A sex addiction is usually defined as frequent pursuit of sexual activity, despite knowing that negative consequences are occurring (or can occur) because of it. It has been categorized like other addictions, such as alcoholism or drug addiction.
Without question, there are addictive aspects associated with one's pursuit of sexual activity. At the same time, the Bible speaks about sexual activity as more than a mere "addiction." Within the confines of marriage, sex is an expression of love and a means of unity. It is a gift of God given for the enjoyment of each spouse, the strengthening of the marital bond, and procreation. Sex within a marriage is not meant as a means of pleasing oneself, but as a way of expressing love to one's spouse. So even within marriage a sex "addiction," in the sense of pursuing sex for the sake of sex and regardless of negative consequences, has no place; a spouse is not merely an avenue to fulfill sexual urges, but a committed partner for life. Perhaps more often, sex addiction is spoken of outside the confines of heterosexual marriage. The Bible calls all sexual behavior outside of marriage between a man and woman sinful (Acts 15:20; 1 Corinthians 5:1; 6:13; Ephesians 5:3; Hebrews 13:4). Regardless of a person's inclinations or desires, following through on those desires in ungodly ways is sinful, whether with an addictive mentality or not.
It's important to distinguish between normal, healthy sexual desires and "sex addiction." God designed us to experience sexual pleasure. He specifically made men and women to attract each other, and to physically complement each other. Sexual desires are as natural as the desire to eat, breathe, and sleep. As with all of those, however, there are proper and improper ways to respond to natural urges. Even the things God made for our good can become a problem when we abuse them.
In addition to physical sexual immorality, the Bible further notes that the lusts involved in one's sexual desires can be sinful. Jesus said, "You have heard that it was said, 'You shall not commit adultery.' But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart" (Matthew 5:27–28). This includes pornography, sexual fantasies, and unhealthy flirting or interactions with others.
Thankfully, the Bible also offers hope for a new way of life. Many people who have considered themselves addicted to sex have found a new way of life through Jesus Christ. He provides forgiveness of sins (1 John 1:8–9), power to resist temptation (1 Corinthians 10:13), and new habits to replace our old sinful habits (Galatians 5:22–23). Further, Christians have the wisdom of God's Word (2 Timothy 3:16–17), the power of prayer, and the help of other believers to encourage in holy living (Hebrews 10:25).
What can a person do who desires to overcome sexual addiction? First, it is important to become a believer in Jesus Christ if you have not already done so. For believers in Christ, you can confess your sins, knowing you will be forgiven (1 John 1:8–9). Trying to overcome addiction without the influence of the Holy Spirit is not only difficult, it is nearly impossible.
Second, replace your "old habits" with new, godly habits. Instead of spending time thinking about sexual thoughts, replace these thoughts with Christian music, Scripture memory, or investing your time to serve others in need. Be careful to recognize the situations that lead to sexual temptation. Addictions become much easier to overcome when you give yourself "breathing room" to get your mind right (Romans 12:2). Knowing where and when sexually tempting thoughts tend to occur gives you a way to avoid them entirely; this makes you far stronger and more prepared when they catch you off-guard.
Third, find a healthy friend or community of friends to help. The Christian life is not intended as a solo sport. Instead, regularly spend time with others where you can encourage one another, pray for one another, and provide accountability for areas of weakness (Galatians 6:1; Proverbs 27:17). When someone you love and trust is watching your back, it not only keeps you on track, it gives you somewhere to turn when you're feeling weak or vulnerable.
Fourth, God's recommendation for those who struggle with sexual desires is to marry. First Corinthians 7:2 teaches, "But because of the temptation to sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband." God gave us hunger, and good food. He gave us thirst, and water. He also gave us sexuality, and within the context of Christian marriage, believers can enjoy sexual intimacy in the way God intended. This is a powerful remedy to certain aspects of sexual addiction, since it gives us a legitimate means to express sexual desires. However, marriage in and of itself does not cure sexual addition, nor does it help with all sexual sins. In fact, some sex addictions, such as pornography or adultery, can destroy a marriage.
Sexual sin is one of the most difficult to overcome in the modern world. Imagine a culture where every street corner, TV ad, and movie was saturated in cocaine, heroin, and other drugs. A world where seemingly everyone at work was casual—even bragging—about their use of these drugs. Imagine a culture where using these substances was not only considered normal, but those who chose not to participate were treated as strange. Sadly, especially in the West, this is the attitude taken towards sex. It is a pervasive, invasive, intrusive part of the culture.
What's critical to remember is that sexual sin is fundamentally just like any other. God despises all sin, but He loves the people caught up in them. He loves sinners enough to die for them (Philippians 2:5–8), forgive them (1 John 2:1), and heal them (1 Corinthians 6:9–11). If you or someone you love is struggling with sexual addiction, there are powerful resources available to help you. None is more powerful than the God who knows what it means to suffer human temptation (Hebrews 4:15).
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