Not so long ago, I read Dale Carnegie’s book “How to Win Friends and Influence People”. In one of the marriage chapters, he advised that you should “read a good book on the sexual side of marriage.” I was taken aback by by an author from eighty years ago making frank statements about the importance of the sex life in marriage. This was meaningful to me because I have been dissatisfied with the triteness of many Christian teachings on the subject; really a lot of hollow-sounding moral statements, with nothing substantial enough to empower the good behavior being demanded. I also think that married couples generally don’t consciously give sex enough credit for gluing their marriage together when they talk about the subject, eschewing testimonies of emotional abundance in favor of talk about self-sacrifice and hard work. These have their place, for sure, but shoulds and should-nots are not enough to lean on.
Most everybody learns what sex means to the body in Junior High health class, but what does it mean to the soul (that is, the mind, will, and emotions)? One thing that cripples Christian teachings on sex, (I mean, other than a lack of integrity) is the contradiction between insisting upon precepts that are spiritually sourced, while not being very proficient at giving a comprehensive explanation of the spiritual meaning.
At this point I want to clarify that I am not meaning to be contentious or accusatory. My bigger thought here is that a relevant and effective church will increasingly experience a call to intelligently teach norms that would’ve just been assumed in previous generations.
It is from a place of abundance, a place of victory, that you fight and win… not from a place of ‘shoulds’ and ‘should-nots.’ I’m going to use porn as an example. There are so many good reasons, moral, spiritual, and practical, to quit porn. But how about this one: sex matters. The physical act itself matters. In my mind, the most motivational reasons to quit porn have to do with the abundance that a porn habit denies you. I read a quote once that “Porn isn’t a problem because it shows you too much, but because it shows you too little.” Look, porn matters because sex matters.
Growing up with Christian cultural influences, I always heard that you were supposed to wait to have sex until you were married. The more I got to thinking about it, the more I realized the weakness of how that argument was being presented. Partially, I got to thinking about the legitimacy of what we call marriage, and thought, “Why is the act of two people standing and saying words in front of a legally recognized official, why is that the thing that makes sexual activity legitimate or not?” It straight up didn’t make sense. But like so many other traditions, in order to make them make sense, we’ve got to back up to a time when the tradition had contemporary relevance. It used to be that the consummation of the marriage was much more integrated with the wedding itself, which, when this was pointed out to me, I realized that sex is not for marriage, it IS marriage. If you have sex with somebody, you have married them. That’s why I say sex matters. Your body matters. Your desire, your pleasure, has meaning. Spiritual truths are as real as you live them to be. Believing that you matter, that your mind matters, that your body matters, goes a long way toward making spiritual truths real in the flesh.