Making our relationships work involves how we relate and connect to one and to each other as male and female… a connection involving us as sexual beings.
So, today, by the charity of God, His unconditional love, we are now going to get deeply personal and try to consider God’s design and desire for sexual intimacy.
I know that sexual intimacy is a topic that can often awaken plenty of interest.
I know, also, that sexual intimacy is a topic that raises many “red flags” as well.
I also know this topic of sexual intimacy can likewise tend to be a very sensitive, even embarrassing or humiliating subject or traumatic, even traumatizing one.
It’s about something very personal and intimate.
In a culture and economic climate that wants to turn sexuality into a source of public commodity and consumption… something still feels very personal and intimate when the topic is brought up and an effort is made to “give it to God.”
I certainly want to respect and protect that personal nature and sensitivity.
We live in a time that prides itself on being sexually free.
Yet the reality, I believe, is that we are actually sexually conflicted.
We will not hesitate to politicize, we freely weaponize sexual intimacy in Congressional Hearings considering changes to the Roe Vs. Wade Supreme Court decision and in testimony and “political” speeches before Senatorial Hearings considering the nomination of our Supreme Court Justices.
It’s been said that what a culture tries to laugh at is what is most unresolved within it.
Our comedy is obsessed with sex because there is so much tension unresolved within us.
On Awards Shows, a man can make “very personal comments” about another man’s wife on National Television – and then “get slapped around and down.”
Our personal feelings about being sexual can elicit a mix of goodness and guilt…beauty and shame.
Sexuality is such a deep part of our identity and a deep part of our insecurity.
We live in a tension marked by both repression and obsession… inhibition and indulgence.
The only one NOT hung up in sexual confusion… is God.
God surrounds us … to speak of a gift that needs to be restored…. to speak of a gift often negated or neglected.
He says, “I made the stars… the seas… but lastly, I made you as male and female… as sexual beings.”
It’s God who created us as bodily beings. So, I’d like to stop and ask you to join me in a brief moment of prayer…and opening our hearts to God’s heart for us.
Let’s hear again the words from the first book of the Bible… as God gives poetic summary of who we are…
Genesis 1:26-28Amplified Bible
26 Then God said, “Let Us (Father, Son, Holy Spirit) make man in Our image, according to Our likeness [not physical, but a spiritual personality and moral likeness]; and let them have complete authority over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, the cattle, and over the entire earth, and over everything that creeps and crawls on the earth.” 27 So God created man in His own image, in the image and likeness of God He created him; male and female He created them. 28 And God blessed them [granting them certain authority] and said to them, “Be fruitful, multiply, and fill the earth, and subjugate it [putting it under your power]; and rule over (dominate) the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, and every living thing that moves upon the earth.”
Genesis 2:24-25 Amplified Bible
24 For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother and shall be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh. 25 And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed or embarrassed.
The Word of God for the Children of God. Gloria! In Excelsis Deo! Alleluia! Amen.
From these ancient words of God, we are each poetically reminded of that God alone created sexuality…. and the potential for sexual intimacy.
It’s not like God created the first humans, went on lunch break and then came back and was like, “what are they doing? Who taught them that?!”
The original state was His idea. And how different it is from what we often feel.
Last verse (25) – “The man and his wife were both naked, but they weren’t ashamed of it.”
Can you imagine that?
A nakedness of body that had nothing to hide from God or anyone…no shame.
No shame from their past.
No shame that comes from falling short of some expectations for performance.
The truth is that…
Our sexuality is rooted in God…. and reflected in…
• Our Complimentary Nature (‘male and female’)
We are uniquely created as male and female… to reflect the complimentary aspects of God’s character.
It’s helpful to ask what God says about when they become sexual beings.
When did they become male and female?
Was it when they left and joined partners? No
Was it when they united and created life? NO
At the very moment they were created…they were either male or female.
And that speaks to a valuable truth: You and I will never be or become more fundamentally a man or woman than you and I already are.
Now I acknowledge how deeply some find conflict with being male or female… some physical … some psychological…
I believe it is a conflict that is incredible deep because it is with something real… our biological nature as male and female is not something we can ever escape… but we must yet, by the charity and mercy of God, somehow navigate through.
