Updated: Feb 2
Sex is beautiful.
I imagine that was not the first sentence that you expected to read when you decided to open this blog. It happens to be true, but it is definitely not an approved talking point in most churches. When it comes to sex, the approved adjectives look more like tempting, forbidden, sinful…wrong. Certainly not beautiful. And yet, is there really a better word to describe the magic of sex? Is there another word that can more perfectly describe the intimacy that only exists in that blissful exchange? Another way to more accurately express the glory God gave us in the form of one another’s bodies? Sex is every bit as beautiful as Hollywood has presented it to be. In fact, when it’s enjoyed the way God designed, it is more satisfying than even Hollywood can imagine.
If you grew up in the church, you probably found the last paragraph incredibly uncomfortable. Not because I have written anything particularly edgy, but because you—like myself—have been conditioned to separate the ideas of sex and Christianity. In every other area of your life, sex is thrust under your nose on a constant basis—television, movies, literature, the workplace banter, your school conversations—but the idea of reading a Christian leader talking about sex with words of admiration… it’s uncomfortable, isn’t it?
Well, here’s the thing… it shouldn’t be. Take a moment to look at how the Bible talks about sex:
Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth!
For your love is better than wine;
your anointing oils are fragrant;
your name is oil poured out;
therefore virgins love you.
Draw me after you; let us run.
The king has brought me into his chambers.
Song of Solomon 1:2-4 (ESV)
And if that’s a little mild for you, keep reading. It gets quite spicy!
How beautiful and pleasant you are,
O loved one, with all your delights!
Your stature is like a palm tree,
and your breasts are like its clusters.
I say I will climb the palm tree
and lay hold of its fruit.
Oh may your breasts be like clusters of the vine,
and the scent of your breath like apples,
and your mouth like the best wine.
Song of Solomon 7:6-9 (ESV)
If you spend enough time with my wife and I, you will be sure to see me flirt with her openly. If you listen closely while we talk to one another, you will likely hear me tell her how incredibly sexy she is, regardless of who is in the room with us. In fact, you might even blush, wondering what is wrong with me. But the truth is, while sex is an unbelievably intimate experience, I don’t see anywhere in the word where it was ever God’s intention that it be something shameful or embarrassing. Look at this text:
Eat, friends, drink,
and be drunk with love!
Song of Solomon 5:1 (ESV)
It’s important to understand that this text isn’t quoting the bride or the bridegroom. It is quoting the people around them, who are looking in on their love. For too long, we have taken this beautiful picture of desperate passion and sexual tension and have turned it into a love poem from Jesus in order to appease our virgin ears. But the truth is, this letter was supposed to turn your cheeks a bit red. It was supposed to invite you into an intimacy that would soon be shared between a hungry bridegroom and his equally ravenous bride. And in the midst of doing so, the writer invites you into the story through this crowd of onlookers, who gaze in upon the intimacy being shared among a man and his bride…and instead of being repulsed, they delight in it.
Don’t get me wrong, it was never God’s intention that the marriage bed be shared or that we become too open with our sex lives. That is not what I am suggesting at all. But this letter opens a window to something that is beautiful. A reality where sex is not our dirty little secret, but something to be celebrated.
I share all of this because I want you to understand something harmful that we have done to our young people. Instead of demonstrating intimacy and passion in front of them, we have turned our passion into a shameful secret that we hide from them at all costs. And the result is not a preservation of their purity, as we may have hoped. Instead, we have taught them that in the world, sex is beautiful…but in the church, it is something to be ashamed of.
And then we bristle with indignation when they cast off the shackles we’ve put on them and run to the world, where they can experience something beautiful that God made for them.
I am not suggesting that God does not have expectations for how and when this beautiful gift should be experienced. He absolutely does. But we have done our children no favors by hiding sex away in a corner and pretending that it isn’t something that deserves attention. It absolutely does. Which is why I began this series. To shed light on the dangers of purity culture and to perhaps draw the conversation in a healthier direction. One where sex is not a dirty word, but a beautiful reality that deserves the voice of Jesus.
With that said, I took some time to sit down with a social media influencer, Max Milton, and to dive into his story a bit. My hope is that his story can shed some light on the very topic we are talking about in this article. Over the last year, he has developed a rather large platform on the popular social media outlet: TikTok. Where he produces Christian content for just over one hundred and fifty thousand young men and women of God on a daily basis. As of late, he has really begun to pour out his own story, including his experiences with sexual temptation. My hope is that by highlighting his story, some of you who are reading this may relate to his story and find some hope for your own.
