Why The Way The Church Talks About Sex Does More Harm Than Good

How are you talking about sex at your church (or with your kids…or with your friends) these days?

Or are you talking about it?

Sometimes when we don’t know what to say, we say nothing. Or we say the wrong thing.

Yet our culture is talking about sex every…single…day. And increasingly, they’re talking about how the church is talking about it.

The way we talk about sex, marriage and family is coming under greater and greater scrutiny.

This is true whether Christians are addressing same-sex attraction, sex outside of marriage or marriage itself.sex

For the record, I believe that the context God designed for sex is between a man and woman, married to each other for life.

I also realize that fewer and fewer people share that conviction with each passing year. Increasingly, the view I hold is the view of a small minority. I understand that.

But the fact that some church leaders hold a minority view means the way we talk about it becomes more important every year.

Consequently, I’m convinced that how we talk about sex needs to change.

Given the tone of some of the current dialogue, the damage done by the way we talk about sex may actually rival the damage done by sex outside of marriage itself (or inside marriage…married sex isn’t always harmless sex).

I don’t say that lightly.

So what needs to change?

I’m not sure anyone’s cracked the code on this, but here are a few things I think could help us create a dialogue that helps more and hurts less in the church.

1. Don’t just talk about sexual sin, talk about church sin too.

Everyone has sins they focus on and sins they ignore.

The tendency, of course, is to focus on the sins of others and ignore your own.

The church is no different.

So here’s a proposal:

Deal with the church sin everyone in the church seems to tolerate.

Let me explain.

When you explore a passage like Galatians 5: 16-26, you notice that included in the same list that speaks of sexual sins is a long list of what I call church sins.

Church sins are sins Christians engage in all the time that frankly, no one talks about or addresses.

Right alongside sexual immorality, impurity and ‘wild parties’, Paul lists:




outbursts of anger

selfish ambition






If you add gossip and gluttony to the list, you’ve pretty much got a complete list of church sins we too often tolerate.

This list of sins actually describes the life of too many churches and too many people who would declare themselves to be ‘mature’ Christians. (I wrote about why we need a new definition of Christian maturity here, and shared some thoughts on what’s wrong with Christian discipleship here.)

We are so blind to our own sin that we not only tolerate them, we sometimes celebrate them.

What do I mean?

Too many prayer meetings are thinly disguised gossip marathons.

Many churches could easily call their next potluck Gluttonfest. It wouldn’t be inaccurate.

More than a few Christians justify division, dissension, hostility, quarrelling and jealousy in the name of being ‘right’.

This is terrible. It really is.

And before you think I’m pointing fingers, I’m not.

I have gossipped.

I have eaten too much too often.

I have caused division and hurt.

I struggle with envy.

I can be arrogant.

Don’t get me wrong…sexual sin has some heartbreaking consequences.

But so does church sin. Seriously, just look at the state of the church today where church sin gets neglected and you will see droves of people staying away and walking away.

So…what if church leaders:

Never talked about sexual sin unless we also addressed church sin?

It would reframe the conversation.

It might even change some hearts. Including ours.


2. Deal with church sin…seriously.

So do you never deal with someone else’s sin?

Well, you do. But we’re not nearly there yet.

Before dealing with someone else’s sexual sin, deal with the church sin that lives inside you and your community.

If we keep reading Galatians 5 we can see that Paul had an astounding picture of the church in mind. Here’s what he said:

“But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives:








gentleness, and


There is no law against these things!

Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there.” (Galatians 5: 22-24 NLT)

So think about it.

Why would someone struggling with their sexuality want to come into a place of judgment, anger, division, gossip and arrogance?

That’s right. They wouldn’t.

But they might want to find a place of love, kindness, faithfulness and maybe even a place characterized by self-control.

Ironically, the very thing most people look for when they express themselves sexually is acceptance and love. And it’s the very thing they are rarely able to find among many Christians.

Could you imagine if the church got serious about our sins?

What if we repented?

What if we became a community of truth and grace?

What if?


3. Put your arm around people as though you were one of them…because you are.

Paul called himself the chief of sinners.

People outside the church today have no doubt that people inside the church are sinners. They just don’t think that we think we’re sinners.

Too often when we open our mouths, we accuse.

We condemn. We confront.

What if we changed that?

What if we came alongside people and said “I know what it’s like…it’s hard isn’t it?”

I always try to start a conversation by saying something like “We all have issues. Some of mine may be different than yours, and some may be the same, but I know what’s like to mess up. Let me know if you want to have a conversation about it.”

It’s amazing what happens when you change your stance, put your arm around someone and say “Let’s figure this out together.” I don’t always get it right, but I try.

Church leaders, put your arm around people as though you were one of them. Because you are.


What Do You Think?

I realize this is a complex and difficult subject. I’d love to know what you’re doing that has helped advance the dialogue about sex and sin in the church.

I’ll be monitoring the comments on this post carefully (be polite, be respectful), but please scroll down and leave a comment.

I’d love for us to learn together on this.


