UK Apologetics Reply:
In a word, yes.
Masturbation is not the unforgivable sin, but then neither are adultery, theft, or even murder.
When I say that God will forgive men or women who masturbate am I saying that masturbation is an ideal practice? Absolutely not, of course it is not. It is a sure sign that something is wrong in one's sexual life. God intended men and women to reach physical maturity then to enjoy loving relationships with each other within marriage. But we must not be naive, for many it does not pan out that way. Some don't marry, some lose their spouses, some men and women eventually succomb to painful illnesses which render sexual intercourse just about impossible, yet their partners will still have needs. All sorts of reasons why a sexual ideal is either never achieved or suddenly lost.
I think that some (of both sexes, but perhaps especially women), have a low sex drive; they have no problem containing themselves and possibly many such people don't even marry. Then there are those of, perhaps, a more medium sex drive, they will need a loving physical relationship within their lives. Finally, there are unquestionably people who have a strong, lusty sex drive. Such people will find it very hard to contain themselves and will have a strong need of sexual intimacy.
I once heard a lady say, "Well, if he took another woman with his wife sick in bed, he was no Christian!" But I happened to know that this man's wife had denied him a physical relationship with her for many, many years, even long before she became sick. She had failed in her marital obligations to her husband and eventually he succombed to the charms of another woman. Am I defending him? Absolutely not, but let us apply a little loving understanding in some of these difficult areas. Of course adultery is wrong, but so is it wrong when a wife fails to fulfil her marital obligations to her husband!!
Sometimes we evangelicals are the worst at providing pastoral care, we are strong on theology, strong on doctrine but - all too often - weak in providing good, solid, loving pastoral care. Sometimes we appear to want to send everybody to hell without making any real attempt to understand their problems and weaknesses. We don't empathize enough!
I once heard a minister say (yes, he was the more old-fashioned, fundamentalist type), "men who masturbate will be condemned to the lake of fire!" If he was right, perhaps up to 80% of the human race is doomed, but I don't think he was right and he held no concept of loving pastoral care (I am very happy to say that this particular man has now greatly moved on in spiritual understanding).
If a Christian man or woman were always close to God they might well have fewer sexual problems but we must be realistic:
1. None of us are continuously as close to God as is the ideal in this life.
2. At various periods during a typical life, all of us will have 'sexual problems,' whether it is simply periods of frustration, temptation, unrequited love, or whatever else.
The Christian community includes all kinds of people, including people of both sexes who have a strong sexual appetite - if we say that it does not, then we are being foolish and naive. Sometimes there are no easy answers for these people who - as Christians - have a lifelong struggle with their passions. Let us never forget that it was God who placed these passions within us in the first place. Am I blaming Him? Of course not but let us remember that we are frail, human and constantly in need of His grace. Sin is sin but we must all accept that there are lesser sins. Sometimes it can be better to allow an act to occur which, in an ideal situation, we would not want, rather than being in danger of greater evil. I say that, but I say no more. Fortunately, we have a compassionate, loving and merciful God Who prefers to forgive rather than to condemn, indeed, Who will never condemn His own sons and daughters. Just let us recall the biblical example of David who commited some heinous sins yet remained under God's grace.
Robin A. Brace. September 22nd, 2011.