Where did we go wrong with Sex?
Where did we go wrong with Sex?
That we live in a sex-obsessed culture is no secret. We are surrounded by it. Companies thrive on sexual ads to sell their products. The internet is filled with every kind of sexual deviance. Clothing (or lack thereof) reflects it. Movies and shows, music and books, and every other type of known media fills our heads with the thoughts of sex. Young people are taught from a very young age about sex, then are given the encouragement from our public education system and our government to engage in it. They’ll pass out condoms to make sure that the kids will have “safe sex,” and if an “accident” happens, girls are given access to abortion, even without parental consent, so that the consequences of their sexual activity are minimized. Kids are taught to experiment, to get in touch with their own “sexual orientation.” Gay sex is promoted as good, while opposition to it is seen as a great evil in our modern era. After all, what’s the harm? People should be able to pursue what they wish in this regards, right?
Yet, our culture doesn’t quite know what to do with sexual deviancies. While promoting sex in all kinds of ways, culture has an abundance of problems, including rape and child abuse, that are also indicative of sexual obsessions. We promote sex in every possible way, then cannot figure out why there are so many problems associated with sexual issues.
Where did we go wrong?
In order to help answer that question, we need to ask, “What is the purpose of sex?” The biblical answer to this question begins in Genesis 1-2. God made male and female, brought them together, and said, “For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh” (vs. 24). God also intended that this union would bring about children (1:28). We have, then, two clearly stated purposes for the sexual relationship:
1. To establish the “one flesh” union between husband and wife.
2. To procreate — children should be seen as the fruit of this union.
Sexual union is not to be taken lightly. It is not something for a brief “hook up.” It is not to be trivialized by easy, selfish gratification. It is a holy union meant for the husband and wife to establish and maintain a most intimate bond with each other. “Marriage is to be held in honor among all, and the marriage bed is to be undefiled; for fornicators and adulterers God will judge” (Heb 13:4).
Aren’t we missing something, though? What about the pleasure of sex? Good question, and one that we must acknowledge and understand.
Sex is a pleasure. God made it that way.
That union between husband and wife, and sometimes resulting in the fruit of children, is given by God as something that unites, bears fruit, and is indeed pleasurable. Failure to recognize this joyful aspect of sex as legitimate and wonderful has also led to sexual deviance. Some have grown up learning that sex is dirty and bad — have it only when you must, but don’t really enjoy it. This mentality rips the joy from the one flesh union of husband and wife, and it fails miserably in understanding God’s great gift for marriage. It can also lead people starved for this joy to seek out the forbidden.
Just read the Song of Solomon wherein the Lord teaches us to enjoy sexual intimacy. The pleasure and joy of such intimacy is undeniable and God-given. God intends for there to be mutual joy and satisfaction. Severe problems for both marriage and culture can result when this is not properly understood.
However, and this is very important to understanding where our culture has missed it, pleasure is not in itself the purpose of sex. Rather, pleasure is the God-given by-product of sex. I came across an article that made this very point regarding sexual activity:
“Pleasure is a result of their use, but it’s not the purpose of their use. The purposes can tell you which kinds of sexual activity are good and which aren’t; by itself, pleasure can’t. The inbuilt purpose of the sexual powers is to bond a man with a woman and the other is to have and raise children.”
The article hits on the idea expressed above about the purpose of sex being 1) union of male and female in marriage, and 2) procreation. This is not a denial of the pleasure of sex. The point is that the purpose of sex is not pleasure in and of itself. Instead, pleasure is the by-product of sexual union.
Now I believe that this can help us answer where we have gone wrong with sex. In some ways, our culture war can be seen in the pitting of true purposes over against selfish pleasures. What our culture has done is swapped proper purpose for selfish gratification. We’ve exchanged the purpose for the by-product. Lust zeroes in on the pleasure and forgets the purpose. Rather than seeing the purpose of sex as first expressing a union between husband and wife, we have turned it into an exercise of selfishness just because we want the feelings associated with it. If the primary purpose of sex is pleasure, then whatever gives us sexual pleasure must be okay. Gay sex is fine because it captures the pleasure. Pornography is okay because it gives us the pleasure. Pre-marital and extra-marital sexual activities are good because they fit within the context of pleasure. We have a right to our pleasures, we think, and so putting borders around that will be seen as too moralistic and restrictive. Whatever is deemed pleasurable is good, rather than seeing the purposes as defining the good and the pleasure as the legitimate by-product of the goodness.
We went wrong with sex in the same way that we have gone with our own purpose for living. We see happiness as a purpose rather than as a by-product of doing what is right, so we pursue “happiness” in ways that give no thought to what is actually good and right. Whatever we think makes us happy should be on the table instead of recognizing that true and lasting happiness comes as a by-product of doing what is right. Likewise, we see immediate pleasure and gratification as the purpose of sex rather than the by-product of a giving, loving, God-given one-flesh relationship between husband and wife.
Further, the cultural efforts to expunge God from our thinking only deepen the problems. If there is no God, or at least if God has little to do with our morals, then the purpose of sex is whatever we want it to be. Sex, then, really has no particular purpose other to find pleasure and gratification. Marriage is irrelevant for sex. Children are fine when wanted, but abortion is always an option, so we can keep having our sex without the consequences being too significant. The door is open for every form deviance and evil. Without understanding sexual purpose, sex becomes a tool for personal and selfish desires, regardless of how these pleasures are achieved. In other words, we went wrong because we became “lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God” (2 Tim 3:4).
What is the answer to the problem? Once again, God provides the solution, if only we will seek to love Him first. Christ can redeem us from the selfishness that surrounds our thinking. The marriage bed is undefiled. In marriage, sex is good and godly. It expresses that one flesh relationship as a reflection of God’s glory. It provides a safe and holy environment from which children may be born and raised. And yes, it is one of the great joys and pleasures of life. It just needs to be kept in its proper place.
We went wrong with sex because we have taken one of the greatest treasures given by God and turned it into our own selfish playground. It’s time to honor marriage once again. It’s time that husbands and wives intentionally join as a one-flesh relationship reflecting God’s image, honoring Him and gratefully enjoying His gifts. It’s time that children are seen as the beautiful fruit of a God-given union, the blessing of the womb. It’s time that we teach our children and youth that the purpose of sex is to be found in marriage, not in selfish gratification. Then the blessing of sexual intimacy will be redeemed, understood for the good that it is, and thus serve to strengthen marriage and help culture realize that the pursuit of selfish desires is empty and destructive.