The Table Podcast

A Healthy Approach to Sexual Attraction

In this episode, Bill Hendricks, Debby Wade, and Gary Barnes discuss a healthy Christian approach to sexual attraction, focusing on the ideas of respect and stewardship of human sexuality.

Timecodes
00:14
Hendricks introduces the topic and guests
02:12
God and sexuality
05:20
Distinguishing sexual attraction from lust
09:48
A healthy response to sexual attraction
17:30
What if I am not sexually attracted to my date or spouse?
20:16
How can we elevate our view of sexuality?
27:49
How can parents educate their children about sex?
30:30
Sexual attraction in the workplace
35:15
Respect and stewardship of sexuality
37:22
Understanding social sexuality
41:30
Understanding sexual attractiveness
45:55
Celebrating sexual attraction
Transcript
Bill Hendricks
Hi. I’m Bill Hendricks, Executive Director for Christian Leadership at the Hendricks Center, and I want to welcome you to the table podcast. At the table we discuss issues of God and culture. And today, the title of our podcast is A Healthy Christian Approach To Sexual Attraction. And even in saying that title, I feel like I’ve got a rattlesnake in front of me. If you pick up a rattlesnake properly, you don’t have any problems. But if you pick up the wrong end, it can go bad real quickly. Fortunately I’ve got two snake charmers here with me who are ideal … and if you’ve watched the podcast for any length of time, these are by no means strangers to you. First of all, I want to introduce Debby Wade, who is a licensed professional counselor and a marriage and family counselor. Thank you for being with us today, Debby. You bring a lot of deep expertise into this topic, and …
Debby Wade
Thanks for letting me come back.
Bill Hendricks
Of course we want you back, especially for this. And Gary Barnes, Dr. Gary Barns, who is a professor of counseling here at the seminary. Thank you, Gary.
Dr. Gary Barnes
Yes. Great to be back.
Bill Hendricks
Again, no stranger to the podcast. And both of these folks have deep expertise in this whole area of human sexuality. But again, as I said, a healthy, Christian approach to sexual attraction, I think for many of our listeners, a healthy Christian approach to, everything’s fine up to that. But when you hear the word sexual attraction, it’s like wait a minute. How does that work? Can there be such a thing? Because there’s a lot of … The New Testament says, “Flee youthful lust,” and so there’s this sense of we … sexual attraction, that’s something you try to push away. But there’s a healthy approach to this. And a Christian approach, to boot. So, talk to us about how that works.
Dr. Gary Barnes
Yes. You know, Bill, I think before we could really begin to talk about sexual attraction, we would just have to talk about God and sexuality. Just let’s get the big picture here. And then we can see how the attraction piece fits in.
Bill Hendricks
‘Cause you’re saying sex is actually God’s idea.
Dr. Gary Barnes
It’s something that we didn’t just come up with.
Debby Wade
We didn’t just attribute it to him. He really did design …
Dr. Gary Barnes
It’s not something that God got surprised by.
Bill Hendricks
Right.
Dr. Gary Barnes
And so, one of my favorite quotes about sexuality is from Dan Allender. And he says, “Sex is a window into the heart of God.” That’s a great thing to think about.
Bill Hendricks
Well, it’s a deep thing to think about. Boy, how does that work?
Dr. Gary Barnes
Yeah. And so I think, in God’s design, he was realizing we’re gonna need some real special help to understand multi-leveled intimacy. And so, first of all, he wants us to understand the Godhead, the intimacy of the Trinity. Christopher West says that the Trinity is an eternal exchange of love.
Bill Hendricks
I like that.
Debby Wade
I like that.
Dr. Gary Barnes
And it’s an intimacy that is something we can get a glimpse of, but it’s so deeper and richer in a divine sense than we can fully grasp. And I think God knew, we need extra help to grasp this. And so, I think he gave us an experiential object lesson to provide this window into the heart of God. And so it gives us this eternal intimacy within the Godhead. It also helps us understand the intimacy of Christ and the bride, the church and the intimacy there. Then it helps us understand our horizontal relationships in the here and now on Earth in our intimate relationships, for sure in marriage, but way beyond marriage, in our brothers and sisters in Christ intimacy.
Bill Hendricks
So you’re, early on here, introducing this idea of intimacy, which certainly gets … has connotations of sexual intimacy. But it goes beyond sexuality, right?
Dr. Gary Barnes
It does. In our time and space, sexuality plays a really special role in this. But sexuality’s limited to time and space. Sexuality’s not gonna be eternal. But it serves a really important purpose in our time and space right now.
Debby Wade
Absolutely.
Bill Hendricks
Because we’re embodied creatures.
Dr. Gary Barnes
We are. We’re embodied, but we’re also sexual beings by design.
