SEX! What does the Bible say?
“Enough of this moralising. Sleep with whoever you want, whenever you want, but do it carefully.” – so said a university’s safe sex week leaflet back in 1993!
Our young people face enormous pressure in a society that exploits and misrepresents sexuality. The condom culture has emphasised protection (or safe sex – really should be safer sex as 100% safety is not possible) – BUT it has done little or nothing to help people understand the place and purpose of sex.
Someone, in their late teens or early 20’s, who is still a virgin is considered to have something wrong with them!
The danger we face as Christians – and the perception that those outside the church have – is that Christians are prudish, puritanical, judgmental and out-of-touch with real-life. And we have to say that such a perception is not totally unfounded.
Let me say this now and I will come back to it later – Sex is great! WHY? Because it was God’s idea!
It is not sordid, or sinful or sterile (if you’ll excuse the pun!) Our sexuality, our attraction to the opposite sex, our need for physical intimacy is a gift from God. LATER!
1. Contemporary views of sex.
These are broad-brush strokes – I am sure you know them well.
- Ø Entertainment – to participate in or watch. The pornography industry is huge – esp. now with the internet. Its addictive. More of a problem for men but not exclusively.
- Ø Recreational / casual / playboy-playgirl image whether in a heterosexual or homosexual relationship.
The one-night-stand. Multiple partners.
- Ø A dating sexual relationship – almost expected that if a couple have a steady dating relationship that they will be sleeping together even if they don’t live together.
- Ø Cohabiting – this is so accepted in our society now that with some people to talk about your husband / wife is not as PC as to say “partner”. Some cohabiting couple have long and committed relationship BUT the fact remains that cohabiting couples are 80% more likely to split up than married couples.
- Ø Marriage – still many marry but divorce is much more prevalent – England and Wales 100 years ago ~ 600 per year now about 170,000 – despite far few marriages.
2. Research and Reflection.
What is interesting to observe in recent years is the growing body of research that is showing how marriage is the most stable relationship – the most fulfilling sexually – the best suited environment for children to feel secure and happy, the best ingredient for stable society, etc.
For example statistics show, contrary what some tried to tell us, that the marriages least likely to break down are amongst the group of people who did not live or sleep together before marriage!
A recent opinion poll in USA showed that increasing numbers of girls are refusing pre-marital sex – wanting to save themselves for a husband who will commit his life first!
Interesting – recently read a book review – (I can’t remember the title) – written by a Jewish lady in the USA [a psychologist or sociologist] who was arguing that the sexual revolution since the 60’s far from empowering women, sexually and in others ways, has actually done the opposite. In the days when most people married before a sexual relationship started, there was a mystic about a woman and a man had to make a commitment to her before he could satisfy his sexual desires. Now men can have want they want with no commitment.
This difference in approach between men and women is shown in an experiment conducted on a University campus: [from the book – and TV show – by Prof. Robert Winston, Human Instinct]: “… male and female researchers accosted students of the opposite sex and asked if they wanted to have sex. Some three-quarters of the men said they would agree to immediate sex; none of the women agreed (although a small minority accepted a dinner invitation). [page 106]
Thought for the Day, 14 November 2002 -Anne Atkins
Here’s the latest absolutely revolutionary research. Marriage makes you happy. Well, duh. It’s been popular since the dawn of time, so presumably there’s some reason other than a biologically driven need for wedding cakes and new hats. The magazine Top Sante has polled two thousand women, and discovered further gobsmacking news. Husbands make the best lovers. I ask you. If you could choose between a man who disappears at dawn without cleaning his teeth and one who can keep you satisfied night after night for a lifetime – there’s not much contest, is there? The security of marriage, continues the survey, allows for more imagination and innovation in the bedroom.
Sexual morality is by no means the heart of Christianity – more a fringe benefit, if you like – but it’s much talked-about, and much misunderstood. We can all imagine God, can’t we? The great Killjoy in the sky; like a divine dietician denying us every cream cake for our benefit. In fact, the bible doesn’t start with prohibitions at all, but with a glorious image of the true and original sexual relationship: a man and woman preferring each other before all the world – exactly what modern woman finds fulfilling. How extraordinary: God isn’t spoiling our fun at all, but redeeming it.
So what does the Bible say?
3. What does the Bible say?
- Ø Sex is a fact of life.
I don’t mean the usually awkward and embarrassing exchanges between Father / son and Mother/daughter at the onset of puberty.
Rather – the fact that sexuality is a Divine Creation.
Genesis 1:27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. (NIV)
The differences in human sexuality were part of God’s plan. It is not for embarrassment or under the counter exploitation. It is a creation of God for which he should be praised.
Sexual activity is a Divine Command.
Genesis 1:28 28 God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it.
Sadly the church has often been silently respectful or just negative about the area of sexuality. But God is positive about it – the Bible offers clear and sensible understanding and teaching if we will care to look!
Sexual activity is a Divine concern.
Genesis 2:18 The LORD God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.”
Genesis 2:24 For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.
God is saying “Adam, you need and companion and helper. The ‘one flesh’ is referring to a physical relationship. It concerns God when two people marry but have an unhealthy sex life. It also concerns him hen two people have a sexual relationship outside the marriage bond – this is contrary to his design and purpose.
An aside about being singles, and I will say more about this next week – In affirming marriage the Bible is not saying that singles are somehow inadequate or incomplete – far from it – each and every person is significant and valuable in their own right. They can have a happy and fulfilled life and can often make a contribution to life and society in ways that married people never can!
- Ø Sex is a facet of love.
Facet is one surface of a cut gem. Sex is one facet of love.
The Greeks had three words for love – we have one.
