Let's face it, you cannot have a book on love and marriage without a discussion about the role of sex in that relationship. Since I am neither a marriage counselor nor a sex therapist, I will not be discussing this topic from a dysfunctional or mechanics perspective (i.e. The psychological reasons why a man or woman has stopped having sex or is attracted to a certain type of sex act), I will not discuss the mechanics of sex or how to "improve" one's performance, etc.
As the title of this lesson indicates, I want us to examine the spiritual nature of human sexuality. Learning the meaning of "holy" sex will give you not only a better appreciation for sex and each other, it will also help you see God's role in the experience of oneness and intimacy that sex creates.
Sex and the Mind of God
Let me voice a question that many of you may already be thinking or will surely be thinking before long as you read this book. "If God really did create sex and if He did give it to married couples as a special gift, why is sex such a struggle?"
I rarely see couples that have a bad marriage but great sex; or a wonderful marriage but bad sex. Sex is not always the cause of marriage problems, but it is very often the indicator of how satisfying and happy the marriage is in general.
I believe that part of the reason we struggle so much with sex in marriage is because of what we have been taught about it over the centuries, especially within Christianity. In the last 1000 years there have been some major changes and attitudes about the role and meaning of sex within marriage.
- The first generation (especially the Roman Catholic perspective) viewed sex (especially the pleasurable part) as a necessary evil in the need to procreate as was commanded in Genesis 1:22.
- With time (several centuries) we came to the understanding that the pleasure in sex is God-given and, therefore, blessed by Him in marriage. This probably had a lot to do with the Protestant Reformation and the greater number of clergymen who now could marry. Their marital experiences brought greater clarity and understanding to their view of this subject in the Bible.
- The modern generation has come to the conclusion that since God blesses sex we should use every tool and every technology to embrace this wonderful gift so as to maximize its pleasure. The problem here is that even though the inhibitions and false information about sex are gone for modern Christians, there is still a tremendous amount of struggle, pain and dysfunction within Christian couples. With all this freedom and technology something is still missing.
- The latest thinking on this issue can be summarized in the phrase "META-SEX" (not MEGA, META). The word META is from the Greek, meaning beyond, beyond the usual experience of sex. The thinking is that God designed sex to be more, to go beyond the idea that it is simply a fun thing for married people to do while they are having babies.
God designed sex to be an encounter with the divine! No other experience is like it. It is "other worldly" and it is this way to give us a glimpse into the only "other world" that exists, the heavenly, spiritual realm!
If this is so, then sex is holy, sex is sacred, sex is not only a pathway to be one with our spouse, it is also a way to experience oneness with God.
These are lofty ideals and challenging goals, but the research confirms that as we grow in our understanding that sex is a God-given holy event, we also grow in the level of love for our mate and have greater satisfaction in marriage.
Sex as Holy
It is with this thinking about holiness, therefore, that we say that sex is holy. It is holy because:
1. It was created by the Holy God before sin even entered the world to corrupt it. Like everything else, sex was created perfect and spiritually pure from the beginning.
2. Sex is holy because God designed it to be one of His special experiences. The Jews designed houses, monuments, etc. but God personally designed the Ark of the Covenant, therefore it became holy. Man acts out in many ways, but sexual activity was designed by God. Therefore it has, by design, a spiritual meaning as opposed to other human actions that do not.
3. Sex is holy because God set it apart for specific purposes that He decreed:
A. The purpose of creating the "one flesh" experience between a man and a woman was for them to experience the holy oneness designed by God in sexual union - Genesis 1:24.
This is why sex between men and men, women and women, or any other combination other than one man and one woman in marriage is not permitted. These combinations do not use sex in its original and holy purpose and are thus sinful.
Ok, there can be affection and sexual experience that is pleasurable in these other unions, but they are not holy in God's eyes because they are not pursued for His purpose. Making something lawful, even acceptable to society does not necessarily make it holy. It is only holy if done according to God's plan and for His purpose. God set the sexual experience apart for the purpose of creating "oneness" in marriage between one man and one woman.
B. To represent the relationship between Christ and His Church – Ephesians 5:31-32.
God designed the tabernacle and ark as well as other objects used in worship to "represent" the process of salvation. The sacrifice of animals, sprinkling of blood on the ark, tablets of the Law, separation of the outer and inner rooms of the tabernacle… all of these were objects that God used to teach man the story and meaning of His work with Christ.
In the same way, sex is holy because God uses it in marriage to represent another eternal truth: the reality of the intimate relationship that Christ has with His church that will be fulfilled when He comes. Before the beginning of time, God planned the eventual relationship between the church and her Lord and Savior. Before the beginning of time, God set aside the oneness in marriage achieved through sex to represent, in physical terms, what was true and present in spiritual terms.
