Of all the topics that can be discussed when speaking of marriage, sex is the one most controversial. Within American Christianity, you have two major extremes. On the one hand, you have the group that never speaks of it and leaves the subject veiled in mystery until the husband and wife share a bed for the first time on their honeymoon. On the other hand, you have the group that challenges husbands and wives to have sex for 30 days straight and speaks so loudly of it that it turns the whole thing into a satirical joke. Both of these extremes are wrong. So, before we speak practically about sex and what it has to do with marriage, I would like to take a few moments and see if we can’t begin to move toward a healthy philosophy of sex.
From as early as the Old Testament, and no doubt long before that, writers have sought to put into writing the complexities of human sexuality. This is no easy task. From the Song of Solomon’s poetic song found in the Christian Bible to the Kama Sutra in Sanskrit to the erotic literature of the modern West, sex is a much explored topic. But outside of the Kama Sutra and modern sexual counseling works, very little is said regarding a philosophy of sex. This is doubly true of Christianity.
But sex is one of the most important aspects of a healthy marriage. In fact, if you look at unhealthy marriages, one of the first things to cease, possibly even before communication, is sex. Once sex is removed, everything else seems to fall apart.
This is not to say that there aren’t exceptions and this is not saying that sex is the most important aspect to a healthy marriage. But sex is important. Vitally so.
The most intimate that two people can be together is for one to be inside another. Deep friendships are built when two people have deep conversations about what is really going on inside. How much deeper does this go when two people actually, literally, physically enter one another? To lessen the impact that this has on two people is to not take sex seriously.
The film Brokeback Mountain gives a perfect illustration.
Enis and Jack are two sheep herders in a small town in the mountains. They are both given a job herding the same man’s sheep for the summer months. As they converse and become friends, they run out of ways to express their deep friendship. This is further a challenge considering the era in which they live. In the late 1950’s and early 1960’s, it was not socially acceptable for two men to be intimate in any manner. In seemingly a last ditch effort to express their love for each other, they have sex and, when they seperate at the end of the summer, they are unable ever to forget each other. It ruins their marriages and ends in one of them being brutally murdered.
Sex truly is a powerful thing.
So what do we do with something so powerful? Do we do as some have done and never touch it? Or do we go the other way and talk about it with reckless abandon? The answer lies in the middle.
First, sex must be discussed, I believe, primarily within the context of marriage. I believe that God intends for humankind to be monogamus. After all, fornication is condemned many times over in the Bible. And I believe that God intends for sex to be saved for marriage.
That being said, I do not believe it sin for an engaged couple to make love prior to their ceremony. They are betrothed to each other, and if they are truly unable to wait, they are free to do as they believe right for them. Different relationships progress differently, and to force them all to fit into one ideal is simply unrealistic. But note what this means: once they have had sex, in God’s eyes they are married, and they must live in the reality of the decision that they have made.
Secondly, just because sex is intended for marriage, that does not mean that we are to be silent about it in public settings. Sex is all around us. It sells. It shocks. It arouses. And all of this happens all around us. For the Church to be silent about sex is like ignoring a bleeding man in your living room: it is foolishness.
So, what is a good Christian philosophy of human sexuality? I will lay out what I believe it to be in bullet-point form:
- God intends for sex to be reserved for men and women who are betrothed to be married.
- This was God’s design for sex. It was to be a way for humankind to more fully express His image in themselves as seperate yet one.
- Husbands and wives are to indulge each other sexually and not deny each other except by mutual agreement. Remember: husbands and wives are equal in their relationship. The Godlen rule applies in bed.
- Sex is indeed spiritual, as Eastern religions proclaim. It is not intended only for the making of babies, but also as a means of worshipping God.
Today, we have briefly looked at sex from a more philosophical perspective. But this is nearly impossible to do. Sex is a topic best explored practically, which is exactly what we will do next. As a pre-warning: the next post in this series contains explicit material and is intended for mature readers only.