Bill Hendricks
Right. Which is also spiritual.
Dr. Gary Barnes
You cannot be not a sexual being. Now you can repress it, but God made us as sexual beings.
Bill Hendricks
So Debby, talk to us about this notion of sexual attraction, ’cause that puts a finer point on there’s a desire here involved, and we all know from personal experience, that’s a powerful desire.
Debby Wade
Right. So I’d want to really make sure that we separate sexual attractive, that chemistry vs. lust. Because you said in the beginning that we think sexual attraction, and some people think, “Oh. Well sexual attraction, that can’t be Christian, ’cause that would be lustful.” And lust truly is objectifying, just seeing one level of a person, and then desiring that to the point of wanting that for myself, and objectifying. Sexual attraction, I think is way deeper, and encompasses so many things, that certainly the way that God designed us physiologically, we do have that chemical reaction and that chemistry that we may experience with others. And we know that there’s an attraction there. But we wouldn’t just want to base a relationship on just that attraction.
Bill Hendricks
On just that attraction. There’s so much more.
Debby Wade
And we have to be so careful with that. ‘Cause we think just the culture we live in, and so much is put on the physical.
Bill Hendricks
In this culture, sure.
Debby Wade
In this culture. You can’t pick up a magazine or TV, movie, news …
Dr. Gary Barnes
Buy tires.
Debby Wade
Right. And we’re gonna use attractiveness to sell, and all things. Someone could, “Oo.” We’re attracted to them, not even lust, but we just find that we’re attracted to them. They do something bad, they’re in the news the next day and we’re just like, “Oh. Not attracted anymore. No thank you.” But then we could take a couple who’ve been married sixty some odd years.
Bill Hendricks
Yeah. That’s what’s beautiful.
Debby Wade
They’ve grown old together. They were attracted to each other physically. And although their body physically has changed, because of intimacy, there being an attraction and then a deeper knowing, they would still say, out of all their body changes, their wrinkles and everything, “We’re as attracted to each other now as we were 60 years ago.” And there’s a deeper meaning in that. And I think that’s part of why it is so important.

You were speaking of God, and when we think of the character of God, God is so creative. And he designed all of us so uniquely, that I believe he would not have gone to all that trouble to design … It’d been so easy. They’ll just all go like this. Or we can make them all look like her. Or we can make them all look like him. But he went to such uniqueness in all of us that I think, of course, in our design we would have different attractions to different people, and that what one female may be attracted to in maleness, another female may be attracted to something else. And I just think he … to ignore that would be to ignore so many of the magnificent ways that God went to prove his love and his design and his character. We’d have to ignore that.

Bill Hendricks
You raise a very interesting point there. We will refer to someone as, “Oh, they’re so attractive.” And what we’re really saying is they’re attractive to me.
Debby Wade
Yes.
Bill Hendricks
They might not be attractive to someone else. My first wife passed away back in 2000, and I didn’t date for the entire first year after she passed, which was probably one of the smartest things I’ve ever done. But eventually you get back into the dating scene … that deserves a whole podcast to itself otherwise … at age 47. But people would say, “Oh, I need to introduce you to so-and-so. She’s drop dead gorgeous.” And then I would meet so-and-so. And I’m like …
Dr. Gary Barnes
Is this the one you wanted me to meet?
Bill Hendricks
Yeah, right. [Laughter] So my point there is, sexual attraction really does come on a person by person basis, both the attractiveness of a person, as well as my attraction to them. But I guess that’s where people get tripped up, and particularly in a Christian setting. Here you are, in an office, a school, wherever your day happens to be spent. And you find yourself attracted to somebody. And you’re a little overwhelmed, ’cause you’re like, “Wow. That person really is drawing me.” And that’s a little … it’s scary. You’re like, “Boy. I gotta keep this from getting out of control, but I can’t just say that doesn’t exist, ’cause I know it exists, and I kinda like it, but I don’t know what to do with it.” And so there’s just all this confusion that I think many, many Christians feel.
Dr. Gary Barnes
Yes, for sure.
Debby Wade
Yeah.
Bill Hendricks
What do we do about that?
Dr. Gary Barnes
I think if we have some guardrails to guide us.
Bill Hendricks
And … look, y’all have heard as many sermons on sexuality as I have. And the very common line is, “Look. Jesus said, ‘Whoever looks on a woman to lust for her, has committed adultery.'” And so the idea is, it’s okay to have the first look, but not the second look. And I’m like, “Well, that sounds good, it preaches well, but how does that work?”
