Does God really care about our sex lives? So asks a Bible Girl reader who’s wondering why this column has often dealt with sexual topics. (Do keep this in mind: I did not invent the Sherman Allen story. I couldn’t make that stuff up if I tried.)
The answer is an emphatic yes, and you might be surprised how much of the Bible concerns itself with sex.
You have a Hebrew love poem, "Song of Songs," depicting in surprisingly explicit detail the passionate love between a man and his bride (“Blow on my garden, that its fragrance may spread abroad. Let my lover come into his garden, and taste its choice fruits.” Uh…yeah. I mean, Yeah.). On another interpretive level, the Song represents how God woos his Beloved -- his people. He initiates perfect love, and we, his Bride, receive it and respond to it. But let’s not get all spiritual and miss the obvious sexual dimension, OK?
(A small digression: Before he launched into the interminable Left Behind series, Tim LaHaye wrote one of the very first Christian sex manuals. In it, he uses the Song of Solomon to teach what he believes to be the ideal technique for sexual foreplay. Like they always tell me in the Pentecostal church, anything you need to know, “It’s in the Word.”)
So God created sex, and he called it good. It’s so good -- it’s such powerful stuff -- that believers in Jesus Christ abstain from it before they’re married. (Whereas the rest of y’all abstain afterward. But that’s another story.) We reserve the most intimate thing a man and woman can do for the most intimate relationship a man and woman can have: marriage.
In a mysterious way, sex between a husband and wife is supposed to reflect Jesus Christ’s love for the church. We messed it up big time, though, through sin, and what we call sexuality today bears little resemblance to God’s purposes.
The entire Bible revolves around God’s plan to redeem man, the pinnacle of creation. Through the Scriptures we understand how far we’ve departed from God’s original design, and how we can be restored through Jesus Christ. It follows, then, that a good chunk of the Scriptures diagnoses our problem of sin in all its dimensions, including the sexual dimension.
In the book of Hosea, for example, God instructs his prophet to marry an unfaithful wife. Hosea becomes a living demonstration of what it’s like for God to have entered into a covenant relationship with a cheating bride -- his people, Israel, who were always whoring after idols.
I can only sketch the New Testament’s multifaceted teachings about sexuality in the barest detail, so here are a few particularly compelling points:
Jesus taught that a man commits adultery if he even looks at a woman with lust in his heart. The standard for sexual purity, then, is even higher in this current “age of grace” -- when the spirit of Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit, imprints God’s standard on our hearts and empowers us to live a godly life.
The Apostle Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 6 that our body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, and we should treat it with corresponding respect and reverence (“…honor God with your body”). Joining our body -- the habitation of the Holy Spirit -- with a prostitute, or any other partner in an illicit relationship, perverts and debases God’s intention that we be spiritually united with Jesus Christ.
In marriage, Paul says that our spouse’s body belongs to us, and vice versa. We are not to deprive each other of sexual love. Both husbands and wives should be concerned with pleasing each other in every appropriate way.
Sexual sins, Paul teaches, are uniquely damaging to the human soul. They pollute the core of our being as men and women created in God’s image. God takes sexual sin so seriously concerning his people, his Bride, that we are not even to eat with those who call themselves believers in Jesus Christ but engage in sexual immorality. Those plainly outside the church, however, we are not to judge.
Our society’s obsession with sex, Paul writes, reflects a peculiar disease of the soul: a perverted kind of self-love that Paul likens to the “worship” of created things rather than the Creator. As we delve deeper into this self-centered conception of sexuality -- my body belongs to me and me only; do whatever feels right -- our hearts become “darkened.” We give way to “shameful lusts,” involving ourselves deeper and deeper in practices that degrade our bodies. Along the way we utterly lose touch with God’s truth and wouldn’t recognize it if it slapped us upside the head.
So, yes, God cares a lot about sex. It’s kind of a baseline indication for whether you really esteem Jesus Christ. If say you love him and seek to follow him, you’ll embrace his truth as expressed in the Word of God. If you embrace his truth, you won’t try to evade his admonitions against sexual immorality -- his deep concern that we seek full sexual expression only through marriage.
I know people say all the time, “Oh yeah, I’m a Christian. I love Jesus.” It’s harder, in fact, to find folks who don’t say that. But it’s gotten to the point where those words mean little to me. The Bible says you’ll know believers “by their fruit” -- by the way they live. Cheap words of devotion spoken in a free society mean nothing.
The question is, How do you live? If you ignore God’s standard for sexual purity, I’ll ignore your claim that you’re a Christian. Deal?
Just a word of explanation, something that quite a few readers of this column have misunderstood. I don’t have a beef with people outside the church who involve themselves as consenting adults in sexual immorality. If they don’t accept what I call truth, how can I expect them to live by it? (I do prefer, though, that they keep their mess to themselves. And leave my kid out of it.)
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My bone of contention is with folks who call themselves believers but try to come up with rationalizations for living a sexually loose life. They’ve confused a lot of people who started out with a sincere desire to follow Jesus Christ. Since so many church leaders are caught up in sexual immorality, their members assume that living a pure life is the rare exception, and that few of us will attain it. Hypocrisy has become the norm. We set our expectations accordingly.
Today, I find myself in a minority within the church. I actually believe that Jesus Christ has the power to transform a person’s life, including their sexuality.
If I ever let go of that belief, my faith will have become worthless.
A final note to Bible Girl readers: I’m taking a two-week break. In all honesty, the reporting I’ve done on the Sherman Allen case has troubled me so deeply that my view of the world and the church has become excessively dark. I’m going to take this time to refresh myself spiritually and mentally, and to reconnect with the many people who are trying to follow Jesus Christ with a sincere heart. See you soon. --Julie Lyons