I’m here to talk about masturbation. Now that you’re paying attention, some ground rules: this post is for mature audiences only. It has the ability to be offensive, because we’ve made this topic offensive in our culture. I’m not going to say “in my opinion” or “I think” in this essay. It breaks up the flow. Since you’re here at Gospelized, you have already purposefully submitted yourself to my opinion. I’m also going to not use euphemisms. A penis is a penis. Masturbation is masturbation. A vagina is a vagina. They are words with meanings, just like green and Massachusetts are words with meanings. There’s nothing wrong with them.
What is wrong, however, is masturbation. To those who would immediately assume this is a hypocritical diatribe, let me quell your fears: it is, insomuch as I am currently still struggling with this sin. I masturbated yesterday. I hope I don’t masturbate today. The former is not to my credit; the latter is to my shame that I can’t say with conviction that I will not.
But I cannot say with conviction that I will not, just as I cannot say with conviction that I will not lie today. I do not wish to do either act, but our sinful natures are truly depraved, and they cause us to do things we hate. Paul was intimately acquainted with this problem. Sexual sin is a horrible, terrible, soul-crushing problem. But it’s no more horrible, terrible and soul-crushing than any other sin that is allowed to run rampant in our lives. Our problem, then, must be that we allow sexual sin (and, particularly, masturbation) to occupy a place that we do not allow other sins to occupy.
Satan is a clever enemy, and he knows best how to perpetuate sin. For some sins, he normalizes the behavior (gossip, disrespect of parents, unholy anger); for others, the stigmatizes it (masturbation, homosexuality, self-destructiveness). He knows best how to make a sin go on longest in our mortal coil. Many people I know won’t even say the word masturbation in same-gender company, much less mixed company. This plays into the enemy’s hand. If we can’t even name what we fight, how can we esteem to beat it? Yes, it is incredibly uncomfortable to talk about it. So what? We gotta talk about it.
We have to talk about it. If we don’t, we’ll never get to the bottom of it. Because we don’t even talk about it, most people don’t understand why it’s bad; they just assume that because other people would be disdainful if they knew, that it must be bad. We have some inkling that it’s not the way things are supposed to be, but it’s really unclear for most people why it’s even disallowed in the first place. Malum prohibitum? Bad because it’s illegal? No. Not at all.
There are plenty of reasons that masturbation is sin. God intended sex for a particular purpose; anything outside that purpose is less than perfect. If God is perfect, and we do something that’s good but not perfect, it’s still not perfect. It’s not up to God’s standards. By that stick, it’s sin. Anything that we do that isn’t perfect as he is perfect is, by definition, sin.
The concept of a savior means a lot more to me when I think of my life and actions in that context. Have I ever done anything perfectly? The answer, of course, is no. Oh, hallelujah for a savior.
The marital ideal is life-long monogamy: to be married once and forever. Monogamy means much more than just sexual fidelity, but that is the aspect I am focusing on now. If we affirm that the marital ideal is one partner forever, then why do we affirm that only after marriage? That’s the reason pre-marital sex is prohibited; it’s pre-emptively being extramarital, especially if you believe in the concept of “the one.” But we can and should apply the same logic to masturbation. If we affirm that we should only derive sexual pleasure from one other person ever (as in the marital ideal), then why do we feel we have the right to usurp that with ourselves? We are stealing from our spouses. The sexual pleasure that is meant to be derived only from intimacy with a spouse is being stolen by us. We are cheating on our wives with ourselves.
That may sound foolish to you, but the problem is real. The vague, unspecified guilt I felt got a lot more concrete when I understood that. I remind you from the beginning of the letter; this is not something I have conquered. I am not sitting up on a high place looking down, nor am I at the finish line. I am in the pack with the worst of them.
Thankfully, the gospel of Christ is that “the worst of them” can be the best of them by simply believing on the Lord. We don’t have to win. We associate with the one who has won. There’s nothing we can do to win. There’s nothing we can do to stop ourselves from masturbating. We are hopelessly screwed. Our depravity is total. But God, rich in mercy, loved us so much that he came and took all of our sins and bore them on himself. We are safe.
Jesus never masturbated, based on Hebrews 4 logic. But he was sure tempted. So he knows what we are going through. He understands the immense pull. He knows the appeal. But he chose God, the cross, horrible death, and a glorious resurrection instead. All we have to do is fall at his feet and believe that he did that for us. That’s all we have, and that’s all we need.
Masturbation; totally a sin. Totally shouldn’t be a taboo, though. It’s bad, but alcoholism and drug use have much worse effects on the body, spirit and emotions; masturbation doesn’t even make your hands hairy like they said it would. It needs to be dealt with out in the open. If we can joke about it on Saturday Night Live, we need to be able to discuss it in an open forum. If we can know it exists, we need to be able to talk about it in real and meaningful ways.
There’s a theology for everything, and that includes masturbation. If we left it out because it was uncomfortable, then what have we gained? No understanding of God from that particular problem. To me, that’s a waste of a thing, and God didn’t make anything to waste it. He is big enough to redeem even our corruptions of his good things. Isn’t that the gospel? That he redeemed corrupted things by redeeming humans? Why then, can he not teach us things through our open and real handling of the problem of masturbation? I see no reason why he would not do that.
So let us be open with our struggles. If not on the Internet for the world to see, then at least with a solid Christian brother or sister.
Am I worried about how people will look at me after this? Kinda. It’s not every day that someone posts on the web, “hey, I masturbated yesterday.” It’s even more rare to see it in a serious context. But in my honest and thorough exploration of the gospels as they pertains to me (which is one of the stated goals of Gospelized), this came up. I am not ashamed, for there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Do I hope to quit masturbating? Yes. But I am not in my own power to do it. Saying “I will quit” is equal to saying “I will save myself”; the magnitude of the problem (for it is the same problem on both sides, former and latter) is so great that it is utterly incomprehensible. We are toast.
But God is good. And he will deliver us from masturbation just as he delivered us from the bonds of sin. Sanctification is a powerful, powerful word for a powerful, powerful force in the world. We are being made more like Christ, and that’s the goal of life, as odd as it seems much of the time. He will deliver us; until then, we must take the precautions we can, pray and have faith.