***I want to be very careful about how I broach this topic. We’re commanded not to let any unwholesome thing come out of our mouths (or keyboards), and I want to be obedient to that command. What’s more, there are certain topics and situations that ought only be discussed in very private company. Having said that, we are still talking about sex, so by necessity this post will probably be PG-13. You’ve been warned.***
With last weekend’s release of the 50 Shades of Grey movie, and the corresponding Valentine’s holiday, a lot of people have been talking about sex. And that’s not exactly surprising. Sex is a pretty hot topic. We’re hardwired to desire and enjoy sex. We’re hardwired to pursue sexual relationships. People like sex and it’s no surprise they like to talk about it. What is surprising is that so many Christians have been talking about sex, and if you were raised in the kind of church culture I was raised in, then you know that is definitely rare. In fact, in all the years I’ve been in church, just about the only thing I’ve ever heard anyone say about sex (Mark Driscoll and Ed Young Jr. aside) is that you shouldn’t do it, at least until you’re married and even then you got the impression that it’s still kind of dirty.
Again, maybe this is just my experience, but it seems to me that most Christians talk about sex like it’s a necessary evil. Sex is almost always spoken of negatively within the church. We talk about what we shouldn’t do. We talk about who shouldn’t be having sex. We talk about when we shouldn’t have sex. We talk about why we shouldn’t have sex. Sex is almost always spoken of negatively within the church. And I think that’s unfortunate. Sex is a wonderful gift from God, and when practiced in a Biblical fashion, can be fulfilling, fun, and God-honoring. So the question for us today is, “What is the Biblical model of sexual behavior?” Put another way, “What does it mean to have God-honoring sex?”
Now I have neither the time nor the inclination to offer an exhaustive rendering of the Bible’s teaching on sex and sexual activity. However I would like this post to be both Biblical and pragmatic. So for the sake of time, I’ll offer these 5 thoughts and trust you to do more research if you have more questions…
1.) Sex should be marital. (Genesis 2:24)
This is first and foremost. Sex should only be practiced by two people who are married to one another. Because the Biblical definition of marriage is the spiritual and physical bonding of a man and a woman for life, then by definition, sex should only be practiced by a man and a woman who are married to one another.
I know. That’s old-fashioned. That’s outdated. That’s not the way the world works today. But that’s ok. Sex within marriage only is old-fashioned because Scripture tells us it was established at the very beginning of time, in the Garden, by God. And because God never changes, neither does Scripture, and neither does our definition of marriage and sex. Scripture is the lens through which we Christians are to view the world, and as such, Scripture provides clarity and focus when the world is distorted, not the other way around. To be clear, any and all sex outside of the marriage covenant is a sin. Period.
2.) Sex should be monogamous. (Hebrews 13:4)
Now I know that this sounds a lot like number one, but I want to be clear. Both physically and mentally, sex should only, ever involve the husband and the wife. To put this as carefully as possible without crossing the line of decent conversation, sex can be fun, and creative, and original, but if sex includes anyone other than your spouse, whether in person or simply in your imagination, then you are committing a sin.
3.) Sex should be loving. (1 Corinthians 13)
I mention this particularly because of the recent popularity of the 50 Shades books and movie that, as far as I can understand from reviews, is about a man who physically and emotionally abuses a woman through what is commonly called S&M. The woman, for her part, seems to agree to this, but that does not make any of it an act of love. Furthermore, sex that is motivated by love would never include shame, injury, or selfishness.
4.) Sex should be consensual. (1 Corinthians 7:5)
I would think this goes without saying, especially after the first three points of this post, but I want to be very clear. The covenant of marriage does not give either spouse the right to sex. When we get married our bodies are no longer ours, the two have become one flesh, and to withhold sex from your partner for an extended period of time without mutual consent would be wrong and unwise, but that does not give either partner the right to force themselves on the other partner.
5.) Sex should allow the husband and wife to retain their Scriptural roles. (Ephesians 5:22-33)
I suppose this one might be a bit controversial, especially if you’re still unclear on what the Scriptural roles of the husband and wife are, however I think it’s vital to our conversation. First, when I say Scriptural roles, here’s what I’m not talking about. I don’t mean that the woman should be at home, barefoot and pregnant. I don’t mean that the husband should be domineering or a bully. I simply mean that husbands are called to love their wives (see #3), and protect them from harm. Wives are supposed to respect their husbands, and be their helpmeet. If sex involves a husband hurting his wife, then he is not protecting her. If sex involves a wife disrespecting her husband, then she is not being his helpmeet.
Once again, I realize that this is not an exhaustive list of all the Bible has to teach about sex, however I hope it has at least answered a few questions, and given a few practical tips to those navigating their sexual relationships. It can be very difficult, in this sex-saturated world, not to buy into the world’s ideas and the world’s opinions about sex. Again, let us resolve to make Scripture our guide and we will never stray from the truth. As always, I welcome questions and comments.