Monday, June 9, 2014

Sex Matters

This post is also available on the website of Bow Valley Christian Church.

Considering all of the trouble, pain, selfishness, and loneliness resulting from our sexual longings, what was God thinking when He made humans to be sexual beings? It might have been better to create us with the ability to go off into the woods and simply duplicate ourselves without any interaction with others. God could have made us that way. He must have had a plan and purposes. There are some purposes of sexual intimacy which almost all people would readily recognize.

First, we readily know that sexual intimacy is a pleasurable experience and that giving and receiving pleasure is part of the purpose. Whether we come at it from a theological or a scientific perspective, we know that sex is supposed to be pleasant and joyful.

Second, sexual intimacy is about love and romance. This is the predominant concept associated with sex in our culture. We have this sense that sex is to be something that is experienced between two people who love each other. In fact, this purpose has the potential to over-shadow all other purposes for sexual intimacy. It is taught in our schools, and is modelled in our entertainment, that when two people are in love they will naturally express that love with sexual intimacy.

The third purpose is also one that readily comes to mind: procreation. We know that sexual intimacy usually has the potential for procreation, continuation of the species, and continuation of the family unit. There are exceptions to this but it is certainly a purpose, if not the main purpose, for why sex exists.

Beyond these three, basic, purposes for sexual intimacy there would be other purposes. Some of these further purposes would not come as readily to mind but would still be important purposes; while others might be considered controversial and specific to a certain philosophical or lifestyle perspective.
Allow me to attempt a somewhat exhaustive list.

4. Perpetuation of society: not only does procreation lead to the continuance of the species and the family, it allows society to have a family structure out of which comes society. Looking back thousands of years it is hard to imagine a society that did not revolve around sex. If asexual reproduction had been the norm, society would have been very different and would have required additional constructs to create viable and sustaining organization

5. Giving of ourselves to one another: although there are examples of sexuality that are selfish, it is designed to be anything but selfish. True sexual intimacy is a giving of self which results in joy for the partner which, in turn, finds expression as joy for the first person. The two are intertwined (literally and symbolically) in an experience of mutual giving, pleasuring, and joy. Giving and fulfillment happen at one and the same time. Giving to the other in sex becomes an act of self-sacrifice and death to selfishness.

6. Complementation of one another: in nature, productive and procreative sexual acts result from biological complementarity. It is the experience of one with something that is other. In humans, sexuality is expressed with someone who is totally 'other' from ourselves.

7. Renewal of a covenant: when two people get married they establish a covenant. That covenant is said to be consummated by the first sexual experience together. Thereafter, every sexual moment experienced by the two is an act of covenant renewal. In this way, sexual intimacy is an act of worship.[1]

8. Integration of body and spirit: the act of being sexually intimate is both profoundly physical and sublimely spiritual. Worship is another experience which comes close to such a situation. When we experience a profound sense of worship with and toward our God, whether that be in a worship service with many others or in the woods all by ourselves, there is a sense in which our body is physically involved and our spirit is ecstatically involved.[2]

9. A dim foretaste of true intimacy between God and humans. Sexual experiences are never perfect and are often quite broken; yet, they always point to something higher. They are a fore-shadowing of the intimacy that we will one day experience in the heavenly realms when the Kingdom of God has come in all of its fullness. God and humans will finally be united in a spiritual intimacy that will be greater than any we have known on earth. All of the loneliness and brokenness of our relationships on earth will disappear with one moment of the intimacy of heaven. Jesus pointed out that there is no marriage in heaven (Matthew 22:30) and so in one sense there will be no sexual intimacy in heaven. Yet, in another sense, our entire time in heaven will be an ecstatic, intimate, and symbolically sexual experience. Thus, sexual intimacy points to the union of Jesus Christ and His bride, the church.[3]

10. An image of the faithfulness of God: sexual intimacy and its incumbent faithfulness of the two persons is a shadow of God's faithfulness to humans. God is the faithful husband who returns time and again to his unfaithful wife, asking her once more to be faithful to him. The whole book of Hosea is a tribute to the unrelenting love of God for His people.[4]

I am aware that there is some overlap among these purposes and there may yet be other purposes not listed. The aim has been to begin the conversation and set a framework within which we will talk about sex in future blog entries. As we conclude, there is one more thing we must understand in this discussion: sexual intimacy is essential to our being, but it is not necessary. God could have created a world without sex. Nature has examples of other methods of reproduction within biology. Yet, most of the organisms on this planet do use sexual reproduction. Sex is woven into the very fabric of our earth. Our God had a reason for making things the way he did. He wanted us to be aware of the many purposes and consequent inferences of sexual intimacy.

Interact with us on this. Why do you think sexual intimacy exists? What are the first answers that enter your mind when you hear that question? How many of these purposes would be controversial? What opinions on the purposes for sex would we find in our dominant culture?



[1] See The Meaning of Marriage by Timothy Keller, Dutton Adult, 2011.
[2] See the blog post "A Biblical Theology of Sex" by Dr. Jim Eckman at http://graceuniversity.edu/iip/2011/02/a-biblical-theology-of-sex/
[3] See this sermon by Tim Keller at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0naSKU7ElsY
[4] Ibid.

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