When I decided to talk more openly about my promiscuous premarital past, I did so with great trepidation. What if someone from my past emerged and told about their sexual experience with me? What if someone came forward with their story and it cast me in a bad light?
What if my past came back to haunt me?
That hasn’t happened yet. I suppose it still could, but I haven’t had to address any of that so far. Over time, that worry faded away.
However, some news stories recently made me revisit this question — how would I respond if someone come forward with information about a sexual encounter from my promiscuous days?
Now let me be incredibly clear: I have never — NEVER — assaulted anyone, nor have I ever engaged in any kind of sexual activity with a minor (except when I was also a minor). I also don’t believe that I’ve ever harassed anyone.
But could someone embarrass me with a memory from my past? Yeah, I suppose they could.
Yet it doesn’t really matter if someone airs the sins of my past. Why? Because:
1. I own my sins. Yeah, I was a selfish person, an emotional disaster, and a sinner. If someone said, “You did X” and it was true, I’d respond, “Yep, I sure did.” No denials, excuses, no defenses.
2. I’m forgiven. Not only am I forgiven by a loving God who responds to confession and repentance with unfailing mercy — He made me a new creation. I’m really and truly not that person anymore.
3. I’ve helped others. By being transparent about my past, I’ve set the stage for others to do the same and thus discover what healing and beauty lies on the other side of redemption. My story has enabled me to give hope to spouses who need and want to let go of their sexual baggage — assuring them it can be done and God longs for you to have amazing sexual intimacy, regardless of your past sins.God longs for you to have amazing sexual intimacy regardless of your past sins. Click To Tweet
It’s coming from that place that I want to talk about the current climate of sexual accusations and how we should respond.1 Because I know full well that I’m not without sin and don’t need to be casting stones (see John 8:7).
So what is the Christian response to an accurate allegation of past sexual misbehavior?
1. Own your sins.
Ecclesiastes 7:20 says, “Indeed, there is no one on earth who is righteous, no one who does what is right and never sins.” Not you, not me. We’re all sinners. So why do people try to deny when they messed up royally, sinned against others, and left scars in their wake? You’re not fooling anybody!
You’re certainly not fooling God. As Jeremiah 16:17 says, “My eyes are on all their ways; they are not hidden from me, nor is their sin concealed from my eyes.” I like how the NLT translates this verse: “I am watching them closely, and I see every sin. They cannot hope to hide from me.”
Take the apostle Paul as an example. There’s a guy who had every reason not to trumpet, “Hey, I was once in a club that killed you people!” And yet, he was open about his sinful past; for instance, telling the Galatians, “For you have heard of my previous way of life in Judaism, how intensely I persecuted the church of God and tried to destroy it” (1:13). And in Acts 22, he addresses a large crowd (actually an angry mob) and recounts his conversation: “‘‘Lord,’ I replied, ‘these people know that I went from one synagogue to another to imprison and beat those who believe in you. And when the blood of your martyr Stephen was shed, I stood there giving my approval and guarding the clothes of those who were killing him.’” Yep, he owned it.
2. Apologize to those you hurt.
A long time ago, I wrote a post titled A Letter to a Former Lover. In it, I apologize for my part in a premarital sexual relationship that never should have happened. This sentence encapsulates how I felt: “I cheated myself and I cheated you out of what God desired for us sexually.”
If confronted by someone you hurt with your actions, the right response is to apologize. Too often we are concerned about protecting ourselves and our current lives. Some may even cite family as a reason not to admit your guilt and ask for forgiveness. I understand that, but are we sufficiently concerned about how our actions have affected their family? How it’s affected their marriage?
Hebrews 12:14 says, “Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.” Do everything you can to make peace with those you’ve hurt or offended. Even if they messed up too, apologize for your part.
3. Tell your redemption story.
Is there anything more inspirational than someone who used to suck at something and now they’re really great at it? It could be the story of a girl who fell on her skates over and over when she was a child, but now she’s a figure skater competing in the Olympic Games. It could be the former drug user whose habit cost him his job and social life, but now runs a nonprofit organization that helps addicts stay clean. It could be the guy who used to preach against and persecute Christians, who became one of the most vocal proponents of Jesus Christ and The Way.
Paul didn’t stop with a recitation of his past sinfulness. He used that opportunity to explain how Jesus saved him. “But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life” (1 Timothy 1:16). What a witness for Christ!
If someone brings your sin from last year or decades ago out in the open, your response should be that of the first stanza of “Amazing Grace”:
Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me
I once was lost, but now am found
T’was blind but now I see
4. Take care of any loose threads.
Is there some tangible thing you could offer to make up for your past sin? Do you need to work on areas of your marriage affected by specifics brought to light? Do you need to forgive yourself where God has already forgiven you? Do you need to deal with any lingering temptations?
Loose threads that need addressing are situation specific. Even forgiven sins have consequences. Some may not be able to be removed, but others could be at least minimized. Take care of what you can.
Why am I offering all of these thoughts? Because sexuality has been in the news, and I believe it’s important as Christians to understand how to evaluate the responses given by those credibly accused of sexual misconduct.
And because on a more personal level, one or both spouses may have past sexual sins that need addressing. If you’re not willing to address your own sins in these ways, it will be difficult to move forward in your marriage with trust and intimacy. Your spouse may not know exactly why they struggle to feel vulnerable with you, but unconfessed sin can be a barrier to sexual intimacy in your marriage.Unconfessed sin can be a barrier to sexual intimacy in your marriage. Click To Tweet
But remember, there is joy and freedom in owning, confessing, apologizing, and embracing God’s redemption. Trust me — I’ve lived it.
1 Please don’t assume I’m talking about a specific news story. It’s really not about any one thing, but rather the culmination of various allegations and responses I’ve seen.