In the Louvre a few years back I saw a bizarre sight, a girl with a digital SLR camera, she was taking selfies! Amongst all the art and sculptures, she only had eyes for herself. Shocking!
Augustine and Martin Luther both talked about sin in terms of the mind curved in on itself as selfishness.
Sex can become enslaving,: when it is used for selfish ends, when it all becomes about me, my needs, my desires, my fulfilment and in fact that’s the issue throughout our series with money, sex and power.
BUT what if we were to turn the camera outward again to change our focus and perspective. Sex is meant to be something good, beautiful, beneficial. If it’s a good gift from God then it’s meant to be something that glorifies him. Christopher Ash subtitled his book on marriage “sex in the service of God.” We nearly used that title for this talk but thought that might be a bit controversial without explanation.
So let’s have a look at what we mean by all this.
Read Song of Songs 2:1-7
What is sex meant to be like?
We chose our Bible reading from Song of Songs, some of the language can sound quite explicit to the modern ear. And yes the language is vivid, intimate, sensual even (you will get a feel for it as you read). However, also be careful and don’t try to read it with a 21st century psychoanalytical mind set as some have done with crude results. Remember that the imagery, metaphors and similes are meant to link to imagery and symbolism that people in bible times would have understood.
The book picks up the stories of two lovers (one is thought by many to be King Solomon himself) our aim here is not to analyse the words in detail but to pick up the flavour of things. In fact flavour is something picked up in our reading.
“his fruit is sweet to the taste” 2:3
“strengthen me with raisens, refresh me with apples” (v5)
- There’s attraction, desire and longing here
“Like a lilly among the thorns is my darling” (2:2)
“My lover is like a gazelle” (2:9)
“Let me hear your voice for your voice is sweet and your face is lovely ” (2:14)
“How beautiful you are my darling” (4:1)
- There’s physical and emotional intimacy
“Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth –for your love is more delightful than wine.” (1:2)
“His left arm is under my head and his right arm embraces me.” (2:6)
- The relationship is the place of safety and security
“His banner over me is love” (2:4)
Ch 5 describes a time of vulnerability in the relationship which leads to the woman being threatened by others, roughed up and abused by the watchmen of the city. This is challenging to read and pushes us to ask, does this describe our relationships?
However, it is also encouraging to read because this rich, intimate, poetic and practical stuff is part of the Bible! If the church has treated sex as taboo, dirty and sinful, then the church has got it wrong. The church has not been Biblical.
But we need to look at another question
2. What is sex for?
Note two recurring themes
“Do not arouse or awaken love until it so desires” -2:7; 3:5
“on the day of his wedding his heart rejoiced” (3:11) & “my bride” 4:8; 5:1
Sex is something for marriage. But we need to be careful about this. Sometimes we say something like “sex is a good gift but it belongs in the context of marriage” and that’s not a bad start but it’s not quite right. It can leave the impression that Marriage is the hoop you jump through to get to the good stuff and that leaves us with some problems
- We don’t know what to do with people who are not married –whether by choice or circumstances
- It leaves us vulnerable to the “try before you buy”argument. If it is all about the sex then you should at least make sure you are compatible
- It leaves us struggling to handle situations where married couples are finding sex difficult, painful, not physically possible
- We can end up giving in to the message of our culture that it’s all about sex and that sex and sexuality define us and our relationships
So let’s be clearer about what we mean. It’s not that sex is a good gift and that marriage is the place to enjoy it. It’s that marriage is a good gift and sex is something that is part and parcel of that because it serves two purposes
In Genesis 1 & 2 we are told how God made man and woman. Ch 1 is top level and tells how God blesses them and tells them to be fruitful
In Genesis 2 the detail is filled in. God first makes man and gives him a place to live an d work to do. He then says that it is not good for the man to be alone –he needs a helper who will compliment him. And that’s all to do with his role and responsibilities –to worship God, obey him and enjoy his creation, to work and labour and to be fruitful and multiply.
And sex is to do with that. It’s about bringing the close intimacy of partnership and providing for children. These are part of the good gift of marriage.
This means that sex is good –it’s from God. It’s not to be downplayed. But nor is it to become this idol put on a pedestal, the thing we all must have and by which we are all judged, whether in the overt and crude way that the world judges, or in the more subtle judgements you get in churches.
Remember we are called to glorify God and enjoy him forever and that means enjoying the good gifts he gives to us.
Remember to make sure the camera is pointed outwards, our enjoyment of God’s goodness is not to be curved in for our own selfish needs.