This is why adultery is sin, why God hates divorce, why the roles of wives, husbands and children are clearly explained: so that marriage (Biblical model) will reflect accurately what God originally designed it for, and what it is supposed to represent with Christ and His church.
C. Procreation – Genesis 1:28
God could have designed us in such a way that we could procreate in much simpler and less involving ways. But conceiving children is a direct result of the experience of sex within marriage. It is tied to the experience of "oneness" by the couple. We can produce children in other ways, but not all of these ways are holy in the way they reflect God's design (e.g. surrogate mother).
D. For Worship – I Thessalonians 5:18
Just as the appearance of the burning bush filled Moses with awe and devotion, a true experience of the "oneness" that God designed sex to produce in marriage can lead us to a sincere heartfelt sense of gratitude and praise for this wonderful gift He has given us.
I am not saying that having sex is worship. The pagans used sexual activity in their worship rituals out of a distorted reasoning that offering and sharing this other-worldly experience would please the gods. We know what God wants of us in public and corporate worship, and how we are to conduct ourselves so that we do not fall into this trap.
What I am saying is that this powerful experience, when used to create oneness in marriage, can lead us to a greater and worshipful appreciation of the God who gave us this gift. If sex is wonderful and you feel grateful for the experience, do not be afraid to thank God. He gave the experience for that very reason, that you might lift your heart up to Him in joy and thanksgiving.
This idea that sex is holy because of its Creator, its design, and its purpose, was not always taught in the church, or in society. In the past we have been taught that sex is essentially evil and only tolerated by God for procreation. Much of this stemmed from the Roman Catholic teachings of Augustine who taught that the "knowledge of good and evil" in the Garden of Eden was sexual awareness and that sinfulness was passed on from generation to generation through human sexuality.
The early Protestant reformers took a softer view describing sex within marriage "disorderly" at best. Today, thankfully, we have come around to the attitude that, "We should not be afraid to discuss what God was not ashamed to create." (Dr. A Gardner, "Sacred Sex", p. 15.)
So, in this chapter and the next, we will examine the relationship God intended between human sexuality and spiritual awareness and experience.
The Deeper Meanings of Sex
We are not the only ones that are reexamining human sexuality in order to find deeper spiritual significance. Many in the world are exploring the same territory to see if there is more to sex than just the physical, to see if there is some sort of spiritual component as well.
Their mistake is that they try to find this spiritual component by manipulating the physical aspects of the experience. Drugs, techniques, pornography, paraphernalia, various partner combinations, all done to heighten pleasure, thinking this will reveal deeper meanings and worlds.
As in all things, however, Christ is the key. He is the way to higher and deeper knowledge in all things and it is no different here. In Christ we learn about the true God, the truth of His Word, and the truth about ourselves including our sexual selves. In this context the holy essence of sexual experience is revealed because it is only in the sexual union of both male and female that the full image of God is represented.
So God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.
- Genesis 1:27
It is not Adam that is in the image of God. It is not Eve that is in the image of God. It is Adam and Eve as one (sexually arrived at as one) that together are in the true image of God.
The Godhead's (Father, Son, Holy Spirit) image is reflected in Adam and Eve when they are in "one flesh." Divinity has a dynamic fusion (3 in 1) and humanity also has a dynamic fusion (2 in 1).
Let's make a math syllogism out of this idea:
- If "oneness" = Image of God
- And sex = Oneness in marriage
- Then sex = Image
This is the basis of the spiritual component of human sexuality. Not what or how intensely you feel, but what the total experience is supposed to represent.
We are never more "like" the way God created us; we are never truer to the image that He created us in, than when we are pursuing oneness in marriage, and human sexuality is the primary interaction designed by God to create and maintain this oneness.
Someone may say… "So?!" We are like God when we are one, and we become one primarily through sexual union, so? So this truth serves us in several ways:
- It reveals the true role of human sexuality within marriage. Not just for pleasure, release, children, bargaining, power, etc. God designed it to be used to create oneness. This is its ultimate purpose and we know we have achieved "good" sex when this goal is reached.
- This truth frees us from the guilt and discomfort that many feel about sex, even in marriage. Sex in marriage is a God-given, God-blessed and therefore holy thing. This knowledge gives us freedom to pursue and enjoy this aspect of marriage to the fullest without fear or shame.
- This truth opens our eyes to the pathway of personal fulfillment, marriage! People want to "find" themselves; get themselves together; feel more fulfilled so they travel or become more promiscuous or worse still, divorce their partner in search of new love.
The Bible says that the "complete" person is the one who is complete in Christ (spiritually), Colossians 1:28, and complete emotionally and physically when "one" with another person in marriage, Genesis 1:27.
That you are reading this book means that you are still seeking both simultaneously.
In your marital intimacy this week, pursue, discuss and think "oneness" instead of pleasure & satisfaction.