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A space for resources to help RE teachers and their students explore the Christian faith

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Sexual Relationships

Christian attitudes to sex


Christians believe sex is something created by God and very special within human relationships. Indeed, when reading the Old Testament book, Song of Solomon it is clear that sex is very important and is to be celebrated.

Whilst Christians value sex, many believe that it should only be between a married couple: it is not to be pursued outside of marriage, either before marriage or in an act of adultery. They believe that marriage provides the right environment for bringing a child into the world.

Also, sex within marriage provides protection - emotional, spiritual and physical - for each partner, preventing them from heartbreak and contracting diseases.

Whilst the Bible celebrates sex, it is very clear that promiscuity is to be avoided. In particular, adultery features in many verses as a great sin, the most famous of which is in the Ten Commandments: 'Do not commit adultery.' (Exodus 20:14)

In the New Testament, Paul writes to the early churches, guiding them on how to behave. To the people of Thessalonica he wrote:

'God wants you to be holy and completely free from sexual immorality. Each of you should know how to live with your wife in a holy and honorable way, not with a lustful desire, like the heathen who do not know God.' (1 Thessalonians 4:3-5)

Why do some Christians choose a life of celibacy?

Some Christians believe that God plans for some people to remain unmarried. They think that expecting unmarried people to remain chaste (i.e. not sexually active) is not an impossible task, and in fact, people can live a very fulfilled life without marriage and sex. Jesus himself is the best example of this: he was unmarried, yet Christians believe He was the example of the perfect human. Since 1139, the Roman Catholic Church has expected Roman Catholic priests to remain celibate and chaste. Roman Catholics believe that a priest has to dedicate himself to the church and the people in his parish and that it wouldn't be fair on his partner if he were allowed to marry.

There is one exception. When a married Anglican priest converts to Catholicism, he should stay married and can become a Catholic priest. Roman Catholics are the only denomination that expects celibacy from their priests. However, other Anglicans and Catholics sometimes choose to become monks and nuns and they promise to be celibate. In the Orthodox Church, bishops are also celibate.

Did you know? Adultery is having sexual intercourse where at least one partner is married to someone else. This is considered to be wrong by all Christians. The seventh of the Ten Commandments is 'You shall not commit adultery,' and under Old Testament law adultery was considered an offence punishable by death. However, when Jesus meets a woman caught in adultery in the New Testament, he offers her forgiveness and simply commands her to 'go and sin no more.' (John 8:11).