  1. Kristy on September 15, 2021 at 11:04 pm

    Thank you for this. It’s something I’ve thought about a lot after going through a divorce because of abuse (some of it including what I will call repeated sexual and physical disrespect). I’ve often contemplated the ways in which the church could have helped but didn’t. A few of those you list above. I think another way in which the church could help would be to more carefully and thoughtfully teach what it means to be in a loving *and* respectful relationship, including what it means to be in a loving and respectful marriage. It felt like this topic was either seldom addressed, or addressed in a way that felt foreign. The reason I mention love and respect is because my ex used the title of the popular book against me, constantly claiming that he didn’t need to respect me, only to love me, as if one could exist without the other. Issues of sex were not approached with a relational view, but with a transactional view. What constitutes healthy sex in a healthy relationship was seldom addressed (and I don’t think “wives should deny sex less” is a helpful blanket comment in a hurtful relationship). I think if I had had a better understanding of what a healthy sex life and relationship look like in real practice, I could have avoided much pain during and after my first marriage.
    Where sin in our marriage existed, it was tempting to keep quiet for multiple reasons. Firstly, because sex feels like a private topic even after private efforts don’t result in solutions. Secondly, because we felt such pressure to conform to expectations that showing cracks in that facade felt like it would endanger our reputations and, yes, our ministries. Thirdly, because abusive spouses encourage their significant other never to speak out about anything that could be perceived as abuse. These underlying factors worked in tandem with the lack of discussion around healthy relationships to slowly decay the marriage, one abusive action or one fragment of lost trust at a time.
    One other thing I think would be very helpful in addressing Church Sin, sexual sin, or any sin within a congregation would be to make it more okay to be imperfect in public view. How exactly this works is something I have thought about often since before my ex and I separated, and I do not have perfect answers. I do know it is a weakness in many church communities. Hidden sin is often unaddressed sin, but it’s also extremely socially (and academically and fiscally) risky to address many things. This can be especially true in ministerial or seminary settings, such as those in which my ex and I found ourselves.
    If you’ve read this far, I thank you. I genuinely believe the above issues are things the church must address if we are to have an ongoing effective impact on our society. I pray God gives us all wisdom as we contemplate how best to do so.

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  8. Yetunde Adeyi on November 28, 2020 at 3:36 am

    Waoh! Great post Carey. Thank you. But I’ll like to know- How I can balance the teachings on sexual purity? as I’m a passionate advocate of that course. How do we talk about it such that the people who need the message don’t run away, but come closer for help? I look forward to your response. Thank you.

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  10. Boatmann on September 6, 2020 at 9:07 am

    Right on point Carey. To the church today, sin is sexual sin, the rest are just not important. But it seems it takes a personal quiet rebellious attitude to stay in a particular church since every local church has got some traditions which is out of scripture. I visited a Pentecostal church and during the Lord’s supper session the leader was bold to tell the church “if you are not married and having sex don’t come and take communion.”, I agree sexual sin is bad, but that was the only criteria to he used to rule out those who deserved to take the Lord’s Supper.
    What the hell???, how about the real problem of the church (pride, arrogance and division etc) which was even preached about that very day?

    • David on April 23, 2021 at 11:30 am

      I was brought up in a Christian church that taught that married sex was only for procreation … I have come across several other ‘Christian’ groups that spout that nonsense. Also, I have noticed that all the churches I went; brethren, Alliance, 3 Baptists (many believe that if even innocent party of a divorce that can only get married of spouse dies!) and that the Bible got it wrong – yikes!! they will punish (excommunicate) if a spouse steps out of marriage and altho will say that a sin to withhold (I Cor 7) but they refuse to punish. I no longer call myself a Christian as I do not want to be associated with a group of liars, hypocrites and non-Bible believers – I am a saved Bible believer. The vast majority of ‘Christians’ do not believe the Bible and only use it as a prop ie Trump … if you think that Christians believe the Bible you are naïve.

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    Great expression. Way to go! The truth comes in many forms

  12. David Jeter on April 15, 2020 at 8:28 pm

    This resonates with me so much. I was one of those who had had it with people shaking fingers in my face in church because I had warehouses full of problems when I was younger. Have been yelled at by pastors because I was always dating girls I wasnt attracted to (as opposed to girls I WAS attracted to as I dont have same sex attraction or anything like that) and slander, verbal abuse, standing in my way to fix the problems due to their word games redefining words and love bombing, started learning about NLP and meditation (both can be found in the Bible) along the lines of crucifying the flesh and they still condemned me. The problem was endless domestic abuse growing up so I dated women that reminded me of my mom as I was trying to save her from abusive sociopathic father. Eventually after renouncing my faith at 25 became an Atheist and then a Laveyan Satanist, only to years later go to the Catholic church (where I will remain probably til my dying breath). I was very well versed in theology and I used to blaspheme God as Jesus had said “whoa to you if you cause any of these little ones to stumble, it would be better if you had a milestone attached around your neck and thrown into the deepest ocean” so my reasoning was if I was going to Hell for apostasy, I would take a few of them with me fulfilling my need for revenge. I couldn’t stay sober, couldn’t quit smoking, daily suicidal thoughts, body dysmorphic disorder (with face of Male model), couldn’t show up to a job on time, would say no to attractive girls showing me interest to pursue average to below average looking girls (knowing I was lying to them as I was not attracted to them), would stay up til 4 in the morning downloading porn. The “problems” these people had I dont classify as problems, not like I had. There was endless emotional abuse, sexual abuse at uncles house (first exposure to porn was at 7) and the lunatic would constantly tear down my masculinity because he was so jealous of the female attention I got as I was such a pretty boy, IQ around 135, he also was beating on me for a time which I vaguely remember. Here I am 16 years later (at 41) after God fixed me, sober, havent used nicotine in years, nofap hard mode (no sexual stimulation of any kind), freezing cold showers daily, will be at single digit body fat within 4 months!!! And NO body dysmorphic disorder. Havent had suicidal thoughts in years. Havent been late to a job in years. People in the evangelical churches I came out of never seem to stop and think about all of the things you mentioned and it DOES affect young people. Many times it drives us to Atheism or Satanism. I am thankful God carried me through all of that, and He fixed me, thank you Jesus in spite of those wicked lazy people who condemned me for wanting to become Christ like…

