Why Do We Need Self-Control?

by Robert Jacobs

You should avoid sexual immorality…each of you should learn to control your own body in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust like the pagans, who do not know God. 1 Thessalonians 4:3b-5

But why? Why do we need to avoid sexual immorality? Why “should [we] learn to control [our] own body”? And don’t tell me, “Because Paul said so.”

These were the questions that I had when I first began to really deal with my sexual sin. I knew that God was a God of order and reason (1 Corinthians 14:33). Even John calls Jesus the λόγος (logos), which has been traditionally translated as “word” by the church but is more often used by Greek writers to mean logic or reason. If Jesus is THE logic, ultimately the very foundation of reason, then there should be a point to the command to avoid sexual immorality.

If you place the above verse into context, you will find that Paul says that the goal of such a prohibition is our sanctification (1 Thessalonians 4:3a). That’s a good reason to avoid sexual immorality, to be set apart and holy like Christ.

I knew that this was true, but I could not help but feel that there had to be more to it than just that. Why does God allow for only one sexual expression, that between a man and a woman within the context of marriage? I just felt like there had to be some kind of practical reason to avoid sexual immorality.

And there is. The Washington Post ran an article on 22 January 2018 titled “Divorcing Sex from Love Hasn’t Made Sex More Fun, More Safe or Less Complicated.” In the article, Gracy Olmstead discusses recent research that reveals the significant downsides of casual sex. She notes, “We wouldn’t entrust a stranger with our car keys, phones, children or bank account numbers. But in the age of Tinder and casual hookups, our bodies are not one of those off-limit items. And that trust has not been well rewarded.” Additionally, her subtitle to the article strikes at one of the biggest problems of all: “concepts like consent can fall apart during sex with strangers.”

Olmstead’s article exemplifies the truth found in Proverbs 25:28: “Like a city whose walls are broken through is a person who lacks self-control.” The self-control mentioned by Paul in 1 Thessalonians is, in reality, there for our safety. When we throw off the supposed chains of self-control, we think we will be rewarded with pleasure. Yet the reality is that we open ourselves up to all kinds of danger.

You are worth protecting. No matter what has been done to you or what you have done, you are a daughter or son of God. And as sons and daughters, we should not open ourselves up to undue heartache, physical danger, or demonic attack. When we engage in any form of sexual immorality we do just that.

How do you view self-control? Do you see it as a ridiculous command of an illogical God, or do you see it as protection ordained by a God of wisdom? Our answers to these questions are crucial as we seek sexual wholeness through a more intimate relationship with Jesus.