By Matt W. Sandford, LMHC
How many of you have bought into it; that is, what the media represents sex to be? You know, they portray sex to be a wildly exciting and fun activity that you can do with anyone and that the more you do it the more exciting and fun it is. And, after that opening sentence, if you now expect that I am about to lecture you about the evils of sex, then I’ve got you right where I want you! Because remember – I’ve got a secret. And that secret is not that sex is evil or that everyone who is enjoying it needs to Stop Right Now!
Sex isn’t bad or sinful. The problem isn’t that the media and the culture have made sex so prominent. The problem is that the media and the culture don’t know what sex is about and so they misrepresent its essence. And when you don’t understand the essence of a thing, like say using a fire hydrant to take a shower, then you undermine its value and you lose out on the blessing. You see, what I am saying is not that the culture loves sex too much; it loves sex too little. And when you don’t really understand and love something, then you take it for granted and use it in disparaging ways.
Unfortunately, most of those reading this are folks who have been highly influenced by this very culture. And so I recognize that it will be quite difficult to convince you that sex can be more than what you now think and what you now generally experience. But some secrets aren’t meant to be kept.
I want to help you get back a sense of the essence of sex. Ready?
To begin, we’ll never get down to the essence of sex from simply our own human point of view. From our point of view, sex is pleasurable (for most men and a good number of women at least, generally so), sex is the method of procreation and, well, that’s about it, without getting into moral conceptions concerning the boundaries of sex. But those are not defining the essence or purpose of sex. But the only one who can enlighten us about the purpose and design of something would be the designer. In this case, that would be God.
Oddly, even thought the culture or segments of it, want to represent Christianity and the Bible as being anti-sex, you only have to go a couple chapters in to get your first presentation of sex, starting with Adam and Eve. From the story line you get the notion that they were both naked around each other. And God doesn’t give them skins to cover themselves until after they feel ashamed of their nakedness. Also, take note that the first sin is not related to sex, but about disobeying God, which was also not about sex. It also talks about them walking with God in the garden. By the way, can you imagine taking a leisurely walk with God, while you are naked?
So, God presents the first woman to the first man. And they are designed just as we are (or that is, us like them). And so they had hormones and sexual desire and all that. Yes, they are told to procreate. And that is an element of the essence of sex. It is a process that is meant to result in the blessing of children. This is not a small element either. It is significant. It is the vehicle by which human men and women bond and build a family. By the way, what I just said is really different than producing a child, isn’t it? There are lots of people having sex that results in children, but that does not result in the building of a family. That’s the first way in which we miss out on the essence of sex. Sex that does not bond and build a family is falling short of its essence and is less valuable and less satisfying than it could be. But I’m going to piece that together with what follows, so hang with me.
As much as sex was designed with this process of family making, in terms of procreation, that is not all sex was designed for, as maybe it was viewed in the Victorian Era. God designed sex to be very sensuously exciting and pleasing. But again, if culture then takes that and determines that self gratification is the purpose and design of sex, it will mislead the people and undermine something designed for more. It’s kind of like taking a gold bar and using it as a cutting board. Yeah, you can use it that way, but you aren’t getting out of it what you could.
Let me just point out that for all the prestige that sex gets in the media and in our minds nowadays, that there really are more problems and issues with sex than are represented. If you believed movies and TV, everyone is just having the time of their lives. But, oh my, is reality something that is grossly under-acknowledged. Statistics say 43% of women and 31% of men are suffering from some kind of sexual dysfunction, as reported on WebMD and other sites. But of course these numbers are likely to be low because they are based on people’s reports, meaning only those willing to report it. A Fox news article from last year offered that the number may be closer to 60% (it wasn’t clear if it was referring to one gender or both). My point is that, for all the glamorization of sex in our culture, the reality in a high percentage of people’s lives is a far different story.
And, issues with sexual dysfunction doesn’t even come close to the full impact once you include the relational and emotional elements of sex. Movies and TV represent some aspects of these, in terms of stories of rejection, manipulation, break ups, mocking, cheating on someone, rape, and such, but these often turn out “nice” in the end, because, well, it’s a movie. However, the disastrous effects of the ways that people hurt others with sex are so ubiquitous that likely everyone reading has suffered from it directly or at least has learned of it from someone you know.
The bedroom seems more to be a breaker than a builder of families in our current times. But it doesn’t have to continue to be so. When you understand the essence of sex, you can experience the blessing that God designed.
First of all, God said engaging in sex is designed for a special kind of relationship. This relationship is unique among human relationships. It is not a friendship, nor is it a working relationship or a contract agreement. It is the way that humans will build families with people that are not their family, the making of a new family. This concept was a big deal to God, because it represents to humans that he wants to make a new family from folks that are not a family as well: the family of God. You see, we are born biologically into an earthly family, but we are “born again” into God’s family through Christ. And this is why the Bible talks about Jesus being married to the church, in I Corinthians 5:31-32. “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.” So, God is in the business of bonding people together in love and in making families. And it is called marriage.
You see, when someone puts their trust in Jesus they come into the family of God. And we are united with Christ as he gives us the Holy Spirit to live in us. “But he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him.” I Corinthians 6:17. The amazing reality is that there is something similar that happens between human men and women when they have intercourse with each other. That is why the former passage in I Corinthians refers to a “profound mystery” about marriage; that sexual union is not just a biological act, but also a spiritual one. That is the essence of sex!
Maybe that seems all heady and academic and theoretical to you. I get that. So, let me help to make it practical. First, how do these concepts lead to better sex? I believe that when you understand better the essence of sex you will approach it differently. You will reevaluate the messages from the culture that say, get it anywhere, get it as much as you can, focus on your own satisfaction. You’ll be able to be discerning, and you’ll reject those messages. You will see that that is not how you will find fulfillment or build anything of value with someone else. And you will then consider how God’s spirit lives in you and that God loves to give and bless. And so you’ll come to embrace that you are meant to give of yourself and bless someone else. And you will connect those dots and see that just as sex represents our union with God, that you can make sex about blessing someone else through your bond with them. You’ll be less preoccupied or worried about your own pleasure or performance, and you’ll seek to express your care to this other person. And along with that, guys especially, will find themselves coming to understand their wives better and will see that sex is in many respects the expression of a healthy and whole relationship and so they will work at listening better and being sensitive and patient in the rest of their relationship. And women in particular will come to understand their husbands better, and so they will seek to be more supportive and work to be more understanding of their husband’s insecurities and work through the areas they are judgmental about. In these ways, couples will communicate with more honesty, including their issues and needs concerning sex.
The second way that I can make this practical is to address the whole sex outside of marriage issue. It’s clear, isn’t it, that God designed sex for marriage. But I hope you can see now that God isn’t keeping sex from you because he is a prude. That’s not it at all! Rather, the issue is that God wants you to have sex, but in the way that he designed it. And if you don’t, he knows that it won’t go well for you and for others. God actually wants your best! I realize that putting that out there opens up a whole series of challenges for the single or divorced person. And I’m not insensitive to those. But that will have to be addressed at another time.
The secret is out! I feel relieved. You know, it’s hard to hold secrets in.
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Matt Sandford is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor and has been counseling for 8 years. Previously he worked in student ministry for 14 years, including two years in China. He has been married for 21 years and he and his wife are raising twins.