Broaching Sex within Christian Fiction

Cynthia Herron Romance 10 Comments

Anyone who knows me knows that I am a hopeless romantic. I tear up at Hallmark commercials. I appreciate gallantry. I adore a handmade card with a heartfelt sentiment.

I am also deeply moved by: that tender kiss between those in love, handpicked wildflowers on a summer day, iced ribbons of moonlight that paint the night sky.

When I write, I immerse myself in my characters and I try to think as they would. Since I write Christian fiction, unless my characters are struggling in their walk with Christ, romance doesn’t equate to sex outside of the bonds of marriage. I don’t try to play the moral police. I’m not preachy or pretentious. 

However, I do apply biblical principles as I write. Sometimes love, desire, longing, and perceptions of romance collide headfirst with each other and they can be a difficult balancing act to juggle. In other words, I merge realism with what God intended “romance” to be. And many times, that leads my characters to the altar.

As Christ works in my characters’ lives, their wants, needs, and desires shift.

They realize that passion without love is lust.

They realize true freedom is found in Christ.

I think our idea of romance has become distorted because of how it’s portrayed in the media and on television. The youth today are raised with so many moral compasses, is it any wonder why there’s such confusion?

We’ve become desensitized to God’s will, plan, and purpose.


Society teaches:


  • If everyone else does it, says it, feels it, or believes it, “it” (insert any number of nouns, verbs, or adjectives here) must be okay.


  • “Romance” naturally includes sex, married or not. It’s the norm. Only prudes have a problem with it.


  • “Waiting” until marriage is an old-fashioned, outdated mindset that has no bearing on the 21st century.


  • Living together before marriage is an intelligent decision. It’s a checkpoint for compatibility.


  • There are no more good guys. Only go-getters.


  • Modern-day romance is different than it was 20, 30, or even 50 years ago.


What God’s Word says:


  • Our bodies are temples where the Holy Spirit dwells. We were bought for a price. We’re to flee from sexual immorality. We’re to honor God with our bodies. (1 Cor. 6:18-20)


  • We should strive to please God. We should learn to control our own bodies in a way that is holy and honorable, and not in “passionate lust.” (1 Th. 4:3-7)


  • The Word doesn’t change. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. (Heb. 13:8)


What I strive to portray as I write:


  • “Romance” is not to be confused with physical desire. Desire is a component of romance/love. It shouldn’t be what drives the story. It’s only one factor within a relationship/marital framework.


  • There must be a moment of recognition–a “come-to-Jesus-meeting” in which my characters realize Christ as their first love. Anything else is secondary, as it should be.


  • Is the accountability factor there? When all side issues are taken into consideration, can I honestly say that my storyline has dealt with these things in a Christian context from a “what would Jesus do?” viewpoint?


  • Have I effectively shown how sin and poor choices affect our consequences? Have I addressed these from a spiritual perspective?


  • Have I communicated that through true repentance comes forgiveness–that we must be truly sorry for our sin and turn away from it, and that our Heavenly Father’s love is unchanging despite our slip-ups?


  • Have I adhered to  specific guidelines and tenets of faith set forth in the realm of Christian publishing? My goal is to inform (deliver the salvation message) and encourage (growth as believers.)


And since I’ve chosen to write Christian fiction, I won’t include:


  • Scenes that depict a gratuitous lifestyle without some redemptive value. I’m not out to shock.


  • Sugar-coated sin. It is what it is–sin. There must be a day of reckoning for my characters who choose to live outside of God’s will.


  • A holier-than-thou approach. “I’m just one beggar telling another beggar where I found bread,” a pastor once said.


At the 2011 ACFW conference, I had the opportunity to take a spectacular workshop taught by authors Julie Lessman and Ruth Axtell Morren. They summed up beautifully the delicate dance between romance, passion, and the purity of our hearts.

As writers, we shouldn’t be afraid to tackle the tough issues. Our mission should always be to relate the truth in a Christ-centered, God-focused fashion.

Beating around the bush in a namby-pamby way doesn’t offer solid answers.

It’s up to us to boldly proclaim the Word through the stories God gives us to write.

Christian fiction demands this.

And we have the greatest Author to thank for it.


 What additional topics in Christian fiction (romance or other genres) should we address more?

Would there be certain subject matter that might be a turn-off?

Photo Credit: Creative Commons

 Blessings Always,

Comments 10

  1. Post
    Cynthia Herron

    Melissa: I think as Christian authors we definitely need to take a stand on what’s right and wrong. Not “right” according to us. “Right” according to scripture. And sometimes, that means tackling the tough subjects. Thanks for dropping by! 🙂

    Julie: “A Kiss is Not Just a Kiss” was indeed a fabulous workshop. Julie Lessman and Ruth Axtell Morren related how we can infuse romance/passion within our stories while being mindful of Who it is we write for. (They presented it at the 2011 ACFW conference. I don’t believe it was offered this year.)

  2. Lisa Jordan

    Cindy, it was so nice to meet you in person at ACFW.

    I have the 2011 conference CDs. I need to listen to their workshop–I just got them all loaded on my iPod.

    You presented a tough topic with finesse. Nicely done!

    There are many taboo topics that can be addressed in Christian fiction, but the content depends on the audience and the publisher. Some houses allow more controversial topics, while other houses shy away from them.

  3. Post
    Cynthia Herron

    Lisa, loved seeing your shining smile in person at ACFW, too. 🙂 You’ll enjoy Julie and Ruth’s workshop. Some CBA houses do indeed have differing content. I love the fact that their goal is the same: integrity-focused fiction that honors our Heavenly Father.

  4. Loree Huebner

    Great topic, Cindy!

    It’s a tough call.

    The Bible dealt with stories that just horrified me at times – I love the story of David, but it tackled just about every controversial topic. I think truth is best – but it doesn’t have to be overly descriptive and “in your face” for us to get the point.

  5. Post
    Cynthia Herron

    Loree, well said! The Bible certainly does deal with it all. You’re right; we don’t have to describe every nuance of what is taking (or has taken) place–a little goes along way when done tastefully and from a godly perspective.

  6. Ruth Tredway

    You did a great job of putting those thoughts into words. This is an area I haven’t spent much time on- but sooner or later, my main characters are gonna want a kiss- so I need to pay attention! Hope to see you soon.

  7. Post
    Cynthia Herron

    Ruth, yes, kissing is always good–LOL! I’m thankful we have such talented authors within the realm of Christian fiction who do a superb job with the romance aspect. Looking forward to seeing you again, too!

  8. pattisj

    Hypocrisy seems to be a huge stumbling block, or excuse for many outside the church. If this topic could be dealt with, to show that those inside the church are human and make mistakes, too, maybe more could be reached with the gospel of redemption.
    It is refreshing to find authors (or anyone else for that matter!) with a moral compass. They are hard to come by, at least in what we call “entertainment.”

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