    • Yetunde Adeyi on November 28, 2020 at 3:17 am

      Waoh! Glory to Jesus! An awesome and powerful testimony.

    • Robin Lever on April 23, 2021 at 4:53 am

      Wow that’s an amazing story. You have pushed past some things that could have destroyed you. You sound like an amazing person. I hope that you are using all of that story to help others through their secret struggles. Thank you for sharing all of that.

  13. Ralph B. on October 9, 2019 at 3:39 pm

    In my life I find there are many things regrettable; so many of those years I didn’t know the need to confess those sins. As I learned the need, to confess my sins and ask forgiveness from God; it became more evident, this is going to be a long journey. My young adult life was still problematic; as leaving home for vocational studies, more and more things, too which knowing better, allowed still more sin in my life took place, causing me to back away from Church. My Dad called a pastor of a Church in the area where my living quarters were; the pastor came to visit me, with encouragement to visit the Church; there was the starting of recovery for me. Meeting a young lady who showed interest in me; gained my heart, and in our early dating was good for several months; where finally we had sex, she became pregnant; from there the event was hard, in the dealing with the issue now marriage; this became a disaster three year later; she started taking other men, which broke the family.
    All this to say: I did not know what too do. There was no one, who gave council, nor did anyone condemn. There was in this time angry faces for what I had done.
    As I grew through the problems too be faced; I did go back to Church, participating in Bible study, learning more about what God can do for those who will let Him take the lead. I am thankful for the love God had showed me. My heart’s desire is to help others in there hard lives to see the way making life real in the eyes of God. I remember that sin is still ready to take me another ride, down that same road of disaster.
    From all the blogs, there are some who are very discouraged about the events in their lives. I see these things, wishing for possibilities too gain the wisdom, to help. In the Church where services, my family attend, also have some short comings; to which I ask God for help. May the Lord step mightily into His Churches with sympathy and empathy, helping troubled hearts of all natures!

    • Don T Crowd on March 31, 2020 at 4:39 am

      Carey Nieuwhof is right. I’d like to add something that I was searching for before I saw Carey’s article.
      All Christian Pastor, evangelist trip over passionate sex. They can’t address it in church. They can’t talk about unbridled, primitive, downright, truly writhing sex. They’ll see it like a snake, the devil, the deviant, the sinner, the immoral, judging it in the greatest way, but the greatest means possible. They will get attacked, offended if you keep on the topic. Not because of the offensive nature of it, but because they can’t handle it. They’ll start spouting and spitting immorality and church division and verses that say you’re a deviant and that you should be ignored and parted from ( of course).
      There has been no pastor that I know of (or evangelist or charismatic) who has adequately explained the 50% divorce rate in Christian marriages. The nature of intellectual conversation is directly inverse to awesome sex. Has anyone had a intellectual conversation during awesome sex? Have you actually seen what it does to your libido and hers?
      Pastors don’t want to expose their sex life, because first and foremost they’re not proud of it. Not because of the impropriety of it. In fact, if they did, they’d lose half the congregation, not from the aburdity of it, but because of the boredom of what they do in the bedroom. It really is disgusting if you thing about your pastor having sex, but because of they look disgusting (Both of them), not because of impropriety of it. Both of them. Can’t say that’s it’s a 100% of the time, but 99% is pretty close.
      Because how can leaders understand true true true real true love that doesn’t require good conversation to stay in it? When have they ever been in true true true love ? Most have had alcoholic fathers, so they’ve dealt with drug addiction, and social pain, not love pain of pure romantic courting and pure dumbfounded blind love. They don’t know it, and refuse to believe in such a thing and must believe in love as a choice as supreme.
      That’s wrong, if not solely, on the result that it leads to a 50% divorce rate. There is such a thing as “natural love” that started as lust and formed a bond stronger than steal. It has sailed a thousand ships and slayed dragons. Intellectual love? That’s over-rated, should be called z-rated love for going off the boat. That misguidance leads to the 50% divorce rate we have in the US in both Christian and non-christian families. Maybe that’s the type of sex the Christian leaders have. The ones that are truly gentle and kind (or worse yet, meek) have less testosterone in general. Manly men aren’t generally known to be gentle. They’re strong, vibrant, active, and very sexual. Take the sex part away and they get broken along with any of the leaders of the church.
      And have you noticed that most if not all true-to-the-end pastors had a dad who was alcoholic? Bless their heart. They cannot comprehend the other side of the story. With alcoholic fathers, they’ve dealt with drug addiction, and social pain, not the love pain of a pure romantic courting and pure dumbfounded blind love. They couldn’t lend themselves to that risk of getting hurt more than they’ve already experienced in their life. It’s a lot of pain to have had a alcoholic father. But that’s where they should stay because they’ve ruined sex altogether in their explanations of it.
      It all begins with the word “lust.” If you automatically recoil at that word, it’s a trained response we’ve learned in any developed society but moreso in a Christian one. The usage of the word Lust is where it’s reputation went sideways. Lust is an important part of true love. Any lust that goes long enough especially when it is limited to one particular target, turns into an undescribeable bond. That bond is more difficult break under stress than love without lust. Men have to chase women, not the other way around that Western Society has expertly fostered as a means to civilize the most barbaric (and intelligent, I might add) of men.
      In the Netflix, “are all men pedophiliacs?” documentary, the average age of women bearing children was 13. Up until around the year 2000.
      Was that because men were bad? Is nature bad? Before the year 2000, before media, before Christianity, who can deny that life was more natural?
      Sure there were more wars, more suffering, death at an early age and everything that our society has shed. With competition for space because of overcrowding, because we populated the world (way before Christianity, Buddhism, islam, and media). In any big population the need for unnatural means to survive, increases. Now we’re trying to get back to being natural, organic, and eat everything our great ancestors ate.
      Well has anyone figured out organic sex? Natural sex? Before big society came in and structured it to the way they want it?
      Everyone thinks we’ve done away with slavery, but every person in a society is a slave to it’s rules and regulations. We’ve all had to endure sacrifices, and the biggest of those is true love.

