Becoming Winsome with Your Biblical Sexual Ethic

The Bible’s sexual ethic is one of the biggest stumbling blocks for people investigating the Christian faith. It goes completely against the grain of our culture and, if we’re honest, of our own heart’s pull. Complicating matters, many Christians have been loudly unhelpful in the public square, acting as if others’ sins are worse than theirs or demonstrating profound ignorance about these issues. Now that gay marriage is the law of the land, many see Christianity as outdated and homophobic. Like me, I suspect you’ve had the experience of telling someone you’re a Christian only to receive the rejoinder, “So, I guess you hate gays?”

It is critical for Christians to rediscover a winsome approach to countering unbelief in our day. I hope the following list of Don’ts and Do’s will be helpful:

Don’t. . .

. . . live in fear! So many Christians are terrified by what’s happening in culture. Their fears are aided and abetted by (often political-religious) organizations seeking to capitalize. Remember: Jesus is the sovereign of the universe. He upholds all things by the word of his power. He’s not wringing his hands over the state of things and neither should you. Those fanning the flame of your fear are using the currency of the kingdom of darkness. When we fear God alone, we need not fear anything else!

. . . be self-righteously aloof. The Bible expects that we’ll be engaged with unbelievers, not isolated from the world in consecrated enclaves. So Paul says, “I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people—not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world” (1 Corinthians 5:9-10 ESV). The Bible’s ethics are for Christians! (And they’re still a considerable challenge even though we’re indwelt by the Holy Spirit.) Rather than impose morality, we’re called to engage the world, meeting them where they are.

. . . make calling out sin your leading leg in conversation. In most ethical situations, we expect unbelievers to struggle with sin and don’t feel compelled to point it out. You wouldn’t rebuke strangers for cursing on the phone in the grocery store, and you probably don’t call out your neighbor with the drinking problem, even if you are concerned. For some reason with sexual sin, especially homosexuality, Christians often feel a need to make it very clear that “what you do in your bedroom is sin.” This level of directness requires deep relationship! And keeping in step with the Spirit is critical because he always does a better job convicting of sin than we do (see John 16:7-11).

. . .  assume you know what unbelievers think and believe, especially those in the gay life. You need to ask questions and really seek to understand. Otherwise, you’re likely to present straw man arguments, leading to misunderstanding and frustration, when the goal should be building relationship.

Do. . .

. . . pursue relationship! Scripture includes wonderful invitations such as “show perfect courtesy toward all people” and “let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person” (Titus 3:2; Colossians 4:6). There is an expectation that we will be “salt and light” to our neighbors, co-workers, and extended family. This means getting out of your comfort zone to befriend nontraditional individuals and families.  Just as Jesus stepped into the mess of life in our world, becoming a servant for our redemption, so should we with those God has placed in our path.

. . . talk openly about the importance of your faith. Share how much Jesus means to you and your desperate need for his Spirit in your life. Acknowledgment of personal weakness and sin should be at the forefront of these discussions. Instead of posturing as the bastion of morality, let them see your ongoing need for Jesus in how to live your life. This highlights the wonder of redemption, providing a fresh aroma of Christ countering the stench of self-righteousness.

[bctt tweet=”We should never shrink back from speaking hard truths, but it’s crucial for the hearer to know they are loved first.“]

. . . explain a holistic Christian faith and worldview. Having been converted as an adult, I believe Christian sexual ethics only make sense from the inside. You need the Holy Spirit and the revelation of Scripture to see the wonder, beauty, and infinite wisdom of God’s design. For example, one man, one woman for life seems ludicrous apart from an awareness that humans are image-bearers built for relationship with God, and earthly marriage serves as a temporal metaphor for our eternal glorious union. Biblical ethics in the abstract seem outdated and disconnected from real sexual longings.

. . . answer honestly—and without equivocation—when questions of sexual ethics and sin arise. But the key is keeping in step with the Spirit, entrusting the timing of these conversations to him. We should never shrink back from speaking hard truths, but it’s crucial for the hearer to know they are loved first. Without developing a significant relationship first, truth will be perceived as hate speech.

Christian sexual ethics will never be popular, but we must do everything we can to allow Jesus and the gospel to be the stumbling block, not us!


In this important and engaging biblical teaching on sexuality, David White helps readers develop a Scripture-based perspective on human sexuality that goes beyond “just wait until you’re married.” In the face of the pervasiveness of sexual temptation, White helps men and women find compelling reasons to obey God with their sexuality. 

About the author

David White

David White, MDiv, is the author of Sexual Sanity for Men and the new release, God, You, and Sex. He served at Harvest USA for nineteen years, helping hundreds overcome sexual sin, developing curricula, supervising staff, and teaching in churches nationally on sexual issues. He is a graduate of Temple University and Westminster Theological Seminary and is a pastor in the Presbyterian Church in America. David is married to Jennifer, and they are blessed with four children.

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