Decent Sex [5-Part Series]
Part 1: Man’s Word on Sex
The words people use to describe sex and sexual activity already betray much about the way they feel. On the one hand are words that reveal ignorance, confusion and hurt. We hear words like “dirty,” “filthy,” “disgusting,” “sick,” and the like. Or we hear the cutesy words embarrassed parents use to describe body parts and functions.
We also hear the “mask-words,” terms used by people with attitudes at the opposite end of the sexual spectrum. The words cover the reality of what really is happening. Words with pretty sounds and meanings mask the ugliness of what really is there; the homosexual lifestyle is “gay,” adultery is “having an affair,” promiscuity is “living together,” pornography is “adult” entertainment, etc. Images are projected which are 180 degrees from the truth.
There is a great polarization of attitudes on sexuality evident today — as there always has been! Both extremes challenge the other to prove their claims.
Man’s Perception of God’s Word
To reinforce their particular views, people inevitably turn to the Bible and attempt to make it Bible say what they want it to say. People with libertarian views will try to convince us that God’s message to the world on sex is one word: “YES!” Others, with equal vehemence, will try to reduce all of the things God says about sex to one big “NO!” Both are in error.
Like many other areas of human life, God’s will is neither absolute, but a “yes” and a “no.” Just as absolute obedience to human authority is not commanded and all taking of human life is not forbidden, so in sexual matters God’s Word is neither absolute. It certainly is not an unqualified “YES!” It is much, much more than “NO!”
God’s Word on Sex
From the opening chapter, the Bible speaks openly — often casually — about sex. It flatly states that our sexuality is part of God’s creating activity:
Genesis 1:27 – So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.
Human reproduction is part of the first blessing spoken on Adam and Eve:
Genesis l:28a – God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it.”
The concluding remark describing the untainted perfection of life in the Garden of Eden is this:
Genesis 2:25 – Adam and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.
The Bible is “shame-less” about sex. In fact, God uses what we might consider very “sexy” expressions when describing His loving relationship with us. The love between a husband and wife (including physical love) as a metaphor for God’s love for His people is a common theme in the Scriptures, especially in the writings of Solomon (Proverbs, Song of Songs). Old Testament prophets in their many calls to repentance, urged people to “circumcise” their hearts (cf Jeremiah 4). A nursing mother’s care for her child also is a frequent analogy:
Isaiah 49:15 – “Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you!”
It was with the coming of sin that human beings began to associate shame and guilt with sexuality — after Eve and Adam had eaten of the forbidden fruit:
Genesis 3:7 – Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.
When he is confronted with his sin, Adam answers God:
Genesis 3:10 – “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.”
The effects of sin did impact on human sexuality:
Genesis 3:16 – To the woman he (God) said, “I will make your pains in childbearing very severe; with painful labor you will give birth to children. Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.”
However, sex is not only associated with the evil side of human existence in God’s Word. Sex figured prominently in God’s promise of a Savior. God promised Satan:
Genesis 3:15 – “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.”
Through a most unusual birth — “The seed of a woman,” not a man! — God will rescue the world. So it happened thousands of years later that an angel of the Lord tells a young woman she will give birth to the Son of God. Mary, startled at the announcement, asks:
Luke 1:34,35 – “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?” The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.”
Mary’s fiancee, Joseph, was naturally distraught at the discovery of his intended bride’s pregnancy, and considered divorcing her — the custom of that day. Reassured by an angel of her Child’s divine origin:
Matthew 1:24b,25 – “He did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. But he did not consummate their marriage until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.“
Luke gives added details to the naming of Jesus, including reference to a custom involving the human reproductive system:
Luke 2:21 – “On the eighth day, when it was time to circumcise the child, he was named Jesus, the name the angel had given him before he was conceived.”
Circumcision, the removal of the foreskin from the penis of a male child, was a most graphic “prophecy” of the coming Messiah: the male child, the birth process, the shedding of blood.
Part 1: Conclusion
So, it is not sex but sin that produces shame and guilt. Human society, with its extreme mood swings on sex, fails to grasp this fundamental distinction, and with it fails to appreciate one of the greatest gifts God has given.
Part 2: Sexual Roles and Stereotypes
What Is a Real Man? What Is a Real Woman?
Each generation and each culture on this earth have their own definitions of masculinity and femininity, and it is sometimes hilarious and sometimes pathetic to consider the contradictions and the standards present within that group and from age to age or from culture to culture. More importantly, we need to ask: What does God say in the Bible?
Two Sexes — Both in the Image of God
The Bible does speak of the two sexes and of their relationship with each other in simple, basic ways. The Word asserts that both man and woman were created in the image of God:
Genesis 1:27 – So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.
