Tag Archives: theology of sex

3 More Principles Christian Bloggers Should Affirm About Sex

Last week, I began covering misconceptions and false teaching about sex that still show up periodically on Christian blogs and in other resources. While we can have honest and reasonable disagreements about particulars, some principles should be affirmed by all Christian bloggers.

The first four principles from last week’s post are:

  1. Sex is for both of you.
  2. God created sex for more than reproduction.
  3. Sex is not just a transaction.
  4. Force and pressure have no place in the marriage bed.

Let’s address the remaining three.

5. Even within marriage, there are some limits.

“Anything Goes” is a song written by Cole Porter, not a verse written by the Holy Spirit. And yet, that is the attitude of a few Christian bloggers—that once married, you can do anything and everything. As if the words “I do” mean “I do any kinky, crazy thing I want.”

One specific blogger used Hebrews 13:4 as his proof text that all activities were equally fine once married. In the New King James Version, it reads, “Marriage is honorable among all, and the bed undefiled; but fornicators and adulterers God will judge.” Thus, the blogger interpreted that the marriage bed is undefiled no matter what happens.

But that’s not what the verse is saying! A better translation would be any of the following:

  • Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral. (NIV)
  • Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous. (ESV)
  • Give honor to marriage, and remain faithful to one another in marriage. God will surely judge people who are immoral and those who commit adultery. (NLT)
  • Let marriage be honorable in all, and the marriage bed undefiled; for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterers. (BLB)

Hebrews 13:4 isn’t about green-lighting every kinky idea you’ve ever had, but rather keeping the marriage bed pure by avoiding adultery and sexual immorality. Plus, we have to consider how the rest of the Bible commands us to treat one another in marriage—and that doesn’t involve using our spouse as our personal sex toy.

Which brings me to another fallacy: that if God didn’t specifically ban an act, it’s automatically honky-dory.

Certainly the Church has at times banned or belittled a sexual practice that is perfectly fine. And we should not place undue burdens on believers, as the Pharisees did. “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery” (Galatians 5:1).

But later in that chapter, Paul also points out: “You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love” (5:13). We should follow God’s direct commands but also apply godly principles to determine what can be on our bedroom menu and what should be left off.

We should follow God's direct commands but also apply godly principles to determine what can be on our bedroom menu and what should be left off. @hotholyhumorous Click To Tweet

1 Corinthians 10:23-24 puts it this way: “‘I have the right to do anything,’ you say—but not everything is beneficial. ‘I have the right to do anything’—but not everything is constructive. No one should seek their own good, but the good of others.”

Faithful Christians can argue about where the boundaries are, but the idea that there are boundaries should be no-brainer.

6. Porn and erotica are bad.

Here’s another should-be-obvious point, but it’s apparently not. Because I’ve read plenty of excuses for engaging with porn or erotica—everything from “it doesn’t hurt anyone” to “we learn from it” to “it helps us get aroused for each other.” And then there’s the standby claims that porn is a reasonable substitute when a spouse won’t provide sex or that erotica is okay because no actual persons are involved.

If you want to know what I think about porn and erotica, you can head to any of these:

But the summary is that they’re bad for your soul and your marriage. They move focus away from your spouse and onto others; they prioritize the physicality of sex above any other aspect; and they normalize fringe activities and searching for that next high.

There’s the storytelling subgenre oddly titled “Christian erotica.” All that means is that it has the same purpose and effect as other erotica, but the characters are married. C’mon! Are we really that gullible? Is it somehow okay to involve others in your exclusive, one-flesh bedroom if they’re married too? Think through that logic, and you’ll find it’s not logical at all.

In addition, porn involves real people who get hurt. Do not cite their willingness, the pay they receive, or “amateur porn” unless and until you have fully researched porn’s high prevalence of abuse, sexually transmitted infections, and sex trafficking. And just because that girl looks twenty-one doesn’t mean she is.

