Monday, July 11, 2005

Sexuality and the Kingdom of Heaven

Matt 5:27-30 "You have heard that it was said, 'YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT ADULTERY'; 28but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29"If your right eye makes you stumble, tear it out and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. 30"If your right hand makes you stumble, cut it off and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to go into hell.

The Sermon on the Mount is filled with numerous radical ethical claims. Jesus instructs His followers to be meek. He commands His followers to “go the extra mile” for those who treat them unjustly. He says to turn the other cheek to those who injure us. He teaches us that to even say “what an idiot” reveals that our hearts that lacks His mercy and love. Jesus teaches His followers to love and bless their enemies.

Another radical ethical claim of Christianity is in the realm of sexuality. Jesus teaches that to look at a woman lustfully is to have already committed adultery in our hearts. To understand Jesus’ teaching on sexuality and lust, we must understand the difference between a secular and a spiritual view of sexuality.

Why Did God Create Sex?
In Genesis 3, the bible teaches that God looked at man and saw that it was not good for man to be alone. The story then says that God put man asleep and created woman. The teaching is that God created man male and female because it is not good for man to be alone. In other words, God created sex so to bind two people together in life long growing intimate relationship. The purpose of sex is not first and foremost reproduction but relationship. Here is the key to understanding sexuality. The beasts have sex to procreate. So God gave them an appetite and an instinct for sex. The sexual appetite is to be met in order to procreate. But this is not true with man who was created in God’s image. The purpose of sex for Christians and spiritual people is as a culmination and celebration of relationship. Here is the difference between a secular and a Spiritual view of sex.

A Secular vs. A Spiritual View of Sex
To the natural mind, sex is an appetite. This appetite needs to be satisfied. This appetite was given to propagate the species. To suppress this appetite is unnatural. Therefore, the balanced sexual ethic is to satisfy one’s appetite so long as one does it responsibly. To harm one’s family or marriage, to get a girl pregnant when you really do not intend to get pregnant, to spread a disease, these things are irresponsible sex. One ought to enjoy the sexual experience and satisfy the sexual appetite so long as one does this responsibly. This approach is seen as sophisticated, modern and natural. But this view is not spiritual nor is it the teaching of Jesus.

A Spiritual Approach to Sex
The Spiritual approach to sex starts with the biblical truth that sexuality is first and foremost given to mankind to have a deepening covenant relationship. The man and the woman are to be co-workers in God’s vineyard together and to find union in the labors of life that God has given to them as a couple and a family. Any sex which is not first an expression of a co-laboring in the purposes of life is not a Spiritual approach to sex. This being true, I have always taught and followed the following rule to guide my sexuality.

When I was dating my wife, I told here that I believed that during our dating relationship there were a few basic questions that we need to answer. I wanted our relationship to center first and foremost on our unity with respect to our understanding of our calling from God. So the questions I asked myself are something like the following:
Do we have a similar love for God?
Do we express a similar affection for the excellencies of Jesus Christ? Do we similarly understand forgiveness and mercy? Do we similarly seek meekness and service? Do we approach worship the same and do we find unity as we worship and pray together? Do we interpret scriptures and the teachings of Jesus from the same overarching theological perspective?

My wife and I dated for about two years and during this time we spent most of our time ministering and praying together. Our spiritual DNA was developed from common experiences in worship and ministry. The answers to our ability to fellowship in the word and prayer and ministry was strongly answered in the affirmative.

After finding that we were a spiritual “match”, we were engaged. The engagement period is the time when the couple can feel freely to express their hearts toward one another. This period I think is when the two allow their affections and feelings to become filled with romantic feelings as they prepare for marriage and the consummation of their love.

I tell this story as an illustration of how the spiritual approach to sexuality is a celebration of a couples spiritual and emotional unity. Any sexual act which is merely the satisfaction of an appetite is violating this most basic principle.

What is vital is that after marriage it is vital that a couple continues to approach their sexual relationship according to the pattern that is best during the dating, engagement and honeymoon period. In other words, in marriage, sex must not be merely the satisfaction of sexual appetites. Instead, the couple must continue to make their spiritual fellowship the foundation of their relationship.

In 1 Cor. 7:5, Paul instructs couples to abstain from sex for an agreed upon period for a time of prayer. So if a couple realizes that the spiritual fellowship of praying and worship together is lacking and that they need to find unity in their vision for the kingdom in their home and their lives, then they ought to take a time out sexually and spend time praying and worshipping together.

I would bet that many couples have never laid such a foundation in their relationship. In such cases, the couple should seek a mentoring relationship or a discipleship relationship to learn these practices. To manage a home well and possess the wisdom to raise children in the grace of God, a couple must have their spiritual life be the center of their relationship.

Then from this renewed intimacy at the most authentic area of our lives, our spiritual lives. Our spiritual lives is the place of our loves and affections, our values and our dreams. As we together place our hearts before God, we find true relationship. From this intimacy we are to celebrate our life together through sexual relations.

May all Christian husbands and wives make this spiritual unity the foundation of their homes.

God Bless,

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