of Solomon 2:7, 3:5, and 8:4 that says, “DO NOT arouse or awaken love until it so desires” to think about marriage because they’re the ONLY verses I remember from the erotic love poem found in the Bible.

Even though Solomon is right, we’re the ones to blame for taking the verses partly out of context. The truth is God designed us as sexual beings to experience true intimacy between a husband and a wife.

When I was in the editing process for “Not Another Dating Book,” my editor made me rewrite this one part where I wrote about sex negatively.

I felt so embarrassed.

It’s like my Baptist Sunday School teachers won or something.

My generation grew up hearing the words “do not” so many times, it’s no wonder why so many 20-somethings have left the church. One thing I can tell you for sure: Christians need to start talking about sex in relationships a WHOLE lot sooner than marriage.

Maybe then we wouldn’t have so many broken relationships.

I am proud to say that I waited for my wedding night, but that is SO not what helps me sleep at night. Jesus didn’t say a spirit of judgmentalism will get you into the kingdom of heaven. Jesus was more harsh on the religious leaders and Pharisees of that day than anyone else.

When I’m about to go to sleep–that is when my burden becomes alive again. My heart aches for my generation. For their needs, hurt, and pain.

I want to be known as a person who loved deeply and from the heart (1 Peter 1:22).

That I prayed and took the time to care about others.

That I helped process their pain and cry with them.

That I was a good friend.

Try doing those for a while and you’ll realize with me what a miserable Christian you are and how much you desperately need God’s help to not judge. Christianity is not a list of rules. It’s about Christ’s love for His bride–the church.

Yes, it’s finally my turn to awaken love.

Yes, it’s finally my turn to be a bride.

But, I think I had it all backwards.

I was already God’s bride.

I already had his approval.

I already was His beloved and He was mine.

Hey church, it’s time we start celebrating what’s right.

“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things” (Philippians 4:8, NIV).


  • Travis Mamone

    I think we do need a better way of talking about sex. Most of the time it’s just, “Don’t do it! Don’t do it! Don’t do it! Okay, now you’re married, so have at it!” But even then there’s that underlying, “…but not too much!”

    I wonder if a lot of it comes from our culture. The way we view sex is usually (not all the time) one of two extremes: “Anything goes” or “Keep it in your pants.” I think sex is a wonderful gift from God, so while we should teach people that there is a time and place for sex, it’s still a wonderful thing that unites two people.

    (You’re probably asking, “But Travis, you still have your v-card, so how do you know sex is such a wonderful thing?” Well, uh, let’s just say I’ve done some rehearsing by myself from time to time.)

  • Renee Johnson

    Travis – TMI, TMI 🙂 haha no but seriously, it’s hot or cold. Maybe the church should take Katy Perry out for coffee or something. Now that would be interesting. Maybe you should blog about that hypothetical conversation!

  • Kathy Hansen

    Renee you have hit this one out of the park!! I love the idea of turning around the Do Not!!! into what are you doing right. Unfortunately what Travis says about the do not invading marriage is true–so many christian kids who have saved themselves deal with the results of do not while married, leading to misunderstanding, dissatisfaction and sometimes pretty deep troubles. So, my friend, keep up the Do Right so that when marriage happens you can REALLY Do Right!!!

  • Anonymous

    Renee, you are so right and Travis hit a point that really rang true with me. I was married at 20 to my BF of 5(!) years, we both grew up in good (strict) Christian homes and we were obedient to the Lord and to our parents. We waited until we got married to have sex, but after hearing for so many years that it was wrong and trying to NOT go too far – physically, when we finally got married, and had the freedom to, it was very awkward and we never did feel comfortable because in our minds we were doing something bad. It was not THE cause for our divorce but it sure contributed to it.

  • Renee Johnson

    Thanks Kathy – yes I prefer positive reinforcement versus negative. Negativity can only take you SO far!

    @Anon – I am wondering how many more people feel the same way you do. Thanks for the courage to share your story.

  • Keith

    Renee, I am not sure what you mean by this statement.

    “One thing I can tell you for sure: Christians need to start talking about sex in relationships a WHOLE lot sooner than marriage. Maybe then we wouldn’t have so many broken relationships.”

    I agree that sex needs to be discussed in the relationship, but to what extent? Actually, sexual boundaries would be good to establish and accountability prior to marriage. Unfortunately, I was not like you and was sexually active prior to marriage. Once I was “lovingly reminded by the Holy Spirit” regarding purity we made a choice to go no further than a certain point… which included basically a good night kiss. This lasted for over 6 months and the blessing that came from our obedience has been, well, quite fruitful.

