Marriage Tuesday

Marriage Tuesday 2i’ve been sitting here for quite a while, trying to figure out how to start writing this post. after preaching a sermon this past sunday where jesus says, “he who is sinless, cast the first stone”, i am pausing just little before i wind up and throw a heater.

*pause*

i just heard…again…about another church pastor that is throwing down another 30-day sex challenge. that’s where couples are challenged, i.e., told, to have sex with each other every day for a month. this commitment will apparently strengthen the marriage bond, increase intimacy, and flood the front doors of the church with new men (and women?) who will say, “swwweeeeet! this is the church i’ve been looking for!”

i’ve written something like this a few years ago, but it needs to be restated. this time with even more conviction. there are churches all over this country that are using sex to sell. and they just need to stop it.

no more titillating billboards. no more “safe” christian sexual innuendo. no more “teaser” postcards sent to random homes of people who already have church families. no more pastors who climb up on the tops of their church buildings to hop in bed with their wives for the cameras of the nightly news to catch. no more.

here’s a snippet of something i wrote a couple of years ago in response to a similar bonehead church promotion:

for all of the studies and insight we have into the depth and complexities of male-female relationships, you would think pastors, of all people, would show some sensitivity to the fact that we are all different…and we all function different in our relationships. it appears, on the most basic levels, that women might have slightly different needs than men…and most men might have some different needs than women. and each might have a different path to sexual and emotional fulfillment than the other. not to mention, that women are different from other women…and not all men have just one thing on their minds(with all due respect to the crap that dr. laura spewed a few years back).

and i am more angry about it now than i was back then. you can read the whole post here.

and as if i needed even more fuel to pour on the fire, i read an article by a woman today that crushed me. this is a must-read for every couple. if you are a woman who reads my blog, you need to make your husband sit down and read what she wrote.

here is a link to the article: “the sexy wife i can’t be”

…and make sure you read some of the many comments. they’re amazing.

you will not look at sex the same.

Marriage Tuesday

i had a conversation with a friend today about the whole sex-before-marriage topic.  it’s got me thinking.

i hate saying this, but the whole idea of saving sex for marriage isn’t very popular these days.  if the stats are to be believed, the majority of 17 year olds have already had sex.  i don’t need a survey to convince me of that.  i used to be a youth minister, remember?

in the early 1980’s, i had a twelve year-old girl in my middle school group get pregnant.

most college campus surveys say the number of college students who are sexually active is up around 80%.  wow.  i’m guessing most of them have moved on from the “save yourself for marriage” dialogue.  maybe a long time ago.

we have heard for years that the conventional wisdom of “test driving the car before you buy it” is the best way to take the risk out of getting married.

girls are taught, at an early age, that they can manipulate guys with their bodies.  guys learn that status among other guys is established by talking of sexual exploits in the locker room.

sexual relationships have been defined on television and in the movies for multiple generations of young people… many without the active involvement or directions of parents or significant adult mentors.

many just don’t care what people think…what parents think…what god thinks.  they are simply going to do what they want to do.  sexually.  relationally.  spiritually.   i don’t need no stinking bible…

so does that mean we should just chalk the abstinence mandate up to outdated religious rule-keeping of decades gone by?  should we throw up our hands in defeat to the culture war we have appeared to have lost?

no.

but we ought to start rethinking our approach.

telling a young person they should wait until they’re married to have sex is going to be greeted with a huge “why?”  do you have a good answer?  do you have confidence in your ability to step a young person through both the bible and science, to arrive at an abstinence conclusion?

here’s a speed bump on the path to marriage bed sanctity:  our traditional bible values-based beliefs about sex and marriage are not as clear as we have been led to believe.  don’t get me wrong.  i know they are there.  it’s just that they are not as clear and matter-of-fact as i was told as a young man in my home and church.

honestly, i think our beliefs about marriage and divorce and sexual expression are more a reflection of traditional american values (with a nod to our european roots) than they are from our solid exegesis of god’s word.

and that troubles me.

we are quick to blame cultural influences and the liberal sociopolitical forces that have taken our country hostage, for the dismantling of all we hold dear.   shame on us.  instead of looking out the window,  we should be looking in the mirror.

are you as faithful and skilled with the handling of god’s word as you are at analyzing and critiquing what’s wrong with our world?  if not, maybe it’s time to shift your emphasis.   we say we believe the bible.  we say the bible teaches certain values and practices (like sexual abstinence and marriage faithfulness), but do you really know how to walk another person from intellectual darkness to the spiritual light of god’s unfiltered revelation?

then get busy.