Two Sexes — Interdependent
As to the specific creation of each sex, we note that the man was created first. Then it was “the Lord God” who determined:
Genesis 2:18 – “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.”
This “helper” (the term is used of God in Psalm 70:5) would fill what the man needed and lacked. The helper would be “suitable” for the man, corresponding to him or complementing (NOT “complimenting”) him in every way.
The woman came from the man (not man from the woman!), and the man recognized her origin:
Genesis 2:23 – The man said, “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called ‘woman,’ for she was taken out of man.”
Two Sexes — At War
This idyllic scene was soon shattered. When the first humans fell into sin, the man blamed the woman (and indirectly God) for his sin.
Genesis 3:12 – The man said, “The woman you put here with me — she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.”
The relationship between husbands and wives forever was changed:
Genesis 3:16 – To the woman he said, … “Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.”
Two Sexes — Renewed
In Christ, however, what one was true in paradise is renewed:
Galatians 3:28 – There is neither Jew nor Greek, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
Much of what we have in the man-made rules and roles for the sexes are anything but Biblical. They also reveal a rejection of other, non-related Scriptural principles. We note especially:
People Are More Than Male and Female
The Bible does not lay down detailed rules for what a “man” or a “woman” is. Its stress is more on people as people, — which includes far more than their sex. The Word indicates that God has made each person unique and incomplete.
See 1 Corinthians 12.
Different — Not Better, Worse
It is sad that we cannot accept each other as “different” — even thank God for the differences!
We humans always seem to want to be something we’re not, instead of trying to be the best “we” we can be.
We have this sick need to judge people “better” or more often “worse” than us. The easiest to find, of course, are people who have an obvious difference: sex, race, etc. It is a clumsy and really useless way to cope with our guilt!
How tragic that we behave this way, because God made all of us interdependent, lacking gifts which others possess to make us complete. By turning against our fellow man we deprive ourselves of those gifts.
Our Lord does not excuse behavior simply because others do it! This includes all the classic sex-related excuses like “All men are unfaithful,” “I can’t help it: I’m emotional,” “I’m a woman,” “I’m sorry, it’s that time of the month again,” etc. Each of us is judged by God individually for what we have and have not done.
Isn’t the Real Issue “Money”?
A large factor in women’s movement into the job market was not really “women’s liberation” at all, but something far more mundane: a “need” of money. Many families, it seems, assume that higher living costs demand more income, — not less expenditure! The dramatic cost of living increase in the late 1970s forced families to make a basic decision: will we go on living as before, or will we cut back? The decision not to cut back dumped large numbers of women (the only ones currently not employed) into the job market. The women alone cannot be blamed for this: many went to work quite reluctantly!
Will this major sociological change mark the beginning of the end of our American culture? There is no question that the family unit has been hurt by having both parents work. Important early childhood teaching is ignored or left in the hands of others. Even the matter of choosing partners has changed! An A-T [sic] article years ago reported that one thing the UW-O [sic] men now looked for in their wives was their income generating potential!
Matthew 6:19-34 (Jesus on money and its constant companion, worry.)
Worth Is More Than Dollars
It is tragic that money seems to be the major (and sometimes only) measure of worth in our culture. The type of work we do today may be part of the reason for it. Is a major reason for the negative image of “just a housewife” that housewives are not paid for their work?
1 Timothy 6:6-10,17-19 (Avoiding the golden trap)
The Dignity of Service
One of the things people resent is serving others, and this often is lurking in the background as women struggle for more responsible jobs: some women want power, — others to serve them — and men resent having to serve a woman. Jesus taught by example that as we serve others we achieve real happiness and usefulness in life. One wonders if the problems would be as severe today if our leaders past and present would recognize this essential characteristic of true leadership: service!
Matthew 20:28 – just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.
Galatians 5:13b – Serve one another humbly in love.
Part 2: Conclusion
In matters of the roles and relationships of men and women it is often true: there is more here than meets the eye. We Christians need to look beneath the fine-sounding rhetoric to the real issues involved. We will find that most often neither side in the argument is correct, but that the truth — God’s truth — lies somewhere in between.
Part 3: Marriage and Sex
Two Become One Flesh
Sexual relations between a husband and wife are an essential part of marriage, and marriage is an institution of God himself. The basic statement on marriage — repeated three times in the Bible — includes an unmistakable reference to marital sexual relations.
Genesis 2:24 – “That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.”
How do you explain the fact that polygamy was practiced by many people named in the Old Testament?
Sexual Relations an Integral Part of Marriage
The Bible identifies three purposes of marriage, and each include sexual aspects:
Genesis 2:18 – The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.”
Genesis l:28a – God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it.”
Avoidance of Immorality
1 Corinthians 7:2 – But since sexual immorality is occurring, each man should have sexual relations with his own wife, and each woman with her own husband.