Disclaimer: The teaching in this article is my own and does not necessarily reflect Max Milton’s theology or platform. His testimony is offered on its own merit and not as a direct example of the theology being explored in this article.
Let’s dive in:
I didn’t really script anything out. I wanted to hear your story and see where it took us. My goal is to address the idea of “purity culture” from as many directions as possible, so we can get a clear picture of where we have been and where we can go, if we put in the effort.
With that said, let’s go ahead and jump in! Tell me a little bit about your story.
Yeah, so my name is Max Milton [themaxmilton if you are searching on social media platforms]. I grew up Christian. Actually, in middle school, I was very very passionate about my faith. I was the kid who would debate the science teacher in school—I was that guy. The Jesus Freak guy. And then high school hit and I went to Italy [where he attended high school] and I really fell away from my faith. I fell into drugs, into alcohol—there was a huge hole in my life. I was just chasing everything. Then came college. I was the most lost I’ve ever been. Chasing a million different things. I was very depressed, very suicidal at times.
I met guys who were Christians who were actually cool, really down to earth guys. I used to say this all the time, “You Christians are the corniest people ever”. I was that guy who would say that stuff. Which is funny, because now I’m that corny guy. The tables have turned. But they really taught me what it meant to live out your faith and to have the joy of pursuing Christ and the joy of salvation—the joy of the Lord.
I realized that I had been running from God for so long and had been blinded.
But he just opened my eyes and really transformed me in such a short period of time. I remember meeting those guys and just wanting more and more of God. Any way I could get more of him. It was like I was in the middle of a dessert just parched, seeking more water. Now here I am, man, and that hunger and that thirst hasn’t gone away. I just want more and more. It’s like addicting or intoxicating to just chase after him and to know more of him and to live out that faith.
Long story short, I started doing TikTok over this summer with no plans of being grand or anything. Just talking about my faith at a time where I really had nothing else to do because of quarantine. I would share my prayer wall and stuff like that and it just went crazy. I started having people reach out to me just telling me, “Oh my gosh, these videos inspire me”. As I said before, chasing God is intoxicating, and I just kept doing it more and more.
Now here I am in this crazy position. God has given me so many opportunities through this. And honestly this is just a stepping stool. TikTok is a way for me to share my faith where people are. It’s not just entertainment anymore. It’s like a presence.
There’s the super abridged version of my story. But it’s still ongoing. It’s never ending.
I could be wrong, but I recall you mentioning in one of your videos that things started heading a rough direction when you got to college. Is that right?
High school. I went to high school in Italy, so you could go to bars at 12 or 13. It was kind of like living a college lifestyle at a much younger age. Like 15 or 16 for me. And drug culture is very closely tied to party culture, so it all became normal the more I became desensitized to it. I just did it to feel good.
Now that you are in Christ—not just saved, but actively chasing Christ—what does that struggle look like?
Are you talking about sexual sin, or sin in general?
In general. What does that look like in this lifestyle, verses what it looked like in that lifestyle?
It’s funny because, when you have the Holy Spirit and you know God, people tend to think you’re better, but your sin is actually revealed to you. When you have the mirror put up to your face, you see it more. I don’t necessarily feel like I am so much of a better person. I see it as the thing that God rescued me from. But I feel like I’ll never be in a spot where I will look at myself and go, “Dude, I’m like a really good person.” God will always reveal your sin to you, but give you comfort and grace.
It’s not so much fighting your sin as much as it is just delighting in Christ. Sexual sin in particular.
The seasons where I am “fighting it”—you talk about it in your book too—you know, I am putting up my accountability software and I’m doing all these things and those are the seasons where I feel that I fall more. The seasons where I fill that gap with the deep, insatiable love of Christ—with that well of living water—that’s the season where I don’t even think about it. Suddenly I’ll be like, “Wow, I went like two months and I didn’t even do x-y-z. I didn’t even think about it.”
When I’m running after God, God is giving me my purpose and revealing to me my steps. Yeah, man—that’s really what it looks like for me now. It’s a rollercoaster though. There are still seasons where I struggle with even sexual sin. It’s a never ending battle.
You mentioned that you were an outspoken Christian in middle school. Your parents are solid Christians then?
