It strikes me as peculiar that 90s RnB group Salt’N’Pepa had a hit with a song that presented the irresistible invitation: “Let’s Talk about Sex.” After all, it hardly makes sense to suggest a conversation topic that everyone already talks about almost incessantly…
Perhaps “Let’s keep talking about Sex”, “Let’s not talk about Sex” or “Let’s talk about sex less” would have been more apt suggestions. And yet, a quarter of a century later, there’s certainly no shortage of talk about sex in the media, workplace, playground and cyber-world.
When it comes to the intersection between Christianity and topics relating to sex, many people have the unfortunate impression that Christians view sex as dirty and dangerous or, at best, a necessary evil. While some who bear the name of Christ have undoubtedly contributed to this public perception, it is in fact a terrible misrepresentation of the biblically informed, Christian position.
In an age which manages to somehow worship sex while simultaneously treating it as something base, common and profane – Christians simply believe sex is sacred without being absolute.
It is sacred precisely because it is a good gift from God, designed to affectionately and physically communicate the committed and lifelong, social and relational bond that exists between a man and woman pledged to one another in marriage. Its potential for pleasure and procreation are positive elements, naturally flowing from such a bond, and intended for enjoyment exclusively in such a relationship.
To divorce sex from commitment and the possibility of procreation is to exalt the aspect of pleasure at the expense of all others and cheapen sexual activity to a mechanism for achieving physical stimulation. Personal gratification becomes the absolute feature, which eliminates the possibility of expressing one’s sexuality in a meaningfully loving manner or channelling one’s sexual desires into something that can contribute positively to society through a stable, loving marital relationship and potentially the production of the next generation.
For many, sex has become a sort of “gospel” in and of itself. We constantly hear “preaching” that tells us we need it; that our lives will be better if we have it; and even, at times, that we can’t possibly be fulfilled as a person without experiencing it.
If you are having sex and it isn’t making you happy and fulfilled, the problem can’t be sex itself. Either you’re doing something wrong, or you’re having sex with the wrong person. In the words of the RnB artist, Lecrae, we are constantly encouraged to feel the kind of discontentment that leads us to search for “A new somebody to lay with, coz the last 5 just ain’t make it.”
On the one hand, our secular culture’s gradual, debilitating abandonment of all things spiritual and transcendent leaves the sensory stimulation of sexual climax as possibly the closest thing someone can have to an ecstatic or transcendental experience in their dull, material existence. Hormonal rushes, chemical reactions and positive psychological responses have necessarily replaced any hopes for heavenly euphoria or even a soul-enriching encounter with the Divine – since such things are held to be impossible.
On the other hand, some cultic groups and New Age versions of spirituality mysticise sexual intercourse, so it becomes a supposed means of spiritual elevation. While the appeal of such an idea is not hard to see (i.e. how many people could honestly say they wouldn’t enjoy experiencing both sexual pleasure and a spiritual high for the price of one?), it is nothing other than a deceitful tool of manipulative “spiritual teachers” who find opportunities for their own base sexual gratification by enticing naïve seekers of spiritual advancement with the promise of enlightenment or elevation through sexual participation with their guru or cult leader.
For Christians, sex can never be the gospel, since in the context of Christian marriage, its sacredness consists especially in its role as a symbol of the true gospel of Jesus Christ. The marital union, including the sexual aspect, reflect the loving, committed relationship between Christ and His Church (see especially Ephesians 5:22-33). While any element of sexuality between Christ and His people is absent, the sexual intercourse between a loving husband and wife is analogous to the spiritual intercourse and perpetual, mystical union between the Lord Jesus and those He died to purchase as His Bride.
This is important, because it allows a Christian to live a happy, faithful and fulfilled life without sex if they remain single. Not only did Jesus Himself never require a sexual experience to fulfil Himself while on earth (and therefore we can take comfort if we are called to follow His example in this regard), but the single Christian can be confident they will receive the glorious enjoyment of spiritual union with Christ that Christian, marital sex signifies – irrespective of whether they ever enjoy the short-lived pleasures of the sign in this age.
It’s equally important for married Christians, who are able to live in committed relationships and enjoy sex as a good gift from God, without relying on it to bring us ultimate fulfilment and satisfaction. If sex isn’t all you dreamed it would be, it could due to any number of reasons, eg; your own unrealistic or sinful expectations; the fallenness of our broken world (which can mark even some of the best things in life with difficulties and imperfections); or even the design-limitations of sex itself.
Because sex points us towards the grand truths of the gospel, you don’t need “better sex” and especially not a better partner/spouse to make you happier and fulfilled. You both need Jesus and the unfailing, all-satisfying enjoyment of Him that He promises to give to all who believe at His coming.
Sex is good. But even the “best sex” in the world falls far short of the best things God offers us in Christ. Those who fail to come to Christ and receive the greatest enjoyment possible for a human being may in fact find the most pleasure they’ll ever experience in sexual activity. But that’s a tragedy – not something to be envied.