  14. Julie on September 1, 2019 at 3:38 pm

    How is anyone’s sexuality or sexual identity anyone’s business. As long as the sex is concentual and legal why would anyone care enough to make a hurtful, mean judgement. What I do iin my bed doesn’t effect any Christian’s life so why do they focus on it? I just don’t get it. It’s strange that Christian’s sit around thinking of other people’s sexual orientation or behavior and then lash out with disgust and hatred at any opportunity. What’s the pay off for demeaning another person and condemning them. The only payoff I can see is that they get to make themselves feel RIGHT and it relieves them from looking at their own issues and they get to feel selfrighteous. Anything that causes discomfort or emotional pain to another human should be avoided at all times. Believe how you want to believe but it’s never okay to use your belief to invoke sadness, anger, shame, chaos or isolation for another. It is unnecessary and unkind behavior and just mean spirited and accomplishes nothing but seperation and subjugation. It’s not cool at all. Focus on your own backyard and don’t worry about your neighbors. It seems obvious.

  15. Julie on September 1, 2019 at 3:36 pm

    How is anyone’s sexuality or sexual identity anyone’s business. As long as the sex is conceptual and legal why would anyone care enough to make a hurtful, mean judgement. What I do iin my bed doesn’t effect any Christian’s life so why do they focus on it? I just don’t get it. It’s strange that Christian’s sit around thinking of other people’s sexual orientation or behavior and then lash out with disgust and hatred at any opportunity. What’s the pay off for demeaning another person and condemning them. The only payoff I can see is that they get to make themselves feel RIGHT and it relieves them from looking at their own issues and they get to feel selfrighteous. Anything that causes discomfort or emotional pain to another human should be avoided at all times. Believe how you want to believe but it’s never okay to use your belief to invoke sadness, anger, shame, chaos or isolation for another. It is unnecessary and unkind behavior and just mean spirited and accomplished nothing but seperationand subjugation. It’s not cool at all. Focus on your own backyard and don’t worry about your neighbors. It seems obvious.

    • David on September 1, 2019 at 3:52 pm

      Think your in the wrong place as this a Christian and where the Bible is believed and so yes according to the Bible men being men and women with women is wrong – sorry

    • Jed Chandler on July 2, 2020 at 12:23 pm

      Yes, you make some fair points there. We are not supposed to judge and yet there we are judging people non-stop. I don’t actually know why we have focused so much on other people’s sexuality, as Jesus himself doesn’t mention same-sex attraction at all in the gospels, which are our principal literary source of faith. I’m really sorry that we, as a group, have hurt you, Julie.

  16. Jason Williams on May 20, 2019 at 5:46 am

    I think it is also wise to address the way the church talks about marriage and sex in general. Sex and sexual attraction is an integral part of marriage. We are all familiar with how we, ourselves become attracted to others. There are many different people out there whose brains are hard wired differently. I’ve found that most people can become attracted to someone over time, meaning that the attraction can grow. Another smaller population of people (myself included) have a very visual based attraction and if the criteria for what we find attractive is not met on some level the attraction won’t grow. That’s not saying that we cannot eventually find non tangible things we are attracted to in our mates, but that if the initial attraction is not there the non tangibles won’t ever be realized. If you look at the way the church addresses this they always point to the character traits of individuals (Proverbs 31) but totally ignore the physical attraction aspect that is addressed in Song of Solomon. A person’s character will go so far in an initial attraction and might not go anywhere for someone whose attraction is more visually based. Repeatedly I’ve heard sermons about the evils and perils of visual attraction and the way it “degrades” people specifically women in general. The reality is that we all are attracted to certain things and repelled by others. People in the world (non Christian) are not wholly wrapped up in externals. If you watch reality dating shows NO ONE wants a beautiful demon. They want someone who has a character they can relate to and get along with but also someone who they can envision themselves wanting to go to bed with. Ironically most pastors who preach on the ills of physical attraction often have good looking wives. People fall all over the spectrum on the basis of character and physical attractiveness. But we are generally given a polar choice of a physically attractive despot vs a wonderful person of character who fell out of the ugly tree and hit every branch coming down. It is true that the Bible does say that beauty is fleeting but we also are given many examples of very beautiful women that played their part in God’s plan (Sarah, Rebekah, Rachel, Esther) and one (the only one mentioned) who was not very attractive (Leah).