    It isn’t about do’s and don’t’s, rather respecting the other persons walk with Christ and honoring their purity and obedience over your own selfish sexual desires.

    Sex in the context of marriage is a real blessing. However, even sex should not take us away from our identity as the bride of Christ and our affection should be to Him first. As the years go on sex in marriage changes. If we place too much emphasis on who we are based on how our sexual relationship is going rather than who we are as individuals in Christ we will be let down often.

    The “two becoming one” is more than for our physical and emotional pleasure. It is a portrayal of the unity of Christ and His church. So, if the “do not’s” creep into the marriage then maybe it is a reminder to sit on the bedside together and pray that the Lord will reveal the do’s…

    It will be different for everyone. And if the “do” for the bride happens to be a little less, shall we say – adventurous, than for the man, then the guy needs to step up his game and treat her tenderly.

    Having been married for many years now (My oldest of 5 children is 22) I have learned that what is good for me, or what I think is good for me, may not be so good for her. I truly don’t believe the relationships end because too many do not’s creep in, rather too little prayer together about what the do’s ought to look like. If we are to be married a lifetime then there is ample time to discover and fall deeper in love as time goes by. It is certainly not a 100 yard dash.

    And a note to the guys… Don’t rush her!

    Sorry for the length of this comment…


    Here is a good resource for newly married couples… Have a blessed day!

  • renee


    I understand what you are saying. Really, I do. I’ve heard it all my life. And as someone who has heard self = selfish, wrong, sinful, don’t, do not…etc I’m kind of at a loss on how to start thinking of sex = right, heavenly, ecstasy, etc. I don’t appreciate it when other Christians are afraid of talking about it, and especially when they just tell me to “read a book” because they’re too embarrassed to really sit down and talk about it. The problem I see with my generation is as soon as you talk about it–you’re judged. And I’m totally guilty of judging because I haven’t crossed that line. Obviously God has meant sex for marriage and I KNOW you have to be careful to talk about it not too soon. I meant Christians in generation. The church shouldn’t expect you to learn and be comfortable and know everything there is to sex inside of marriage at pre-marital counseling. It should be taught in the home, what’s appropriate, what good boundaries are, in the relationship itself, at church, with other Christians, maybe (shocker) at a sermon. Stuff like that. AND WHY ON EARTH do all Christian books expect the woman to be shy and afraid of sex and the man to be dominantly aggressive? Seriously. This bugs me. It’s so cliche and that is why I took the time to write a book and many blog posts (hopefully) about it. Marc and I did enjoy reading Sacred Marriage but even that book was about the “man” working and the “woman” at home all day and all she wants to do is talk. That is so not what other 20-somethings are experiencing now-a-days, and I find it old and archaic when churches assume they can just tell you to read some book. Let’s talk about it. Get comfortable about the fact that it needs to be talked about–otherwise we’ll just keep getting the garbage from media instead of the truth from our parents or our pastors.

  • Keith

    Great comment Renee and I completely agree with the “we should get the truth from our parents and pastors.” (Along with other points…)

    I am not advocating that 20-somethings should read a book and go through 6 pre-marital counseling sessions and they will know all they need to know about sex. (However, there are some pretty good books out there)I am saying that a Christian couple discovering sex in a marriage is no different than a couple having sex outside of marriage in that you need to start somewhere. And where to start will look quite different in every relationship. I have been married many years and my wife and I are still discovering that God has created our bodies to experience pleasures in ways that are fresh and new. To just throw out that we need to talk about sex more in the pulpit is a pretty broad statement. It is like an 8 year old saying, “Hey, I need to know about computers and you are supposed to tell me!”

    Well, what do you want to know? Hardware or software? Linux vs Windows? Internet or Intranet? RAM, ROM, BIOS, or serial ports, memory sticks or hard drives?… get my point?

    And again, I am not saying to go around preaching do’s and don’ts. I hate behavioral management Christianity. I said that when a young man and woman have their affection for Christ as their top priority and get married, if issues around this come up I believe the solution isn’t to pressure one another, rather pray together and experience the fruit of marriage by bringing the Lord into it. If they are dating then set some reasonable boundaries, and if you fail to keep them, which most young people do in my experience, then start over and show a whole lot of grace.

    Yes, the pulpit is very quiet on the topic of sex and I think for good reason. Not because it isn’t a topic we should discuss, nor people are embarrassed to discuss it, rather, if you are in a church that does expositional preaching, it rarely comes up.

    I guess the bottom line is this… what do single 20-somethings need to know about sex? The responsibility shouldn’t fall on us, as you say, archaic thinkers. If you have real questions then ask them. Throwing out statements that our parents and pastors are responsible for our sexual education is nonsense unless parents and pastors are informed about what your needs are and what your questions are. We are not mind readers.