Dr. Gary Barnes
Yes. So again, getting back to Debby’s comment about objectifying for self-gratification. That is not attraction. That’s lust. And so attraction can be beholding the beauty. And it’s powerful, and it’s meant to be powerful. I like your rattlesnake metaphor. But also dynamite’s a good metaphor. It’s powerful on purpose. And it could be used for constructive purposes, or destructive purposes. But it’s not ho-hum. And that’s really the good thing about God’s idea of sexuality is that it’s not supposed to be ho-hum.
Bill Hendricks
So you’re suggesting, maybe, that you see someone who’s, in your eyes, beautiful. We’re in Psalm 139 at that point. “Boy, Lord. That person’s fearfully and wonderfully made. When you put that person together, at least physically …” Or, maybe the attraction isn’t so much physical, but it’s something in their character. That’s also a kind of sexual attraction.
Dr. Gary Barnes
Yes. Exactly. Totally.
Debby Wade
Yes.
Bill Hendricks
You’re like, “Wow. That would be wonderful to live with.
Dr. Gary Barnes
Yes.
Bill Hendricks
That’s a beautiful creation that you have made, Lord.
Dr. Gary Barnes
Yeah, yeah. So here’s a little handy visual picture for me. I call it the slippery slope of sexuality. So on the bottom side of one part of the slope we have a response of demonizing sexuality. Sex, oh, that’s bad. Oh, that’s bad. Now, on the other side of the slope we can slide to defying sexuality. So I’m trying to make sex something that it wasn’t meant to be. And it becomes an ultimate for me.
Bill Hendricks
An idol.
Dr. Gary Barnes
An idol, yes. Now at the top, the slippery slope that we tend to slide to one side or the other, is sacred sexuality. And that is God’s call for us to elevate. I really like that word, elevate. It’s not what the broken person in a broken, fallen world, raised by broken parents, under attack by Satan would naturally think.
Bill Hendricks
Right. They’re gonna go one side or the other on that.
Dr. Gary Barnes
Yeah. But what God has given us is a gift that he wants us to elevate. And the purpose, again, is to draw us beyond the physicalness of sexuality, although the physicalness is necessary to the drawing. And that’s what attraction contributes to. It’s a powerful part of the drawing. But we can’t let it pull us to either side of the slippery slope.
Bill Hendricks
I like that. That’s helpful.
Debby Wade
And if I could say where I think the tension happens, and why it’s so difficult, if I can just say, in the circle of Christianity, I think sometimes Christians want things to be easy. They don’t like to live in the tension. And so, that’s why I think it’s too often …
Bill Hendricks
Just tell me what to do.
Debby Wade
Tell me what and we’ll all just repress it.
Dr. Gary Barnes
How far can I go?
Debby Wade
Or, if I’m … I’ll just repress it, and just, “That’s dead to me. I’ll repress it.” And then hopefully, when I walk down that marriage aisle, and on wedding night I can just let that back up …
Dr. Gary Barnes
Let ‘er rip.
Debby Wade
… and flip that switch, or tap that up and there it is.
Bill Hendricks
And how’s that working out for you?
Debby Wade
Because we don’t like living in the tension. Or, on the seminary campus, somebody may have everything we’ve ever dreamed … they meet all 16 points on my list except for I’m not really sexually attracted to them. But that’ll be good ’cause then we won’t be tempted while we’re dating. Or, he meets, or she meets everything on their … and I probably feel a little more holy because I’m invested in her, although I’m not all that sexually attracted to her. And God will reward me for being so holy, for dating.
Dr. Gary Barnes
Oh, and also, my pastor said, “Don’t worry, because once you get married, it’ll all happen.”
Debby Wade
It’ll come. And I think that’s … if I could speak to anybody it would be that that sexual attraction in the beginning is so powerful, and it’s needed. And that’s needed to draw us together. We don’t want it to be the only thing, but that’s where we want to look at whole person, body, soul, and mind. I want to know that person. But beyond the outer beauty, I want to know the inward beauty, or the inward handsomeness, whichever works for you. I want to know that, too. I want to know the mind, I want to know they’re spiritual relationship with the Lord. I want to know them. I want to do life with them. But I need to be attracted to them. Probably … I don’t know what your experience is, Gary, but some of the saddest couples that I work with, doing sex therapy with, or they come in, and when I get them separated, it’s like, “He met all the qualities except for I wasn’t sexually attracted. And everybody told me, ‘Well, that’s really okay, because when you get married, it’ll come. It’ll make dating easier.'” And that doesn’t come. And it’s hard to manifest.
Bill Hendricks
What do you say to a couple like that?
Debby Wade
Oh, gosh. That’s whole ‘nother podcast. [Laughter]
Dr. Gary Barnes
That’s many sessions.
Bill Hendricks
I can see that that’s not quick therapy.