Whether you want to call porn and erotica sin or not—and I believe it is—it’s definitely unwise. Just ask all the couples who had their marriages wrecked by it. Ask couples who had to walk the journey of rebuilding their intimacy. Even ask non-Christian experts who researched the subject thoroughly (An Open Letter on Porn, The Gottman Institute). And if you’re in a sexless marriage, engaging in porn or erotica will worsen an already difficult situation.

Intimacy Revealed Ad

7. The Bible is not your bludgeon.

Last, but not least, could we please stay away from sites that recommend using a Bible passage as your personal bludgeon against your spouse?

The Word of God definitely has something to say about what sex should look like, as well as what we owe each other within marriage. But the Bible is God’s love letter to you—not His edict against your spouse. The primary goal of reading Bible passages should be applying them to our own sin-filled lives.

What then does one hope to gain by pulling out scriptures and hurling them at our spouse? Is it our defense mechanism? Are we lashing out to make our spouse feel pain like we’ve felt? Or do we simply expect our spouse to hurt so much they’ll change to avoid more of it? Even if that were to happen, how would that improve your overall intimacy?

Let’s take the most common infraction in the area of sex: using 1 Corinthians 7:3-5 to demand your spouse give you sex. Wanna see how that makes this blogger feel?

I actually like that passage because it’s NOT about obligation but the priority and mutuality of sexual intimacy. But you have to understand its context.

At that time, some Christians in Corinth had proclaimed celibacy a holier state so spouses were trying to avoid sex to be more spiritual. Rather than agreeing, the apostle Paul reasserts that God wants married couples to make love regularly, that sex is a crucial part of marriage, that we should not deprive one another as if that is a higher form of obedience when God Himself created sex for marriage! Paul’s not offering spouses a bludgeon, but rather affirming God’s invitation for couples to enjoy sexual intimacy with gratitude not guilt.

In 1 Corinthians 7:3-5, Paul's not offering spouses a bludgeon, but rather affirming God's invitation for married couples to enjoy sexual intimacy with gratitude not guilt. @hotholyhumorous Click To Tweet

But let’s presume your spouse is completely wrong—on this or something else—and needs conviction by the Holy Spirit. You still don’t get to be the one to hammer down judgment. As Christ said, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her” (John 8:7, ESV).

What you can do instead includes:

But please don’t use God’s words like Thor’s hammer on your spouse. No matter how right you may be in what is said, how you say it matters quite a lot to our Heavenly Father.

Have you seen problematic teaching on these points? What other principles are important for Christians to affirm?

4 Principles Christian Bloggers Should Affirm About Sex

From time to time, I open up a post from a Christian blogger about sexual intimacy in marriage and find myself wondering what Bible they’re reading.

While the overall message about sex from the Church has improved a lot in my lifetime, misconceptions and false teaching still circulate. I worry about spouses looking for answers who land on such pages. Will they recognize the errors or be misled?

In an effort to correct the record, let me set forth seven principles every Christian marriage blogger should affirm about sex. Today I’ll cover four of them and next week I’ll wrap up with the other three principles.

1. Sex is for both of you.

Through the years, too many Christian-based resources have acted like God created romance for women and sex for men. Excuse me, but there is zero evidence of this perspective in God’s Word. God created sex to benefit and delight both husband and wife. And romance is for both of them too!

Just look at these verses:

  • “‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two, but one flesh” (Mark 10:7-8).
  • “I belong to my beloved, and his desire is for me” (Song of Songs 7:10).
  • “The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband.” (1 Corinthians 7:3).
  • “Eat, friends, drink, and be drunk with love!” (Song of Songs 5:1).

God intends for two people to be willingly involved in sexual intimacy. Sex is not just for men. It’s for women too.

If we don’t understand that important truth, we may:

Let’s get this one right: God created them male and female, and He wants both to be sexually satisfied in marriage.

