This past week we began our new Bible study series on the subject of “Sexuality: God’s Idea and God’s gift”. The series has been motivated by the apparent void of good teaching in this area (how many talks have you heard on this and how many Bible studies have you been involved with?) If I am honest I could probably count the number I have heard or been involved in on one hand. When I looked for material upon which to base these studies it was not easy to find. Secondly there is a motivation born out of the reality of the world we live in; the statistics applicable to young adults (18-29) are quite staggering. Can this really be true?
A recent study reveals that 88% of unmarried young adults (ages 18-29) are having sex. The same study, conducted by The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, reveals the number doesn’t drop much among Christians. Of those surveyed who self-identify as “evangelical,” 80% say they have had sex. The media’s marketing of sex, the cultural endorsement of the “do what feels good” mentality, the prevalence of pornography and the widespread misunderstanding of sex that prompts people to chase after love and acceptance in unhealthy physical relationships are all factors that make it difficult to practice chastity. The reality is chastity is not the norm. And such a discipline is certainly not easy.” Relevant Magazine, ‘The Secret Sexual Revolution’, 20 Feb 2012
So here we are at the beginning of what is hopefully going to be a very intense and challenging series of studies. If the origins of our sexuality truely belong with God (which I believe they do) then we need to let scripture speak into this area of our lives. Too much of what we think and believe about our sexuality comes actually from society around us rather than from God. Our intention therefore is to focus on what the Bible has to say about a range of issues linked to the topic of sexuality which we are going to define as:
“Sexuality is the deep desire that drives us beyond ourselves in an attempt to connect with, to understand, that which is other than ourselves. Essentially, it is a longing to know and be known by other people (on physical, emotional, psychological, and spiritual levels). Spirituality is a vast longing that drives us beyond ourselves in an attempt to connect with, to prove, and to understand our world. Beyond that, it is the inner compulsion to connect with the ‘Eternal Other’ that is God. Essentially, it is a longing to know and be known by God (on physical, emotional, psychological, and spiritual levels).” Alan & Debra Hirsch, Untamed, pg. 213
Where else could we start except for Genesis 1-3. This I would argue is the key passage on sexuality throughout the Bible and so we will come back to this again as the crucial foundation upon which we will base everything that follows. Indeed both Jesus and Paul quote from this passage (Gen 2:24 is quoted in Mark 10, Matt 19, 1 Cor 6 and Eph 5). We can trace God’s design for sex within marriage as defined in Genesis right through the Bible. Later in the studies we will talk about some of the ‘misuses of our sexuality’; the Bible has much to say about these ‘misuses’ but once again the key passage is actually here in Genesis. The key issue we are going to consider throughout is how the uses/misuses of our sexuality fit with God’s design.
Genesis teaches us that God has made all of us as sexual beings; “So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them” (Gen 1:27). To help us think about what it means to be made in God’s image we might consider 4 words beginning with the letter ‘R’. Firstly we are rational; God made us to think, to reason and talk together. Secondly there is a certain real-ness; we were made to feel and experience emotions. In the garden God says that it is not good for the man to be alone (v18) and then after God makes woman we’re told that they felt no shame.Then thirdly there is responsibility, God gave Adam and Eve a role to play and he gave them the ability to make moral choices. God made both Adam and Eve responsible for stewarding the creation. Finally we are relational, God made us for intimacy with Him and with one another. We’re told in Genesis 3 that God was walking in the garden.
These things are really significant and they set us apart from the animals. We are part of God’s good creation and God Himself declared that everything that He made was very good. So what we have seen then is that sexuality is about more than just sex; it is about how we connected with others and with God. Part of embracing our sexuality is about connecting at a deep level with others, through our everyday relationships with others. Let me ask you how you are doing at connecting deeply with others? How are the relationships where you interact with people deeply? This is significant because Laurence Koo (Homosexuality and Following Jesus) argues that our lack of connectedness (on emotional, social, spiritual & physical levels) is one of the key causes of the misuse of our sexuality.
While everything God made was good including our sexuality; there is none-the-less an impact of the fall. We are still made in God’s image but it is a marred image. Let’s take those 4 ‘R’ words again we can see how the fall has impacted upon each one. Firstly we see that our rationality became a ‘darkened understanding’, knowing good and evil and Adam & Eve were aware of their nakedness. Then under Realness there are the emotions which have become negative and there is the temptation to hide from God. Thirdly we see that Adam & Eve are found to be shifting blame rather than taking responsibility. Finally that relational dimension led to a sense of shame before one another and vulnerability before God. The shameless nakedness of Genesis 2:25 is replaced by shame, a desire to cover up and the temptation to hide from God because of the new found consciousness of guilt, a nakedness of the soul. God’s curse on the woman in Gen 3:16 brings a further consequence of judgement; that her desire will be for her husband and he will rule over her (note that this is more like comfort, protect, care and love than a tyrannical submission). The battle of the sexes commenced and has been raging ever since.
There is so much more in these chapters that we have not even touched on; the question of hierarchy of the sexes, the ideas of the sexuality as wholeness, creative complementarity and the purpose of sex to name but a few.
To sum up our thoughts here we would have to say that God made sex and sexuality and it is very good. God made sex for marriage and He made marriage for life. Yet the consequence of the fall included a distortion of God’s good gift of sexuality. How can we embrace God’s gift according to God’s design to enjoy it in the way that He intended? This question and others like it are the questions that we will consider over the coming weeks.