There’s No Denying It!
Paul in 1 Corinthians 7 urges spouses to engage in sexual activity: cf. verses 1-7. Note the attitude spouses ought to have about their bodies and that of their partners!
There are circumstances under which couples may wish to refrain from sexual activity, but note the conditions Paul spells out.
What would you suggest to a newly married couple who were having difficulty with the sexual part of marriage?
When God tells wives to submit to their husbands does that include submitting to his every sexual whim? Why? Why not?
Living With the “Weaker Vessel”
Part of what Peter says to husbands and wives in his first epistle may have strong sexual connotations:
1 Peter 3:7 Husbands, in the same way, be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers.
The word “skeuos” translated as “partner” here really is the word for “vessel, utensil, container, equipment.” The word has many meanings, depending on the context, including its use as a euphemistic expression for the reproductive system. “To use a vessel” was a common expression for sexual intercourse in Jewish literature.
The Old Testament parallel word is used in a sexual connotation in 1 Samuel 24:4-6, where the NIV translates it “the man’s things,” or “bodies.”
It may be that this is what Paul means in 1 Thessalonians 4:4, where “skeuos” is used.
If we interpret this verse to include a reference to physical, marital love, the context certainly elevates the status of such relations.
In what sense is a woman “a weaker vessel”?
“Keep ‘Em at Home, Dumb, and Pregnant”
Some have unfairly characterized the Bible as favoring the subjugation of women. While the Bible does affirm that men and women are different and within marriage asks wives to “submit” to their husbands (after telling both to submit to each other), the Bible clearly does not fit the stereotype mentioned above.
Proverbs 31:10-31 (The wife of noble character.)
Part 4: Sex and the Unmarried
The Truth About Premarital Sex
The Bible contains a brutally honest account of sex between two unmarried young people: Amnon and Tamar, children of David by different mothers:
2 Samuel 13:1-22
What a stark contrast and strange turn of events! At first Amnon could not wait to have Tamar; and she is reluctant, even refusing his advances. Yet, once he succeeds in his scheme he flatly rejects her, but now she wants to see if they can get married. We see in their strange, contradictory behavior two important truths about premarital sex:
1. Premarital sex is sin. Amnon’s behavior following the rape is a reaction to his guilty conscience. It is much like Adam’s when he was confronted with his sin and blamed Eve for the fall. Rather than bringing a couple closer, premarital sex actually separates them. And yet the two are drawn together — a classic “love-hate” relationship! Why?
2. In premarital sex a “relationship” is established, but it is not the same as a marriage union (it lacks a prior commitment). Even in a casual sexual relationship — with a prostitute — two do become one in flesh:
1 Corinthians 6:16 – Do you not know that he who unites himself with a prostitute is one with her in body? For it is said, “The two will become one flesh.”
Because in any sexual relationship “two become one” (physically and emotionally) intense feelings are present — probably the strongest emotions one has ever had for another human being — but they are not love.
Many couples who have had sex while dating marry for one or both of these reasons: guilt and/or powerful physical and emotional feelings. They are not really in love, and the consequences in the marriage are pathetically obvious.
Sex Before Marriage To Insure Success?
One argument given for premarital sex says that sex before marriage is a good barometer of sexual success within marriage. (This argument usually is advanced by single people!) The logic is flawed.
People aren’t always honest. He may be very aggressive, but secretly hoping she will say “No.” If she doesn’t, of course. he can blame her for the problem! And the old maxim is true: Men (and women) often look for a very sexually active dating partner, but want to marry a virgin! Saying “No!” may be the best answer you ever give!
There is another version of this problem. She may be eager to have sex before marriage, not because she personally approves of it or likes it, but to hang on to a relationship. While dating she wants to get married, so anything goes, but once married that reason for sexual activity is gone. Sometimes a partner will be very active sexually during dating, and then abruptly change or even stop after marriage. She (he) got what she (he) wanted!
So then, premarital sex is no accurate barometer for success in marriage.
Those Powerful Feelings
Should there be sexual desires between the dating couple? Obviously, yes! A potential marriage has little chance of success if one partner is sexually aroused and the other isn’t! Here perhaps a warning is in order. A person with no apparent interest in sex may be tipping off his (her) homosexual tendencies. It is not always evil to desire a person of the opposite sex! The absence of such feelings may signal very serious problems for a relationship!
The desires normally will be present, and what an individual or couple do with these desires is critical. If a relationship — especially a new one — turns sexual, must it always end? Obviously not! It may be that this is telling you that you should marry!
1 Corinthians 7:36 – If anyone is worried that he might not be acting honorably toward the virgin he is engaged to, and if his passions are too strong and he feels he ought to marry, he should do as he wants. He is not sinning. They should get married.