• Creative Potential… (‘be fruitful and multiply’)
Male and Female were told to ‘be fruitful and multiply’ as their physical union could create new life.
God who is creating endows us with creative power…including the ability to create life.
Sexual intimacy is not reduced to the power and purpose of creating life… but neither can it be understood outside of that sacred power.
The command to go and multiply is not simply a matter of following an order… but reflecting the very divine order or nature itself.
In essence we are “continuing God’s creation act” from chaos into order.
It’s notable… that when God calls a people of this earth through whom he would miraculously make himself known
… what is the sign of the covenant
… circumcision… a marking out of the life creating male anatomy.
A sacred reminder that our sexuality is rooted in the Divine order.
• Covenant Partnerships (‘leave and become united’)
God describes that we were given a purpose… and a means to partner in fulfilling that purpose.
We were created as complimentary beings…able to create life… and therefore a man will leave his initial family to create a new union.
This partnership is the essence of marriage.
Now I know that some rigorously question the nature of marriage today.
Some may say that there were many forms of marriage in the Bible… the ancients would practice polygamy in which a man may have had many wives.
There were obligations to provide for the lineage of a brother who dies…by taking his wife.
The ancient cultures had some patterns that may seem strange in light of what God’s original design of an individual man joining an individual woman
… but the truth is…. that as God began to form a people… the understanding of marriage turns back to this original design… of a man leaving his father and mother… cleaving…. becoming bound to one woman…and becoming one flesh…uniting in a sacred intimacy only with her.
What is described is how the “becoming one flesh” …the physical union… consummates the commitment.
When two become one…. they then experience oneness in sexual union.
This helps us begin to understand how sexual oneness is designed for marriage… where the bonds of oneness have been divinely established.
The very nature of “passion” reflects the desire to give ourselves fully…with great fervor. Sexual Intimacy and Sexual passion are about giving ourselves physically and personally to another.
I believe it can be captured this way…
“Sexual passion is the stimulating of a God-given, God -driven longing from deep within us for oneness, for uniqueness; through the pleasure of releasing both personal and physical boundaries, leading to the uniting of one’s body and being, designed by God (Psalm 139:13-18) as a part of a lifelong partnership.”
I realize that within our current culture we have been trying to negate this idea.
The so called “sexual revolution” may have rightfully challenged the unhealthy repression of sexual desires…but in trying to ignore that sexual intimacy as that which God intended to unite us…it has instead, … been politicized, weaponized, and traumatically divided, torn apart, what wasn’t designed to be separated.
Experiencing oneness without being one deeply violates our personhood.
I acknowledge and recognize that may be hard for some to accept… and you may not agree at this point.
I don’t have the time today to engage how to consider such a truth today.
But I would suggest that through study of scripture and through prayer, the truth of our sexual nature speaks from both within us…and from around us.
The physical and personal were not neat to be separated.
Freedom is found when body and being are united…. when experiencing oneness is bound within the God created bonds and bounds of oneness.
Sexual intimacy is designed to unite us.
As Reverend Dr. Timothy Keller describes…
“Sexual Intimacy is a way to say to somebody else, “I belong completely and exclusively to you,” and if you use it to say anything else, it’s a lie. It’s a nonverbal piece of communication God designed, and it’s meant to carry a message…God said sex is a way to give yourself totally to somebody else and to say, “I belong completely and totally and exclusively to you.”
The simple truth is that no little girl dreams of the day they will find themselves in the arms of a stranger. No little boy dreams of the day they will be addicted and consumed by looking at a computer… or engaging in something rough and abusive. At our core, we were not designed for such separation of body and soul.
Our culture has invested more into the promotion of casual sex than any other idea I can think of.
We simply have to decide … is it really a progressive idea… or a regressive idea?
Do I really believe that becoming like the prevailing culture, succumbing to the prevailing social media driven peer pressure, is fulfillment of my personhood?
Godly Restoration comes with realigning the longings of being and body… rediscovering what it means that we are human beings expressed in bodies.
