Focus on the Family

God's Design for Sex

by Glenn Stanton

Sex, for good and bad, can be "awe-fully" consequential. As such, it is always provocative and never safe.

When Andy Warhol said, "Sex is the biggest nothing of all time," he was so wrong. Sex is one of the biggest somethings of all time – and for far deeper reasons and in many more fabulous ways than most people appreciate.

For Christians, sex is a big thing because it's a big thing to God.

Those outside the circle of faith often see followers of Christ as we typically see our parents. They couldn't possibly be sexual, save for the few obligatory engagements needed to bring offspring into the world.

But this is a false understanding. Truth be told, parents and Christians have a very vibrant interest in sexuality (except my parents, I'm sure!).

And Christians have a higher view of human sexuality than most people. G. K. Chesterton hinted at this in an odd way when he said, "When once you have got hold of a vulgar joke, you may be certain that you have got hold of a subtle and spiritual idea."1

And Bruce Marshall is even more startling: "The young man who rings the bell at the brothel is unconsciously looking for God."2

What Chesterton, always the provocateur for truth, is trying to have us understand is that human sexuality comes to us from God, and even when it is sadly perverted in vulgar joke, the teller is unwittingly referring to something that is, at its root, remarkably sacred and godly. (And that's exactly why the perversion of it is so wrong.)

Marshall would have us know that even the search for intimacy in the wrong places, in the wrong ways, is intimately about seeking what God made us for. (And that's exactly why it should be sought in the right places in the right ways.) This search drives all of us in many different and powerful ways. Some are simply more aware of what is really behind it.

What these men are saying is that – at its root as God created it – sex is remarkably sacred and ultimately about seeking that which God made us for. We must understand that God's interest in human sexuality is so much more than merely making sure people behave themselves.

God is much more than some supreme Dr. Laura barking out moral directives over a heavenly radio. But it's not confined to only this. His interest is rooted in something much bigger.

God, and those who follow Him, take sex very seriously, and the Christian picture of sexuality is much more serious, vibrant, and well…sexy…than any other view held in the larger culture. As a result, it's far more fulfilling.

While it might seem old-fashioned or passé to people outside the faith, the Christian view of sexuality is actually a very radical one. It's radical because is goes against the culture and holds up human sexuality as nothing less than an icon of the inner life of God. That's far from "nothing."

Before we address this, let's understand that place of sexuality in family life.

1G.K. Chesterton, "The Cockneys and Their Jokes," in All Things Considered (London: Sheed and Ward, 1908), p. 11.
2Bruce Marshall, The World, The Flesh and Father Smith (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1945), p. 108.

Sex: Where It All Starts

Sex is one of the biggest somethings of all time in more fabulous ways than most people appreciate.

by Glenn Stanton

The Gate Leading to the House

Regarding the relationship between sex and the family, allow me the indulgence of quoting Chesterton again:

Sex is an instinct that produces an institution; and it is positive and not negative, noble and not base, creative and not destructive, because it produces this institution. That institution is the family; a small state or commonwealth which has hundreds of aspects, when it is once started, that are not sexual at all. It includes worship, justice, festivity, decoration, instruction, comradeship, repose. Sex is the gate of that house; and romantic and imaginative people naturally like looking through a gateway. But the house is very much larger than the gate. There are indeed a certain number of people who like to hang about the gate and never get any further.1

Sex certainly isn't an end in itself, any more than a gate is an end. It leads us somewhere. Sex ushers us into something grand and glorious, more than we can imagine. Therefore, we need to understand its nature and participate in it as it was meant to be.

C. S. Lewis refers to this when he says, "The monstrosity of sexual intercourse outside of marriage is that those who indulge in it are trying to isolate one kind of union (the sexual) from all the other kinds of union which were intended to go along with it and make up the total union."2

A Christian view of human sexuality is all about context – making sure we don't separate some part of the thing from all the others that are intended to make it a complete thing. The Message, Eugene Peterson's paraphrase of the Bible, states it this way:

There is more to sex than mere skin to skin. Sex is as much spiritual mystery as physical fact. As written in Scripture, "THE TWO SHALL BECOME ONE." ... We must not pursue the kind of sex that avoids commitment and intimacy, leaving us more lonely than ever -- the kind of sex that can never "become one." There is a sense in which sexual sins are different from all others. In sexual sin we violate the sacredness of our own bodies, these bodies that were made for God-given and God-modeled love, for "becoming one" with another. (1 Corinthians 6:16-18)

Again, we accomplish this not by merely understanding how we should act or not act, but how human sexuality reflects the very inner life of God and how it gives Him glory when we live in it as He created it.

What is God's Interest in Sex?

… Adam as man and Eve as woman are uniquely created to show forth the image of God in creation. They reflect it as individuals and they reflect it as complements to one another. This image is one of love, intimacy, creativity, cooperation, beauty, glory, and much more. In Adam and Eve's God-given design, let's observe how their sexuality is a primary part of their being.