Dr. Gary Barnes
No, no.
Debby Wade
No, it’s not quick therapy. And it can be rewarding therapy. And, of course, we would never want a couple to separate. If they did marry with that, we wouldn’t want that to be a reason to not stay married. But that’s where I think, as Christians, we need to help other Christians really change that message in pour in that yeah, sexual chemistry, physical chemistry, again, I think God went to too much trouble to make us so complex that we can’t ignore that. It’s there for a reason.
Bill Hendricks
Well, I was gonna say, as I was preparing for our podcast today, I thought, well all these things we’re raising about the challenges of being sexually attracted to people. I don’t know which is worse, to be sexually attracted or to not be sexually attracted. If it’s somebody has no attraction, you wonder, are you alive inside?
Dr. Gary Barnes
Either one can promote one side of the slippery slope or the other. And we’re still gonna be challenged to elevate to the sacred. Now, getting back to what Debby was just talking about, about God creating us multi-dimensional, the physical is of God. It’s not spirit good, body bad.
Bill Hendricks
That’s important.
Dr. Gary Barnes
Very important. That’s God’s plan.
Bill Hendricks
Remind everybody of that. We’re material beings, as well as immaterial.
Dr. Gary Barnes
Yes. We’re embody spirits, on purpose. And part of that is about the physical sexualness of us. There’s hormones that are involved. This is like chemistry, like real chemistry, not just emotional chemistry. And so, one of our colleagues, Doug Rosenau, who we owe a lot to in our learning and training, comes up with three D, three dimensional, whole person. You could think in terms of we’re physically beings. We’re also psychological beings, mind and emotion. But we’re also spiritual beings. And it’s the whole person that God wants to relate to him. It’s the whole person that he wants us to relate to one another. It all taps in to, I think, that window into the heart of God, and understanding … it’s not the main theme of the Bible, but it is cover to cover through the Bible as a sub theme … this concept of oneness that is not based in sameness.

Again, going back to the Trinity is the ultimate picture of it. But we get to experience it as whole people. So maleness and femaleness in an exchange, not just as physical beings, but as sexual whole beings. I’m a sexual being, in a physical way, in a psychological way, and in a spiritual way.

Bill Hendricks
You bring all of that.
Dr. Gary Barnes
All of that. And all of that is a way of reflecting the image of God, when it’s elevated.
Bill Hendricks
So how can our listeners elevate? How can they begin to think in those terms? And I assume it’s a perception, it’s an awareness, it’s a thinking sort of thing, as well as a feeling thing.
Dr. Gary Barnes
Yeah, yeah.
Debby Wade
I would say …
Bill Hendricks
How do we elevate our view of healthy sexuality?
Debby Wade
Yeah. This is gonna sound pretty basic, but I think in stating off, one, with a heart of gratitude, a gratitude that God chose to make us as sexual beings, a gratitude that God chose to make both male and female, that God chose, in his creative way, to make us so uniquely different. And I think when we stay in a heart of gratitude, that we’re aware of it, so we can’t repress, we’re grateful for it. And then, I think when we have a gratitude and a gratefulness for something, and we know that he is the creator, that helps us get in line of keeping this elevated. It’s not just being grateful for the object, or just eyeing in and going, “Whoa, I’m liking what I see.” I want to be grateful to a creator who chose to do this for our benefit, and for his glory.
Bill Hendricks
Well now, I love the sound of what you’re saying, and I agree with it. And then I quickly realize how counter cultural what you’re saying is, because I can think of so many people I know who, when they think about being grateful for them self, what God’s put together, the struggle with that, because they’re like, “Well, I’m grateful that I’m a man, but I’m too short.” Or, “Why did God make me a woman?” Or, “Okay, I’m a woman, but why do I look this way?” And all of that, of course, is heavily influenced by this culture we live in, which is so sexualized, and just has got all of the values messed up. And yeah. And gosh, people, in a sense, rank themselves, “Where do I fit, relative to others?” And that loses any sight of gratitude.

And again, heavily focused on the physical, not the psychological, the spiritual …

Dr. Gary Barnes
Right. 3D.
Bill Hendricks
… that, for many, doesn’t even enter into the picture.
Dr. Gary Barnes
Right.
Debby Wade
Right.
Bill Hendricks
But gratitude, that’s a whole new way of thinking for many of us.