Marriage Tuesday

this is not the first time you’ve heard of something like this.   sadly,  it won’t be the last.   a  kansas city newspaper is reporting about what’s going on at a church in the area:

KANSAS CITY, Missouri – A Johnson County pastor wants local couples to show more love this Valentine’s season.

Pastor Timmy Gibson of Mercy Church, in Prairie Village, issued his annual “Hanky Panky Challenge” for the month of February.

Gibson is challenging all married couples to have sex every day in honor of Valentine’s Day.

The pastor believes this will help create more intimacy in the relationship.

This is the sixth year the pastor has created this challenge to the public.

really?   this.   again?

at the risk of a major TMI…and a loud,  resounding “ewwww” from my son,  corey…i’m going to state what should be obvious to everyone who knows us:  wanda and i still have sex.   i state this simply for credibility.   we are no prudes.   everything still works the way god intended.   sex is still,  as it always has been,  a really fun part of our relationship.   wanda is still blushing…

so don’t misunderstand what i’m going to say.

i’m really tired of pastors and churches doing these 28-day sex challenges  (or seven days or whatever…).   here’s why:

first,  it smells like marketing.   it smells like a cheap way to get some press for their churches.   everybody knows that sex sells.   look,   i’m not against marketing.   i’m still trying to get nike to sponsor north point.   (they sponsor everybody else…and i think a nike swoosh would look totally sweet in the NP lobby…).   no,  what bugs me is that pastors are setting up couples…especially wives…for failure,  at the expense of hip promo.

second,  why do we never hear women leaders calling for the same challenge?   this just seems like another way for men to exert their power and influence over women.   and since we all know that the pastor “dudes” are the anointed spokesmen for god,  who are we to challenge this sanctified message from the almighty for more sex?

third,  for all of the studies and insight we have into the depth and complexities of male-female relationships,  you would think pastors,  of all people,  would show some sensitivity to the fact that we are all different…and we all function different in our relationships.   it appears,  on the most basic levels, that women might have slightly different needs than men…and most men might have some different needs than women.   and each might have a different path to sexual and emotional fulfillment than the other.   not to mention,  that women are different from other women…and not all men have just one thing on their minds (with all due respect to the crap that dr. laura spewed a few years back).

finally,  here’s what i think about the intimacy thing.   are these people idiots,  or what?   you don’t have sex to create intimacy. sex is a by-product of healthy intimacy.   intimacy is about talking and listening.   it’s about soul connection.   it’s about serving and laughing and dreaming and forgiving and understanding.   intimacy happens in the intellect…in our emotions…in our spirits…long before it can ever happen physically.   if its real intimacy.

maybe our marriages would be a whole lot better off if we would make…and keep…a  challenge to have deep and meaningful conversation…not sex…every day for 28 days.

i think i’m going to call fox news…

Marriage Tuesday

read this passage carefully:

Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral.    Hebrews 13:4

the exact occasion of this writing is unknown.   some think it was written in opposition to the prevailing idea in the culture that marriage was not that big of a deal…that celibacy was actually a far better state of existence.

although celibacy is an honorable state as well (more on that in weeks to come),  this passage is totally and completely clear:  honor marriage.   it is good.   it is the plan that god designed for a man and woman to live out romantic love and commitment.

there is no other.   there is no better.

what does it mean to keep the marriage bed pure? the actual word for pure is undefiled. it means to keep something free from that which would deform or corrupt its original nature or intent…or impair its intended purpose.   (sheesh…that’s a mouthful.   are you impressed?)

the author follows that command by saying that two groups of people are guilty of defiling the marriage bed…the adulterer and the sexually immoral.    so without getting all theological,  i think this simply means that whenever sex is happening in any way other than honorable marriage between a husband and wife (sex before marriage…sex outside of marriage…sex with anybody or anything other than your husband or your wife),  it is dishonorable and not what god has intended.   period.

when the marriage bed is defiled,  the marriage is deformed.   the union is changed from its original intent.   what was designed to be honorable and blessed by god is put in a precarious position of  being impaired and subject to judgment.  in other words,  it is never going to work right.

that’s why adultery damages so deeply.   that’s why sex before marriage (even by two unmarried people who love each other deeply)  will never have the capacity to fulfill us and bring health and wholeness to our souls the way marriage can.

so take care of the marriage bed,  for crying out loud!