Yeah, my Dad grew up in it, joined the Marine Corp and then later around came back around. My mom didn’t grow up a Christian. When my parents got married, she was a non-Christian, he was a Christian. Then she came to faith and they made a choice to put us in Christian programs growing up. And I don’t know if it was just my culture—if it was because I was in these programs—or if I truly had a faith in Christ but all I know is, I was unashamed about sharing it. And that had a lot to do with my parents. I am super grateful for the foundation in my life that they set. I can’t ever forget that.
That’s an important conversation in itself. Sometimes as Christians we teach our children the truth without introducing them to a lifestyle of actually knowing God. Any thoughts there?
I don’t know, to be honest. I remember falling away in high school and always calling myself a Christian, and then coming back around in college. I don’t think it matters. I’m in the faith now, and I’m growing exponentially. When people ask what my testimony is, I go back and forth. Was I saved in middle school or was I saved in high school? I don’t know and I don’t think God works like that.
I get that thought. I bounce back and forth on the same question. Was I saved as a five-year old at the kids revival meeting? Or was I saved at 15 when I actually began to walk intimately with God? I’m not sure.
God doesn’t waste anything.
Amen. Well, let’s jump back into the purity conversation. Growing up, how did your parents talk about sex with you?
We never talked about Sex. My church never talked about sex. It was a traditional Baptist church and it just wasn’t spoken about.
I was very very naïve to a lot of things. I remember figuring it out on my own and being so repulsed by the idea that I thought it was disgusting. It wasn’t taught whatsoever—like, the beauty of sex is within marriage. It took me way later to figure that out.
I came across pornography really late for the average male. I was very repulsed by even the idea of sex, itself. So yeah, it was never really talked about. My friends at school would talk about it and I would be like, “Don’t talk about that. I don’t want to talk about that.”
You said that they never mentioned the beauty of sex within marriage. Do you think that conversation would have changed things for you? If you were aware of how beautiful sex is in biblical context?
Yeah. I don’t have all of the answers. It’s something I will have to think about one day if, God willing, I have kids. How do you bring it up to a child that it’s a good thing within marriage? How do you communicate that, at what age do you communicate that? You’re not gonna tell a four year old.
I think if it was communicated to me efficiently, it definitely would have changed things. Yeah, the church should have said something. There would have been less shame involved with the sexual feelings that started to evolve during puberty. I mean, every kid goes through puberty and every kid has these thoughts—I wouldn’t have felt so alone. I think so many kids go through puberty and they feel alone. They feel like they have to hide these feelings. That they are so sinful and they think, “God, why am I thinking and feeling these things?” And they go to school and their non-Christian friends are telling them yada-yada and then they go that way or this way.
That’s an important thought. For so many Christian couples, even when they get married, there is this shame that shrouds the concept of sex that they have to break free from before they can really have a healthy sex life. Even though God wants them to have sex now, they feel that shame because the conversation has been so shame-based for so long.
Which is kind of why I am bringing this series to the table. There has to be a better way to talk about sex. Especially with our children. I am at that age where all of my friends are raising small children, and it’s something that is on all of our minds. How are we going to talk about sex with the next generation?
How old are your kids?
My kids are five and three. So I don’t have to worry about it yet, but unfortunately our world is making this conversation necessary younger and younger.
Yeah, dude. Like, TikTok. I would never let my kid have TikTok.
Regarding shame: When you were living that lifestyle, did shame play a part?
Like most kids, it was pornography that first emerged. And you know, it starts with just here and there, but then it becomes more and more and more. Then someone at school tells you about something new and you can fill in the blanks from there. I remember feeling so alone and feeling like I was the only Christian in the world that did this. Like… what is going on? And I couldn’t tell anybody and I felt so disgusting.
The feelings that I was having, I didn’t know they were normal thoughts and feelings for someone going through that stage. I thought that I was just running away from God so hard by even having the feelings. Because it was never spoken about.
For the longest time I just kind of hid it. And then high school came and I just started running away from God. When God is not there and your life has no purpose, it becomes about “me” and satisfying the desires in your heart. And of course, you’re going to go for the things that are gonna do just that. And there’s no repercussions, no consequences, no order.
That is what my life was about. Chasing those desires and trying to satisfy my heart. I’m trying to leave the details out, but you know what I’m saying—that became my life. Whether it was pornography or other things, it just didn’t matter to me. The word wasn’t in my life and as a result, the peace and freedom that God brings wasn’t in my life.