Debby Wade
Yeah. So, Gary mentioned elevated earlier. And when I think of, even when I do with therapy and walking couples through healthy sexuality, because it does begin, I think should begin in early years, us learning healthy sexuality. But with what I teach and what when I’m trying to help in therapy to get this healthy concept, I walk through that we have to be liberated. And from some of the culture biases and buy ins, we have to be liberated from the bondage of maybe the things that have happened to us in the past, or the choices we made along the way and we did to our self, really trusting in the healing power that when God says in Jeremiah, “I will heal your wounds and restore you to health,” not all Scripture’s about sex, but most scripture can be applied to sex, we said, “I will heal your sexual wounds, saith the Lord, and restore you to sexual health.” So that we could have a gratefulness for how we are designed and feeling liberated, and how we can live that.

But I think, truly then, what Scripture would want us to be liberated with healthy sexuality. And then, we truly have to be educated. But we’ve gotta know some things about it, and know when we’ve … are buying into myths and misconceptions, and we’re not educated … and be healthily educated. And so we need to educate our singles that are out there in attractiveness. ‘Cause attractiveness is something that we don’t just have to monitor and healthy boundaries around in our singleness. We’re all married. We still have to have good boundaries around what we’re attracted to, and who we’re attracted to.

Bill Hendricks
Absolutely.
Debby Wade
And how to have that in a healthy way, so to be educated. And then, as you were saying, we do want our sexuality to be elevated. And again, are we gonna keep it as something we believe is sacred, and holy? Are we gonna put it in a part that God designed this, again, for our benefit, his glory, but put it in a concept, then what are the things I’ve put in place to keep it elevated? And then I think in relationships, and just in teaching, and to understand a healthy maleness and femaleness in the way we interact, I think it’s gotta be celebrated. And celebrating … so coming back, that we women could learn to celebrate our uniqueness in how we’re designed.
I love the passage in Psalm 45
10, 11, where it says, “Oh daughter, consider and give the ear. Forget your people in your father’s house, for your king is enthralled with your beauty. Honor him for he is Lord.” Now I don’t think we ought to be cocky and entitled. But if we women carried ourselves as if our creator is enthralled with our beauty …
Bill Hendricks
That’s a whole different …
Debby Wade
Oh. I think I’m gonna be so much … we’re gonna be attracted to just about everybody. But to realize that our attraction, our attractiveness, it’s not just outer beauty. But if we carry that with confidence, our inward beauty comes out, and it just exudes with us. And then, for that, over time, with couples, and to keep that attractiveness going, and that attraction, and the healthiness, it’s gotta be cultivated. And we tend to think, “Well gosh, attractiveness is so natural, or attraction’s so natural,” then whatever we feel in the very beginning, it’ll just happen, it’ll just grow, it’ll just maintain, ’cause it’s organic, it’s natural. But if we say that about a garden, I’m not into gardening. It’s too much work. But I know we’re using organic, natural earth, and we throw in natural organic seed and water, pretty natural, and sun, and we can’t just throw it in and put it together and go, “We’ve got an organic garden, it’s gonna grow.” We have to work at it and cultivate it and see what it needs.
Bill Hendricks
And pull the weeds.
Debby Wade
And pull the weeds. Find out what’s messing that attraction up. And so, I do believe it’s a space that requires all those things, long term. To be liberated, to be educated. Our sexuality and attraction needs to be elevated.
Bill Hendricks
And cultivated. Celebrated.
Debby Wade
Celebrated and cultivated.
Bill Hendricks
So you mentioned the word early there. And I think I’m about to flip the switch on yet another podcast topic by asking this question. But it now seems, when you introduced the word early, I immediately think about the role that parents play in helping their children elevate sexuality, as well as this whole notion of attractiveness.
Dr. Gary Barnes
It’s huge. It’s gigantic. And if you are talking to people behind closed doors, or if you just do general surveys, and you’re asking, “Where’d you get your sex education? And what did you get at home? Or what did you get at church?” Usually it’s three words.
Bill Hendricks
That’s a short conversation.
Dr. Gary Barnes
“Don’t do it.”
Bill Hendricks
That’s about right.
Dr. Gary Barnes
That’s my sex education. And so, we also give the message, even in our Christian communities, that you’re not even a sexual being until you become married.
Bill Hendricks
Wow. Yeah.
Dr. Gary Barnes
And don’t even think about being sexual if you’re single. So there’s a lot of miss education that may be well intended, but is still miss education. And we especially, I think, need to do makeup work on single sexuality, and elevate it, and give it a vision.
Bill Hendricks
That there is life apart from marriage.
Dr. Gary Barnes
It’s God’s ideal that you are a sexual being as a single. You have a unique way, and a unique mission as a single sexual, compared to … But it’s not second class. It’s not secondary. But it does have a uniqueness to it. I like Stanley Grenz’s explanation. He says, “Okay. Just like you need male and female to bear God’s image, you need singles and marrieds to bear God’s image. Because any one of those is an incomplete image bearer.” So in a married couple, intimacy is uniquely bearing God’s image about his exclusive love, whereas single intimacy, as a whole person being, including sexual, is demonstrating God’s inclusive love. But it has distinctives in how you’re being a sexual being, as a single, or as a married. And so we’re totally missing our opportunity to elevate, especially for singles, I think, in this way.