2. God created sex for more than reproduction.

Too many Christians historically believed that sex was just for the sake of having babies.

But if sex’s sole purpose is reproduction, does it matter whether you enjoy it? In fact, isn’t it better to do other things with your time when no baby is possible? Could sex simply be a necessary evil for the sake of breeding and/or a temporary surrender to the flesh?

While all this was happening, I imagine God up in Heaven like this:

Today, Christian theologians and leaders rarely argue that sex is only for having children. But many husbands and wives report that their spouse checked out after the children arrived or reached adulthood. And I’ve seen tacit support for this idea on a few Christian blogs.

While it’s incredible that connecting our body parts has the potential to create life, the Bible teaches that sex in marriage goes beyond reproduction. God designed it to bring pleasure and intimacy as well. Consider Proverbs 5:19: “A loving doe, a graceful deer—may her breasts satisfy you always, may you ever be intoxicated with her love.” Ever sounds to me like past those childbearing years. And the entire book of Song of Songs celebrates marital intimacy without once mentioning children.

God’s design of our biology also displays His intention—with the health benefits of regular sexual intimacy, the presence of a woman’s clitoris (serving no reproductive purpose but providing ample pleasure), and the release of Oxytocin, a “bonding chemical,” during lovemaking. Research also shows that couples who engage in ongoing sexual intimacy are closer and happier.

3. Sex is not just a transaction.

It may seem obvious that God did not intend sex to be merely transactional, but plenty of statements suggest the opposite. Well-meaning Christian bloggers (and authors and speakers) may identify sex as something one spouse wants while the other spouse wants a different thing and then propose negotiating a trade.

Thus, sex becomes—dare I say it these days?—a quid pro quo. (Whatever your politics, I hope you laughed at that joke and don’t write me hate mail.) In case you still don’t know what quid pro quo means, it’s a Latin phrase meaning “this for that.” It’s like the saying, “You scratch my back, and I’ll scratch yours.”

There’s subtlety here. Because we might negotiate frequency, suggest taking turns with sexual pleasures or climax, or tend to our spouse’s emotional needs knowing all along that makes them more likely to attend to ours. But those aren’t in the same vein as “You do X, and I do Y, and we’re done.”

Sex should not be something a spouse does only to get some unrelated goodie from it. God designed sex to have goodies for both husband and wife!

Do things for each other because that’s what Christ-like love looks like! But don’t look at sex—or other good things in marriage like affection and communication—as trading chips in the game of marriage. You both deserve better.

4. Force and pressure have no place in the marriage bed.

For the love of all that is holy, if I read one more Christian blogger suggesting you have every right to demand, pressure, or even force your wife to have sex with you…

No, I did not say “force your husband,” because oddly, I’ve never read that. (I’m sure it’s out there, but I haven’t read it.) I have, however, read several articles written by both men and women with notions like “there’s no such thing as marital rape.” Oh hogwash!

But, you say, doesn’t my spouse owe me sex? Hey, I’ll be first in line to say that marriage should, if at all possible, include sexual intimacy! That’s how God intended marriage to roll.

But hopefully, you’ve read the rest of the Bible in which God makes it eminently clear that His people should not demand their rights or ignore the feelings and value of another person. Hopefully, you’ve read about Christ’s sacrifice and humility, providing us the example we should follow. And maybe we should all camp out on this passage for a while: “Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love” (1 John 4:7-8).

Now I’m not talking about communication, confrontation, or nudging, which are all reasonable at various times in marriage. I’m talking about abuse, force, or persistent pressure.

Even from a practical standpoint, those are terrible ideas. Think of times in adulthood you’ve been forced or pressured to do something. Did it make you more excited about the event or less likely to enjoy it? Of course others can pressure us to do things we’re later glad for, but most times we walk away with resentment and a desire not to repeat the experience. Do you really want your spouse to feel that way about sex with you?

