We often use the phrase “God’s design for healthy sexuality,” but this isn’t much more than a soundbite if we don’t take time to unpack and examine it.
For many, sexuality is a means of getting something from others, be it pleasure, power, domination, humiliation, comfort, relief of boredom, closeness. The desire may even be good in its own right, such as intimacy and union. Yet, because the intention is to take from another, the sexual interaction functions more like a transaction and people become objects to be manipulated for personal reward. In extreme cases, such as prostitution and human trafficking, people are seen as sexual objects to be bought, sold, used and discarded.
The Christian vision understands “God’s design for healthy sexuality” as a means by which people serve one another by making themselves a gift for another. Sex is not something they merely take from another but something they offer to and receive from another in pure self-gift. The example of Christ and the whole counsel of Scripture shows that the love of God is one of divine giving, a self-pouring out that enriches, enlivens and creates new life.
One helpful formulation describes four qualities of divine love — free, total, faithful and fruitful. Empowered by the indwelling Holy Spirit, we can begin to model our intimate relationships on this divine love.
Another key distinction between the Christian vision and pornographic sexuality that dominates much of the western world is understanding our connection with the divine. Many of the sex-crazed media stars would have us believe that we are gods and we are most holy in the moment of sexual climax.
This worship at the altar of sex is not new, however. Sex cults were present before the Israelites left Egypt. God specifically warned them against worshiping these gods. The Christian vision understands that we are not gods, nor is sex a thing to be worshiped. Rather, marital sexual intimacy is an icon of a much deeper, soul-satisfying love awaiting us in heaven. Through our imperfect earthly unions, God has given us a glimpse of the perfect eternal union of love that exists from all time between Father, Son and Spirit and which we will experience when we are raised into the newness of life eternal.
C.S Lewis speaks of this heavenly longing in Mere Christianity:
“If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world. If none of my earthly pleasures satisfy it, that does not prove the universe is a fraud. Probably earthly pleasures were never meant to satisfy it, but only to arouse it, to suggest the real thing. If that is so, I must take care, on the one hand, never to despise, or be unthankful for, these earthly blessings, and on the other, never to mistake them for the something else of which they are only a kind of copy, or echo, or mirage. I must keep alive in myself the desire for my true country, which I shall not find till after death; I must never let it get snowed under or turned aside; I must make it the main object of life to press on to that other country and to help others do the same.”
Lewis reminds us that sexuality and spirituality are intimately linked. We cannot be sexually mature without being spiritually mature.