Bill Hendricks
Well so … let me try to put this in some practical terms. Let’s come up with a hypothetical. And being a man, I’ll speak as a man. So, a man’s in an office setting, and a new person’s hired who happens to be female. And when she’s introduced his instant reaction is, “Wow, she’s gorgeous.” And let’s say, for the sake of argument, she’s single. Now, first of all, if the man is married, that kind of attraction, he already knows if he’s faithful to his marriage vows, there’s a boundary here that I can’t pass. Whereas, if he’s single, I think there’s a strong tendency for the guy to go, “Boy. I’d like to get to know her. I’d like to move forward here.” But it seems to me, somewhere in here, whether married or single, the guy … what I’m hearing is, there’s some reflection he needs to do about that attraction. Is that … ?
Dr. Gary Barnes
But we have to be very intentional with it.
Bill Hendricks
Tell me more about that.
Dr. Gary Barnes
Okay. So, I think there’s two expressions, sexual expressions that are really helpful in an educating way, to think of social sexuality, and erotic sexual expression.
Bill Hendricks
Okay. What’s the difference?
Dr. Gary Barnes
Okay. So in a social sexual exchange, I am not trying to neuter the exchange. I’m actually embracing the maleness and the femaleness, or you might say, the otherness … ’cause I don’t want to over stereotype what maleness and femaleness is. But let’s just say the otherness. And the also chemistry, the chemical chemistry that’s going on in that exchange. When I neuter it, I’m taking away the potential, the capacity of that exchange, in terms of what it can be like. In the process of this, I’m thinking in terms of three D exchange, whole person exchange, not just a physical, “Wow, you have physical beauty,” or, “you have sexual attractiveness,” the way the world would define sexual attractiveness. I’m thinking of whole person exchange. And so, but I’m not neutering, I’m not repressing, so that I’m not experiencing sexual feelings. I’m boundaring sexual behaviors, but I’m embracing that this is a whole person exchange.
Bill Hendricks
Which is really important, because of the problem of objectifying that you mentioned.
Debby Wade
Right.
Bill Hendricks
If I just look at them as a one dimensional body and I don’t see there’s a whole person here, and I need to take into account the whole person.
Dr. Gary Barnes
And this is where the slippery slope comes in. We tend to have a tendency to repress the whole thing as a way of having a boundary, which is actually a really unsafe boundary. Or we tend to deify, and then we physically objectify. And then it’s about self-gratification than it is embracing and bring out the best of somebody else’s otherness.
Bill Hendricks
Well, and I can see that the whole person really is the whole package, in the sense that it’s all tied together, meaning … I’ve certainly had this experience myself of meeting somebody and I think, “Wow, she’s gorgeous. She’s really attractive.” But then after hanging around this person and watching her interact with people, or maybe with me, I’m like, “You don’t look nearly as attractive as you did an hour ago. I’m actually kind of repulsed here.” And, of course, how many marriages are there out there where, “Oh, he was my prince, she’s my … and we had the marriage, we had the wedding,” and six weeks later, they’re hardly talking to each other, because they’ve discovered who they married.
Debby Wade
Right. I’m gonna come back to two words that I would say if we have that slippery slope that help us maybe navigate staying at the top where it’s elevated. And the two words that come to mind for me is respect and steward. That God expects us to respect others. And again, respect females in the way that they exude their femaleness. And that could cover a wide range or variety of how somebody would express their femaleness. But for men to respect females. And then for us females, that we would respect the male. And so I’m gonna respect you as a whole person, so I choose to respect your body. I respect our interaction. I respect your uniqueness. So I am gonna respect that this is also could be dangerous if I did not steward myself well.

God gives us the ability and a lot of freedom in two areas that are very powerful. The ability to make money, and our sexuality. He designed us with our sexuality. And he trusts us. And when we think about how much he trusts us in that. And he says, “I gonna to trust you. And I’m also gonna ask you to steward it well.”

Bill Hendricks
That’s right out of the creation mandate.
Debby Wade
Yeah.
Dr. Gary Barnes
Yes.
Bill Hendricks
I’m giving you this world.
Dr. Gary Barnes
Exercise your power.
Bill Hendricks
Exercise your power.
Debby Wade
And so, if I don’t repress my sexuality, but I am going to steward it well, and I’m gonna respect you in the process. It really helps. And again, I think there’s a lot of boundaries we could create on what are boundaries I need in stewarding? Just like we have financial planning. How do we steward our finances well, so we’re able to do with our finances what we want to do and honor God? So, finding the healthy boundaries that help us steward our sexuality well. And then, what is it that we do that makes sure that we are always respecting others in their body, their personhood. So.
