This post will divide opinion, but I can’t pretend that I don’t think it’s important.
Because it is. Is it the ‘be-all and end-all’, to borrow a Shakespeare coinage? Is it essential to your existence? No.
There’s a problem with today’s society though. Everyone’s getting mixed messages about what sex is actually supposed to be. Really, think about this for a second. You’ve all heard the phrase- ‘it’s just sex.’
OK. Picture your favourite romantic comedy. Sex in these films is often a major plot point, if not the entire driving force. Careful lighting and lush orchestral accompaniments would have you believe that the single greatest moment in history just happened, as those characters slipped between the sheets.
Now think about billboard and TV advertising. The internet. The latest chart singles. Here we have sex so cheapened and distorted that it’s almost unrecognisable from the fairytale romance Nicholas Sparks would approve of.
If a politician or a footballer is found to be having an affair, the public laugh scornfully as their entire career is put at risk. Husbands and wives across the country are having extra-marital affairs, and depending on who you are, this is either deliciously juicy gossip about your colleague, or ‘such a shame because his wife is such a nice lady’. And let’s not forget the effect of pornography on men’s perception of women, and on women’s perceptions of themselves.
Through internet pop-ups, obligatory 30-second raps in mainstream music releases, and film adaptations from the classics to the incomprehensibly stupid ‘Twilight’, the message seems to be this: ‘Sex is the most important thing out there, so naturally, you should go grab some any way you can.’ In our consumerist culture, this shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. But it does help to explain why everyone seems a bit confused. How can something so hyped up be sold so cheaply?
As a Christian, I can tell you we don’t have it easy either. We like films and music too. We love Ryan Gosling in ‘The Notebook’. We watch TV, read newspapers and use the internet. We don’t live in a bubble filled with cherubs and chastity belts. Even if we tried, it would be hard to avoid the media. The way our culture views sex contradicts what the bible says about it, and yes, sometimes that’s confusing.
With a dizzying array of talks and books on the subject, everyone in the Christian media, too, has something to say – from the conservative to the liberal end of the spectrum. It’s a bit of a minefield to navigate.
Maybe you’re reading this and you’re not a Christian. Maybe you’ve always thought we were weird and prudish. I’m about to add to the minefield with my two cents, so if you’re interested, stay with me here.
No matter how many speakers or authors I could turn to for advice on sex, the bible is my first point of reference. Here’s a few key verses on the subject:
‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh’. Genesis 2:24
‘Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled.’ Hebrews 13:4
‘Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.’ 1 Corinthians 6:19-20
‘However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.’ Ephesians 5:33
If you take the above four verses and apply them with the wisdom of the Holy Spirit, you have a basis for a fulfilling relationship where sex is both physically and emotionally safe. The older I get, the more sure I become that in no other context will sex be as meaningful as within a loving marriage.
If the concept of ‘emotionally safe’ sounds odd, I’ll try to explain. Firstly, even if a cheesy rom-com is your reference point here, sex is a way of strengthening an emotional bond between two people. When that bond severs, it’s bound to hurt. If our bodies are a temple of the Holy Spirit, we’re not just physical beings, but spiritual ones too; so, if you’re creating and breaking bond after bond, that’s a lot of hurt. Hurt you may not feel straight away, but will damage long term.
With this in mind, I’d conclude that sex, as God sees it, is pretty important. He created it, after all. It’s a gift given to us, and used properly, it’s meant to be fantastic. Go read Song of Solomon if you don’t believe me. Abused, though, and we get left with some scars.
The media is wrong about sex because it doesn’t take into account the very cost of its devaluation. But I believe in a personal God who, when we let him, takes great care in ensuring we are valued and loved.
So what about all these differing viewpoints in the Christian sphere?
What matters to me is that the underlying principle is the same. That is, firstly: it doesn’t gloss over, embellish or twist what the bible says. And secondly, it is rooted in love, mercy and compassion. Condemnation is what Jesus set us free from; let’s leave it at the cross, and think twice before passing judgement. In God’s eyes, sin is sin.
There are things the bible isn’t specific about. That’s why Jesus sent us the Holy Spirit, to give us clarity on life’s greyer areas. Christians still slip up in this area, just as we make mistakes and blunders in every other aspect of life. But our infinitely merciful God sees our hearts and fixes our deepest hurts. Sex is neither too big nor too small for Him. I for one want to align myself with His views on the subject, because I’m convinced the rest of the world doesn’t have the answer.