Marriage Tuesday

back to the no-sex-before-marriage issue…

in response to last week’s marriage post, my friend scott made the following comment:

Can you address prominent Biblical figures who had multiple wives, or wives along with concubines, etc.? The kind of marital sanctity that I had always had faith in is something I’m starting to believe less and less, at least the way it has always been professed to me. The idea of two becoming one flesh (as far as your definition of it goes) seemed to be a foreign concept to many that we read about in our Bible (King David, a man after God’s own heart, or Solomon, the one whom God chose to build His earthly house). I’ve always wanted to believe that sex before marriage was wrong, and a part of me still holds on to that belief, but I’ve read no passage in the Bible that people like to claim addresses sex before marriage that can’t be questioned in some way or another.

well said.   here’s my best answer:

i have read the same bible and i, like scott, cannot find any passages that specifically speak of sex outside of marriage that cannot be questioned or possibly have alternative interpretations. we are reading a book that speaks of life and culture and values over the span of  thousands of years!

although i believe that the bible is god’s revealed standard for all behavior, i also recognize that it is possible to miss the point or make it say something that is not necessarily there.

god’s word tells the story of real people.   people like us.   just because there are records of polygamy,  misogyny, rape, incest, adultery and host of other sexual escapades by people whom god used in mighty ways to shape culture and communicate god’s purposes,  it never means that god is somehow condoning it!

sin is sin.   and the fact that the stories of prominent and influential characters in god’s great screenplay continue to show up as fallible and weak human beings does not give us permission to act like they did…rather, it constantly points us to our need,  as fallible and weak human beings,  for a savior!

the sins of our fathers are what lead us into the realm of grace.

to me,  the spirit and context of marriage is clearly painted in the bible…right from the beginning.   from the nature of “covenant relationship”…the exclusive and jealous union between a husband and wife,  or the powerful relationship that god had with the nation of israel,  or the act of baptism where the individual is united with christ and pledging loyalty above anyone else…we learn about the heart of marriage.

the harmony of the sacredness of marriage is seen in both the old and new testaments.   though not as black and white as we like to see our laws,  make no mistake…sex is for marriage:

For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh. The man and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.   Genesis 2: 24-25

“Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator `made them male and female,’  and said, `For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’ ?  So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.”   Matthew 19: 4-6

Do you not know that he who unites himself with a prostitute is one with her in body? For it is said, “The two will become one flesh.”   1 Corinthians 6:16

it seems clear to me.   marriage is the act of becoming one flesh. unity.   exclusivity.   no longer two, but one.   never to be separated.   a new and permanent entity.   the act of having sex with a prostitute (and i would infer that it would be true of anyone else) is the act of becoming one with her body…becoming one flesh.

the question is how many people can a person become one flesh with…in god’s economy?   becoming one is designed to be done…once. that’s how we have been wired from the beginning…from the point of creation.   anything that ventures away from that plan is a perversion of god’s intention.

so why do we tell young people to wait for marriage to have sex?   because you are only designed to do this once…with one person…in your life.   so wait to be sure.   wait until you have prepared.   wait until the pledge is made and covenant is signed and the promise is sure.   before that is consummated, there are no guarantees.

the fact that bible characters broke rank from god’s plan doesn’t change the plan.   the fact that marriage seems to be continually redefined by culture does not change the plan.   the fact that everybody’s doing it does not change the plan.

so what do you think?