Dr. Gary Barnes
Can I go back to the social sexuality thing? Because Debby and I co-teach a course here on human sexuality. It’s an elective course, not required, but we get so many requests that it would be required, putting in a plug for it. But one of the big things that we have some of our best discussions about in this class is about social sexuality expression. And so …
Bill Hendricks
Which would be the kind of …
Dr. Gary Barnes
Because when I’m embracing this whole person exchange, that’s not sexual behavior, genital, erotic behavior, but it’s still a full sexual exchange, what is gonna happen is I will have sexual feelings. And so it’s about Debby’s term, respecting and stewarding these sexual feelings that are also in the exchange, both from me and from you. It’s a two-way exchange. And so I have to live in the tension of feeling sexual attraction in that exchange, but I’m respectful, and I’m responsible in my stewarding so that I don’t let the feelings drive my choices.
Bill Hendricks
I don’t have to act on the feelings.
Dr. Gary Barnes
Yes. But I have to live in the tension of experiencing those feelings. But I’m saying to myself, “My feelings don’t determine my decisions, but I’m gonna have to work with them.” I’m gonna have to be intentional with these.
Bill Hendricks
What you’re describing here is, frankly, a matter of spiritual growth, and some spiritual discipline, if I could put it that way.
Dr. Gary Barnes
But here’s where it disconnects, even on a seminary campus.
Bill Hendricks
Oh, for sure.
Dr. Gary Barnes
Men and women are passing each other on the sidewalks, and men are not even looking at women in the eyes. Because they’re afraid they’ll have sex with them if they look at the in the eye.
Debby Wade
And they’ll want to have sex with them if they have eye contact.
Dr. Gary Barnes
Yes.
Bill Hendricks
Right.
Dr. Gary Barnes
A man will be on an elevator and the door opens and a woman steps in and smiles and says, “Oh, do you know what time it is?” And the guy jumps to the back of the elevator and says, “I’m married.”
Bill Hendricks
No, I know exactly what you’re talking about. I’ve seen that happen.
Dr. Gary Barnes
Yeah.
Bill Hendricks
For some men, it’s like there’s a fear, like women are dangerous.
Dr. Gary Barnes
Yeah. Repression is my strategy.
Bill Hendricks
Exactly. Exactly. And that’s not healthy.
Dr. Gary Barnes
That’s a time bomb ready to go off. So, I … We’re growing godly servant leaders on campus that are missing the idea of how do I become a godly steward of my sexual feelings.
Bill Hendricks
Well I’m glad you’re teaching that class, then.
Dr. Gary Barnes
Well, maybe we should make it a required class.
Bill Hendricks
Maybe we should. Because I think about somebody who’s got that mindset, a man, knowing … okay, they make it all the way through graduation and so forth, and then they go, say, become a pastor in a church, and now they’ve got people in his congregation looking to him for direction on the very things we’re talking about. What’s he gonna say? More importantly, what’s he gonna model?
Dr. Gary Barnes
Yes. Exactly. What’s he gonna model?
Bill Hendricks
That communicates everything.
Debby Wade
Yes, it does. That makes …
Dr. Gary Barnes
Because modeling repression is not gonna be helpful for the congregation, and it’s gonna be dangerous for him.
Bill Hendricks
It just repeats the cycle. So there’s some other person that grows up in that congregation and thinks, “Well, that’s how it works.”
Dr. Gary Barnes
That’s how we do it.
Bill Hendricks
Well, we gotta change that.
Dr. Gary Barnes
Yeah.
Bill Hendricks
Our listeners have to help us change that in the places they have influence. One question … we’re starting to run on our time … but we talked about sexual attraction, which is sort of from within. It has that feeling of something within me is being drawn toward this other person. What about sexual attractiveness? In other words, the person who is putting their clothes on for the day, and they’re thinking about the face, if you will, that they’re gonna present to the world.
Dr. Gary Barnes
The presentation.
Bill Hendricks
The presentation. They want to be attractive. And again, I think there’s a bunch of cultural things driving it. But is that a healthy value, to want to be attractive? From a biblical standpoint.
Dr. Gary Barnes
Yeah. That’s definitely your question, Debby.