Stay tuned next time for three more principles all Christian bloggers, and Christians generally, should affirm about sex.

Have you seen any of these false teachings about sex? How have they affected your marriage’s sexual intimacy?

Note: This isn’t about airing out particular websites or bashing individuals. Let’s remain Christian in how we treat others, including our enemies.

So What Should We Aim for in Marriage?

Last week, I took on what I think is a false dichotomy: Whether marriage exists to make you happy or holy. I came up with several biblical purposes of marriage, including holiness, happiness, children, and witness to the world.

Target

Photo from Microsoft Word Clip Art

But if there are several purposes to marriage, what should we be aiming for? (And for those of you who know me to write about sex, don’t worry . . . I’ll get there.)

I gave this a lot of thought this past week, and I came up with all kinds of ideas with theological bases and implications. Frankly, I could write a doctoral thesis on this subject. But theologian Karl Barth was once asked in a college lecture Q&A to summarize his life’s work. He answered simply: “Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.”

Sometimes it’s about the basics.

Here’s what I know about God’s design for marriage: The Bible never prescribes how to get a mate. There are no instructions to find someone perfectly compatible to you, someone you have amazing chemistry with, someone who gives you the sizzle-wizzles down to your toes. We have biblical examples of marriage that occurred to connect families (Genesis 24:3-4); as a gift for a deed well done (Judges 1:12-13); for romantic love (Genesis 29:18,20); and as a witness of God’s love to the world (Hosea 1:2). Oftentimes, we don’t know why two people married, just that they did.

The Bible instead focuses on how to be a good mate. God seems to be saying that you can develop a good marriage. And it comes down to basics. Galatians 5:14 says: “For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

If we all approached our marriages with that command, which Jesus said to be the second most important (Luke 10:27), we’d go a long way to getting everything out of marriage that we should.

Bull's-eye! Illustration from Microsoft Word Clip Art

Bull’s-eye!
Illustration from Microsoft Word Clip Art

The Bible shows us through stories and passages like 1 Corinthians 13 what that love looks like. We have numerous “one another” passages in the New Testament that give us specifics, like forgiving each other (Colossians 3:13) and encouraging one another (Hebrews 3:13). We have Jesus’ example of ultimate love.

It’s simple to understand, but it is hard to do. Because we are selfish and because we often mistakenly define happiness as having a pain-free life. In fact, studies have shown that happiness is not about an absence of hardship, but rather comes from earned success. When we aim to make each other both holy and happy, we become more holy and happy ourselves. With God’s divine help, we earn that marital success.

This aim to love our spouse the way God loves us oozes into every part of our relationship. It breaks my heart to read stories from commenters who say that their spouse is loving in every way but sexual intimacy. Our aim for loving our spouse shouldn’t end at the threshold of the bedroom. God’s Word for us should infuse every part of our lives.

This is why I’ve written posts like Love Is Not Self-Seeking and The Gospel in the Bedroom.

Indeed, the bedroom is a place where you can aim to help your spouse be both holy and happy as well. Plus, this is where other purposes can be fulfilled — like conceiving children, supporting one another, and reflecting Christ’s love for the church.

It’s not a matter of head knowledge. Honestly, I prayed for years for improvements in my faltering marriage. It wasn’t until I started putting into practice the specific commands on how to love that I noticed a real difference in how I saw my husband and how we were getting along. I’m still working on that, of course. In the list of the Fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23), my husband and I can both attest that I have not yet mastered gentleness and patience.

But it’s what I aim for . . . to love my husband as closely as I can to the way God loves him.

When I treat him that way, he’s happier, he’s holier, and so am I.

So what do you think? What do you aim at in marriage? Are you being consistent with those aims in the bedroom? Does your holiness and happiness extend to your sexual intimacy?

Related posts: See Generous Husband’s post on Her Happiness Is Her Responsibility and my guest post on One Flesh Marriage, Marriage: Mission Possible.