When you turned back to Jesus eventually, did you experience his peace immediately? Or did the shame linger?
It wasn’t instant. It’s been a process, bro. I’m talking to a kid right now and God has been working in his life. He recently came to Christ he is like, “I want to chase after Jesus but porn keeps prevailing in my life.” So I am trying to be vulnerable with him. It was years for me. If you are fourteen to nineteen and you are making these things habits in your life every single day, when you come into Christ, Christ will free you from the bondage. But there are still so many scars.
He promises that what he begins he will complete. And it takes as long as it takes. Sanctification is a process. But it’s a beautiful process.
In one of your TikTok’s, I saw that you have been writing letters to your future wife. Where did that start?
Yeah, so that started because a friend of mine had recommended that practice. He had been doing it—and he actually just got married I believe. So I just started doing it. And, for me, it gave me more purpose, because now I am not just doing this for myself. I’m doing it for my future marriage.
You’re married and you have a kid. You know that the things and habits that you instill as a young man are going to carry into your marriage, are going to carry into how you raise your kids, are going to carry into your future relationship. These are important—the everyday habits that you instill in your life now. And sin doesn’t just go away in marriage. That’s something I’ve been told a million times and I believe. It’s not like you get married and suddenly that all disappears. So it is very important to me to remember that whoever this woman is that I’m with—God willing—I want to give myself to her in this beautiful, intimate way. It’s important to me to communicate that. So putting it down on paper—since I’m a writer, as you are—is important.
And it’s just a cool gift I can one day give her. “I’ve been thinking about you since before I even knew your name.”
That’s beautiful. Do you feel that the way you view God now is different than the way you did before this desire for holiness began?
In high school I saw God as kind of just there. I knew he was there, but he was kind of distant. There were several reasons for that. One, I was ignorant. And two, I wanted to be ignorant because of the sin that I was in. I didn’t want accountability. I didn’t want to accept that there were repercussions for my choices or that what I was doing was wrong.
I liked the idea of a God that was on my side. I likes the idea of a God who was pushing me forward and was for me, but I didn’t like the idea of a God that had certain restraints or boundaries for my life. So that is where I put him. I don’t think it was a conscious decision. I think it was just that result of what I was doing and the mold of what I wanted my life to be at the time.
When you are in sin, sin clouds you from seeing God and from delighting fully in God. So that’s where I was.
You know, he says, “If you love me, you will obey my commandments and I will manifest myself through you.”
As we obey Christ and fight sin, we can see Christ as he manifests himself through us. You know, press near to Christ and he will press near to you. The seasons where I feel the most freedom are the reasons where I am pressing in near to him.
Its multi-faceted and it goes both ways. As you press into him, sin is destroyed in your life and you can press in deeper and have a front row experience with God. It’s huge.
And what would you say to young people who have questions that are not being answered?
It really comes down to finding men that you respect—or if you’re a woman, a woman—that you can live life with, that truly wants you to succeed and wants you to grow, that loves you and willing to serve you and disciple you and walk side-by-side with you in life and not just answer your intellectual questions. Someone to actually be there for you as God grows you. That’s huge.
We all need someone. I remember when I was a freshman in college. I will never forget the people who sowed seeds in my life early on. They are the reason that I am who I am. It was a guy named Shawn Moore for me. He was a senior and I was a freshman. What business does a senior in college have going to the gym with a freshman? It was because he truly believed in me. He saw something in me. He wanted to invest in my life.
I challenge everyone to find someone to invest in them and to find someone to invest with. Find someone who can pour into you who genuinely cares for you and makes time for you and is not afraid to challenge you in those seasons where God is transforming your heart.
Absolutely. Community is so important. I noticed in many of your videos, there is a group of men around you. Can you take a moment to talk about what having that kind of community has meant in your life?
Yeah, man. It is absolutely huge. I remember when I first had this radical encounter, God was really speaking to me so profoundly and really pulling me out of the darkness, and the only reason I was able to fall and be picked up was because I had guys all around me. The guys I hung out with on a daily basis were all guys who really loved the Lord and wanted to pursue after Him.
It’s so huge, having people who aren’t just at your church, and don’t just go to church things with you, but actually hang out with you on the day to day. Yeah, some of us are busier than others. But you need community. You need guys who are going to push you toward the Lord but also enjoy doing just normal guy stuff with you.