  17. Embracing Reality on April 29, 2019 at 6:22 pm

    It should be obvious to any believer what is also obvious more and more even to unbelievers, our society is breaking down. Historically marriage has always been the most basic building block of every civilization that ever existed. Now marriages are not only breaking down in the church, fewer and fewer are even bothering to marry. I can’t think of anything that has been more damaging to marriage than the sexual revolution except possibly the no-fault divorce system. If this goes unchecked long enough not only will there not be a church we won’t have a civilization.

    All sin should be dealt with. Absolutely! Hold men accountable for their sexual sins? Certainly! However, there’s a massive blind spot in the church. Is it willful? I’m talking about the sexual sins and rebelliousness of women. Make all the excuses for them in the world if you like but most young women raised in church are sexually active before they get out of high school. How many pending divorces come through the counseling department of the average church because a wife is quitting her marriage for completely unbiblical reasons? Single men, young and old are losing interest in marriage. Under the circumstances they should be.

    The church is losing men. I just told you why. Much more and they’ll all be gone.

    • Jason Williams on May 20, 2019 at 6:01 am

      The church has always had a double standard in dealing with men and women (society does too just look at divorce courts). Porn is always a man’s problem and when a man rejects a woman’s advances because she just “isn’t his type” he is called a jerk. When a woman does the same thing it’s her prerogative. Equally when a man is having problems in a marriage and complains that his wife is not providing him with sex it’s alway’s -‘ “how is he not meeting her needs?” whereas if a woman’s husband is straying and checking out other women she’s always viewed as the victim.

    • Mari R. on June 1, 2019 at 1:48 am

      To Embracing Reality,
      Every society goes through shifts and changes. The consequences of these changes are ALWAYS mixed– some good, some not.
      No society escapes change, especially in the long term.
      Conservative Christians and other religious conservatives have particular problems with tolerating, let alone approving of, these changes.
      The days when Christendom ruled supreme are gone. American freedoms gave people the opportunity to vote with their actions to increasingly oppose the tight restrictions of Christianity, especially with regard to sexuality. As you and others point out, the sexual revolution has consequented some negative occurrences. But lost on most Christians, the sexual revolution has also produced some major social benefits: newfound opportunities for women to discover and develop all of their abilities, not just the traditionally feminine ones. Contraceptives have freed couples, especially women, from the personal, financial, and health burdens of extreme and ill-timed multiparity. Wives now contribute to the family income, allowing greater numbers of families to reap tbe benefits of home ownership.
      I can go on identifying many more.
      I am always disturbed when I see evangelicals and other conservative Christians choosing to ignore or belittle the benefits of modern progress.
      No matter our values, we all inhabit a single country. Neither the left nor the right is going away!
      It’s high time for the two sides to figure out how, going forward, all of us can set up American society so each side can live the way they choose within U.S. territory of their own.
      Our mutual futures are at stake!

      • Gaudencia Masingu on June 25, 2019 at 10:14 am

        Thanks so much Carey on bringing up this all important subject. I love this blog It is easy to understand, it is educative and It’s refreshing for me when I hear church leaders speak of sins as equals rather than in person determined priority because we all have our own sin issues, but if we struggle in one, we are guilty of all; therefore, not one of us is better than our brother or sister.

    • David Dods on June 25, 2019 at 12:13 pm

      If I was not a Christian I would never get married. Furthermore I was brought in a church that taught that even married sex was wrong unless for procreation – the Bible doesnt say that but unfortunately many Christians beleive that – most so-called Christians are full of BS and are really not Bible believing Christians.

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  19. Ntha on November 12, 2018 at 1:14 am

    Thanks so much Carey on bringing up this all important subject. I write from Southern Africa and as a pentecostal, my observation as well has been been that, we seem to place so much emphasis on sexual sins to a point where it is like we have categorized sins with sexual sin being top on the list. This, to my observation has created even clear categories in the church between those who are married seemingly feeling better or seen as such because they don’t have to deal or struggle with this “heinous sin”, and those who are not married having to struggle with not finding themselves falling into this “sin” hence desperately seeking to get married. This is particularly so very difficult for single young women. Yet Word of God is very clear as you have outlined from Galatians on the fruit of the Spirit in which God clearly outlines what He deems a sinful life and a holy life for us Christians. At times I even do worry for ourselves as Christians that we get to Heaven, we will receive a shock of our lives to find that those we thought were “more sinners” because of their sexual sins are on the top list of God’s list of saints than those who felt because they had no sexual sins. It is indeed a subject I pray daily that the Holy Spirit brings up for churches to reflect on, because I feel we are daily, as Christians neglecting the cultivation of the fruit of the Spirit of love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control, humility etc focusing more on being free from sexual sin, yet our lives daily in our churches, families, workplaces, communities etc are riddled with envy, impurity, other lustful pleasures, idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambitions, dissension, divisions, pride. Let’s continue to ask the Holy Spirit to help us discern these truths about God’s Word.

