Extra Virgin :: 4 Purposes of Sex
Over the next four weeks, we’re going to try to answer one question, “Why doesn’t God want us to have sex outside of marriage?”
“What sits at the center of Christian sexual ethics is not a negative view of sex; the Christian vision of marriage is not, at its most concise, merely ‘no sex before marriage. Rather, the heart of the Christian story about sex is a vigorously positive statement: sex was created for marriage. Without a robust account of the Christian vision of sex within marriage, the Christian insistence that unmarried folks refrain from sex just doesn’t make sense.” Lauren F. Winner
In my last post, I wrote that sex is given to us as a picture of the Gospel, a way to lead us to a self-giving, relational God, so that we might glorify him. But if we’re to glorify God through sex by portraying the Gospel, then how do we do this? How does God intend for us to have sex? (Because he really, really wants us to have sex. It says so, like, all the time in the Bible.) People have tried to come up with different lists, and here is the one I like the best ::
Sex finds its purpose in marriage for two reasons. The first is that it’s the best (and probably only) place for sex to thrive. “According to the Bible, a covenant is necessary for sex. It creates a place of security for vulnerability and intimacy.” (Keller, The Meaning of Marriage) Anyone who has had much experience or done much study on the subject knows that vulnerability and intimacy make up the bedrock of a good sex life. Without it, sex will never be more than a few moments of fun. Marriage helps you enjoy better sex.
The second way that sex finds its purpose in marriage is by providing marriage with a way to renew the marriage vows on a regular basis. It’s a reminder to couples of their promises and sacred bond, and gives them a way to celebrate and honor it often. Sex helps you enjoy a better marriage.
“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) Winner likes to say that the term “one-flesh” is both metaphorical and not. When a couple has sex, literally making it difficult to tell where one person ends and the other begins, we find a truth that permeates the physical, mental, spiritual, and emotional. With every orgasm that a man and wife experience together, their brains receive a shot of dopamine, a naturally-occurring chemical that builds and strengthens bonds created with the other person. As the years go by, the very act of sex will be the tool that fissures your brain to your spouse, physically and mentally tying you to each other. When you have sex, God declares that you are one spiritually, and that no one should try to separate you (not even yourselves). Also, even a couple who has a one night stand feels an emotional connection that is hard to break, though there is nothing holding them together in a legal, relational or social way. God desires sexual practices that create real and lasting unity with your sexual partner, one of the most fulfilling experiences in human existence.
Sex was intended by God to be procreational. An important aspect of relaying a true picture of the love of God is to communicate its creative nature. Whenever and wherever God loves, something beautiful and new will pop into existence. He never just basks in his love for its own sake. “Without the possibility of procreation, sex can quickly become part of a romantic two-ness, wherein the couple simply becomes more and more deeply interested in one another.” (Winner, Real Sex) While sex doesn’t always have to lead to procreation, it can’t be denied that God’s vision for sex includes the possibility of procreation. Love should begat love. It should overflow until it spreads, blessing the community.
God wanted sex to be pleasurable. Without it, there would be an insinuation that we have to have a relationship with God, but we won’t necessarily enjoy it. However, the truth is that with God, “to know him is to love him”. Once we understand this, “sexual pleasure in the service of God is doxological” (Burk, What Is The Meaning of Sex?). Godly sex will embrace pleasure, for both husband and wife, as a means of glorifying God. It’s a way to declare that endless pleasure can be found in God’s presence (Psalm 16:11). He is to be desired.
This is all, actually, incredibly good news. God’s will (law) concerning sex is a way of opening yourself up to the best sex, the most real sex. If it’s limiting or suppressing, it only limits a superficial experience, it only suppresses self-absorption and self-destructive behavior. For as Winner says, “Life lived inside the contours of God’s law humanizes us and makes us beautiful. It makes us creatures living well in the created order. It gives us the opportunity to become who we are meant to be.”
For this post, I relied heavily on Real Sex by Lauren F. Winner, The Meaning of Marriage by Timothy and Kathy Keller, and What Is the Meaning of Sex? by Denny Burk.(Image via Etlamore)