"Why are you Jesus-types such a bunch of prudes?"
"What's wrong, can't you just have a little fun?"
"Why do you teach that sex is only for procreation?"
"Why are you Christians so uptight about sex?"
These are questions I have personally received — along with some accusatory statements that are simply too inappropriate to print. However, these are fair questions in a world where the views on human sexuality and sexual intimacy diverge so greatly from God's plan revealed in Scripture. Plus, we need to be able to respond to sexual questions about our faith. In fact, we need to be able to give the reason for the joy and the hope we have in Jesus in these areas with gentleness and respect (1 Peter 3:15-16).
- Prudes? No, the only good, recent, scientific survey found that empty nester Christians have sex more often and find it more fulfilling than any group in America.*1
- Fun? Absolutely. In fact, we have a lot of fun (see answer 1). The difference is that we have chosen to honor God and have this fun with our spouse because we see this as part of our worship to God.
- Procreation? We do acknowledge that sex is for having children. However, that is only one of many reasons God gave us this grace.
- Uptight? We aren't. We choose to be discrete about the things we do with our husband or wife. We try to celebrate this gift to bless each other and honor God, not to brag, kiss and tell, or get attention for ourselves.
The Bible is gloriously honest about the sexual union between a husband and wife. It is equally honest about the strong and passionate sexual desires that fuel many of us. One of the most precious and enlightening insights into this joy is found in the creation account of Eve, when Adam rejoices at finding her as his perfect fit for a partner:
"At last!" the man exclaimed. "This one is bone from my bone, and flesh from my flesh!"This was Adam's celebration of God's created intention for one man to be intertwined in every facet of life — especially the sexual dimension of life together — as one flesh with one woman:
(Genesis 2:23 NLT)
This explains why a man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.Now the man and his wife were both naked, but they felt no shame (Genesis 2:24-25 NLT).
Scripture repeatedly celebrates the joy and delight that both husband and wife find in physical intimacy and lovemaking. Not only is a whole book of the Bible dedicated to poetically celebrating this gift (Song of Solomon), but there are passages that talk explicitly about the delight of lovemaking (Proverbs 5:15-20; Song of Solomon 4:9-16 for example) using terms like rejoice, satisfy, and intoxicated for their sexual experience.
Paul does the unthinkable in his culture in his discussion of sex. He emphasizes that both the wife and husband must learn to use her or his body to fulfill, to please, and to give sexual delight to the other.*2 Learning to do this is what each owes to the other. Yes, Paul actually uses the language of debt to stress how important it is for both the husband and wife to learn how to bring delight to the other in their lovemaking (1 Corinthians 7:3-4 and 1 Corinthians 7:33).
God's call for bringing this happiness to the other goes all the way back to the Law given to Moses:
If a man has recently married, he must not be sent to war or have any other duty laid on him. For one year he is to be free to stay at home and bring happiness to the wife he has married (Deuteronomy 24:5 NIV).
The Holy Spirit, in the book of Hebrews, also emphasized that part of worshiping God acceptably with reverence and awe (Hebrews 12:29 NIV) involves the sexual relationship in marriage. In fact, the Bible uses the very explicit term in Greek (koitae coitus) for the sexual act between a husband and wife:
Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral (Hebrews 13:4 NIV).Notice also how Paul emphasizes how submitting to each other in marriage is part of reverencing Christ as part of our worship (Ephesians 5:21).
Scripture is very honest about the challenging sexual temptations we all have to sin sexually (Proverbs 6:25; Proverbs 7:6-21; with the disastrous adulterous affair of David serving as a warning). The Bible also repeatedly emphasizes that the greatest preventative to sexual sin is an active sex life with one's own husband or wife (Proverbs 5:1-23 and 1 Corinthians 7:1-5).
The sexual desire in all its levels of yearning — emotional, spiritual, social, and physical — is powerful. That is why Paul taught brand new Christians in Thessalonica:
God's will is for you to be holy, so stay away from all sexual sin. Then each of you will control his own body and live in holiness and honor — not in lustful passion like the pagans who do not know God and his ways. Never harm or cheat a fellow believer in this matter by violating his wife [or daughter], for the Lord avenges all such sins, as we have solemnly warned you before. God has called us to live holy lives, not impure lives. Therefore, anyone who refuses to live by these rules is not disobeying human teaching but is rejecting God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you (1 Thessalonians 4:3-8 NLT).
God made us. God made the sexual longings, desires, and needs that we have. God also made a place for these longings to find their fulfillment, delight, joy, and celebration in marriage. As followers of Jesus and children of God, the Holy Spirit wants us to find this fulfillment, delight, joy, and celebration in our husband or our wife. We are to give ourselves to the other, learning to bless them and fulfill them. As we do, we offer ourselves as living sacrifices in worship that is pleasing to God (Romans 12:1-2). This gift of sexual intimacy is to be kept precious. This joyous celebration in our lovemaking is to be protected from abuse, pressure, and exploitation. This gift of sexual intimacy in marriage is part of God's many shades of grace. The Father gave them to remind us of his love for us and his desire for us to find a safe and protected place to experience life to its fullness (John 10:10).
Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).
The following video message from Craig Groeshell, "Love Song: God-Honoring Sex" is worth your 37 minutes and is complementary and goes into more depth than a short article or post can. While all the messages in this series are worth your time, this one is especially relevant to our focus today. Don't be put off by the intro, as this message directly challenges the ideas of our culture and the ways of our fleshly nature, and directs to God as the source of ultimate sexual holiness, fulfillment, and joy.
*1For a popular treatment of this, see "Why are Christians Having Better Sex than the Rest of Us?" (but please be aware this is not a Christian website). For the scholarly research and detailed report see The Social Organization of Sexuality in America (found in most major book outlets) — a University of Chicago scientific study of the sexual behaviors of Americans which found those with strong Christian-related convictions and affiliations had more frequent and more satisfying sexual experiences and this was especially true among empty nester type of married couples. Return to article.
*2In Paul's day, in both predominant Greek and Hebrew culture, men had the vast majority of marriage rights. It was understood in Greek culture as demonstrated by this quote from Demosthenes: "We have mistresses for pleasure, concubines to care for our daily body's needs and wives to bear us legitimate children and to be faithful guardians of our households." The wife was expected to please the man; there were no such expectations of the man pleasing the woman. To say that the husband does not have authority over his own body but yields it to his wife (1 Corinthians 7:4) was both anti-cultural and also laughable in Greek culture, yet Paul says it without subtlety. For Paul, this important truth is embedded both in the way both male and female were created in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-27) and also in the redemption equality of value in Christ (1 Corinthians 11:11-12 and Galatians 3:26-27; Galatians 4:1-7). These incredible and revolutionary things Paul says for women's rights as Christians is further illustrated by the complementary commands to both men and women in 1 Corinthians 7. Return to article.