When is Sex a Sin?

Sex in itself is a beautiful gift from God. Sex in itself is not sinful, in spite of the negative doctrines emanating from St Augustine and from 17th-century Jansenists. Unfortunately, Christians are at times burdened by totally unnecessary feelings of guilt about sex.

On the other hand, sex, like any other good thing, can sometimes become part of sinful human behaviour.

Sex is sinful when it is part of violence against a human person.

I should not really need to spell out examples of this. Our news channels present many cases in which people are hurt, humiliated and even killed in sexual assaults. Allow me to list some.

  • PROSTITUTION: that is all forms of paying a person in exchange for sex. The most serious form of this is the SEXUAL SLAVE TRADE through which girls are enticed away from their homes and subjected to a service of sex.
  • RAPE: forcing oneself upon another person in order to satisfy one’s sexual lust.
  • VIOLENCE WITHIN THE HOME. Sexual partners can hurt each other in many ways: physical violence, but also humiliation, starving a partner of sexual intimacy, depriving the other of the fulness of joy and life that true partnership should bring.
  • ADDICTION. Just like in addiction to smoking, alcohol or drugs, people can do damage to themselves by being ‘addicted’ to sexual gratification. This can happen, for instance, in uncontrolled masturbation and forms of pornography. Addiction in itself is a weakness rather than a sin, but – if not kept in check – it may lead to sins of violence against others.

See this video on violence against women — would you want to be part of this in any form?

Contrast between the Spirit of Love and self-indulgence

“If you are guided by the Spirit [of Love] you will be in no danger of yielding to self-indulgence, since self-indulgence is the opposite of the Spirit [of Love] . The Spirit [of Love] is totally against such a thing, and it is precisely because the two are so opposed that you do not always carry out your good intentions.

If you are led by the Spirit [of Love], no law can touch you.

When self-indulgence is at work the results are obvious:
fornication, gross indecency and sexual irresponsibility;
idolatry and sorcery;
feuds and wrangling, jealousy, bad temper and quarrels;
disagreements, factions, envy;
drunkenness orgies and similar things.
I warn you now, as I warned you before: those who behave like this will not inherit the Kingdom of God.

What the Spirit [of Love] brings is very different: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, trustfulness, gentleness and self-control.
There can be no law against things like that, of course.”

St Paul in Letter to the Galatians 5,16-23
according to the Jerusalem translation
(I added ‘of Love’ to the Spirit since that is what is meant)


John Wijngaards