Our current cultural desire to try to separate physical pleasure from personal commitment….is not because we don’t feel the connection…it’s not because the facts regarding social cost aren’t clear … it’s because we have found it hard.
Self-Discipline, Self-control is hard… and it’s hard when there is such a long period between when sexual desires arise, and marriage tends to arise.
And it’s this tension which the Apostle Paul addresses.
He writes to those who are living in Greece…the city of Corinth.
And here is what he says…as captured in a paraphrased translation.
II. God’s Desire for Sexual Intimacy in Marriage
1 Corinthians 7:1-7The Message
To Be Married, to Be Single . . .
7 Now, getting down to the questions you asked in your letter to me. First, is it a good thing to have sexual relations?
2-6 Certainly—but only within a certain context. It’s good for a man to have a wife, and for a woman to have a husband. Sexual drives are strong, but marriage is strong enough to contain them and provide for a balanced and fulfilling sexual life in a world of sexual disorder. The marriage bed must be a place of mutuality—the husband seeking to satisfy his wife, the wife seeking to satisfy her husband. Marriage is not a place to “stand up for your rights.” Marriage is a decision to serve the other, whether in bed or out. Abstaining from sex is permissible for a period of time if you both agree to it, and if it’s for the purposes of prayer and fasting—but only for such times. Then come back together again. Satan has an ingenious way of tempting us when we least expect it. I’m not, understand, commanding these periods of abstinence—only providing my best counsel if you should choose them.
7 Sometimes I wish everyone were single like me—a simpler life in many ways! But celibacy is not for everyone any more than marriage is. God gives the gift of the single life to some, the gift of the married life to others.
The words of the Apostle Paul here may not sound like the greatest promotion of marriage.
In fact, the wording of other translations can sound even more like a “resignation” …as if to say “if you must get married…it’s okay” … as if Paul merely resigns marriage as a necessity for the less self-controlled.
Admittedly, it does not quite have that Hallmark Valentine’s Day card feel.
But the first verse helps us understand what Paul’s intent is.
He begins. “Now, getting down to the questions you asked in your letter to me. First, is it a good thing to have sexual relations?
While Paul certainly has reasons to see the benefits of celibacy
… we need to understand that he is beginning to address particular issues and questions raised by those in Corinth.
Other Translations. – ‘Is it good for a man to touch a woman?’… euphemism for sexual relationship.
To really understand the question, we need to remember the philosophy that was pervading the culture at the time…
Corinth…the city to which he is writing… was part of Greece…and just 40 miles from Athens.
The idea can be summed up as DUALISM = a complete separation of material and spiritual… and that which is of the earthly desires and bodily life being deemed either an enemy of the spiritual or at least irrelevant.
Out of this false separation, some conclude we can do anything with your body we would like.
Others found in this dualistic thinking a more ascetic approach to life… detach themselves from their sexuality.
This included those who were married thinking that such physical pleasure may be unfitting of spiritual life.
Such marriages are called “Platonic marriages” after the Greek philosopher Plato.
Many people married but did not consummate the marriage with a physical joining together; instead, they did that kind of physical activity with temple prostitutes and child slaves.
As some may or may not recall
…the city of Corinth had one of the most massive temples of its day… the Temple of Aphrodite…which has been uncovered and can be visited today.
It housed an estimated 1,000 priestesses who served as temple prostitutes…. A form of sacred legal prostitution.
That may sound crazy to us… the idea that a culture would invest so much to create non-relational sex…give it an almost sacred glorified place.
I wonder if we haven’t invested far more than that considering the length and breadth, height, depth and width of the reaches of technology, social media, to create our own “temples of sex”… where we try to find “virtual” not eternal life.
Satan’s great strategy, when it comes to sex, sexual intimacy is to do everything he can to hyper encourage sex outside of marriage, and to discourage sex within marriage. It is an equal victory for Satan if he actually accomplishes either plan!
So, Paul wants to make it clear: Physical intimacy in marriage is GOOD.
That may sound like the most obvious statement ever made… but I actually believe that a part of us may wonder. We need to really know that sexual intimacy in marriage is GOOD and not just a good thing but a God thing.