Bill Hendricks
From a biblical standpoint, just …
Debby Wade
Again, God uses beauty throughout Scripture. And so I believe if anything, he would want us to believe within our self, that because we are a creature that he designed, that there is beauty within us. And so I think there is a way that we can all choose to carry our self that puts our best self forward. Now that doesn’t mean we all always have to be all dolled up, or always wear tuxes or whatever. But how can I exude my best? And I believe that if I’m exuding my best because I believe inside positive things, I am probably going to exude positive attractiveness. If I loathe myself, if I’m disgusted with myself, if I don’t appreciate at all at how God designed me, that’s what I’m gonna exude.
Bill Hendricks
That’s right.
Debby Wade
And so I think some of our outer attractiveness does come from with on how we carry ourselves. And again, whether someone feels they exude beauty … I’m gonna say females … without any makeup on vs. if they do have it on, they still feel they can exude with confidence. If somebody feels that they can’t go outside or set foot out in the yard unless they are all dolled up, then I would say that they need to work on how can they exude their natural beauty? I believe that lot of that’s based on what do we believe, coming back to the mind? What do we believe about our self?
Dr. Gary Barnes
It goes back to the slippery slope again.
Debby Wade
Yeah.
Dr. Gary Barnes
Am I repressing or deifying in my presentation of attractiveness?
Bill Hendricks
Well, and I also think it goes back to the whole person, the three D idea, because notwithstanding, yes, we have a physical being, which is what people see first, but I think the New Testament instruction to women is let not your adornment be external only. And it’s important, that word only is there. He’s not saying, “Don’t worry about that.” He’s saying, “Don’t just focus on that,” which, of course, is where most people, certainly most women I suppose, focus, is like how’d that face look? How does that hair look? That’s fine, but let it be that person within.
Debby Wade
And then, how do we treat others?
Bill Hendricks
Is there a beauty about the whole person, so that as they treat other people, and they communicate, there’s a beauty that exudes from them that becomes very attractive in every way, not just sexually, but just, you like to be around them as a person, because they’re a great person. They … ultimately they’re manifesting Christ to us in their unique way. That’s what we want to elevate to, I think. Right?
Dr. Gary Barnes
Yes.
Debby Wade
I think it’s the opposite example you gave earlier when you said somebody might be very attractive and you think drop dead gorgeous, and spend some time with them, and all of a sudden they’re less and less pretty vs. someone that you may not necessarily be as attracted to at first. But the more you get to know them, it’s like, as their beauty exudes, they all of a sudden become this beautiful or handsome person, because now you know them full body and full person. It’s if that attraction never comes, if that physical attraction never comes, that would be someone you don’t want to date.
Bill Hendricks
Yeah. Probably God didn’t design you to move all the way into intimacy, full intimacy with them.
Dr. Gary Barnes
Yeah.
Bill Hendricks
Well this is a very deep, complex subject, it seems to me, but a very practical one, because people deal with this all day long.
Dr. Gary Barnes
We are sexual beings.
Bill Hendricks
Yeah.
Debby Wade
At every age.
Dr. Gary Barnes
It’s who we are.
Bill Hendricks
And the real word here is we need to celebrate that. But we need to elevate that to the place that God intended it to be.
Dr. Gary Barnes
And be very aware that the slope is slippery. I do tend to slide to demonizing and repressing, or I slide to deifying and making it an idol.
Bill Hendricks
And fortunately, that’s why we have the Holy Spirit. That’s why Christ has redeemed us so that we become more like him.
Debby Wade
And accountability with other people.
Bill Hendricks
Alright. I like that. Well, our time is gone. I want to thank the both of you for being here. This has been fantastic. And I want to thank our listeners for stepping in with us. If you have a topic that you’d like us to consider here on The Table Podcast, or comments, feel free to email us at thetable@dts.edu. That’s thetable@dts.edu. And for the table, I’m Bill Hendricks. We’ll see you next time.
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Bill Hendricks
Bill Hendricks is Executive Director for Christian Leadership at the Center and President of The Giftedness Center, where he serves individuals making key life and career decisions. A graduate of Harvard, Boston University, and DTS, Bill has authored or co-authored twenty-two books, including “The Person Called YOU: Why You’re Here, Why You Matter & What You Should Do With Your Life.” He sits on the Steering Committee for The Theology of Work Project.
Debby Wade
Debby Wade is a Licensed Professional Counselor, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, and Certified Sex Therapist and Certified Sex Addiction Therapist.
Gary Barnes
Dr. Barnes is an ordained minister and a licensed psychologist who specializes in marriage and family research, counseling, and training. After graduating from DTS he served as an assistant pastor for seven years. While in the New York area he was a research project coordinator at NYU Medical Center’s Family Studies Clinic and later completed a two-year postdoctoral fellowship through Parkland Hospital (Dallas) and the Child Guidance Clinics of Dallas and Texoma. His great celebrations of life are his wife, four adult kids plus three more by marriage, seven grandkids, and bicycle racing.
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