This is a topic that I have debated writing about for awhile. It is something that is relevant, in some way, to each and every one of us.
It is a part of my life, a part of my past, a part of our Creator’s design in our make up as human beings, and a part of our culture. A huge part of our culture. Which is one of the reasons why I have finally decided to write about it. If our culture is going to talk about it then Christians need to be able to talk about it too. And it just so happens to be something that I love to talk about. When I was on staff with InterVarsity, the topic of “sex” was kind of my thing. Myself and other staff would joke about how each IV staff has a “barbie.” You know, “Evangelism Barbie,” “Discipleship Barbie,” “Social Justice Barbie,” the thing that they care a lot about and speak a lot about in their ministry contexts. As we would talk about what our “barbies” were, I would laugh silently as I would think of mine, because how inappropriate is that? 🙂 It is kind of funny though.
Unfortunately, it is something that Christians get really uncomfortable about and are hesitant to talk about. And I’ve only continued to realize just how unfortunate that is with each new year of ministry on UNC’s campus (For those of you who may not know, before I became a stay at home mom, I was a campus minister at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with Greek InterVarsity working with fraternity and sorority students. To read a little bit about my transition from minister to mommy, check out this post).
Although I am no longer employed by IV, I still do some volunteer stuff at UNC, since my husband is still on staff there. One of the ways I volunteer is by leading a women’s discussion group called “Girl Chat” with a group of about 5 UNC students. They come over to my place twice a month, I make a pot of delicious coffee and we chat about life through the lens of God’s word. Today we talked about sex, and it was one of the best weeks yet. It made clear to me once again just how important it is for Christians to talk about this issue. So I thought I would share some of the things we talked about (the biblical perspective stuff, not the personal stories, come on now!) here in the blogosphere as well.
*sidenote: I’m going to do something a bit interesting here (as if talking about sex isn’t already interesting enough). I’m going to take the notes from a talk that I’ve given, that we discussed today in our group, and I’m going to try to turn it into a blog post.
First, we looked at some of the things that our culture communicates to us about sexuality:
- Your worth is in your looks. If you’re not sexy & don’t show it- men or women won’t like you or want you
- That you own your body & your sexuality & should be able to use it as you please
- You can & should use your body and your sexuality to get what you want from others (this is seen in movies all the time)
- “Follow your heart” mentality; you can’t help the way you feel- so you should give into that
- You deserve to feel good
- You should chase after pleasure & “live in the moment.”
- As long as you’re in love, you should be able to express that sexually
- You should test sexual chemistry with someone before you marry them, so you can know whether or not it’s good between you.
- If you haven’t experimented sexually then something is wrong with you; everybody’s doing it
- Saving sex for marriage only includes intercourse
- You have to “take care of your needs” somehow
Then we looked at what the bible communicates to us about sexuality, using the book of Genesis and the beginning of creation:
First, we must start with our sexual identity. God created us as sexual beings. We are not sexual beings simply because of our sinful flesh; nor did we become that way simply because our world and media made us that way. God made us sexual beings. In Genesis 2 we see this, and we see God’s intention in it. We see two different and distinct creations: man and woman; male and female. Both are different, and both are equal. Both are made in God’s image (Gen. 1:27 “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.”) So every one of us is made in the image and likeness of God Himself.
In Genesis 2:19 we see that God has created man, Adam, and then forms out of the ground all these animals and asks Adam to name them. But in verse 20 it says “But for Adam no suitable helper was found.” So what does God do? He causes Adam to fall asleep, takes one of Adam’s ribs, and makes woman out of it. Adam needed someone who was his equal that he could have a meaningful relationship with (Imagine what he was thinking when God woke him up… He is suddenly looking at a naked woman for the first time!) His response in verse 23 reflects his astonishment: “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called woman, for she was taken out of man.”
It is our sameness, and also our uniqueness from one another as men and women that attracts, intrigues and draws us to one another. It’s a beautiful thing that God created. God did not create a “generic” human being- but human beings in two forms…that complement each other, bless one another, and reflect Himself.
In verses 24-25 we see the beginning of sex: “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh. The man and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.” These 2 simple sentences reveal to us that God has set boundaries around sex (being in the context of a marriage relationship) not to deprive us- but to bless us. He is not trying to sit back with an evil laugh as we are tortured with our desires. He has a good design for sex, and we take it and pervert it into being something that it was never intended for. The One who first thought of the idea of sex and created it to be a thing we do designed for it to take place within a covenant relationship; a promise and commitment between one man and one woman.
