We only received one anonymous question in the last few weeks, which I discussed in our mailing list. I’m posting my response here on the blog so that those not on the weekly newsletter can read it, but also so people can start a discussion in the comments section below, if they feel so inclined.
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On to the question:
I am a 78-year-old Catholic male who lives alone due to years of marital separation. I have sexual desires like anyone else but it worries me that I should masturbate. I try to control these desires hut sometimes I fail. Is it a sin and will I be condemned by God if I continue like this?
Let’s start with the first part of this.
Is masturbation wrong?
Now, Christians do not agree on whether or not masturbation is an issue. My personal belief is that sex is intended for marriage, and so any sexual act that isn’t shared with a spouse is therefore not what God intended and thus, by definition, sin.
Some have called me legalistic for this, because there’s no explicit text in the Bible saying masturbation is wrong. Of course, that doesn’t make a lot of sense, because my stance is based on relationships and theirs on the “letter of the law”, as it were, so technically, I think they’re being legalistic by allowing it based on that argument …
I have a bunch of posts on the topic of masturbation, but probably the most relevant is this one: Why masturbation is a problem, whether you’re married or single.
Just to head off a few of the regular objections:
- No, I don’t consider washing your genitals in the shower to be masturbation.
- Yes, I believe mutual masturbation is fine when it’s a shared experience with your spouse.
- No, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with Skype or phone sex, because it’s a shared experience, again, assuming it’s with your spouse.
In short; it’s the relationship that’s important. Anyways, that’s my stance on masturbation. I’m sure someone is going to get upset about it, so feel free to comment, or email me if you want to discuss. However, I hope it will be something deeper than just declaring I’m wrong because you disagree.
Moving on to the second part of the question:
Will God condemn you for masturbating?
I’m going to do my best to share how I see this. I’m not sure I’ll do it justice, but here goes. So, on the assumption that masturbation is sin, then failing not to (that is, giving in to that temptation) is sinful, and thus brings condemnation. The guilt you feel, I believe, is the godly sorrow spoken of here:
Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret – 2 Cor 7:10a
In short, this guilt should lead us back to God, to repentance, a changing of self and then acceptance of forgiveness. And while we hope that we only have to deal with each sin once, the truth is, we tend to like our sin more than God, and it can take a while before we are ready to give it up, even when we do feel that guilt. Does that condemn us?
I’m going to say no. Jesus came, took on our sin, and paid the price for it. So, we are not judged by our individual actions. Thank God! Instead, what we will be judged on is whether or not we love God. Now, part of that is keeping His law:
This calls for patient endurance on the part of the people of God who keep his commands and remain faithful to Jesus. – Revelation 14:12
But, ultimately that law is simply designed to point out one thing: that we are sinful and need a saviour. The law, in love, is designed to break us and prepare us for Christ.
You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise. – Psalm 51:16-17
And as much as people say that the law is no longer needed, because Christ is here, the truth is, we haven’t fully accepted Him, and we never will this side of His return. Our sinful nature still dominates our will. So, we try to keep His commandments, and we fail, which leads to guilt, which leads us to God, which prepares us to accept Christ.
Now, ideally, we work to root out all the sin in our life, because the process of doing so, is the process of accepting Christ. One day Christ will return, and ultimately, that will be the choice between condemnation and life. Do we accept Him? As Creator, as Saviour, as Lord. And while all Christians profess to, the truth is, I think many of us won’t. More and more Christians are walking away from the belief that God created the universe, falling to evolution and the big bang theory. Some think we are already saved and no longer need Christ to save us. Some, while teaching Christ is Lord of their lives, have no desire to actually surrender to Him.
So, we see all these verses in the bible that seem to give us conflicting answers about what is required for salvation. Baptism, belief, keeping commandments, having spiritual gifts, having godly characteristics, and on and on it goes. But, ultimately it boils down to one thing: Do we know and accept Him as Lord. Because if you do, if you love him, then you will die to self and let him live in you (what baptism symbolizes), you will believe in who He is. You will keep His commandments, because you understand they are loving and good, because He is loving and good. You will recognize and use your spiritual gifts. As you emulate Christ, you will show more and more godly characteristics. But, it all boils down to a single test:
Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’ – Matthew 7:21-23
Do you KNOW Christ. Do you understand He wants what is best for you? Do you accept His rule in your life, because you understand that it is the best thing for you? Because He made you and He loves you.
So, with that in mind. Will our individual mistakes condemn us? Will we miss out on Heaven for masturbating or any other sin? I don’t believe so. That’s not what I see in the Bible. What I do see is that individual sins should make us feel guilt, that that guilt should drive us to God, to repentance and worship.
The problem comes in when we have these opportunities to turn back and decide we don’t want to. When we reject God, knowing who He is, what He’s done for us. When we reject forgiveness by Christ’s death. Then we start on a path that leads us away from God, away from that acceptance, love and worship. Eventually, you can get to a place where you are like these men:
They called to the mountains and the rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! For the great day of their wrath has come, and who can withstand it?” – Rev 6:16-17
They will see Christ, and instead of recognizing Him as a loving God, Saviour and Lord, they will see Him as destroyer, overbearing and hateful.
In summary, I believe that if you are feeling compelled by your convictions to humble yourself, repent, accept forgiveness and TRY to love according to His wishes, then ultimately, you will not be condemned.
I hope that helps.