Then God said, "Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground."So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. ... God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning — the sixth day (Genesis 1:26-31 NIV).
The Lord God said, "It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him." ... Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man.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." That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh. Adam and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame (Genesis 2:18-25).
Have you ever noticed how nervous church people get when someone talks about God and sex in the same sentence? We are not sure if we should mention these two very personal areas of our lives together ... in church ... in mixed age groups ... while we are focused on worshiping God.
Announcing recently that we were going to address this subject publicly in our church family brought a variety of responses. One of my favorites came from one of our elder's wives who kiddingly told my wife, "Please let Phil know that I think I am going to be having a headache each of the next five Sunday mornings."
Some worry about "S-E-X" being discussed in church in front of their children. This is understandable, since talking about the beauty and holiness of physical intimacy in its proper place is a parent's responsibility. Yet it is also the church's job and church leaders' responsibility. Our loud "No!" or "Whoa!" has not done much to inform folks of much other than to say what is wrong ... and that has not worked so well if we are honest with ourselves. Even worse, it is not true to the Bible's example.
Honestly, I am puzzled when folks don't want what the Bible says about our sexuality talked about in public in front of their kids or grandchildren when Desperate Housewives, Glee, movie trailers, racy commercials, pornography and a host of other things are pumped into so many houses by TV, computers, and mobile devices. These are exposing our children and grandchildren to words, images, and actions that leave the impression that those sexual values portrayed in the media are acceptable for their family.
The Bible is open about God's truth, purpose, and beauty in the physical intimacy and connectedness we all long to experience. The beauty of this relationship is celebrated in the first two chapters of the Bible, is picked up as a theme throughout Scripture, used as a metaphor for God's love, given as an image of Jesus' relationship with the church, and even has a book dedicated to teaching how to do it well (Song of Songs). More than just saying "No!" and "Whoa!" the Bible also says, "Go!" and tells us where and how and why God blesses us with the gift of sexual intimacy. And in the closing chapters of the Bible, the image is used of the return of Jesus for the church, his bride, and the great joy as God's people celebrate the wedding feast of Jesus and his bride.
If we read carefully the two great passages at the beginning of this post, we notice some incredible truths.
Our hunger for relationship, our ache for deep connection with another, is rooted in our God-likeness and his creative choice. God made us so that it was not good for us to be alone. He created a holy hunger and ache for another who is made to be suitable for us. God, who is three in one, said, "Let us ..." and he made male and female to come together and reflect his oneness as Father, Son, and Spirit.
Each of us, male and female, is created in the image of God. We each carry the nature of God within us. While we are made differently, to be complements of each other, each of us is precious and vital and bears the image of the Creator. This means we must treat each other with dignity and respect, recognizing each other as a precious gift from God and learning to submit our will and needs to the other to honor the Lord and offer him appreciative worship.
God sees this beautiful "one flesh" relationship between a husband and wife as very good — the crowning grace of his creative work. His goal in this creation is achieved when he walked in the cool of the day with the man and woman, who stood before him naked and unashamed — no secrets, nothing hidden, and precious in relationship and beauty.
So when we come to the end of the creation work of God, we see this relationship between God and a husband and a wife as something holy, precious, and God-honoring. It is not something bad or dirty or part of the fallen world. This is creation as God intended it to be.
Unfortunately, sin and separation has taken place. We live in a fallen world now. What God had designed as a thing of beauty is now twisted and often perverted, debased, and even trivialized by overexposure and underinvested with relationship. This beautiful gift has often been used to humiliate, exercise power, wound, and abuse others for the maniacal delight or prurient voyeurism of someone else. Instead of the consummating delight of intimacy, it becomes "just sex" and disconnected from relationship, faith, genuine intimacy, and love.
So I hope you will prayerfully join me over the next several weeks as we think through these things together and prayerfully seek to offer our whole selves — heart, soul, mind, and body — to the Lord, both to honor our Creator and also to share in his intended blessing in this very important part of our lives.
Before we finish, however, we must come back to Jesus and let our Lord and Savior put these things into perspective. There are two truths about Jesus' approach to the subject of marriage, sex, and intimacy that we must not miss:
- Jesus uses, accepts, and reaffirms God's created intent and definitions of marriage and sexual sin as he speaks, teaches, and debates with the religious leaders of his day (Matthew 19:3-12).
- Jesus treats those who have been broken by sexual issues with grace, love, forgiveness and a call back to holiness and to God's holy purpose for them which they are to live out in purity and grace (John 4:4-42; John 7:53 — 8:11).
As in all things, we want to shape our behavior based on the will and example of our Savior. May Jesus be honored as Lord in every area of our lives!