"You can get a large audience together for a strip-tease act--that is, to watch a girl undress onstage," C.S. Lewis, friend of J.R.R. Tolkien and creator of The Chronicles of Narnia, wrote.
"Now suppose," Lewis went on, "you come to a country where you could fill a theatre by simply bringing a covered plate on to the stage and then slowly lifting the cover so as to let every one see, just before the lights went out, that it contained a mutton chop or a bit of bacon, would you not think that in that country something had gone wrong with the appetite for food? And would not anyone who had grown up in a different world think there was something equally [strange]* about the state of the sex instinct among us?"
That question, written for a series of radio talks the English writer gave on the BBC that later became Mere Christianity, speaks with equal power to us today when, if anything, the obsession with things sexual has only increased.
I think it's time to consider what God has to say about sex. So, just to introduce this subject, I'm going to arbitrarily present you with 5 things God wants you to know about sex. (Plus 1 thing God wants you to know about forgiveness.)
Here we go...
1. God invented the sexes. Genesis 1:26-27 tells that the trinitarian God (one God in three Persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) had a conversation with Himself in which He said, "Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness...So God created humankind in His image...male and female He created them."
2. God invented sexual intimacy for marriage between a wife and her husband.
Sexual intimacy is the way these two different but complementary bearers of Gods image seal the oneness of their marriage.
In Genesis 2:24, we're told: "Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and clings to his wife, and they become one flesh."
Many centuries later, when God came into the world in the person of Jesus Christ, He underscored God's intent that sexual intimacy was to be an act between a man and a woman who are married. He said, "Have you not read [in Genesis] that the one who made them at the beginning [God] 'made them male and female,' and said, 'For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh'?" (Matthew 19:4-5)
3. God invented sexual intimacy as a means by which husbands and wives physically affirm their oneness, give each other pleasure, and, sometimes, produce children.
In the Old Testament, a woman named Sarah, long after she'd gone through menopause, hears God tell her husband Abraham that she will give birth to a son, who will become the ancestor of many nations. Sarah laughs and asks, "After I have grown old, and my husband is old, shall I have pleasure?" (Genesis 18:12)
I once asked a Hebrew scholar of the Old Testament, a Lutheran who received his doctorate from Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, and he confirmed that, in the original Hebrew in which Sarah's words are rendered in the Old Testament, the pleasure to which Sarah referred included the pleasure of intimacy with her husband and the physical pleasure to which such intimacy can lead, as well as the pleasure of bearing a child.
By the way, Sarah did again enjoy pleasure with her husband, both in their sexual intimacy and in the birth of their son, Isaac.
4. People who engage in sexual intimacy outside of marriage are stealing a blessing from God that He intended only for a husband and a wife who, before witnesses, declare in the presence of God, to build their lives on Him.
God views every act of sexual intimacy apart from the marriage bed of a husband and wife as theft, in much the same way that He regards murder as stealing a life that He has given or every use of His Name for anything other than prayer, praise, or thanksgiving to Him as a theft of His good name. The New Testament calls sex outside of marriage fornication and sees it as a violation of the Sixth Commandment, "You shall not commit adultery."
Like all the sins enumerated in the Ten Commandments, God's moral law, the punishment for violation of this command as a sin, is eternal separation from God.
Sexual intimacy is like fireworks: Great when set off at the right times; worthless and even dangerous when used under other conditions.
5. Living together is not an option for those who want to follow the God we know in Jesus Christ into forgiveness for sin and everlasting life with God.
"I see so much divorce or I've been hurt before," people planning on moving in with someone tell me. "Moving in together helps us to learn if we're compatible."
That's about the dumbest thing I have to hear people tell me as a pastor!
Living together will give you no idea about how compatible your prospective marriage will be or how long it will last. In fact, data I've run across from time to time reveals that married couples who started out living together have higher divorce rates than those who wait to take up residence together after they've said, "I do."***
There's a simple reason for that: When you're shacking up, there's always a net.
Until you commit yourself publicly, under God, with a dedication to building your marriage on God, you can always bug out.
Getting married is a bit like what my friends and I would do when we were kids. We'd find a good place to play ball and some scaredy-cat would say, "I don't think we can play there." That's when one of us would take all the balls, bats, and ball gloves we had and fling them far over the fence. Now, we were either going to see things out by climbing over the fence and playing ball on the lot or just leave everything behind.
Of course, couples should spend time getting to know one another before saying, "I do." But sexual intimacy is a gift God wants to be reserved for the married.
It's only after you've committed yourself in marriage to the other person that you are all-in. No amount of "playing house" will simulate marriage.
And why would you want to accept anything less than marriage anyway? When God wants to give you a Porsche, why would you settle for a Gremlin?
6. BONUS POINT: God can forgive any sin. If you've already had sex outside of marriage, God is willing to forgive the sin of any who want to turn away from (what the Bible calls repent) for a sin and turn to the God we meet in Jesus Christ. (Turning to Christ, repenting, by the way, is a continuous struggle even for the most seasoned Christians I have known, including me.)
If you're already living with someone in a sexual relationship, I urge you to move away from one another now, even if you're engaged to be married.
It will help you to see that sexual intimacy isn't just something you do to punctuate a night out or a night with seemingly nothing else to do. You will be restoring sexual intimacy to its proper place as total giving of a husband to a wife and of a wife to a husband that God intended it to be, no holding back.
Almost everyone is blessed with the physical capacity for a sex life. But just as you should only eat food when you're hungry or use God's Name when you're speaking to Him, for Him, or about Him, sexual intimacy is only for people in marriages between husbands and wives. Any other use of this precious gift is dissing the God Who created the gift. My guess is that you don't want to do that.
*Lewis's original word here was queer. But he used the term in 1952, long before it became commonplace to use it for anything other than an adjective for strange.
**Probably not uncoincidentally, the explosion of our culture-wide sexual-obsessions has been accompanied by a similar almost grotesquely pornographic interest in food, if shows like The United States of Bacon on the Food Channel, of which my wife and I caught about five minutes the other night before being so grossed out, we turned off the TV. What was a farfetched absurdity to Lewis in 1952--lust for food--is a craving obsession in 2013, it seems.
***I couldn't care less about marriage licenses, by the way. As an added service to couples whose weddings I perform, I fill out the state paperwork. But frankly, I think the state ought to get completely out of the marriage business. So, my arguments in favor of marriage have nothing to do with the often and rightly dismissed, "piece of paper." When I talk about marriage here hasn't got a thing to do with any piece of paper!