What's the first statement God makes to Adam and Eve after their creation? "God blessed them; and God said to them, 'Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth'" (Genesis 1:28).

Think of this in terms of what He doesn't tell them to do. From the start, God doesn't tell Adam and Eve to engage in

Of course, each of these is part of our God-given humanity and part of God's command to "subdue" the earth. Each of these is a part of family life that we should practice and celebrate. But these are not what came first. God blesses man and woman and bids them to be fruitful and multiply—exercising and reveling in their nature as sexual beings. This was the first command for humanity, and Adam and Eve were, no doubt, quite happy to obey. God was pleased also.

Likewise, let's look at the event when Adam and Eve, fresh from the mouth of God, first gaze upon each other. Adam didn't look at Eve and declare his appreciation for her intellectual brilliance, her sensible outlook on life, or her spiritual piety. Not by a long shot!

Adam and Eve first glory in something else, something some Christian theologies have unfortunately and incorrectly thought of as quite base and ungodly. They marvel at each other's bodies—their flesh. When Adam sees Eve for the first time, he proclaims with great excitement, "This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh" (Genesis 2:23, NIV).

He can't help but recognize this aspect of her. God had made Eve beautiful and Adam knew instinctively that this partner was just right for him. Adam was a physical and emotional oddity without Eve, but now it all made sense. Both of them understood the naked truth (sorry!) that Adam was made for Eve and Eve was made for Adam. God revealed it in their flesh, as part of His perfect design.

This helps us understand something very important about Christianity. As C. S. Lewis said, "Christianity is almost the only one of the great religions which thoroughly approves of the body—which believes that matter is good, [where] God Himself once took on a human body."

This gets us back to Chesterton's quip about the vulgar joke. Satan can corrupt sexuality and the flesh and turn it into something ugly. But it is, at its core, something beautiful and godly. Therefore, the flesh is spiritual and we should appreciate and cherish it under the lordship of Christ.

1G.K. Chesterton, G.K.’s Weekly, 29 January 1928.
2C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, (New York: Macmillan, 1960), p. 96.

Sex as a Picture of the Inner Life of God

God creates man and woman as reflections of the image of the Trinity.

by Glenn Stanton

When God said, "Let us make man in our image, in our likeness (NIV)," and then created Adam and Eve and bid them to be sexually fruitful, it tells us something important about who God is.

I don't want to draw too sharp a comparison here, because the persons of the Trinity don't have physical bodies as we do and therefore don't manifest their love for one another as humans do. But notice the close connection in the tight space of two short verses (Genesis 1:27-28) of God's desire that we reflect the image and likeness of the Trinity and how God directs Adam and Eve first to commune with each other as sexual creatures.

We can't overlook the significance of this: God creates man and woman as reflections of the image of the Trinity and the first command is to engage in the sexual embrace.

This means that when a man and woman come together in marital sexual intimacy, somehow—mystically—they mirror the wonder, beauty, and creative power of God like no other part of creation. Again, this is far from "nothing."

As poet-farmer Wendell Berry explains, "The sexuality of community life…is centered on marriage, which joins two living souls as closely as, in this world, they can be joined."

He continues, "This joining of two who know, love, and trust one another brings them in the same breath in the freedom of sexual consent and into the fullest earthly realization of the image of God. From their joining, other living souls come into being, and with them great responsibilities that are unending, fearful, and joyful."1

Beautiful! This is the glory of family life.

Linger on how great this reality is. When Jackie and I find a quiet moment from our little ones, and we're not too exhausted (Jackie often wonders if that is possible for me), and we come together in that time of special communion, it's remarkable to think of what image we're reflecting. It can be overwhelming. No other faith has such a powerful and dynamic view of sexuality.

How Do We Love God in Our Sex Lives?

For Christians, single or married, this is one of the most important questions we can ask, because our sexuality is so central to who we are.

It always made me laugh inside when I was a teenager and church leaders would talk to us about sexual health and encourage us not to be sexually active until we were married.

Of course, this was smart and godly advice. But I found it funny because, even though I had never been intimate with a girl and didn't plan to be until I married, I was a healthy teenage boy. I was so hugely active sexually—on the inside, even if there was no external expression.

Things were churning in me like a volcano. I had to govern my feelings and desires constantly. I had to keep my mind from wandering where it shouldn't. I had to be careful how I related with girls and of the images I saw in magazines and on television. Mentally, I was very sexually active. And my sexual, physical, and spiritual health demanded this deliberate, internal discipline to ensure that my outward behavior was in line with what God desired for me.

What I'm saying is that we have to see "sexual activity" as so much more that just "doing it." It involves how we appreciate and live out our own God-entrusted sexuality. We are all sexual beings.