Marriage Tuesday

back to the discussion of why it’s so important to save sex for marriage…

truth is, there are different kinds of pre-marital sex.

there’s sex between a man and woman who are in love with each other and see no need to have a formal, legal document to prove their love for each other.

there’s sex between a man and a woman who have no real love for each other and profess no lasting commitment.   it’s simply recreational sex…for a variety of reasons.

there’s sex between men and women (usually younger) who intend to marry in the future, but currently see themselves as married in the eyes of god…and therefore place no limits on their sexual expression.

at times, pre-marital sex is expected…coherced…demanded…casual…deceptive…obliged.   guys often do it for completely different reasons than women.   it has been said that a guy will express love to get sex…and a girls will give sex, hoping to receive love.   i’ve seen that reality many, many times in my years of youth ministry.

for many…certainly most people in our society…the idea of saving sex for marriage is an antiquated and pointless maxim.   it was something that people back in the dark ages valued,  but far from the reality of modern and post-modern thinkers.

marriage?   even the most liberal and free-thinking of people can see value in the institution.   financial.   child raising.   security.   legal promise keeping.   but the only place a person can have sex?   you gotta be kidding!

the past couple of weeks, we have looked at some specifics in the bible for the prohibition of sex outside of marriage.   not the logic behind it,  but simply the command.   i want to start looking at the logic behind the standard.   here’s the first one:

wanda and i didn’t have sexual intercourse before we got married.   we both believed that was something that was saved for the wedding night.   i am unbelievably grateful that no other man has ever been with wanda.   i am the only one.   i’m sure she feels the same way about me.

but it goes deeper than that.

other women (girls) will be other men’s wives someday.   i can’t imagine the devastation of  stealing that intimacy from another marriage…that unique and irreplaceable mystery from another couple.   there is honor in protecting the sacredness of someone else’s future.

i’m glad no one stole it from wanda.   i’m equally glad i never stole anyone else’s.   the sexual relationship wanda and i   have is ours…completely, totally, unfiltered, pure, clean, holy, fun, sacred, unique, exclusive, respected, esteemed, cherished, one-of-a-kind, distinctive, and anything but typical.   it can never be duplicated.   no one can imitate it.   there are no outside expectations or comparisons.   no history.  no baggage.   only what we have created on our own.   a complete original.

honestly, who wouldn’t want that?   who wouldn’t say that was worth waiting for?   who wouldn’t want that for their own son or daughter?    oh yeah.   there is deep logic behind god’s laws.

some would say… “what’s the big deal?  it’s only sex!   if god created it and it’s so good, why do we need to hold back?   why do we need to limit it to only one person for our whole lives?”

we’ll look at that piece of lunacy next week.

* i am equally grateful that god gives unlimited grace and forgiveness to all of us who fall short of god’s expectations every day of our lives

Marriage Tuesday

i asked the question a couple of weeks ago.

why…in god’s economy…is sexual intimacy reserved exclusively for a man and a woman who are married to each other?

have you ever really thought about it?   have you ever considered the logic behind god’s plan?   have you ever tried to explain it to someone?

figured i would tackle the sex-is-only-for-married-people issue over a few tuesdays.   good for me.  maybe good for you, too.

here’s an insight into the issue from the apostle paul:

The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body…Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ himself? Shall I then take the members of Christ and unite them with a prostitute? Never!

Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body.   Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own;  you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.

1 Corinthians 6:13, 15, 18-20  NIV

there’s a pretty powerful word that appears twice in this passage.   both times it is translated sexual immorality. in the original language of the new testament, the root word is “porneia”…where we get our word, pornography.

in the first century,  it was the word used to describe every kind of sexual relationship outside of marriage…adultery, pre-marital sex, sex with animals, sexual excess and indulgence, homosexuality, prostitution, incest, perversions and any unnatural sex.   wow.

older versions of the bible translated the word as fornication. now that’s an ugly word.

i realize that sex between un-married, consenting individuals  (who may or may not have a deep love and commitment to each other) is not necessarily ugly. in fact, it may even be wonderfully sensual and fulfilling…physcial ecstasy…and offering no apparent harm to either party.   love might even be present.

but here’s the deal:  the bible still calls it sin.

paul says that when we participate in sexual relationships or experiences outside of marriage (by definition),  we are hurting ourselves.   it is a sin against our own bodies.   something is violated.   sacred ground is being invaded.   our bodies are where the holy spirit resides.   and his home is where holiness exists.   or, at least, it should.

as followers of christ,  we are not our own.   we’ve been bought.   we belong to christ.

so what makes sex outside of marriage sinful?   why is it such a bad thing?

next week, friends.