Agape (sacred) – an unconditional sacrificial love – used to describe God’s love for us, esp. in Jesus sacrifice for us! A love we are to reflect to others esp. a spouse.
Philia (social) – a brotherly love, a deep affection, a social kindness, a care and concern and so on.
Eros (sexual) – English word erotic –
First two should be seen in the life of any Christian – all three in the ‘one flesh’ marriage relationship. There needs to be spiritual unity, social unity and sexual unity.
Sexuality is a very strong human desire and out of control can lead to chaos and pain and suffering. Thus Jesus raises the standard from just the act of sexual infidelity to one of heart and mind!
4. The Kingdom View of sexual attitudes.
We have seen throughout the Sermon on the Mount so far that Jesus raises the standards of kingdom living from the level of outward action to inner attitude.
In dealing with adultery he does the same thing.
I will deal with this in greater detail next week when we look at divorce and remarriage.
Last week we looked at anger and contempt which unchecked ended in violence and murder. Now Jesus moves on to sex.
This is today’s news – violence and sex are two of the greatest problem areas in our society today.
Jesus knew that the men of his day who might consider themselves to be pure and right because they had not committed a physical act of adultery where the same men who would follow a woman with their eyes. – absorbed by her body and lust in their eyes – fantasising about what it would be like to touch her and have intercourse with her.
We all know this kind of activity because there are few who have not at some time engaged in it. It includes all types of men – pastors and plumber, professors and postmen. In this day of equal opportunity women as well – and also between those of the same sex.
- Guard your eyes.
Job did this – Job 31:1 “I made a covenant with my eyes not to look lustfully at a girl. (NIV)
John mentions this in his letter.
1 John 2:16 …the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes …
There are things we can’t help seeing – but looking longingly and lingering lustfully – feeding a fantasy is where sexual infidelity starts.
So we need to guard what we look at!
But listen to Jesus … Matthew 5:29 29 If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. (NIV)
Same about hands!
Is Jesus suggesting that we mutilate our body? NO but rather making a point to his hearers that even if you dismembered your body to the point where physically it would be impossible to murder, commit adultery, even look lustfully – it would still be possible to be full of anger and sexual lusting. WHY?
Mark 7:21-23 21 For from within, out of men’s hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, 22 greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. 23 All these evils come from inside and make a man ‘unclean’.” (NIV)
- Ø Guard your heart.
Matthew 5:28 28 But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. (NIV)
This can also apply to woman of course.
We must be careful not to go beyond what Jesus is saying.
Sexual desire is not, in itself, wrong – so long as it is use correctly.
Temptation is not, in itself, wrong – Jesus was tempted. But we should not wilfully enter into it.
Looking at a woman (or man), in itself, is not wrong.
“Looking lustfully” at someone who is not your spouse is what Jesus is talking about. It is looking at her with the purpose of desire her. Indulging and cultivating that desire – fantasising about having sex with that one. Peter puts it graphically – 2 Peter 2:14 14 With eyes full of adultery, …
For many this is a chosen habit that they indulge and enjoy.
BUT it is not the type of character required by Jesus to be a member of his Kingdom.
- Ø Sexual sin is not unforgivable.
The church has too often treated those who have sinned sexually as if it is worse than other sin. While doing so they committed the sin of pride and judgementalism.
God forgave David; Jesus forgave the woman caught in the very act of adultery.
Remember we are all guilty at heart level – and Jesus says that counts for more!
Whatever we may have done God is always ready to forgive and give us a new beginning.
- Ø Sex in the boundaries of marriage is a gift from God.
God only gives good gift.
The Song of Songs, a part of which we read, is that wonderful erotic poem in the middle of the Bible that talks about sex more than all the rest, and it never even mentions self-restraint. It is an intoxicating celebration of all that sexual love is and can be: a magnificent abandonment of two people to one another, exclusively and for life, for love is as strong as death, its jealousy unyielding as the grave.
To quote Anne Atkins in closing –
According to one commentator …, sex reduces stress, boosts immunity, increases confidence, slows aging and gives you a good workout. …. Exciting though this is, however, it’s nothing to what is to come. Sex isn’t just good in itself; it also symbolises the selflessness, fidelity and durability behind the primary human relationship, that between man and woman, on which all social bonds are founded.
But there is something more inspiring still. Over and over again erotic love, in the bible, is used to picture something more crucial and life-giving even than the love between man and woman: that between God and us. No wonder it’s important to get it right.
Erotic love is for life: divine love is forever. Man’s love for woman is as strong as death and unyielding as the grave. But God’s love for us is stronger than death, and even overcomes the grave. copyright 2002 BBC
SEX! What does the Bible say?
Matthew 5v27-30; Song of Songs.
Contemporary views of sexual relationships.
For many can be either heterosexual or homosexual
Research and Reflection.
- Marriage most stable relationship
– most fulfilling emotionally, socially and physically.
– most stable and secure for children.
– key ingredient for stable community.
- Growing number of woman opting to wait
for marriage before starting a sexual
- The sexual revolution has favoured men.
- Husbands make the best lovers!
What does the Bible say?
- Sex is a fact of life.
– divine creation – Genesis 1v27
– divine command – Genesis 1v28
– divine concern – Genesis 2v18 & 24
- Sex is a facet of love.
– agape (sacred)
– philia (social)
– eros (sexual)
The kingdom view of sexuality.
- Not just actions but attitudes.
– Guard your eyes – Job 31v1;
1 John 2v16; 2 Peter 2v14
– Guard your heart – Matthew 5v28;
- Sexual sin is not unforgivable.
1 John1v9; John 8v1-11; Psalms 32 & 51
- Sex in the boundaries of marriage is a
gift from God to be enjoyed and valued.
Genesis 2v24-25; Song of Songs.