John Piper denounces bedroom role-playing: ‘Fantasized sin is sin’

John Piper
Theologian John Piper gives a sermon at Passion 2020 at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia on Jan. 1, 2020. |

Noted theologian and Bible teacher John Piper recently denounced the practice of some married couples to engage in role-playing in the bedroom, stating that “fantasized sin is sin.”

On an episode of the podcast “Ask Pastor John” posted to the website Desiring God on Monday, Piper addressed multiple questions sent in by listeners whose spouses were interested in various types of sensual role-play.

“My husband likes to use role-playing in the bedroom, and various levels of bondage and dominance. He wants me to say things like ‘I am your slave.’ He wants me to wear certain collars around my neck. To the far extreme, he likes to fantasize that he is raping me,” said one unnamed listener.

“But he’s a very nice person outside of the bedroom. He only asks if he can play out the fantasy in bed. What should I do?”

Another anonymous listener explained that a counselor had told her and her husband that role-playing was “okay in the marriage bed with mutual consent.”

Piper, an author and chancellor of Bethlehem College & Seminary in Minneapolis, Minnesota, responded by stating that “fantasized sin is sin, no matter how many people agree on it." He added that “playacted sin is sin,” citing Jesus’ words in Matthew 5:27–29 to justify this conclusion.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell,” reads the biblical passage.

With the passage in mind, Piper said that “Jesus’s standard of holiness is not merely a standard of bodily deeds, but also of mental delights.”

“If you need ever more kinky sex — ever more bizarre, unconventional sexual acts at the expense of your spouse’s enjoyment — you are elevating your appetite above his or her delights. That’s not the way of Christ,” Piper continued.  

“If you pursue a sexual act or an imagined sexual situation because it is more stimulating, scintillating, pleasurable, because it is forbidden, then you are living out the way of the fool, and you are embodying the principle of bondage.”

Piper went on to warn that if a “sexual desire has become so prominent in the way you pursue satisfaction in life that you must push the limits of sexual conventions in order to be a joyful and contented person, your God and your purpose for living have become too small.”

“In other words, we need a big, beautiful, glorious, transcendent, majestic vision of God and his purpose for our lives if sex is to stay in its pleasurable, small place,” he added.

“Rather, you will have it by devoting 99 percent of your effort to love your wife well outside the bedroom, so that she finds you somebody she really desires.”

In 2016, University of Nebraska-Lincoln sociologist Kelsy Burke published a book analyzing the sexual practices of married evangelicals, as seen in studying the content of 36 websites where large numbers of Christians have sought sexual advice.

“In online blog comments and message boards, website users sometimes debate whether or not a particular sex act is 'OK,’” explained Burke in a 2016 interview with The Christian Post.

“But the prevailing attitude is that if a believer is in open communication with God and a spouse about his or her desires, then those desires are permissible.”

This is not the first time Piper has shared his thoughts on sensitive issues surrounding sexuality.

In 2020, the theologian said God sometimes sends unwanted sexual dreams to “terrify us with warnings in order to humble our pride and keep us back from sin.”

“God really does use dreams to terrify us with warnings in order to humble our pride and keep us back from sin,” Piper said. “But if that’s true, one way to look at sexually illicit dreams — dreams when you’re doing illicit things in the dream — is that God is terrifying us in our dreams of the horror of this prospect in real life, so that we won’t do it.”

He also previously explained that “sexual attraction doesn’t belong to the essence of marriage” and sexual pleasure “is not essential to marriage.” 

“The essence of marriage is the making and keeping of a covenant between a man and a woman to be husband and wife to each other as long as they both shall live,” he said. “That is the essence of a marriage: covenant making, covenant keeping — to be a husband and a wife.”

“And to be sure, that covenant includes the promise to give one’s self to the other in sexual relations (1 Corinthians 7:3),” he added. “The husband should give his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife her husband. But there is nothing in the Bible that mandates any particular degree of physical pleasure in that relationship.”

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