Sex and Church Planting
One of my friends asked if I would address the subject of sex in marriage from a Biblical perspective. She and others later broadened the scope of their questions to include sex and culture at large.
Every time I sit down to write about this subject I stall out, not due to unwillingness or a sense of prudishness; it’s the bigness of the issue that gives me pause.
The way we view, articulate, and practice sexuality has huge implications within the home, the church, and society.
So though this post can’t be a comprehensive treatment of the subject, I hope it will be the beginning of a conversation.
I’m a church-planter, and, as a disciple-making, missional kind of guy, I look at societies like the one I live in and see all the idols that need to be engaged with the gospel. If I had to pinpoint the big three idols in our culture, I’d say that they are materialism, prominence, and sexuality.
John Calvin said, “The human mind is, so to speak, a perpetual forge of idols. There was a kind of renewal of the world at the flood, but before many years elapse, men are forging gods at will... The human mind, stuffed as it is with presumptuous rashness, dares to imagine a god suited to its own capacity; as it labors under dullness, nay, is sunk in the grossest ignorance, it substitutes vanity and an empty phantom in the place of God.
Humans are really good at creating idols. The funny thing is that though Americans aren’t prone to taking God’s gifts of wood, stone, and precious metals to create their visible gods, they do still use God’s gifts, they elevate gifts from God to the place of God. It’s slightly more abstract and as a result way more subtle and deceptive.
So let’s start with how the Bible presents sex. The Bible says that sex is a God-given gift!
Interestingly, the Bible doesn’t present sex as something that has its own “stand alone” identity like our society sometimes seems to think. Rather it’s about another person—for me, my wife, and for her, me.
It’s been this way since the beginning.
Genesis 2:7 Then the LORD God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.
Genesis 2: 21-25 So the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. And the rib that the LORD God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. Then the man said,
This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.
Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.
What is sex’s primary God-given purpose?
I think that we can say from this origin passage and from others like it, that sex is presented in the Bible primarily as a commitment apparatus. The man and the woman were naked and unashamed—they were united as one flesh—there is nothing more intimate, more binding, more committed, or more transparent then this. I’m exposed, vulnerable, and intend to be fully known. The old King James Version of the Bible correctly translates the idea of sex, as the husband “knew” his wife for this very reason.
This view of sexuality is not only Biblical but also it is good for the beneficial establishment of human society; it is good for homes, and it is good for our own mental well-being. Simply stated—God gives good gifts and using them within their design is beneficial for all.
So let’s look at some of the ways God presents His gift of sexual union as a good gift:
It’s good for mutual enjoyment.
Let your fountain be blessed, and rejoice in the wife of your youth, a lovely deer, a graceful doe. Let her breasts fill you at all times with delight; be intoxicated always in her love.
The wise father in this passage immediately contrasts the goodness of this gift with its lesser imposter.
Vs. 20 Why should you be intoxicated, my son, with a forbidden woman and embrace the bosom of an adulteress?
The entire book of Song of Solomon communicates the beautiful mutual joys of romantic and physical love in marriage.
If a married couple are not both enjoying the benefits of their physical, emotional, and spiritual union, they are missing out on one of God’s great gifts. Don’t allow physical intimacy to fall primarily into the realm of duty—it can and should be primarily delight. Talk openly to God and your spouse.
It’s something society should celebrate, not denigrate!
Hebrews 13:4 Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous.
For the life of me, I don’t understand why the church at large has allowed (or contributed to) the idea that sex is a non-Christian thing and/or that we are ashamed of it. Those participating in sex as an idol are experiencing far less than what God offers within the marriage bed. When it comes to sex, Christians own the market. I mean, have you noticed how many kids some of us have?
As I said before,
It’s a gift good for commitment and unity!
1 Corinthians 7:3-4 The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband. For the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. Likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does.
The marriage bed focuses each member of the union on the joy and fulfillment of their spouse. In addition, sex is a way to literally give yourself to another, finding your “self” exposed and embraced. Fully known and more than fully accepted—fully enjoyed, even celebrated. The bond that this type of union fosters is a true gift. So much so, in fact, that marriage is used as an illustration of Christ’s unity with His church.
It’s a gift good for experiencing intimacy.
Genesis 4:1 Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain, saying, “I have gotten a man with the help of the LORD.”
Exploring the beauty of God’s creation (your spouse) can and should be an act of worship. The knowledge of who this image-bearing person is drives us to understand how good the Giver of such gifts must be.
It’s a gift that enhances our understanding of true beauty.
Song of Solomon 4:7 You are altogether beautiful, my love; there is no flaw in you.
Just as God wants us to center His gift of sex on a person and a relationship, so He wants our spouse to re-define our personal concept of masculine or feminine beauty. This is not an overstatement of what God wants to do in you—for you—in marriage.
It’s a gift that can open the door to another of God’s greatest gifts—children!
Children are, in fact, a joy-filled gift from God. Yes, sex is a beautiful way that God continues to express His creative nature in us. As seen in the previous statements, it is a mistake to think of sex as a gift that’s purely intended for procreation. Couples who cannot have children do not have a less-than home and shouldn’t feel that they have less-than intimacy. God has united their home and called their union honorable—very good! Nor should those that find that the gift of their union has yielded another great gift become so focused on the new gift that they neglect the first. Neither should those that have been joyfully gifted with children refer to them (or think of them) as a curse—they are, in fact, a blessing! Granted, sometimes they are a crying or diaper-filling blessing, but they are always a blessing nonetheless.
It’s a gift that allows us to remain focused on God, in holiness.
1 Corinthians 7:2 But because of the temptation to sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband.
We see here that it’s useful for staving off temptation. This passage does not speak against singleness, but for marriage—for those who have been made for it.
It’s a gift that provides peace.
2 Samuel 12:24 Then David comforted his wife, Bathsheba, and went in to her and lay with her, and she bore a son, and he called his name Solomon. And the LORD loved him
In times of great emotional distress, physical intimacy is a way that we can communicate our closeness—telling our spouse that they are not alone when words may fail.
I hope that you will feel this to be the beginning of a conversation concerning a more helpful view of sex as a gift from our great God. I think you’ll be able to see how truly good this gift is and how good this view of it is for society, families, and more importantly—you!
Hopefully, you’ll begin to see how destructive it can be to allow our idol-factory type hearts to take God’s gifts (like sex) and put them in the place of God in our lives. Good gifts just can’t hold the weight that we place on them when we make them our gods. Church-planters, ministry leaders, missional community leaders, and Christians who want to be the disciple-making believers that they are intended to be, need to unashamedly engage in our society’s conversation concerning sexuality—with humility.