“The two become one flesh” is pretty self explanatory in a physical sense, we all understand how that works. But the thing that we so easily miss is that it means more than just a physical union. In marriage, two become one in every way. You share life together. You go through the good stuff together, you go through the hard stuff together. You stand beside one another through weight gain, weight loss, tragedy, breakouts, sickness, financial ups & downs, morning breath, job loss, promotions, children, etc. And you share this special kind of intimacy that God blesses us with. Every part of your life is connected to that other person and is never supposed to break apart. No single person is supposed to know the pain of giving someone all of yourself physically, becoming one; without them committing to you as a whole person and uniting their lives with yours. You’re not supposed to know what it is like to have that sort of intimacy with someone for them to walk away or not commit to you. Sex is WAY more than involvement with the physical body. It requires the holistic person- mind, body, soul. And God puts boundaries around giving the holistic part of yourself to someone in a design where you would not be rejected, used, or given to multiple people in that way. NO ONE is supposed to experience sex, with the option of the other person walking away when the going gets hard or you become less attractive. It is a commitment to stick with you and give themselves to you forever, no.matter.what
Love is selfless and sacrificial, not selfish. Becoming sexually involved with someone in any way before marriage is entirely selfish. Despite what culture tells you, it does NOT mean that someone loves you or that you love them when you do this. Selfish “fake” love says, “I want you and I don’t want to wait or make any commitments or have to give anything up.” REAL love says, “I care about you enough to wait, and to commit my whole life to you so that you can feel fully safe when you give me your sexuality- that I will not walk away from you or abandon you.”
We know what love is not from some romantic comedy or fuzzy feeling, but from the author of love Himself. He shows us that real love means completely denying yourself and giving of yourself, for the good of another. He showed us this by completely giving of himself, humbling himself by coming down to earth as a man, born in a manger, living the sinless life we could not, and giving his life on a bloody cross for our good and our salvation.
The great and beautiful thing about sex when it is done within God’s boundaries is that there is no shame involved in it! It says in verse 25, “and they felt no shame.” Most of us feel some sense of shame in our sexuality, even if you’ve never had sex. The reason for this is found in Genesis 3, what is often referred to as “the Fall.”
Genesis 3 records the event in history when sin first entered the world. God created people to live under His lordship (meaning He’s the boss). But Adam and Eve (and you and I today) decide that they’re not sure that what God says is really what is best. They (and we) decide that we would rather be the gods of our own lives, choosing how we should live. After Adam and Eve committed the first sin, Genesis 3 says, “Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves. Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the LORD God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the LORD God among the trees of the garden.” The image of naked people suddenly realizing that they are naked and running to cover themselves with leaves kind of makes me laugh. But if you think about it, when we do something wrong and we feel shame, we hide. Like we see Adam and Eve do in this passage, we sew fig leaves together- hiding ourselves from others and from God. We put up walls and try not to let people in.
But this is so cool: in verse 8 it says, “Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the LORD God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the LORD God among the trees of the garden. But the LORD God called to the man.” We see here that God initiates! “Where are you?’’ He says. God is not being played for a fool. He knows where Adam and Eve are. He didn’t lose them. He is not confused or naïve as to what is going on. He knows exactly what Adam and Eve just did. But God is coming into their brokenness and offering them a chance to talk. “Where are you?” He gives them the chance to come to him and confess what they did. He offers them a chance to turn to Him instead of turning away.
For example, fast forward to Riley as a 5 year old child. As her mom, I tell her that she cannot eat cookies before dinner. Throughout the day, I notice that cookie jar is getting significantly lower, and then I look over and see crumbs on the corners of her mouth. As many other parents would do in this situation, I says to her, “Riley, where did the cookies in the cookie jar go?” When I say this, am I really confused about where the cookies went? No. I knows that Riley ate them. So what am I doing? I’m inviting her to talk, and giving her an opportunity to confess. But imagine Riley’s response is, “I didn’t do it!! My brother did it! It’s his fault!” (assuming we have the blessing of more children.) A likely response from a child, right?
This is what is going on here in Genesis. When Adam and Eve recount what happened to God- they each placed blame rather than taking responsibility and repenting for their own actions. God then lays out for them what will happen as a result of their disobedience. Just like I did with Riley in the hypothetical cookie situation. I gave her a chance to confess, but instead she placed blame on her brother. So I probably then say something like, “ok Riley, you need to go sit in time out then.” Not to mention, she probably has a stomach ache while she does!
