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  • Marital Sexuality and the Nine Fruit of the Spirit

    God has given us many good gifts to enjoy here on earth, and his gift of sexuality is one that is literally central to life. Sexuality reproduces life, bonds a man and a woman to one another, and affords mutual pleasure throughout the marriage.

    From a spiritual perspective, sexuality is a living metaphor that can also point us to Christ and his love for us if we understand that he is the husband of the church and we are his bride.

    Sadly, however, sexuality in the 21st century hardly resembles the gift God gave us. Fallen humanity equals fallen sexuality. We can no longer experience the God-given ‘original sex’ that Adam and Eve enjoyed before original sin.

    It should come as no surprise that many couples experience sexual dysfunction once married. By the time a man and woman enter into marriage, there’s a good chance that at least one of them experienced premarital sex, pornography, or childhood sexual abuse. Like bombs with delayed fuses, these wounds often detonate in marriage, leaving both spouses and their marriage in need of rehabilitation.

    Regardless of gender, every person’s sexuality is woundable from cradle to grave. Some wounds like abuse occur without the victim’s solicitation or permission. Other wounds like premarital sex or viewing pornography require consent. Whatever the case, in a fallen world that is increasingly perverse, few can expect to enter marriage without sexual wounds or find a mate who is sexually whole.

    Had we followed God’s approach to life and sexuality in our youth, we could have prevented wounding ourselves by killing our sins (Rom. 8:13), and we could have healed better when wounded by others.

    Fortunately, God can restore our sexual integrity and health as we learn to “walk by the Spirit.”

    While Christian moralism aims to prevent sexually immoral behaviors, it cannot change the heart or will. God, however, can give us new hearts, and we can learn to depend on the indwelling Holy Spirit to help us heal our marriages by applying the fruit of the Spirit to our sexuality.


    In Christian marriage, the Holy Spirit can empower the husband and wife to love like Christ and His Church, and like Solomon and his bride. Like a seal that imprints its design in wax, the Holy Spirit impresses himself upon the individual Christian with nine traits that transform all of life, including sexuality.

    Yet, without Christ’s atonement for our sins, and a sincere desire to please the indwelling Spirit by obeying his Word, we can expect to fail. But God has given us new hearts that possess new desires, new affections, and new inclinations and these spiritual appetites foster new ways to renew our minds in Christ and subsequently our behaviors.

    As we mature in Christ and learn how to “walk by the Spirit,” (Gal. 5:16) we will increasingly desire whatever pleases God in any situation, including the expression of our sexuality.

    Let’s review the scriptures and begin to apply each of the nine fruit of the Spirit to sexuality.

    But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires (Galatians 5:22-24).


    God’s love is the only true foundation for marriage and sexuality. Such affection is sacrificial and centers on the other person. Sexual practices that compromise the other’s values, needs, and preferences are void of love. Spouses who love serve each other sexually in ways that are mutually desirable and pleasing.


    Christian sexuality can be marked by rejoicing and gladness when two spouses center their lives and sexuality in Christ. This kind of joy can weather difficult circumstances that are common to all marriages. Rather than becoming hyper sensitive about the effects of aging, or over-analyzing the sexual performance of one or the other, joy releases the couple to appreciate their shared union.


    As both spouses are learning to yield their lives to Christ, individual stability produces greater peace and harmony in their marriage. Their common welfare becomes a shared priority, and God’s peace frees each to nurture the other. His peace also sets a holy standard against sexual practices that would imitate or create violence against one or both.


    Patience and long suffering in a marriage provides uncommon safety in the bedroom. Sickness, stress, injuries, babies who need nursing, frightened children who need calming, and aging are just some of the typical life circumstances that two Christian spouses can meet with a supernatural, yet realistic patience. Other occasions like the wife’s monthly cycle provide repeated opportunities to learn patience in the bedroom.


    Kindness sets out to meet the real needs of the other. Like a gentle blanket of security, kindness empowers both spouses to yield themselves to the creative good of their relationship. Kindness also takes into account simple preferences like whether or not to keep the lights on while making love, maintaining good hygiene, and offering words of affirmation.


    We toss around our English word, “good,” without understanding the deeper meaning of the Greek word, άγαθωςύνη. This word includes the potential for correction or rebuke that another person needs. William Barclay said, “The Christian needs that goodness which at the same time can be kind and strong.” So Christian spouses, empowered by the Spirit, can not only serve in good and pleasant ways, but they can also offer “tough love” when needed. For example, it is good for a spouse to love well and confront the sins of pornography, lying, and manipulation.


    The fidelity that the Spirit gives one spouse to offer the other is a faithfulness that “avoids the appearance of evil,” (1 Thes. 5:22) such as flirting with others, keeping secrets, and maintaining friendships that are detrimental to the marriage. In the Christian marriage covenant, with the help of the Holy Spirit, the husband and wife pledge to ‘guarantee’ the faithfulness that marriage requires.


    The meaning of words may change over time, and such is the case for the eighth fruit of the Spirit. Today, we might think that gentle or meek infers some degree of weakness, but it doesn’t. According to Stanley Horton, “Gentleness includes true humility that does not consider itself too good or too exalted for humble tasks…Gentleness is never self-important but is considerate, courteous, and modest, yet willing to try when a job needs to be done.” Not demanding or manipulating for control, two spouses who practice gentleness can learn to adapt to difficult situations brought on by premarital sexual trauma, personal insecurities, and personality differences.


    Self-mastery over sensual appetites is crucial for the couple who wants to experience a good sex life that honors God. Practicing self-control throughout the day as individuals is one way a couple can set healthy boundaries that protects their sexual union. In self-control it is possible to learn that excess taints true satisfaction.


    God gives the gift of sexuality to all of humanity, but Christians have the unique opportunity to draw on supernatural help from the Holy Spirit who guides, comforts, and corrects as needed.

    By entrusting yourselves to the indwelling Spirit you can find the right balance of passions and practices that are needed for your unique marriage.

    And if you feel that you’re doing all the work, and your spouse isn’t pulling his or her weight in the marriage, I encourage you to reflect on wise counsel from Pastor Timothy Keller:

    “You can only afford to be generous if you actually have some money in the bank to give. In the same way, if your only source of love and meaning is your spouse, then anytime he or she fails you, it will not just cause grief but a psychological cataclysm. If, however, you know something of the work of the Spirit in your life, you have enough love “in the bank” to be generous to your spouse even when you are not getting much affection or kindness at the moment”(The Meaning of Marriage: Facing the Complexities of Commitment with the Wisdom of God).