  20. Vanessa on August 3, 2017 at 3:10 pm

    Carey, I love your blogs. I love their simplicity and clarity. I love the way you address everyday issues in our Christian walk and demystify them, place them in pragmatic perspective. I wholeheartedly agree with this – we cannot pick sin to condemn on the basis of societal prejudice. Why would any sin outrank another? I cringe when homosexual sin is singled out from the pulpit. On church sin, my husband and I have spent a traumatic year coming alongside church leadership to help steer and correct issues of financial mismanagement, a lack of accountability and transparency and spiritual arrogance. (We were part of leadership.) The push back was disappointing. (This is not a whine about petty issues, they were real and had the potential to hurt those young in faith; they certainly challenged ours.) The end result of speaking the truth in love was us having no choice but to leave. Technically, we were kicked out. It’s been brutal, we feel as if we laid down our lives in order to protect the Church, 6 months on and we still grieve our loss. I believe in truth and light; I believe in grace and love. Calling out corporate Church sin has cost much. Would I do it again? If I was convicted again that it was a matter of obedience, i would, without a doubt.

  21. Dave Francis on October 7, 2016 at 6:14 pm

    Thanks Carey. It’s refreshing for me when I hear church leaders speak of sins as equals rather than in person determined priority.

  22. Linda Bogert on October 7, 2016 at 8:35 am

    Loved this article, Carey! We all have our own sin issues, but if we struggle in one, we are guilty of all; therefore, not one of us is better than our brother or sister. We are called to love God above all and love people as ourselves. Regardless. I hope we become better at it or we stand to lose our world to the message of Christ.

  23. Debbie on July 6, 2016 at 12:06 pm

    I agree …we all have issues! I remember my parents describing the very strict church they grew up in. No makeup, jewelry, movies, etc. But they gossiped a lot. They were quick to point to someone who wasn’t keeping their rules. My parents left the church and received many letters from the congregants about their ‘sin’. Eventually my parents found a grace filled church and they continued to grow in their faith walk with the Lord.

    • Berenger2 on June 25, 2018 at 7:34 am

      Yeah gossiping has been the most difficult church sin for me to handle. As a non-Christian I chose my associates carefully and gossip was a non-event. So being confronted with even small amounts at church was a shocker. I have found it relatively rare in the secular world. As with rudeness and arrogance – a lack of genuine warmth. Sexual sinners and boozers can be far more humble and kind. Lord please forgive me! This is a daily struggle.

  24. Paul Cummings on September 3, 2015 at 5:58 am

    You couldn’t have spelled it out better Carey. I once heard a pastor say “before you point your finger at someone else’s sin, turn that finger towards yourself and recognize your own sinfulness first”. We tend to focus, as Christians on sexual immorality while we allow all the other sins mentioned in Galatians go unnoticed and unchecked as a church unless it gets serious enough and then discipline becomes the norm rather than discussion and forgiveness. Well said! Thanks Carey!

  25. bfajeremy on August 2, 2015 at 11:45 pm

    4. Stop treating chastity as a zero-sum game. This goes along with treating sexual sin the same as any other kind of sin. No one expects someone to walk into church, immediately shed all pride, and then the first time this person displays arrogance they shun them, gossip about them, and begin discussing church discipline. That’s because people view pride as something that everybody struggles with and nobody is free of. We just need to view sexual sin the same way. The question is not whether or not you are chaste; the question is whether or not you are engaged in an ongoing effort to bring your sexuality under the dominion of Christ. If we viewed sexual sin in this way we could start talking about it in church again, instead of pretending that no one is having premarital sex because Christians don’t do that. Christians do have premarital sex, but they’re trying to be better; God is working in their lives. Just like he does with pride or any other sin.

    This would enable us, instead of ignoring sexual sin, to actively disciple people: “dude, how are you doing this week?” “Well, I took a girl home from the club again. Not too good.” “Alright, well thank God for the cross. Why do you think you did that?” “Because I really felt lonely, man.” “Thanks for being willing to tell me that. How can we minister to you and help you feel loved and accepted?” Etc. This is how we should talk about sex in the church.

    In short, view chastity as an ongoing process of sanctification rather than as a zero-sum game where you demand sexual perfection from someone and ostracize them the minute they prove their humanity.

  26. Vanessa Parra on July 14, 2015 at 9:04 am

    Thank you for this. At first I really struggled with what to do with the US Supreme Court’s decision on gay marriage. I read this blog and your other one on what your experience has been in Canada with legalized gay marriage and how we should respond. I have truly been convicted of my judgments and love to read what Pastors and leaders of our churches are saying about all this. Great job!

