Summary: There are a number of distortions about sexuality that affect how we behave. What does the Bible teach us about our sexuality.
Last week we talked about the lure of money and we saw how money is such a great temptation for us because of the way the love of money is promoted by our culture. Well, if that’s the case, then perhaps even more so is the temptation to misuse our sexuality. Sex is power in today’s world. Sex is used to sell everything from cars to washing machines. Sex is enjoyable and we all want enjoyment in life, so sexuality is promoted as necessary for a fulfilled life. But the trouble is, sex is both misunderstood and distorted so that we’re easily confused about what’s right and what’s not and those promoting it are usually doing it from an amoral and basically self-centred position.
What I’d like to do today is to suggest a number of areas where our understanding of the place of sex has been distorted and then to give some biblical perspectives on sex and how we should deal with it.
Distortion 1: Sex is a male issue.
It seems to me that there has been, in the past at least, an idea that sexuality is a particularly male issue. Men have been seen as the ones who have the strong sex drive and a woman’s role, in marriage at least, is to help to meet his needs for sexual satisfaction. Now that misunderstanding is being addressed to some extent in the popular media. Shows like ’Sex in the City’ portray women’s interest in sex in a fairly explicit way, but I wonder whether in Christian circles the myth isn’t still alive and well. The fact that we don’t talk about sex in public much doesn’t help, does it? I wonder how often women discuss sexual feelings when they meet in women’s groups of various types. My guess is not very often. Not that men discuss such things much either I might add.
If you want some evidence that sex is as much a female issue as it is a male issue, think about the popularity of Mills and Boon potboilers. Women buy these by the hundreds, not for their literary value, but because they provide a safe outlet for their sexuality. They allow their readers to enter a fantasy world where love and romance, intimacy and physical pleasure, can be found without any pain or difficulty. Or think about the number of chick flicks that appear on the movie screens or on video. All providing vicarious enjoyment of just one thing - sex. Oh, it’s clothed in words like romance and passion, but in the end it’s just sex. So let’s be clear that sex is an issue for all of us.
Related to this is the idea that only men experience lust. Well, I can’t speak personally, but I’m told by people who know, that women also experience lust. It’s part of our human sexual makeup, I guess, that we’re naturally attracted to those of the opposite sex. But there’s been some sort of denial of this over the years, possibly because the people doing the research and writing the books have all been males who saw the world from a male perspective. But the result of that denial is that women have felt guilty, even felt perverted when they experienced strong feelings of attraction for a man. And sometimes they even carry those feelings of guilt into their marriage. It’s only in recent years that women have begun to talk openly about their feeling of sexual attraction for men. Again, in the church though, I fear that there’s still a perception that Christian women shouldn’t be carried away by feeling of sexual attraction to men. That’s related to:
Distortion 2: Sex is bad.
Ever since the fall, human beings have had a problem with sex. What was meant to be a pure expression of the love between a man and a woman has been distorted and misused. But that’s led some to go too far the other way. To condemn all sexual feelings as sinful. To mistake sexual attraction for uncontrolled lust. The shame that Adam and Eve felt in the garden because they were naked has been taken further to equate all sexual expression with shamefulness. You see, the devil loves to distort the good things God has given us and twist them into temptations that will destroy us. And if he can get us to see those good things as essentially bad, then he’s won a great victory. So the answer is to be clear about what is wrong in the sexual area, but also to delight in what’s good about it.
So why has sex been seen as bad? Well, some people suggest it goes back to the Church fathers, like St Augustine who wrote about "the shame which attends all sexual intercourse." They suggest that his teaching about sexuality came out of a reaction to his own promiscuity before he became a Christian. He had trouble distinguishing between intimacy and the wild lustful passions of his youth. Well, whether that was true or not, plenty of people have taken up his ideas, and taught that sex is evil. Now we need to say here that this sort of thinking comes more out of a Greek dualist frame of thought, where the physical or material world is the realm of sin and evil, and the spiritual realm is the place where God is. But that has little to do with the world view of the Bible, as we’ll see in a little while.