Whatever feels awkward in connecting God with our sexual pleasure is a reflection of something corrupted.
He wants us to stop letting sexuality become defined as something bad in itself.
Paul is not saying sex is the only reason for marriage, or the most important reason for marriage.
Paul is simply confronting their negating of sex, sexual intimacy within God’s covenant of marriage.
Our feelings about sex today, including sexual intimacy in marriage, are often still caught between obsession and repression.
…. And Paul here reminds us that neither the indulgent nor the inhibited are really enjoying true sexual freedom.
Apostle Paul concludes saying he himself embraces his circumstances of being unmarried. He was almost certainly married earlier in his life
… but is likely widowed now.
And he values the freedom to serve God’s work with the freedom this gives him.
That affirms that marriage is not an end in itself… there is a larger purpose.
He knows that sexual intimacy is not essential to life…but it is powerful…and cannot be negated or neglected.
So his advice is simple…
1. Experience sex only with your spouse
Paul writes in verse 2: …But since there is so much immorality…
“It’s good for a man to have a wife, and for a woman to have a husband. Sexual drives are strong, but marriage is strong enough to contain them and provide for a balanced and fulfilling sexual life in a world of sexual disorder…”
So Paul is saying sex only within marriage…
In a world that directs us away from relational intimacy
…. God calls the heart back to home.
This is the wisdom we hear in the Book of Proverbs.
Proverbs 5:15-19 (NIV)
Drink water from your own cistern, running water from your own well. 16 Should your springs overflow in the streets, your streams of water in the public squares? 17 Let them be yours alone, never to be shared with strangers. 18 May your fountain be blessed, and may you rejoice in the wife of your youth. 19 A loving doe, a graceful deer– may her breasts satisfy you always, may you ever be captivated by her love.
2. Satisfy your spouse’s sexual needs
Look at 1 Corinthians 7 verses 3 and 4:
“The marriage bed must be a place of mutuality—the husband seeking to satisfy his wife, the wife seeking to satisfy her husband. Marriage is not a place to “stand up for your rights.” Marriage is a decision to serve the other…”
The husband and wife have a marital duty to each other.
And in this context, that “marital duty” is sex.
Paul is saying that you and I are to satisfy our spouse’s sexual needs.
Paul says that we should not be depriving each other of what our bodies offer each other. He’s referring to the powerful DESIRE he had just described.
He’s not speaking about creating children…but of the pleasure itself.
As people who really value our spiritual nature, we may be quite comfortable acknowledging that physical intimacy is good, but perhaps a bit awkward with acknowledging, thinking, believing Creator God really intended such pleasure.
Paul not only affirms but even calls for both husbands and wives to ‘satisfy’ one another. Yes… it is a sacred means for being co-creators of life… but there is also a very necessary dimension of pleasure… of satisfying natural sensual desires.
In the Song of Songs…we hear of very sensual love…a love story shows marital sex to be erotic and personal, romantic and fun, passionate and patient.
As God’s gift to the intimacy between husband and wife, physical intimacy should be HIGHLY VALUED, THOROUGHLY ENJOYED on a REGULAR basis.
All of these adjectives will vary in diverse measures and to varying degrees…
Will our value always be the same?
No… but we can still each share in valuing it.
Will the level of enjoyment always be the same?
No… but enjoyment can always be a part.
What is regular?
That is to be defined through prayer and the comfort of the husband and wife.
So how can we develop such a sexually healthy marriage?
Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 Amplified Bible
9 Two are better than one because they have a more satisfying return for their labor; 10 for if [a]either of them falls, the one will lift up his companion. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and does not have another to lift him up. 11 Again, if two lie down together, then they keep warm; but how can one be warm alone? 12 And though one can overpower him who is alone, two can resist him. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.
Please let me mention four quick points…
But FIRST and FOREMOST, and UTMOST,
Pray God, the Father and God the Son and God the Holy Spirit into the moment.
Examine and be aware of the eternal equation: God plus Husband plus Wife
– Relational and Sexual intimacy in the Covenant of marriage always and forever begins and ends with God as Sovereign.