  27. Bill on July 5, 2015 at 8:57 pm

    Very thoughtful words! In my experience focus on sin doesn’t help solve the problem, it actually tends to make it worse because you focus on it. Following Christ should never be about a set of sins to avoid but about the transforming process of a relationship with a risen Christ. Both inside and outside the church, we are all helpless slaves to sin without a continual walk with Him. It’s a sciptural principal that as we walk in the light He cleanses us from all unrighteousness. Let the Holy Spirit do the work of convicting all of us (both inside and outside) of sin. Then we simply let go of it for something better.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on July 6, 2015 at 6:00 am

      Thanks Bill. I think dialogue around what is true and how God wants us to live is ultimately helpful and life-giving. That motivates me when I talk about it.

      • Bill on July 7, 2015 at 8:20 am

        Agreed. A discussion about how he wants us to live should lead us to an awareness that he’s not concerned with our behavior but about giving us a new life in the Spirit.

  28. Matthewand Linda Elkan on July 3, 2015 at 10:43 pm

    I am a Jewish follower of Jesus. I was raised on the upper west side of Manhattan in the 1960s by a left wing secular Jewish family. “Sin” was not part of our lexicon. It was only by the direct and specific intervention of the Holy Spirit that I was convicted of my sin and learned the meaning of sin.
    I agree that as a church and as individuals we must remove the log from our eyes before we adress the speck in the eyes of our unbelieving brothers and sisters. Moreover we have been given a Great Commission, and we must spread God’s Word regardless of the consequences. I am afraid, however, that even the most humble approach to those who do not believe will often result in an incredulous rejection of the very notion of sin, as well as some anger directed at the messenger’s insensitive (bigoted) suggestion that the sinful behavior in question was anything more than an exercise of one’s Constitutionally protected autonomy.
    Nonetheless, we must persevere, speak the truth in love and recognize that it is through the Holy Spirit alone that anyone is convicted of their sin and ultimately brought to saving faith.
    Thank you for reading my comment. Blessings, Matthew

  29. Evan Machnic on July 2, 2015 at 6:24 am

    I think it would help if we approached the subject of sin from a humanist perspective. Sin has typically been thought of as a religious topic and that carries with it a lot of baggage. In the secular sense, sin is really just bad deeds that severely violate secular moral standards. When you really think about it through this lens, the conversation can be much more meaningful among a greater number of people.

  30. Angie on July 1, 2015 at 10:03 pm

    Excellent, thought provoking article! I really enjoyed this and while I agree with so much of what is said, I am not doing everything I could be doing to walk the walk. I have been left with food for thought, thanks!

  31. Ms Mime on July 1, 2015 at 11:29 am

    Thank you! This is such a Good read! I look forward to reading more of your work. Please keep speaking truth. I was convicted. I found you from a link that a friend posted on fb. Many blessings!

  32. Mike on February 8, 2015 at 11:30 pm

    i don’t think tweeting, “The damage done by the way Christians talk about sex may rival the damage done by sex.” is helpful. Yeah, it has shock value which may lead some people to the blog. Without reading the entire blog, however, to others it may seem like sex outside of marriage is justified by the church’s failings in teaching about sex. I know that’s not your intent.
    I also think it would be helpful (since the blog began by mentioning “50 Shades of Grey”) to add that christians should avoid “50 Shades of Grey” in both print and cimematic forms. In the same way one need not become a drug addict in order to love and speak to drug addicts, we need not read this book or watch the movie in order to have informed conversations about God’s standard of purity for our lives, and how crossing that line can have profound consequences and lead to deep and far reaching scars.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on February 9, 2015 at 6:44 am

      I think you have the wrong blog. That’s not what I tweeted and that’s not what I’m talking about. 50 Shades of Grey didn’t come up at all in this post or my tweet. I’m actually making the opposite points of the article of which you speak.

  33. yoyo on December 17, 2014 at 10:16 pm

    The minority? You’re not in the minority and never will be.. The popular media is doing a good job on you.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on December 18, 2014 at 5:45 am

      Not sure where you’re from, but the Christian world view is not the primary world view in Canada anymore. Not by a long shot. Increasingly it’s less so in the US as well.

      • David Dods on February 24, 2019 at 12:23 am


  34. Fred on November 8, 2014 at 12:26 pm

    nailed it

  35. Cheryl M on October 29, 2014 at 11:40 am

    I don’t think we can really put a distinction on “sexual sins” and “church sins.” Way too high a percentage of people in the pews are committing sexual sins (fornication, pornography, sexual refusal within marriage, etc.) So how about when we talk about sexual sins, we don’t talk about “sins that other people are tempted to do” but address Christians as well? But also talk about the proper setting for sex and its purpose–the goodness of sex and not just the sexual sins.

  36. Cherie Silas on October 25, 2014 at 9:45 am


  37. […] Why The Way The Church Talks About Sex Does More Harm Than Good by Carey Nieuwhof […]

  38. 6-String Salvo, October 24, 2014 | Mike Lee on October 24, 2014 at 4:31 am

    […] Sexual sin isn’t the only sin listed in the Bible.  There are church sins, too, that we should talk about says Carey […]

  39. Rob Knight on October 23, 2014 at 10:25 pm

    I’ve had this conversation a number of times with friends. I often hear the idea that sexual sin is no different than any other sin. I guess it depends on what someone means by that. True, Jesus died for every kind of sin, but Paul says that sexual sin is unique when he said to the Corinthians: “Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body.”

