Made for something more

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.

Copyright © 2013, Daniel Weiss. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

Sex and global evangelism?

Recently, I was talking to a friend about the ongoing challenge ministries have in raising money. She also runs a non-profit organization and knows these difficulties well. As we talked, she thought of one donor she knew whose emphasis is on global evangelism. Trying to connect us, she asked, “Do you think your work on sexual brokenness is a doorway to evangelism?”

This is a great question and my answer is a resounding “YES.” The more I do this work, the more clearly I see how our bodies and souls are intricately linked. We are spiritual, sexual and relational beings down to our very core. We read in Genesis that God created us in His image and likeness, “male and female He created them.” The progressive world is desperate to eliminate the unique and complementary qualities of men and women, but Christians teach that these serve as signs pointing us to the love of God.

But how?

The answer is found in that Creation passage in which we learn that God created men and women in His image and likeness. While we can’t reason our way back to God based on human experience, we do see consistency between the mutual love of a man and women and that expressed by God throughout the Bible. We first notice this in the very nature of God Himself. We profess our faith in the one God who eternally exists in three persons: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. The Father is not the Son is not the Holy Spirit.

These Trinitarian Persons are intimately linked to one another in love and essence and yet are distinct, each keeping His own qualities. For humans, the unity in diversity is best captured by Jesus when he explains the foundational relationship between men and women in Matthew 19: “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. So they are no longer two but one flesh.”

The man and woman are still distinct persons, but within the intimate communion of marriage, they are also something greater than they are alone. Further, in the intimate marital embrace, they are able to receive the blessing of fertility, which brings forth new life. This also is a characteristic of God’s creating and redeeming love.

This isn’t just my take. The Bible consistently puts forward marital love as a picture or a sign of God’s love for His people. Throughout the Old Testament God calls Himself the Bridegroom and Israel His wandering bride. Jesus also refers to himself as the bridegroom several times in the Gospels. The Apostle John gives us a glimpse of the splendor at the end of all time, which is a wedding feast between Christ and His bride, the Church.

If you’ll notice, all this talk about men and women, marriage and sexuality, wasn’t so much about actions as it was about identity. To be male or female and made in the image and likeness of God is to realize the deepest truth of who we are. How we act in life always flows from who we are, or, perhaps more accurately, who we believe ourselves to be.

Going back to the original question, our culture’s unreasonable move to a genderless society will have tragic spiritual implications. Apart from the public safety aspects of joint bathrooms and shower rooms, our dismantling of male-female marriage as an elevated cultural norm brings with it the destruction of one of the most significant earthly signs pointing us to the love of God.

The goal of evangelism is the proclamation of the redemption found only in Jesus Christ and his work that restores us to right relationship with God and others. If you have a heart for global or local missions, you could hardly do more important work than to remind people of their God-given identity as a man or woman in Christ. And, as we survey the culture around us, we know the truth of Jesus’ words in Matthew 9:37-38, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”