    Sex is not a topic you just bring up in the pulpit and say hey guys… today we are going to talk about sex. This week it is the female anatomy and next week it will be the male. In week three we will see how it all fits together. (pun intended)The sermon would look one way for married people, another for your age group, and quite another for teens.

    Just like all topics in life, we need to do our own homework, come up with questions and concerns, and then feel free to involve safe people we trust to share them with.

    I think you will find that if you are genuine in your questions, most of us dinosaurs are more than happy to discuss sex. And many are very slow to judge… If they do, then find someone who understands Grace and ask them.

    And I do owe you an apology for the dominant male stereotype. You are right… it is not always the man who is the aggressor. However, Biblically speaking, Christ did come down to pursue His church. So the stereotype does fit the model just a little bit.

    Thanks for the dialog.


  • Joanna

    I agree we need to find ways to start talking about it better, more and earlier.

    I am a 20 something single Christian. I know many of my fellow singles are thinking about what it would look like to live God honouringly when it comes to sexuality now and if/when they they get married in the future but no-one tells us much. For example, the topic of birth control has come up several times in discussions with single Christian friends over the last few months. Not because they need it now, but because whether it is okay to delay/avoid having kids has huge implications for how marriage will shape our futures. It also has big implications for how we think about sex. Older people probably wouldn’t think to bring this up until pre-marital counseling and it is kinda awkward to ask. So we stay confused due to a lack of honest and helpful guidance. I’m sure there is lots of other sexuality related dilemmas where the same dynamic is in effect.

  • renee


    I agree…we shouldn’t expect anyone to be a mind reader. It really makes me sad when I see small group leaders who can’t/don’t or don’t know how to reach out to those in their group. We can’t expect pastors to cover everything and that’s one of the reasons why I think small groups is a great way to keep community going and establish community. Sometimes people are afraid to ask for it because like Joanna said it is awkaward and sometimes scary to bring up topics such as birth control, etc. Just creating conversation for those who don’t know how or might be afraid to!

    Start somewhere, right?

  • Keith

    Yes, it is an important topic and I appreciate you having the courage to bring it up. I too think small groups are a great place to start. And if I can encourage you… and other 20-somethings. Don’t be afraid to talk about it with your leaders. (Pastors, group leaders, women and men’s ministry leaders, close friends etc.) And if you encounter a group leader who is too embarrassed to discuss it then find another one.

    We live in an imperfect world with imperfect people and since this is such a touchy topic for most people I am certain it is difficult to get good straight answers. I live in Portland, OR… so there isn’t much on this side of the country that is off limits to talk about 🙂

    As far as questions like Joanna’s, unfortunately, you ask five people and you will probably get five different answers. Find one or two people you trust that display the Love and Grace of God and ask them to mentor you in this area. I am sure they will be honored to.

    Keep striving to do what is right and be bold. The world will educate you really well regarding sex. Really well in the wrong direction.


  • Anonymous

    The “church” in this country is filled with sexual sin for all the time spent saying don’t, so something is wrong, plain and simple, the facts are staggering to say the least. The problem is that we say “don’t”, we come up with a laundry list (or we call them boundaries as is the popular term), and that is the full extent of what we say. We do need to start talking about it, from a very early age. Not in Sunday sermons about the birds and the bees, but in Sunday sermons about intimacy. What is sex meant to teach us in marriage? (intimacy should be on the list as well as others like submission) We have a bunch of legalistic people in the church now who are filled with sexual sin, even if just in their minds though they won’t admit it in public, because they are longing for fulfillment outside of Christ and likely never seen real living examples of fulfillment in Christ. And we have a whole lot of preachers who might be really smart but they have only taught their flock to pray “Lord please cure me of this but don’t fulfill me” When did you last hear a sermon preached on the beauty of Christ? Or the enjoyment of Christ? Likely never if we are truly honest, at least not like those of a Spurgeon, Edwards, or Owen. “Don’t” doesn’t help anything, no…rather it is destroying our generation bit by bit. Legalism leads to death, read the Gospels and the very words of Christ Himself if you don’t believe me. We have preachers who only go so far as producing a desire for the cure at best, but NEVER producing a desire for the fulfillment.

    Maybe we would be wise as a church to look back on the church of Zinzendorf’s day and look to have a Hermhut instead of more Dresdens. Maybe it is time for the church to stop producing sermons on the 3 steps to sexual purity and focus on a year long quest to be transformed by these words, search to know sex in this context, which give us a witness to one of the most important moments in all of Church history: “You have thrilled us by causing us to delight in Your praise. You have made us for Yourself, and our hearts are restless till they find their rest in You”