    • Carey Nieuwhof on October 24, 2014 at 9:41 am

      Rob that’s a great distinction. Thank you. The way I usually teach it is that sexual sin is not a great sin, but the consequences and scars of sexual sin are much tougher to recover from than many other sins. That also goes to Rev.Kate’s point below too.

      • sardiseannomore on October 25, 2014 at 11:08 pm

        So I would say that sin is all the same, because it all has the same effect on us and that is separating us from God, leaving us feeling guilt and shame, and exposing us to evil. In fact all sin is punishable by death so they have the same seriousness about them. Additionally, as Carey Nieuwhof said, the scars from sexual immorality are more haunting. That is one reason there is more emphasis on this sin throughout the Bible, because God is trying to spare us from the hurt that is a result of our actions. I hope that as you search out things you find the answers in Jesus Christ.

        • Carey Nieuwhof on October 26, 2014 at 5:35 am

          Agreed…thanks for this. God does try to spare us the hurt we would otherwise cause others and ourselves.

      • Berenger2 on June 25, 2018 at 7:40 am

        Yes that’s true but pride damages others more perhaps.

  40. revkate on October 23, 2014 at 3:04 pm

    Another element in this is most denomination’s poor record on sexual abuse by clergy and sexual violence in society. Why is the church more concerned about sex between two adults who love each other than about sexual violence and abuse?

    • Carey Nieuwhof on October 24, 2014 at 9:44 am

      Thank you for sharing this Kate. Sexual abuse has left many many scars. We need to confess and address sexual abuse as leaders and become a source of help, not further hurt.

  41. chad on October 23, 2014 at 1:15 am

    I can’t help but frame any discussion of sexual sin, even same gender sex in light of Romans 2:1 which reads: “You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things.”

    We love Romans 1 because it seems to suggest that there is someone over “there” who is worst than me. Then Paul makes the bait and switch, “You are no better.” Ouch!

    Thank you for the way you also situated the conversation in the importance of confession and naming of communal sin.

  42. jeffcook on October 21, 2014 at 2:06 pm

    From CS Lewis:

    Finally, though I have had to speak at some length about sex, I want to make it as clear as I possibly can that the centre of Christian morality is not here. If anyone thinks that Christians regard unchastity as the supreme vice, he is quite wrong. The sins of the flesh are bad, but they are the least bad of all sins. All the worst pleasures are purely spiritual: the pleasure of putting other people in the wrong, of bossing and patronising and spoiling sport, and back-biting, the pleasures of power, of hatred. For there are two things inside me, competing with the human self which I must try to become. They are the Animal self, and the Diabolical self. The Diabolical self is the worse of the two. That is why a cold, self-righteous prig who goes regularly to church may be far nearer to hell than a prostitute.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on October 22, 2014 at 3:07 pm

      Brilliant share Jeff. Perfect. Thank you!

    • Gary Walmer on June 30, 2015 at 12:27 pm

      Ah, C. S. Lewis really knew how to nail us down, didn’t he? Great post Jeff.

  43. Chris Shumate on October 20, 2014 at 2:18 pm

    Carey – I almost didn’t read this because of where I was afraid it would go. I am once again happy to read how your values line up with Scripture in regards to sexual sins, as well as how you point out the other sins people in the church are too often committing, yet not admitting to.

    As a for instance I saw a church sign on the internet, so it may not have been real, that said something to the effect of, “We are sorry our same sex marriage imposes on your fourth marriage right.” Given the denomination of the supposed church sign it didn’t seem like a stretch.

    I think the reason why anger, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, etc., aren’t talked about as much in the church can be seen in the details surrounding the Mark Driscoll incident you talk about previously and the John Piper confession a while back.

    It is much easier for conservative pastors to harp on sexual sins when that isn’t their struggle (although some will admit to struggling). Open up pandora’s box in regards to anger and the others sins and the whole game changes. Pastors are more likely to struggle with envy, jealousy, and such.

    If had an erasable Bible like some people seem to have, I would erase the part about looking lustfully being equal to adultery. I HATE that verse and need Jesus to help keep me free. I rely on Him and pray often that my wife is the most beautiful woman I see each day, and that I would long only for her physically, spiritually, and relationally. Although I hate that verse, I still seek to live by it.

    My sin is no worse or better, just different.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on October 20, 2014 at 5:41 pm

      Chris…thanks. Once again so appreciate your comment and perspective. Love the last line. So true!

  44. Lisa on October 20, 2014 at 12:32 pm

    Great blog. Our church has started talking about what the bibles says about sex to all ages K-adult in an age appropriate way and it was well received. This entry is a gentle reminder that sexual sin is no different from any other sin. You simply can’t put a score card on our sin vs others people’s sin. Jesus died so none need to keep score. He died for us so he could say, “I find no fault in you.” He doesn’t keep score.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on October 20, 2014 at 5:40 pm

      Well said Lisa. And glad to hear about your church!

  45. TomE on October 20, 2014 at 11:15 am

    Spot on. thanks for the great help

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