In a previous post I argued that sex is more significant than our culture thinks it is. Our culture see it simply as an act of physical pleasure. But in fact sex binds us to another in a profound – in a way mirrors the union between Christ and his church
But in other ways sex has become too significant in our culture. It has become a way of salvation.
- Young girls want acceptance and look for it in teenage sex.
- Young men want respect or power and look for it in sexual conquests.
- Single people want fulfilment and look for it in a life partner.
- The middle-aged want life as death approaches and look for it in a younger lover.
- Men want to be adored or to be in control and look for it the fantasy world of porn where every women gives herself to you.
We look for our personal version of salvation in sex or in romance. To be someone, to be whole, to be worthwhile we’re told we need to have sex or we need to have romance. It’s salvation by sex. Sex gives me meaning, respect, belonging, identity. We need someone to cry, ‘Yes, yes, yes, I want you, I desire you, I need you.’
And then the Bible comes along and says: ‘The person who marries his fiancée does well, and the person who doesn’t marry does even better.’ (1 Corinthians 7:38 NLT) It says it’s good not to get married because then you can focus on serving Christ (7:29-34). You can have a complete life, a whole life, a fulfilled life without sex.
I know that sounds unbelievable in our culture. But it was just as revolutionary in Paul’s day. In Paul’s day having a family was everything. Your focus wasn’t personal success, but family honour. So to be unmarried was to be a no-one. You weren’t a man until you get married. A woman without children was considered cursed.
But not for those in Christ. In Christ there is a new creation. A whole new world opens up. In Christ it’s good to get married and it’s good not to get married.
Why? Because sex is not the definition of a good life or a fulfilled life. Think about Jesus. Jesus didn’t get married and didn’t have sex. Was his life a lesser life? Was his life unfulfilled? Was he sub-human? Of course not. Some of you are desperate for a husband or wife or just sex. Maybe you think your life won’t be complete without them. Was the life of Jesus incomplete? Was it empty?
We don’t find salvation in sex because we are made for more. Verses 13-14 say our bodies are made for God and he will raise them up. We’re made for God and we are made for eternity. Our culture has removed God and eternity out of the picture. So what we’re left with is just temporary consciousness. But we still want our lives to matter. So we’re desperate to find someone to whom we matter.
- Christians have hope. Paul can say that life without sex is a good option because Paul has hope. We don’t have to have it all in this life. We have a life to come.
- Christians have God. We’re made for God. Sex can’t deliver. A partner can’t deliver. Not on this scale. Because they can’t substitute for God.
So if you look for sex or romance or even marriage to fulfil you, to complete you, to satisfy you then you will be disappointed. Mr Right always turns out to be Mr Wrong. Men are not God. We’re just rather sad, pompous, lazy, sinful people with bad breath. And sex is never the way it’s portrayed in the movies or in porn. Sex is not God. It can’t deliver what God delivers. It can’t substitute for God.
Don’t get me wrong. Sex does its job beautifully. It binds couples together in life-long union. And it does that job wonderfully. But don’t make sex do a job it’s not designed to do. Sex is very significant, but it’s not that significant – it’s not a substitute for God.
If you think sex or porn will make you accepted or offer a way of escape or make you feel powerful then you’re setting yourself up for slavery. Because they won’t deliver and so you’ll look for more and more and more until you are sucked in and enslaved. Some of you know what I’m talking about.
Or you may think that what you need most is a partner, that getting married is what will satisfy you and make your life complete. The problem is if you don’t get married your life will be self-fulfilling prophecy: you will live an empty and bitter life – when all the time the fulness of God is offered to you.
But thinking marriage or sex matter most not only harms your life if you don’t get married, it also harms your life if you do get married. If you think marriage will make you complete then you’re loading up a set of expectations on your poor spouse that they can never hope to fulfil. They can only disappoint you – no matter how great they are – because you’ve set them up as a God-substitute. It’s not fair. Some of you have problems in your relationships because you expect too much of your partner. If you’re not satisfied single then you won’t be satisfied married because marriage cannot be a substitute for God. Here’s a recent review of a book called Couples: The Truth:
This romantic ideology … is pernicious, cultivating fabulous expectations that can only result in massive disappointment. As other social ties have weakened, marriage has sucked all our wishes into its orbit to the point where it is viewed as a kind of magic, with the quasi-spiritual notion of a ‘soul-mate’. ‘We have been seduced by the fairy tale that we should be able to find everything we need from just one person … You should try to lower your expectations where your loved ones are concerned. Not only are they other than you think they are, but no one could ever be all good …’
True, expect for that last phrase – ‘no-one could ever be all good’. There is someone who is all good, a soul-mate who saves our souls, a loved one who gave everything.
Only by finding completeness in Jesus can you be free to be the husband or wife you should be – truly loving your partner rather than using them for your own fulfilment.
Only by finding completeness in Christ can you be truly satisfied – whether you’re married or single.