With God listening, and with Holy Spirit Guidance, being Husband and Wife in the image of God means you are having those “uncomfortable” conversations,
1. Confronting your SHARED sense of autonomy, individuality and uniqueness
2. Discovering and Challenging and Exploring your issues of fear and trust.
• Sex is never just about sex. It’s about connection.
3. Intentionally seek to know the other’s needs… which involves talking
4. Be considerate, intentional, utmost respectful about the sexual relationship
Finally….Paul makes one more main point…
3. Guard your relationship from the tensions and temptations which will seek to threaten it.
Paul says…we need to realize there is that which is set against us.
He warns us…there are spiritual forces who sees marriage as a sign of God’s covenant love on earth… a signpost of God…and wants to utterly tear it up.
He will try to draw every married life away from its center – GOD!
To submit to one another and to God (Ephesians 5:22-33),
to submit and to yield to one another sexually, intimately in marriage is to truthfully, faithfully, obediently step forward into God-created intimacy.
“My beloved is mine, and I am his; he grazes among the lilies.” Song of Solomon 2:16
These are poetic words of belonging, words that for an engaged couple can generate tender imagining and anticipation of what life together will be.
Lived into and lived out by a married couple, these words can hold together in intimacy what much of the world seems to determined to break apart.
Intimacy in marriage, sexual and otherwise, was created by God and is to be fervently and vigorously fought for, delighted in and also fiercely guarded.
To yield to one another sexually in marriage is to step into God-created intimacy that takes us out of ourselves and into places where the walls can crumble, and we can be tenderly vulnerable and real.
There is peace and expansiveness of heart that come with this intimacy, one that offers such glorious contrast to the confusion and momentum of the world.
We must be willing to fight for intimacy in our marriages, to fiercely guard it.
We fight for it by being attentive to each other’s hearts, by yielding to God in a way that allows us to more easily submit to God, freely yield to one another.
We guard it by being intentional, considering what pulls us from intimacy and stepping away from those places, considering what brings us life and stepping deliberately into those places.
“My beloved is mine, and I am his.”
We long to belong.
First and Foremost, unto God, our Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit.
Then to each other, in the image of God into which we were created.
The Covenant of Marriage, as an intimate coming together before God, offers a sense of divine connection, belonging that mirrors our belonging to the Father.
While the risk-reward vulnerability that intimacy brings is sometimes hard or scary to step into, it is such a wonderfully holy place that God gives unto us, a place of delighting in each another that echoes of our Father’s delight in us.
God’s demand is that we love each other perfectly and consider the needs of each other before our own, even in the bedroom.
We know all too well how hard it is to make marriage and intimacy work and it is no surprise that we cannot do all that is required of us.
Sometimes it feels like we can barely do any part of it.
This is the weight of sin and the work of God’s law.
When we see those failures, we don’t just need to forgive each other, we look to Christ who forgives all our sins – who forgives all our sexual sins and failures – and we embrace his righteousness as we seek to move forward.
This is the work of the gospel, peace and forgiveness in Christ that flows over to one another.
He alone empowers us to do good in all our duties.
So, we do love one another.
We do try to set aside our own needs and serve one another in Christ-like love. We live in the strength of the gospel to the glory of God, even in the bedroom.
In the name of God, the Father and God the Son and God the Holy Spirit,
Let us Pray,
Heavenly Father, the gift of marriage and its many blessings come from your loving hand. Thank you for these gifts which enrich our home and strengthen our relationship. Continue to work your love in our hearts that we may grow in grace and our understanding of your plan for marriage and sexuality.
Give us an extra measure of charity and selfless love in our intimacy as we strive to set our own needs aside and look only to serve one another. Thank you for the grace that forgives us and spurs us forward to forgive one another when we fail.
By thy charity and mercy, do not let us lose heart in our journey and sustain us when we face overwhelming despair. Bring us your love and mercy every day as we look to honor you in our marriage, reflect your intimate love to the world.
In Jesus’ name, Gloria! In Excelsis Deo! Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia! Amen.