Missionary Singles Issues
Missionary Single Issues: Sexual Fantasy
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As Bill was teaching a group of youth about modesty, one of the unmarried
young women who had a child opened her blouse and began nursing the baby with
her breasts in plain sight. Bill knew that his host country had different
standards, but he had not expected this right here in the church, and he could
not keep his mind from wandering.
As Mary was walking along the street, a man coming toward her unzipped his
pants, turned toward the building and urinated in plain sight. She thought
she was prepared for anything, but this sudden frontal nudity made it hard to
control her thoughts. Back home the man would be charged with indecent
While getting some R & R on a “family friendly” beach, a group of single
missionaries saw several women in topless swimming suits and couples wearing
little and touching each other all over.
Thoughts following such incidents are real and very important issues in the
lives of single missionaries. Here are some questions that need answering.
Doesn’t everyone think about sex?
Perhaps not all singles daydream about sex, but almost all do. Way back in
the 1930s two psychologists asked nearly 200 single college students if they had
ever daydreamed about certain topics and if they had recently done so. Sex
was near the top of the list, and there was little difference between the men
and the women. Among the men, 97% reported having had sexual daydreams,
and among the women 96% reported having had them.
Only three or four percent reported not having sexual daydreams in those days
before television, the internet, and DVDs were available. Research shows
that such fantasy certainly has not decreased since then! There probably
are a few people who have little or no interest in sex, but the vast majority of
people, including single missionaries, do think about it.
Does it hurt anything?
Several dangers are involved when people engage in sexual fantasy. Here
are a few.
It may be sinful, and this damages a person’s relationship with
God (more on this later).
It often leads to unrealistic expectations so that people are
disappointed when they marry. Actors appearing in pornography are
posing and acting out the director’s fantasy, so they do not look or act
like “real people.”
Such fantasy does not lead to long-term relationships with one
person but to needing constant new stimuli involving different people.
Readers discard or sell their pornographic magazines after a few weeks.
That is why such magazines can publish new issues each month—the old ones
What does the Bible say?
Sexual fantasy is certainly nothing new, but such fantasy by large numbers of
single adults is. While elaborating on the commandment against adultery in
the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, “But I tell you that anyone who looks at a
woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matt.
5:28). Notice that Jesus was talking about adultery, not premarital sex.
He was talking about sexual fantasy by married individuals. Remember that
people could, and often did, marry as soon as they became sexually mature.
Other than children 11 or 12 and under, there were few single people at that
time in that culture.
Some people interpret this verse to mean that if they have a passing thought
about sex with another person they have committed adultery. However, both
Jesus and Paul used the same word describing themselves that is translated
“lustfully” here in the Sermon on the Mount.
At the Last Supper as Jesus spoke to his disciples he said, “I have strongly
desired (lusted?) to eat this Passover with you before I suffer” (Luke
Writing to the Romans Paul said that he would not have known what
coveting (lusting?) was “if the law had not said, ‘Do not covet (lust?)’”
It is interesting to note that where the law said
that, Deuteronomy 5:21 is translated “You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife.
You shall not set your desire on your neighbor’s house or land…” Thus
lusting is more than a passing glance or thought; it is also translated
“strongly desired” or “set your desire on.”
Have things changed since Bible times?
As technology has changed over the years, so has the availability of
materials to promote sexual fantasy.
Millennia ago in Bible times erotic material was available in the
forms of drawings, paintings, and carvings. These could be seen only
by individuals or relatively small groups
Centuries ago the invention of the printing press and moveable
type made such material available to the masses in the form of books,
magazines, posters and billboards.
Decades ago with the invention of recordings on vinyl and tape
such material became available in movies for theaters, tapes for home VCRs,
and songs on vinyl disks and cassette tapes.
In the last few years such material has been digitized and is
available on CDs, DVDs, and even directly through the air.
Paul wrote to the Ephesians (2:2) about when they had followed the ways of
the “ruler of the kingdom of the air.” People can now listen to the radio,
watch TV, and download books from satellites. With wireless access they
can access websites and email through the air. With their cell phones they
have voice communication, texting, and sexting available, again literally
through the air.
With this available literally to anyone, anywhere, at any time, even
Christian workers access them. A Christianity Today survey found that 36%
of USA pastors had a current problem with cyberporn. Several doctoral
dissertations have found the percentage of missionaries at least that high, some
What about dreams while asleep
Dreams are reported several times in the Bible, many of them at the beginning
of Israel’s history in the Old Testament and at the beginning of the Christian
faith in the New Testament. Some dreams are frightening, others are
prophetic, and in still others writers portray God as speaking through dreams.
No dreams are recorded as being sinful in Scripture.
Some individuals feel guilty about the sexual content of their dreams, but
there is no Biblical evidence that God considers this sin. Dreams often
reflect things people have been thinking about or doing. If a person has
been engaging in sexual fantasy or immoral behavior, that may be responsible for
the dream; however, the sin is in the lust or immorality, not in the dream.
What can single missionaries do?
One thing single missionaries ought to do is to distinguish between
temptation and sin. Everyone experiences temptation, but not everyone must
sin. Jesus experienced sexual temptations, but he did not sin (Hebrews
King David experienced sexual temptations, and he did sin (2 Samuel 11:2-3).
Temptation itself is not sin, but yielding to it is
sin. Most people know when they have crossed the line between temptation
and sin. Unable to sleep and going for a walk, David noticed an attractive
woman next door. This was temptation, not sin. The problem was that
instead of looking away, David followed up on what he saw by inquiring about the
woman. Then it was a slippery slope to adultery and murder.
Another thing people need to do is to make a specific
commitment to God relative to sexual temptation and sin and do the following.
Write it down and place the note in a prominent place like a
mirror or computer screen.
Often review scripture passages on the topic (Leviticus 18-21, 1
Corinthians 5-7), and keep renewing the mind (Ephesians 3, Colossians 4).
Accept their own vulnerability (1 Corinthians 10:12).
Take every thought captive (2 Corinthians 10:15).
Think on good things (Philippians 4).
A third thing individuals should do is to avoid
temptation when possible. Take steps to avoid common things leading to
temptation such as those that follow.
Entertainment: Certain movies, television shows,
music, DVDs, CDs, and video games.
Printed material: Particular books, magazines,
newspapers, and catalogs.
Digital material: Specific websites, chat
rooms, You Tube, and other material on-line.
Public material: Things you may run into in
your daily life, such as billboards, posters, newsstands, and checkouts.
A fourth thing people need to do is to have a plan for
how to react if their avoidance steps fail. No matter how hard individuals
try, exposure to some sexual material will occur. Here are some suggested
Entertainment: Walk out, turn it off,
change the station, throw it away.
Printed material: Discard it, cancel the
subscription, and take name off the mailing list.
Digital material: Click to close the
window, click another program on the tool bar.
Change route immediately, bounce your eyes away,
or close your eyes.
Finally, unmarried missionaries need accountability
partners to meet with weekly. Face-to-face meetings are best, but if that
is not possible weekly contact via skype is an acceptable alternative.
They also need
www.covenanteyes.com through which that accountability partner can hold them
responsible for what they do on-line.
One can find good information in Singled Out: Why
Celibacy Must Be Reinvented in Today’s Church (2009) by Christine Colon and
Bonnie Field (Brazos press, division of Baker).
Ronald Koteskey is
Member Care Consultant