Knowing what you’re living for is always more powerful than knowing what you’re living against. Most Christians don’t seem to know this or live this way. They might say they’re living “for God,” but press them further and they may not be able to define what that means..
I’m increasingly aware of how important this is in the area of sexuality. Culturally, Christians have lost their voice because they can only say what they are against. And why are they against what they’re against? Because what they’re against will produce other things they’re against. More out of wedlock sex will mean more STD’s and more abortion and more single-parent homes. Legalizing gay marriage will mean kids growing up without a mom and a dad and further erosion to the institution of marriage in general. Wider pornography use will mean more promiscuity and more sexual addiction and more degradation of women.
On an individual level, many men and women come to Regeneration primarily focused on what they want to stop so they can avoid more negative consequences. Worthwhile reasons, all. And it’s true—sin produces problems, chaos, and brokenness. The Bible tells us that the wages of sin is death. Who wants that? But as a motivator none of this is as powerful as knowing what sexuality is for. If sex isn’t just for momentary pleasure, what is it for? And since sexual desires are so strong, why did God make us sexual creatures?
In the beginning, God gathered together dust from the earth. He packed it. He shaped it. He patiently and skillfully fashioned the first man (Genesis 2:7). Think of an artist working with clay, shaping and molding it, examining it closely with his eyes and fingers until it is as he imagined. In the same way, God formed man—his head, hair, eyes, eyelashes, face, nose, mouth, voice, chest, arms, elbows, fingers, abdomen, genitals, legs, feet, toes, bones, skin, heart, lungs, veins, cells, DNA—all a joyful labor of love. This creature and this creature alone, in His image (Genesis 1:26, 27).
But the man wasn’t a living being until God breathed the breath of life into his nostrils. Once He did, the man became a living being. Catch the order, don’t miss the importance. First, God created the earth. Then God formed man’s body of the earth.
Then God moved . . .
up close to
He breathed His breath into the man’s body. You could think CPR here, but that wasn’t quite it. It didn’t have that urgent, life-saving, EMT-at-work feel to it. No, there was more love in it. More purpose. More lingering. Much more like . . . a kiss.
God was giving His life to the man. He was sharing His Spirit, sharing Himself, with man. Think of it. When God created man, He created him to have within himself something of God’s essence. He created man to be in union with Himself. Always. As God leans in and gives of Himself to man, God made man both body and spirit. Not just body and not just spirit, but both.
Back to what sexuality is for: God is love, and being love God shares Himself with us. Not impersonally. Not mass-produced. Not distantly. But personally. Intimately. Vulnerably. Like a kiss. Like sex.
Man’s very being—this union of body and spirit—speaks the story of God’s gift of Himself to us. Our creation and our existence is meant to remind us of His love for us.
God created us for our own sakes, in total generosity . . . so that we might experience God’s self-giving love. Gift. All is gift. If we let this truth sink in, it changes everything.
(Christopher West, The Love that Satisfies)
SEX AND MARRIAGE
Sex between husband and wife is intended by God to further reveal His heart toward us.
God’s intent for us has been oneness with Himself since the beginning of time. And Christ has come for us. Have you ever considered that Scripture begins with a wedding (Adam and Eve) and ends with a wedding (Christ and the Church)? And sex was intended to point us to this, His great love for us. This does not mean that God wants to have sex with us. God is not a sexual being. But it does mean that sexuality points to a greater union with God—an eternal union, an eternal “naked and unashamed” union with the One who knows us best of all and loves us thoroughly.
Man and woman together bear God’s image on the earth. Men can hold their heads high knowing that they possess within the very fabric of their beings God’s image. Likewise, women can hold their heads high knowing they possess within the fabric of their beings God’s image in a way unlike any other created thing on the earth. But to most adequately bear God’s image on the earth, man needs woman and woman needs man.
Man and woman are distinct and different, yet they become one flesh (Genesis 2:24, Matthew 19:5, 6). God gives Himself to us, shares Himself with us to be joined with us. Yet He remains distinct from us. We are not God and He is not mere man. Through our bodies as male and female, our sexual differences express the Lord’s loving commitment to us. A man with another man or a woman with another woman cannot express this bodily as a husband and wife can within a loving and committed marriage.
God is self-giving love, and we are created from this love so that we can receive it and share it with others. The real epiphany comes when we realize that an image of this “great mystery” is stamped in our very bodies! Sexual difference is the most concrete expression of “gift” in the created world.“
(Christopher West, The Love that Satisfies)
This is why Paul writes in Ephesians 5:28 – 33a:
So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself; for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church., because we are members of His body. For this reason a man shall leave His father and mother and shall be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church.
The very fact of man and woman’s original glory in the area of sex and gender (including masculinity, femininity, sexual desire, intimacy, pregnancy, childrearing, family) is why the enemy so ferociously attacks these things.
