What does the Bible teach about sex?
This blog post is by Clayton King who serves as President of Crossroads Ministries, the Teaching Pastor at Newspring Church, and Campus Pastor at Liberty University. You can see the whole series on A God-Centered Worldview here.
Two Views on Sex
In our culture, people tend to view sex in one of two ways.
- Sex is god. This view leads to sexual obsession. You can’t stop fantasizing about it. When you can’t have it with a real person, you watch other people do it in cyberspace. Maybe you feel bad that you’re so obsessive about it. Perhaps you’ve even tried to dial back a little bit or stop altogether. But it has such a tight grip on your mind and body that you can’t stop. You can’t control it because it controls you.
- Sex is gross. This view leads to sexual confusion. The mere mention of sex puts you on edge. You hate it when other people talk about it, whether in the context of a one-night stand or a married person speaking of it in respectful and joyful terms. It could go back to your childhood, prom night, or a party in college. Maybe you were sexually abused, raped, or manipulated. Or maybe you willingly entered into a sexual event or relationship that you deeply regret even up to this very day.
These are the extremes. It doesn’t mean that you fit neatly into one of these categories. Maybe you don’t. However, as our culture becomes more and more accepting of the public display of every kind of sexual perversion and deviance, and as sexual images flood our airwaves and our screens, our consciences are filled with competing voices and desires as our innocence gives way to sexual confusion and obsession. The fact is simple; for hundreds of millions of people, sex really is god or gross. They live in sexual obsession or sexual confusion. But it doesn’t have to be that way. It wasn’t intended to be that way.
My Problem with Sex
I was raised in a traditional church in a rural, conservative culture in the Deep South. My parents were simple people who loved Christ with their whole hearts. They didn’t tolerate foolishness and were faithful to instruct me in what the Bible said on all subjects. As a young boy I knew it was wrong to look at centerfolds from Playboy magazines. I knew it was sinful to lust after girls. I knew sex was a sin outside of marriage. I knew it caused people to catch diseases. It also led to teen pregnancy. So I had two competing emotions inside my body at all times; the overwhelming urge to have sex and the crippling fear of what sex would do to me. I wanted it and I was afraid of it. I heard plenty of sermons about the consequences of pre-marital sex. So many, as a matter of fact, that I can sum up the way I felt about sex in general as a young teenager going through puberty…
“Sex is horrible and nasty and disgusting. You could get AIDS. You could get the crabs. You could get gonorrhea or syphillus. You could get cervical cancer. And when you have sex with someone, you’re also having sex with everyone they’ve ever had sex with. Isn’t that awful? It will ruin your life and destroy your future. So save it for your husband or wife.”
That was how I saw sex. A nasty, shameful thing that I was only supposed to do with my wife. Sounds awesome, huh? It was torture! How could I want something so much that was evidently so bad for me? Of course, I didn’t know everything I needed to know. How could I? I was a young boy? It would take me years to see that sex wasn’t created by Satan to hurt me. It was created by God as a gift to me. It took a while, but I eventually began to see the light. I began to understand that sex is a good gift given to us by a good God who intentionally created sex as means of pleasure and procreation.
The Gift of Sex
There is no gift unless someone purposed in their heart to give that gift to you. Sexual intimacy was engineered in the mind of God as a gift to His children; the means of reproducing human life as well as the medium of giving and receiving physical pleasure as it mirrors spiritual and emotional oneness in a marriage. How brilliant! Only God could think of something so good. We can go all the way back to the beginning of God’s story and see that He purposed for humans to experience sexual intimacy with each other in the right context. The Lord God said “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.” (Genesis 2:18) God intended for a man and a woman to be together.