If sex is all there is to the relationship, however, it may be a signal that no real relationship is possible, and the quicker it is ended the better. Each case is unique, and no hard, fast rules are possible.
Dealing With Those Feelings
Several ways in which a Christian can deal with sexual feelings suggest themselves, some good, some bad.
What about masturbation? The Bible records an incident from which “onanism” (a synonym for masturbation) is derived (Genesis 38:1-10). Because of the unique situation and since Onan apparently was not actually masturbating, we cannot use this text to say that the Bible forbids masturbation. However, it should be said that because masturbation is so different from intercourse, people who masturbate while single often continue when married, — and this can be very destructive!
Usually associated with masturbation is fantasizing, regarded as “harmless” in our culture. It is anything but! The Bible says that fantasizing both is a sin and leads to many other sins (Matthew 5:27-28; James 1:13-15). Instead of indulging in sexual fantasies Paul urged Timothy to “flee the evil desires of youth” (2 Timothy 2:22).
In his letters to Timothy and Titus Paul often stressed the value of self-control: 1 Timothy 3:2; 2 Timothy 1:7; 3:1-5; Titus 1:8; 2:1-15. The self is evil, and we need to hold a tight rein on all our desires: appetites, emotions — and sex! Sometimes we are flattered to hear, “I just lose control when I’m near you.” It is a tipoff to a potentially devasting problem! Giving in to such manipulation may be seen as permission to “lose control” later in marriage, too.
Sexual self-control is an absolute must in adult life, in which intimate contacts with others are frequent. The horrors of incest and child molestation attest to the tragedy of an out-of-control life. Here is God’s answer to the question: What is the unmarried person to do with his/her sex drive? Learn — with God’s help — to control it! And when we fail, as all sinners will, we can go to our Lord, confess that sin and be assured we are forgiven: John 8:1-11. Forgiven by Jesus, we can try once again to “leave our life of sin.”
Part 5: Homosexuality
A. Homosexuality: A Sin
The Bible in unmistakable language identifies homosexuality as a violation of God’s Law, a sin.
Leviticus 18:22 – “‘Do not have sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman; that is detestable.”
Leviticus 20:13 – “If a man has sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They are to be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads.”
1 Timothy 1:9,10 – “We also know that the law is made not for good men but for lawbreakers and rebels…for adulterers and perverts…”
B. An Alternate Lifestyle?
The Word indicates that homosexuality is “unnatural,” — homosexuals cannot reproduce. Every homosexual is a product of a heterosexual relationship!
It also says that homosexuals “received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion.” The outbreak of AIDS among homosexuals may very well be a contemporary example of this. (Does this mean that Christians should not support research into the cure for AIDS?)
Note, however, that homosexuality is used as one example of the ways in which people turn against God and ultimately hurt themselves, — it is not the only way!
Paul’s comment on people’s approval of sin in others — even though they know it to be wrong — is significant, especially as we see non-homosexuals supporting “gay rights” legislation, the increase of homosexuality in both news and entertainment shows on television, etc.
C. It’s Sex, Not Love, God Forbids
We must be very clear on what God forbids: homosexual sexual activity. He does not forbid — in fact he commands! — love between people of the same sex. There are many examples of love and devotion of people of the same sex in the Bible: Ruth and Naomi, David and Jonathan, Jesus and the Twelve Disciples.
Sometimes parents in their concern that they don’t raise “one of those,” avoid all physical contact (hugging and kissing) with their children of their sex. Ironically, the lack of these signs of affection from the same-sex parent is cited by experts as one of many factors causing homosexuality!
D. Forgiveness for the Homosexual?
Without question we answer: Yes! While unqualifiedly condemning homosexuality as sin, it is not an unforgivable sin. God forgives the homosexual!
1 John 1:5-10 – “This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us.”
1 Corinthians 6:9-11 – “Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”
Can we forgive? God’s forgiveness extends to homosexuality, — who are we to deny it to the repentant homosexual?
Furthermore, the Bible teaches that God has given all his people gifts for the common good of his Church (c.f. 1 Corinthians 12). Homosexuals are much more than sexually-disoriented people; they have been given gifts which can benefit the Church (us) and our individual lives. What are we losing by rejecting them?
E. A Continuing Struggle With Sin
Christians with homosexual tendencies face strong temptations and struggles each day. On occasion they fall. In this regard they are no different from the Christian with a tendency to lie, to steal, to resort to violence, to sin heterosexually. “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her” (John 8:7). All Christians need our support and our prayers, not our ridicule and condemnation!
In that struggle against sin and for salvation, the strength lies in Jesus. His forgiveness keeps us from despair; His love makes us renew the fight; his promises point to our ultimate victory.
By Pastor Robert Diener, Reprinted with permission
January 8, 2005
January 8, 2006