The union between a man and his wife is meant to bear the image of Christ and the church. This doesn’t mean Christ will have sex with the church, or that Christ intends to be sexual with us. Rather, it means that sex itself is meant to tell us something about how Christ loves us. Is it any wonder that the enemy would attack marriage? If marriage is in ruins, what will we see of Christ’s love and faithfulness for His bride, the church?
Consider for a moment the common idea that men are aroused visually. What might this tell us about how we bear God’s image? Since He fashioned men this way, could it be God is trying to tell us something about how He feels toward us— that perhaps while we were yet far off from Him, He saw us, desired us, and came running quickly to us? That He would move heaven and earth to get to us, even to rescue us? (cf 1 John 4:19)
What about how men and women are typically sexually aroused? It’s been said that foreplay for a man takes a matter of seconds, but for a woman it begins with how her husband treats her in the kitchen that morning. Do you see God’s image in each? Through men, could it be God wants us to know that His desire for us is ignited easily? That when we reveal ourselves (our hearts, our needs, our bodily struggles) to Him, His love is aroused and He comes quickly to us? And through woman, could it be God wants us to know His desire is to be sought after—that He is not after our ecstatic, fleeting pursuit, but His love is stirred as we pursue Him alone?
Or consider for a moment how God has designed the sexual act between husband and wife. Why did he choose sex as the means to bring about human life? What might He want you to know about how He felt about creating you? Was it a chore or something He longed for with all His heart?
In the marital union, a wife’s trust and willingness emboldens her husband. As she responds to him, he is drawn all the more to her. How does God respond when we are caught by His power, His life, His love? He is not unmoved. And in pregnancy, a wife expresses the glory of God as she carries new life within her womb. The image of a pregnant mother is an intimate, tender picture for us of God’s utter, personal and intimate commitment to each of us (see Isaiah 46:3 – 4, John 15: Galatians 4:19, Colossians 3:2 – 4, 1 John 4:16.)
SEX, SINGLENESS AND WAITING
What about men and women who are not married, including those who never marry? Do they bear God’s image? They most certainly do. For those who are abstinent (whether as singles wanting to marry, singles committed to life-long celibacy for the sake of serving Christ, and those abstaining for a time within marriage), waiting mirrors our waiting for our ultimate connection with God. The wedding of the Lamb is coming but has not yet come. The Bride is still making herself ready.
Every one of us longs for greater connection, greater intimacy with God. We have tastes of our ultimate union with Him, but that union is not yet completely fulfilled. We are in between the times—Christ’s Kingdom has come and it is coming. He is with us now. But, as Paul says, “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known” (1 Corinthians 13:12). We are invited to wait. We get to wait.
Stop for a moment as you read. Feel the air around your body. Breathe in and breathe out. He is here with you right now. Closer than the air around you. Closer than the air you breathe. And He yearns for you. There are times we feel Him. There are other times we do not.
Some throughout the ages (and certainly in our present age) falter here and turn with a sense of irritation, even anger, at God: A lot of good that does me! I’m lonely! My flesh is crying out for touch, yet I can’t see, hear, or feel God!
He is not holding out on you. He is not dispassionately aloof. He knows the ache you feel. Again, remember, sex is meant to speak to us about God’s love for us. And God asks you to wait. Why is that? Perhaps it is because He waits for you.
Why do you think God chose such a powerful force as sex to speak to you about His love for you? Could it be because He is passionately desiring you, all of you? He is. And so we wait. We wait for the culmination of the ages when Christ will return, when we’ll be united with our Bridegroom. And likewise, we learn to wait sexually for when and only when we can have sex as God ordained: Between one man and one woman in the bounds of marriage, sex offered as a selfless gift of love from each to the other. In so doing, we come to bear the image of God in our sexuality.
SEX, DESIRE AND DIGNITY
And so we do not look upon our bodies as foul, filthy things, but as bearers of God’s image. And we do not look upon sex or our sexual desires as shameful, dirty things. They are worth more than we have yet imagined. They speak the story in language that extends beyond words. They bear the image of God’s love to us in a profound way. Or, they were meant to. Christ came that they would again.
And so humbly, gratefully, and in awe, we walk with dignity, treating our bodies with honor. And so we look upon and treat others’ bodies—those of men and women—with humility, dignity and honor as well. This is worth living for, fighting for, and dying for. Christ did. His body naked, beaten and marred beyond description. Pierced and broken to rescue our bodies— including our sexuality—for God’s great love.
We weren’t just made to run away and cower from sexual sin. We weren’t just made for sexual sobriety or restrictive morality. We were made to reveal God’s self-sacrificing love through our bodies—yes, through our sexual bodies. Is it any wonder the enemy fights so hard against sexual purity? The real wonder is why on earth we wouldn’t fight more.
This holiday season, as we move toward and celebrate the incarnation of Christ, let’s revel in how He has rescued back the dignity of our bodies through is birth, life, death and resurrection. As we join ourselves with God, just as He has always intended, we can overcome.