A few years ago, the Ashley Madison website made waves through the Christian community. The site told people that having an affair would, in fact, be good for a marriage rather than harmful. Most who spoke against it talked about the sometimes-irreparable damage it would cause on marriages. But, one of the questions that started surfacing out of the discussion on adultery was, “What is okay to do sexually within a marriage?
Since the advent of this question, there has been a growing belief in the Christian community that if both parties within a marriage agree and participate, then anything goes. That is, if one spouse shares a fantasy with the other, and both parties are game, then it is okay to play that out, regardless of what it is or who it involves. The end goal of participating in these sexual behaviors is ultimately to enhance the relationship.
Enter, “Christian Swinging.” Yes, you read that correctly. Christian Swinging. With taglines like, “Meet local Christian swingers who believe that an open and honest relationship with each other will keep any marriage fresh and exciting,” websites are popping up to help Christian couples meet other Christian couples for the purpose of swinging.
The Discovery Fit and Health Channel has recently premiered a new reality show titled “Secret Sex Lives: Swingers.” The couples featured on the show were recently interviewed for a segment of the Today Show with Kathy Lee and Hoda. (You might be surprised to learn that one of the participants was raised a Southern Baptist.) What is swinging? Based on the “Swinger Dictionary” that Discovery Fit and Health provides its viewers, swinging is “nonmonogamous behavior in which singles or partners in a committed relationship engage in sexual activities with others as a recreational or social activity.” Swingers are quick to point out that, unlike polyamory, swinging is not about relationship but is strictly sexual. And with TV shows and websites dedicated to popularizing and facilitating it, open marriages have never been more out in the open.
So is it still adultery if it’s mutual?
Is it so wrong if both marriage partners are aware and agree? While the “anything goes” mindset might sound like the latest way to spice up your marriage, this reasoning couldn’t be more faulty, damaging, and unbiblical.
The sexual act is meant to be a monogamous experience, between one man and one woman, within the marriage context (Gen 2:24-25). Believing that the relationship will be enhanced by anything other or in addition to that is an all out lie by the Evil One himself. Bringing another person into the sexual relationship, even if it is seen as “strictly sexual,” is contrary to God’s design (Heb 13:4). Whether the person is real or fictional, depicted on a screen, in your mind, or in the room itself, there is never a place to justify a third, or fourth, or more.
Even beyond the marital commitment between a man and woman, God designed sex to be a relationship that unites persons made in the image of God. Daniel Heimbach reminds us in True Sexual Morality, that, from the very beginning, God created man and woman as His image bearers and that there is an “obvious link between bearing God’s image and how He intended that we use the gift of sex. How we behave sexually has to be consistent with what it means to bear God’s image.”1
If you are a married believer, it may be easy to assess quick judgment on Christian swingers. But, swinging is just one more notch on the sexual immorality ladder that our culture has been on for some time. Pornography, erotica, adultery, homosexuality, emotional adultery, and fantasy have all had their claws in many marriages today, convincing them of the same lie . . . “But, it’s good for our relationship.”
Every one of us has to constantly remain on guard.
Let me encourage you and your spouse to take some time tonight and just check in with each other. Where does your marriage stand in its sexual purity?
- Have both of you protected your sexual relationship from including another person be it either by mental fantasy, pornography, or inappropriate relationships?
- Do you both view sex as a way to build relational intimacy that far exceeds physical pleasure?
- Is the sexual relationship between the two of you intimate and spiritual rather than a shallow physical act?
- Do you both view the sexual act as part of “becoming one flesh” and a gift God gives to a husband and wife, to be shared only between the two?
You may not be a swinger, but neither can you assume that your marriage is immune from succumbing to the lie that an illicit sexual relationship is good for your marriage. If you struggled to affirm any of the above statements, God provides a way of redemption. Let today be the day that you turn the other direction and run to Christ. Let today be the day and your spouse commit to protecting the gift of a sexual relationship God has given your marriage.
Sex is good, beautiful, satisfying, and intimate. It provides relational depth, is wonderful in every detail, and truly brings glory to God if we understand and embrace it the way God designed it.
1 Daniel Heimbach, True Sexual Morality: Recovering Biblical Standards for a Culture in Crisis, Wheaton: Crossway, 2004, p155.