Where do you feel the church’s responsibility is to define sexual health and behavior for the world? Where is our role in defining sexual health and then in communicating it?
Yeah, man. That’s a very profound question. And it’s a question that we could sit here for hours and discuss. I’m not going to sit here and pretend to have all of the answers. But one thing I will say is this: the church has to start by talking about it. We’re not doing a good job of doing that.
We can’t not be talking about this when every secular facet these kids are being exposed to is talking about it. The solution cannot be to not talk about it at all. We have to straighten the stick. Yes, this is what the world says, but this is what God says. Like you said, the conversations are having younger and younger. Even if it’s not at the age we would want our kids to start hearing about these things, we have to understand that they are and we have to intercede.
I don’t have a kid. You do, so you’re gonna have a different answer than me. But from my perspective, from the social media world, if I did have a kid—which I’m twenty-two so that’s not inconceivable—I would start having these thoughts about how I need to start talking about sex.
The Bible talks about sex. So if we want our kids to read the word, they are going to be exposed to mature things from an early age anyway, because the bible doesn’t shy away from them. And it’s crazy to think we would hide parts of the Bible from our kids.
I agree completely. I was a youth leader for quite a few years and Song of Solomon was always off limits. But it’s a part of God’s word. If he talks about it, we have to talk about it. Like you said, whether we talk about it or not, they are hearing about it. And they likely aren’t hearing the answers we want them to hear.
I don’t know what your plans are for putting your kids in school. But they are probably going to talk about it with their friends in school. And do we really want another five year old boy telling our kids what they learned from TikTok? It’s just the truth.
I want to be clear: I don’t have all of the answers. But these are things that I do think about.
Now, when it comes to sex being a topic of conversation on social media and in every facet of public life, do you think our young people have a responsibility to pull themselves out of those environments, or to throw themselves into the world and set the narrative? Where are your thoughts on this one?
Dude, I think we need to talk about it. I did a video the other day on pornography that did very well and people were reaching out and saying, “Thank you so much for talking about this”. We will mention it and call pornography evil, but we don’t see a lot of people being open about their struggles. We will say, “Pride is a big issue in my life” or things like that, but no one is being open about things like this.
We have to be open to talk about that. Otherwise, there is going to be this false narrative that, “These Christians aren’t dealing with this. I’m the only one dealing with this.” But me even saying these things, I had so many DM’s [Direct Messages] and comments like, “Bro, thank you so much for saying that.”
I made another video where I said that sex is beautiful. Saying that is so jarring to Christians, but it really shouldn’t be.
I see so many Christians standing up and talking about important things, but not many of them are talking about this. And we need to not be afraid to. I see people like Joshua Broome doing it, but, yeah.
I feel like, even going back to what we’ve already talked about, there is an undercurrent of a conversation where we condemn sexual sin, but we don’t talk about it outside of that context. It feels weird to talk about sex. And because of that, there are people sitting in sin that is fairly common feeling completely alone, when they could be free. So I’m with you. It’s time to pull down that taboo.
Let’s go a little deeper:
Sex is beautiful.
I really can’t say that loud enough. Not because I think we need to spend a huge amount of time talking about sex, but because I think we have failed our children by not talking it about it at all. Everywhere I look, young Christians are waking up to the reality that they are losing a fight they never even realized they were in. Not because sexual sin is so impossible to resist, but because they honestly don’t understand sex to begin with.
We live in a culture where the world is defining everything that is beautiful about sex and God’s people are covering only what makes sex scary and dangerous. We are leaving it up to a fallen world to explain the beauty of intimacy to our young people. We are trusting locker room conversations and late night brag sessions—or worse, porn—to introduce our young people to an incredibly important part of themselves. To a part of themselves that will not only control how intimate their future marriages become, but will ultimately help them explore just how deep the idea of intimacy, itself, really is.
Sex is not something shameful or dark. It is not something worthy of shame or secrecy. It is a picture of something so much deeper than carnal pleasure or biological reproduction. Sex expresses intimacy and passion and joy and oneness in a way that literally nothing else can. And if our voice is not being used to explain its awe and wonder, then the world’s will be. And at the end of the day, if we leave our children to learn about sex from the world, whose fault is it really when they begin to view sex the way the world does?
I want to hear your story! Hit the comments and tell me your experience with "purity culture" and where you see room for growth in how we talk about sex as a church!!!