What we see here is that sin has consequences. When we disobey God, there are always repercussions. And the consequences for Adam and Eve’s sin in the garden still effects us as men and women today. We are still faced with the effects of broken sexuality, and we experience them in different ways as men and women. Let’s break that down a bit:
- for women(v.16): God says, “I will greatly increase your pains in childbearing” and then He says, “Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you. The childbearing thing is pretty self-exclamatory, we all understand what that means. But what does it mean “your desire will be for your husband”? If God was referring to sex here- that her desire will be for her husband in a sexual way, that would not be such a bad thing- would it? But that’s not the kind of desire God is talking about here. The Hebrew word for “desire” in this passage means “to stretch or to make long.” The picture here is to stretch for something that is out of reach. this word “desire” here – it means to go beyond an original design or boundary or to go beyond all bounds in order to acquire something. This basically means that a woman will over-invest towards her husband, or toward men in general. As a result of the fall, women have a tendency to over-invest in relationships. Our inclination as women is to lean too heavily into a man. Why is that? Because it is where woman came from- woman was taken out of man. So woman, when she is not walking uprightly before God, will go back to the source of her creation to find herself. Because Woman does not know who she is in relation to God anymore, she will look to a man to try to fill that role in her life and to show her who she is. And so, her identity gets wrapped up in her relationship to the man. She stops looking upward to God and instead starts looking to Man to try to find herself.I’ll be honest with you. I don’t know about you, but I can really resonate with this. There have been so many times in my life where I have looked to men to validate me. When I have felt that if there is no man in my life or in pursuit of me, something is wrong with me. Or if I don’t seem to have the full attention of a guy I am dating or even the man I am now married to- I will over-invest, hoping to earn it. This is a consequence of the fall.But now the tension is– women are to relationally invest! That is a good thing. Women need to relationally invest in others. That is the very strength of being a woman. We have the ability and the capacity to bring relational sensibility to this world. I’m not saying that men are not relational, but I think we can all agree that there is something different about the way that women uniquely are able to invest relationally.But what is the strength and the glory of Woman, she now takes and begins to use for her own selfish gain. This can be seen in the way that she will sometimes try to manipulate men in order to get what she wants from them. So she will use manipulative language, or manipulative emotions. Or she will give or withhold sex in an attempt to have control over Man and to try to find herself in him. This is not an easy thing to hear- but this is something, again if I’m being honest, I see in my own life. Especially the past couple of years, I feel like my eyes have really been opened to how much of a natural temptation it is for me to want to manipulate. Especially men. I want the man I am in a relationship with to think I’m beautiful, I want to feel like he desires me- and if I don’t feel that from him, I will find myself doing or wanting to do or say things that will get that response from him. In order to bless others, we need to invest relationally as women who are whole in finding our identity in relation to God.
- For men: In v. 17 God says to Adam: ‘Because you listened to your wife and ate from the tree about which I commanded you, “You must not eat of it,” cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.” As a result of sin and the Fall, Man will now put more energy into his work than it yields fruitfulness.Labor has now become very difficult for Man. Man, when he is not living uprightly before God, will go back to the source of his creation, the ground. Man will turn to his work. And in his work, man will over-invest himself in an attempt to find his identity.Now men are meant to work, but they are not meant to find their identity in their work. So like women being relational, the very strength of Man, the thing that was supposed to be a blessing for him and his family (work), now becomes a source of cursing and a place of difficulty for him. It can cause men to become unavailable husbands and neglectful fathers.Men are to work and they are to labor, but they are to do it as whole men who live uprightly before God, finding their identity before God so that their work and their labor can be a blessing to others.
Check this out: God formed woman out of man’s rib, so when women are not finding their identity as whole in the Lord, we go back to the source of our creation (man) to find our worth. God formed man out of the ground, so when men are not finding their identity as whole in the Lord, they go back to the source of their creation ( the ground, i.e. “working the ground”) to find their worth.
Part of why I love talking about sex is because it is something that has deeply affected my life. I was raised in a Christian family but, like Eve, I wanted to test God- thinking that I could know more than Him, and that He was trying to withhold something good from me. So for about a 4 year chunk of my life, I lived for myself- seeking my own pleasure. And as I did, I thought (at first), “wow- God really was withholding from me! This is awesome! Poor Christians. They live deprived lives!” But that mindset certainly did not last long. As soon as I went through a breakup or had someone cheat on me, my world came crashing down, and I suffered the consequences. I now understand so why marriage is the right place for sex. I found myself looking for my worth in men- and felt like my worth was destroyed when these men walked away from me, after having been involved in ways we should not have been. And I dealt with complete shame and pain for years afterward as a result. If I’m being honest, I still have to work through some of the pain and scars that have resulted. I learned the hard way that what scripture says is truth. God is God, and we are not. He is the author and creator, why would we not trust Him in what He says his purpose is for his creation?
Men and women were created to bless and enjoy one another. The result of sin, among other things is that we seek to take from one another. For men to treat women purely, and for women to treat men purely, it has to start with right belief about who God is, how God has made us, and letting Jesus give us hearts to bless them, rather than take from them or use them for our own pleasure.
Thankfully, in the midst of all the sexual brokenness, there is good news: There is healing, there is restoration, there is redemption, and there is freedom. The first indication we see of this is in Genesis 3:21, the most beautiful part of Genesis 3: “The LORD God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them.” In this moment, after Adam & Eve sinned, God could have just destroyed them and done away with them for their disobedience. What does he do instead? He clothes them. He cares for them. What we are unable to do in our own brokenness, God does for us. We are not able to make things right on our own. But God graciously comes and does what we cannot.
The animal sacrifice made in Genesis 3 in order for God to clothe Adam & Eve and cover their shame- is a foreshadowing of what Jesus would eventually do for us on the cross. Jesus’ blood doesn’t just cover over our sin, it actually takes away our sin. In the book of Hebrews, it says that “without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness”, and that “it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.” But thankfully, those of us who have received Jesus into our lives “have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.” Our sins are not just covered over, they are taken away; they are removed “as far as the east is from the west”, Scripture says.
When we believe this truth and receive it for ourselves, saying “yes” to the rule and reign of Jesus Christ in our own lives, we are able to reenter that relationship with God and with each other that we were intended to share in the beginning.