What comes to your mind when you think of these words? The Bible says we were made to be intimate and to crave intimacy. Physical intimacy is a key part of that need to be intimate. Yet the intimacy God designed for us is so much more than just physical intimacy. This is so that physical intimacy can be so much more than just sex — although a good, healthy, delightful, exciting, and fulfilling physical love life between a husband and a wife is clearly one of God's goals for us in this intimate relationship (More on that in our coming posts!)
Jesus reminds us of God's intended purpose for us as humans from the beginning is true and comprehensive intimacy. We were made to be intimate. In fact, this body-to-body, mind-to-mind, soul-to-soul, and heart-to-heart intimacy is highlighted by Jesus' fourfold emphasis on becoming one with each other:
"Haven't you read," he [Jesus] replied, "that at the beginning the Creator 'made them male and female,' and said, 'For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh'? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate" (Matthew 19:4-6 bold added for emphasis).
The beautiful creation stories speak to a soul ache we were created to have — "not good... to be alone" (Genesis 2:18). The security of a one man and one woman relationship for life is the way God intended for that soul ache for a "suitable" companion to be filled and enjoyed. God made the man and the woman for each other, to be complements of each other and to be suitable for each other. The Bible makes several important declarations about this intimacy.
The Bible uses the term "to know"*1 one another in marriage to speak about the sexual relationship of intimacy — the sexual union of becoming "one flesh." By fusing these two concepts, the Holy Spirit is reminding us that there is no such thing as casual sex. It is the joining of two people at a level of intimacy God intended to be shared in the lifetime commitment of marriage (1 Corinthians 6:12-20). This was the way God made us, and something — or to say this more accurately, someone — gets broken somewhere deep inside when intimacy is cheapened to something casual. While many say that all sin is the same — and this is true in the sense that all sin separates us from God — the damage and effect of sin on us and on others is not the same. Paul warns that sexual sin is actually a sin against our own body and the experiences are not easily forgotten or casually dismissed simply because it's between "friends with benefits" (1 Corinthians 6:18-20).
Committing to love and being devoted to someone forever can't be based on the performance pressure to live up to another's sexual demands or fantasies. Instead, the joy, delight, and discovery of true intimacy is protected from such performance pressure. The commitment to love someone and be loved by that someone forever is the security that allows the physical, spiritual, and emotional intimacy to thrive.
To fully "know" each other, and to be fully "known" by each other, is part of the life of discovery that is celebrated in God's book to us on celebratory love-making, the Song of Solomon. The celebration of this "knowing" relationship is found in the different exclamations of joy and delight found in this beautiful little book. (The following are the more G rated statements, but rest assured, the book is full of more exciting and explicit examples of the celebration and discovery given to us as a gift from God if we take the time to understand the metaphors and language of this book.)
His mouth is sweetness itself; he is altogether lovely. This is my love and my friend... (Song of Solomon 5:16).
How beautiful you are and how pleasing, my love, with your delights (Song of Solomon 7:6)
I belong to my beloved and his desire is for me (Song of Solomon 7:10).
Place me like a seal over your heart, like a seal on your arm; for love is as strong as death, its jealousy unyielding as the grave. It burns like blazing fire, like a mighty flame. Many waters cannot quench love; rivers cannot sweep it away. If one were to give all the wealth of one's house for love, it would be utterly scorned (Song of Solomon 8:6-7)
Far more than just the tool of procreation, sexual intimacy is the celebration of God's gift to lovers in marriage as they find joy, delight, discovery, tenderness, fulfillment, pleasure, excitement, and romance together with each other. Rather than being a dirty necessity, intimacy and all it entails is to be a gift of grace that brings security and a deep sense of belonging with another person God has given to us as a blessing. This intimacy is so rich and deep, that the Bible wanders tantalizingly close to describing the relationship of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in the Trinity as best illustrated in the oneness found in the many facets of intimacy celebrated by a husband and wife — different yet one, unique yet one flesh, two yet one body — and God pronounced this as "very good" (Genesis 1:25-31; cf. Ephesians 5:25-30).
Our answer as God's people, however, isn't to rage against the culture, but to celebrate the gift God has provided us, in the place he made for us to discover it. When we fail or falter or find that we have forsaken the Father's way, we need to thank God for his cleansing and grace, and recommit to use this gift in the ways that grow us toward him, deepen our relationship and "knowing" of each other, and celebrate this gift as a holy blessing of the Creator's grace.
*1 The Language of "Knowing" as Euphemism for Sexual Intimacy
These texts come from the "English Standard Version" which translate the word "know" literally.
- Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain, saying, "I have gotten a man with the help of the LORD." Genesis 4:1 ESV
- Cain knew his wife, and she conceived and bore Enoch. When he built a city, he called the name of the city after the name of his son, Enoch (Genesis 4:17)
- And Adam knew his wife again, and she bore a son and called his name Seth, for she said, "God has appointed for me another offspring instead of Abel, for Cain killed him" (Genesis 4:25; cf. 1 Samuel 1:19-21 where "knew" is used for repeated behavior).
- When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus (Matthew 1:24-25).