Did you realize that the first physical gift God ever gave the first human was the gift of a mate? God gave Adam the gift of Eve. When God presents Eve to Adam, Adam responds, “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called ‘woman,’ for she was taken out of man.” Genesis 2:23 Adam’s first reaction was to acknowledge the attraction he felt for the woman as well as the strong draw he felt toward her physically. Make no mistake; he uses tangible physical terms to describe their kinship and connection; bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh. There was an immediate, irreversible physical connection that existed between our original ancestors, and it was placed there by God Himself, on purpose. So you’re not weird when you feel that same attraction. You’re simply operating in the way that God designed you.
However, God’s intention is that this attraction ultimately leads to a commitment. It leads to a marriage relationship based on a covenant that the man and woman make to one another before God. For this reason, a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become “one flesh”. How can two unique individuals become one flesh? It happens through the promise and covenant that the two make, to choose the marriage relationship as the primary commitment to another human being. Yet it is solidified in being “united to his wife.” That uniting leads to them becoming one flesh. This is sexual intercourse. This is sexual intimacy. This is the ultimate act of love and trust and vulnerability that two people can experience.
The Goodness of Sex
Sex came from God, and God gives good things to His children. It’s powerful, intimate, transformative, and exhilarating. It’s involves every aspect of a person’s mind, heart and body. It requires trust, tenderness, patience and understanding.
God instigated sex in the institution of marriage, even commanding Adam and Eve to come together physically. God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth, and subdue it.” Genesis 1:28a (HCSB) Notice the language that is used. It was a blessing for God to give them the ability to have sex, as well as a means of filling the earth with more human beings who would, in turn, continue to bear the fruit of marriage, namely children. Don’t miss this; sex within a Godly marriage is a blessing. It is good. It naturally creates more people, and each person is God’s image-bearer. Good For What? God uses sexual intimacy between a husband and wife for many purposes, but I’d like to mention three good things it achieves for us.
- Procreation – Sex is the physical act that God uses to populate the earth with people He loves. Furthermore, each of us is wired to connect with other humans in relationships, so sex is necessary for the flourishing of humanity as well as the continuation of the human race. Every human, inspite of their sinful nature, also bears the image of God and has the ability to be redeemed and restored to a right relationship with God through faith in Christ.
- Recreation – The bedroom in a marriage can become a playground for adults when there’s mutual trust, patience, and understanding. Sharie and I make love without guilt or shame because we know and trust each other. It’s often playful and silly. We laugh and cut up and don’t take ourselves as seriously as we did at first. As a result, we look forward to “our special times” and have fun leading up to those moments. It’s a very small part of our marriage, but it’s a powerful part nonetheless.
- Communication – Sex forces a married couple to be attentive to the needs and feelings of one another. It pushes you to embrace the awkwardness of talking about something so intimate with your partner, owning up to what you like and don’t like before, during, and after sex. It also allows you to figure out ways to pursue each other outside the bedroom; saying and doing things for each other that create mutual feelings of affection and care. Acts of service and submission in all other areas of the marriage often lead to more sexual intimacy as trust and communication increase.
So for us, sex is a good gift that is waiting for us at the finish line of a thousand conversations, a hundred struggles, and a dozen misunderstandings. We learn to listen, to patiently extend grace, and to try to understand each other. Because sex is essentially an act of communication, the more struggles we weather and the more valleys we travel through, the more intimately we express our love for each other, and sex is the physical manifestation of that emotional and spiritual bond. Sex is not our primary means of communicating our affections for each other. Rather, it is the byproduct of loving each other daily and serving each one another faithfully.
I’ve encouraged you to move away from the two extremes of “sex is god” and “sex is gross.” It is not a divine thing to be worshipped. Neither is it a disgusting thing to be shunned. I’ve built a case that “sex is a gift” and “sex is good.” It brings physical and emotional pleasure, it serves a practical purpose in re-populating the planet, and it was created by God for us. So sex is neither god nor gross. That makes sense, even though it’s a difficult journey for many to admit that these two extremes are both equally destructive and untrue. Moreover, sex is good and it’s a gift, because it was given to us by God. That makes sense, too, regardless of how long it may take someone to feel this way about sex, especially if their past experiences have been less than perfect (as most are).