Quite where the view came from that Christians don’t know anything about sex is a mystery, given that the Bible is not at all reticent in talking about this subject! The Song of Songs is an erotic love poem; there are numerous narratives about love, betrothal, marriage, adultery, rape and prostitution in the Old Testament and both Jesus and other New Testament writers address the subject (see Matthew 19:1-12, Hebrews 13:4, Eph 5:21-31, 1 Cor 5-7, 1 Pet 3:1-7, to name just a few passages).
It is fashionable nowadays to redefine our understanding of sex as though we have the last word on the subject and all who have gone before us knew nothing of jealousy, passion, lust, sacrificial love or undying commitment. Such an arrogant and short-term view is detrimental to us, for we can learn much from those who have gone before us, in this area as in so many others.
“Have you not read,” says Jesus, “that He who made them at the beginning ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh?'” (Matthew 19:4-5; quoting from Genesis 1:27, 2:24). In this passage Scripture clearly states that sex is for marriage and marriage is for sex. Sex is not just a pleasurable way of expressing mutual love. It’s a question of two people becoming one flesh.
The Biblical view of sex is that it is God’s gift to us, His idea, and this gift is exclusively for marriage. It is:
- created by God
- intended to be part of a lifelong commitment between one man and one woman, a commitment publicly recognised through marriage
- a union dissolved only through death
- a picture of God’s relationship with humanity
‘Chastity before marriage, faithfulness within marriage’ is the Biblical way of living. This ideal may well not always occur and Jesus demonstrates to us the power of forgiveness (see John 8:1-11). His acceptance of those who had not lived sexually pure lives (as we read in Luke 7:36-50) shows us that there is no room for rejection of anyone; He is able to forgive, cleanse and restore, even when we stumble and fall; we must not fall under the devil’s lie that we are condemned because of our sin, for repentance will always bring us back to the mercy and grace of God. Nonetheless, Christians are called to ‘walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God’ (Eph 5:2), which involves a life of holiness (1 Pet 1:15-16), recognising that our whole lives belong to God who has redeemed us at the price of Christ’s blood (1 Cor 6:19-20). Paul is adamant that we must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. (Eph 4:17) He goes on to say ‘You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.’ (Eph 4:22-24) We are called to ‘walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh’ (Gal 5:16), called to a completely different standard of living than that practised by the rest of the world.
Difficult? Definitely. Impossible? Not if the Spirit of God lives in us.