Updated: Jun 4
Sex, a taboo subject in America, especially in religious communities. Why is that? Sex, at it’s core, is a form of worship, which would put it squarely in the realm of spirituality. Yet many congregants blush and shy away from it. Young adults I’ve spoken with are woefully uneducated on the subject.
When I tried to approach it with others, I ran into two scenarios. From the conservative religious community, abstinence until there’s a ring on the finger. Sex is treated like something dirty, until you say, ‘I do’, and are legally obligated to your partner. Sex then is directly related to status. Until the law blesses your relationship, it doesn’t count. From the other end of the spectrum, sex didn’t mean anything other than pleasure. If all parties are experiencing pleasure, no harm no foul. Both these views are detrimental to the act itself.
If we are made in God’s image, then sexual intimacy is a way we can physically express that image. The physical and spiritual realms become closely acquainted in those intimate moments, and say a lot about who we believe God is. Gender relates to the diversity of God. Sex relates the unity. When you have unity within diversity, that is a celebration of who God is. Anything outside of that, changes the definition of who God is, and creates an idol. We will each have to give an account of how we’ve worshipped, when judgment day comes.
Uniformity (homosexuality in this case) is false unity. Uniformity says that our external similarities define what unites us. True unity (or heterosexuality) includes diversity. We are united despite our external differences. Yet the most segregated time in America is Sunday service. Race, politics, theology, economic status, there are numerous external reasons for this. Are we really seeking true unity, or is what we are seeking uniformity? Are we open to different ways of life? Or are we trying to put everyone in a box, based on the type of life they have?
When we seek uniformity rather than true unity, it affects our deepest spiritual needs. I think this is why we are seeing more and more members of the LGBTQ+ community in mainstream religions. Jesus points us all in one direction, the cross at calvary, no matter what walk of life we come from. Our unity comes from our pilgrimage (Matthew 16:24), no matter how it may look. The lives we leave behind are diverse, and each experience unique. But we experience taking up our crosses together, in fellowship.
On the other hand, making sexual intimacy a reward for good behaviour, creates a different idol. It says that what unites us, is the rules we agree to obey. The people who have obtained the trophy (sex) have justified themselves. That is a slippery slope into legalism, and legalism is one of the worst idols there is. It completely ignores grace. Grace is an essential part of who God is. Grace is the only way that any relationship can and should work, especially romantic relationships. Score keeping is not the way partners successfully pursue one another. WHAT we do is less important than HOW we do it.
“…For the Lord does not see as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” - 1 Samuel 16:17 (NKJV)
Which leads me finally, to the faithfulness of God. Many of the Old Testmament patriarchs were polygamous. But in the New Testament, we are instructed to have only one spouse. So why was polygamy a cultural norm in ancient Israel? Another thing that comes from sexual intimacy, is children. Children are what God promised Abraham. Polygamy was man’s attempt to achieve God’s promise, outside of God’s will (Adam and Eve). It created yet another idol. Children became the end goal, not unity. Children should be a byproduct of true unity, not the purpose of it. When we make them the purpose, all sorts of problems arise. Many of these problems are addressed in the Old Testament, with the consequences of polygamy.
I also suggest that the obsession with denominations within the broader church, is as dangerous to our theology as polygamy. Christ does not have a Methodist bride, a Presbyterian bride, and a Baptist bride. He has one bride, the Spirit infused body of believers. We work out correct theology together by seeking true unity and inviting new and different voices. If corrections need to be made, then we make them in love and truth together. We reject false teachers and reveal false prophets by living in relationship with one another. When we are focussed on which denomination is producing the most spiritual children, we lose our unity. Consequently, polyamory is another lifestyle choice that is currently on the rise.
When we use sexual intimacy as a means to an end (children, pleasure, economic status), it cheapens the experience. We should pursue sexual intimacy because we desire to become one with another person, until death. It is a sacred and holy path. If the end goal is all we care about, rather than the journey, it doesn’t really matter who we have sex with, just that we’re having sex.
True unity is achieved through a process, not by a transaction. The transaction of justification begins this process, but it doesn’t end there. Sanctification is an essential part of the path to true unity. We don’t change instantaneously when we accept Christ. Change comes in bits and pieces through sanctification. How we live out our sexuality, is one of the most obvious ways we can deny ourselves to take up our cross and follow Jesus. In a world that cares nothing about sexual immorality, we take it very seriously.
Sexual immorality leads to the worship of false gods. We eventually become like that which we worship. That is what makes it so dangerous. The only person we must answer to for that, is God. The only reason I can stand before God on judgement day, is because of Jesus Christ. That forgiveness is extended to everyone, no matter their circumstances.
So how does the Bible say we should handle situations where people give in to sexual temptation? Do we embrace everyone’s personal choices in the name of so called love and acceptance? Or do we participate in a culture war, trying to legislate sexual morality? I think either path is counterintuitive to scripture. The bible is very clear that homosexuality is not part of God’s plan for creation. It is also very clear that multiple partners are not part of God’s plan for creation either. There is only one way to avoid the sin of lust in our sexuality, and that is the holy union of husband and wife. But that is a decision we each make personally and collectively, to acknowledge our submission to God.
To anyone who argues that same sex marriage should not be legal, I ask you to read and consider Romans 1:24-32, and Romans 2:1-16. God allowed me to be given over to my lustful desires, and experience the consequences of that decision. I'll save that part of my story for another time. The same allowance should be given to all people, regardless of sexual orientation. We should be discipling believers along the path of obedience, not shaming nonbelievers into falling in line.