Many years ago I listened to a class taught by Mark Moore. During the final class session he gave the students some things to think about and one of the things he said was this: "Sex is sacred, but not essential, and our lives say the opposite.”
In our discussions about the role sex should play in our lives, I think this short quote provides us with three crucial insights that should guide our thinking.
The first insight is: “Sex is sacred…”
Sex is to have a place of honor in our lives. The author of Hebrews wrote; “Marriage is to be honored by all and the marriage bed kept undefiled, because God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterers.” (Hebrews 13:4; CSB).
God designed sex to bring a man and a woman into an intimate relationship that cannot be expressed in any other way. It is not dirty or shameful nor is it common and ordinary. Sexual intimacy has a very special place in binding a husband and wife together.
When we are unwilling to hold sex as something that is sacred then it loses its significance. It becomes a “fun” activity for consenting adults to participate in, but its ultimate purpose of God’s gift to married couples is diminished. As followers of Jesus we are to be good stewards of all of God’s gifts, and that means we must hold sex as sacred and leave it within the bounds of marriage where it belongs.
This includes the way we talk about sex. C. S. Lewis wrote;
“The reason why I must is that you and I…have been fed all day long on solid lies about sex. We have been told, till one is sick of hearing it, that sexual desire is in the same state as any of our other natural desires and that if only we abandon the silly old Victorian idea of hushing it up, everything in the garden will be lovely. It is not true. The moment you look at the facts, and away from the propaganda, you see that it is not” (Mere Christianity; pg. 91-92)
Too often, the way we have talked about sex, both in the world and in the church, has led us to make sex common, and thus not sacred. I am not advocating ignoring sex, because, like every other area of our lives, we need discipleship and healing when it comes to sex. Rather I am advocating, that in order to hold sex in high regard it cannot be the foundation of our stories, jokes, and our lives.
That brings us to the second part: “but not essential…”
Here comes a shocking statement: Sex is not necessary for a good life!
This truth is contrary to what we have been taught and to what we believe. Sex is not essential to our happiness! You can have a joyful life, a fulfilled life, and still be a virgin. Jesus was at least 33 years old when He was crucified and He never had sex.
For Jesus to command you to keep sex within the bounds of marriage means that He is not asking you to do anything that He has not already done. The Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 7:1 writes; Now in response to the matters you wrote about: “It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman.” (CSB). Sexual intimacy is not essential part of our discipleship or the calling that God has placed on our lives.
There is no sexual act that will give us the type of life that we long to have. The abundant life that Jesus gives is not found in a life of sexual freedom, but living a life that seeks to love God and love people. The truly fulfilled life is a life that has enjoyed all the good gifts of life: time spent with friends, the love of a family, the knowledge of a job well done, and enjoying the great outdoors. Sex is not required for living a good and fulfilling life.
The final part: “and our lives say the opposite.”
I don’t need to remind us how sex has gone wrong in the world. That reality is seen all around us, and we are faced with it each and everyday. It should be no surprise that we find the world living contrary to God’s standard when it comes to sex.
The way of the world has always been to twist God’s good gifts in order to lead people away from God. When Mark Moore says “our lives,” he is not making a judgment on people already living apart from God’s will. Rather, he is pointing out how Christians are not any different than the world when it comes to sex.
The reality is sexual purity isn't very fashionable idea. I am continually amazed by the number of Christian people I know who are living with someone or are comfortable with talking about their sexual encounters.
When it comes to sex, Christians have been discipled by the world and not by the Bible.
The movies and television shows many Christians watch carry a message that is different to God's will about sex, and we don't give these messages a second thought. Keeping sex as sacred is more than just keeping sex between married people, it is about honoring the place sex is to have in our lives. Sex will not remain sacred when it becomes a common element in our entertainment.
The apostle Paul wrote:
But sexual immorality and any impurity or greed should not even be heard of among you, as is proper for saints. Obscene and foolish talking or crude joking are not suitable, but rather giving thanks. (Ephesians 5:3-4; CSB).
Whether or not we hold sex to be sacred is not only seen in our actions, but also in our speech. Too often we are trying to tell the world to honor sex while we are treating it with disrespect when it comes to our entertainment and our jokes.
In Mere Christianity C. S. Lewis wrote:
“Chastity is the most unpopular of the Christian virtues. There is no getting away from it: the old Christian rule is, ‘Either marriage, with complete faithfulness to your partner, or else total abstinence.’ Now this is so difficult and so contrary to our instincts, that obviously either Christianity is wrong or our sexual instinct, as it now is, has gone wrong. One or the other. Of course, being a Christian, I think it is the instinct which has gone wrong” (Mere Christianity; p. 90).
One of the reasons the early Church grew the way it did was because of the way Christians lived. They lived differently than everyone else. Chastity was one of those Christian virtues that set the early followers of Jesus apart from the rest of Roman society.
In a world gone wrong when it comes to sex, our way forward as disciples of Jesus is to adopt this same practice. Chastity must once again become a primary virtue for God’s people. The foundation of this crucial virtue is remembering that sex is sacred, but it is not necessary for us to live the abundant life God has for His people.