I can see this in my preschool-age children. They've already come to a place where they're instinctively shy about family members seeing them naked. When they go from their baths to their bedrooms, they're sure to wear a towel or dash as fast as they can and try to cover themselves by putting one hand in back and one hand in front of them in a futile attempt to keep anyone from seeing their bums. They've become aware, all by themselves, that certain parts of their bodies should be kept private. This is healthy, age-appropriate sexual activity.

So, not only married people should be concerned about loving God in their sex lives. We all have an awareness of our sexuality and how we express it. It's part of our thought life, the way we dress, the ways we interact with boys and girls in our youth and men and women when we're older. It's even a part of how we view and interact with God.

How do we love God in our sex lives? We love God in our sex lives by making sure they reflect the nature and qualities of the relationship shared by the Trinity, the image we and our sex lives were created to reflect. This requires that we understand some primary characteristics and qualities of the Trinity.

1Wendell Berry, Sex Economy, Freedom, and Community (New York: Pantheon Books, 1993) pp. 138-139.

The Sexual-Spiritual Union of a Man and Woman

A good marriage is a mystery on many different levels.

by Rob Jackson

Marriages suffer from many wounds: power struggles, abusive situations, emotional distance, selfishness, immaturity, and addictions are some of the more easily identifiable aspects of a wounded relationship. Many marriages, however (even the seemingly healthy ones), often suffer from something far less easily recognized: a profound ignorance of the very nature of marriage itself. That is, couples understand neither what marriage truly is nor what it represents eternally. Without this deeper, intrinsic understanding of the marital union, these relationships labor under low standards and mistaken expectations.

A good marriage is a mystery on many different levels. The Apostle Paul writes of the profound nature of marriage in Ephesians 5. In verse 32, Paul wraps up his treatment of marriage by writing, "This is a profound mystery – but I am talking about Christ and the church."

What he means to tell us about this profound mystery is that our marriages are icons of the sacred union between Christ and the church.

This truly is a mystery and you might be having a hard time comprehending what it means. For starters, Paul's analogy is a means of teaching men how to be a type of Christ and women how to be a type of the Church. Husbands are taught by the Greatest Lover how to live sacrificially toward their wives. Wives are inspired by God's love to yield themselves in safety, treasured by both the One they await and the one who holds them in this life.

As we anticipate Christ's return – the marriage that will end all marriages – the spiritual romance between Christ and the Church is our best source of inspiration for a great marriage here.

Here's an especially comforting aspect of this truth. Even though our earthly marriage ends when death parts us, since we are also brother and sister, our spiritual union will not only continue in heaven, but will be perfect and complete.

But this idea also changes how we look at the here and now. The next time you're frustrated with your spouse, ask yourself, "Am I more focused with our temporal (earthly) marriage or our forever relationship?" How would things change if you were treating each other like a brother or sister in Christ instead of "the old ball and chain?" That may be a humorous stereotype, but it also begs the question: "Could or should things be different between me and my spouse?"

Let's look at what this marriage analogy means on every level. Each of us – male and female – are created with a trinity of our own—like our Creator. Our trinity consists of three levels: body, mind, and spirit. Our relationship to Christ informs each level, making us not only more like Him, but more like the spouse we were created to be. Of course, a damaged or distant relationship with Jesus also informs how each of these aspects operates.

The next time you're frustrated with your spouse, ask yourself, "Am I more focused with our temporal (earthly) marriage or our forever relationship?"

Often the physical part of us, including our behaviors, is the place we start our evaluation for the simple reason that it's the part that "shows." Like an iceberg with most of its bulk underwater, the tip is the part that first tells us it's there. This physical part, our body, is what Christ called His temple. The physical union of our bodies was planned to be a picture of the joy we will have when finally joined with Christ at his return, our spiritual marriage. This is not to say our union with Christ will be sexual, but that our earthly expressions of sexuality in marriage are the closest approximation to the unity, joy, and pleasurable fulfillment we will experience in heaven.

But, other, immediate applications include being a good steward of our temple as an act of gratitude and obedience. This spiritual/physical discipline will certainly build the enjoyment of our sexual relationship with our spouse.

Now let's dive underwater and look at the bigger parts of us we can't see. Our minds are constantly thinking, feeling, analyzing information, and experiencing deep emotions. Christ says to renew our minds, which is a big process, constantly taking place as new and old thoughts and feelings collide and come to the surface.

When two people are tending to this chore in their own minds, it can be the difference between a marriage that thrives and one that flounders. Specific to our sexual union, two renewed minds lead to thoughtful, sensitive lovers, who are more likely to find sexual fulfillment rather than just going through the motions.

If we really get down to the unseen bulk of who we are we find the spirit. Even now, this part of our being is most like God. Here is our core, the very essence of who we are and who we're becoming. This part influences and directs our minds and bodies. How much more, then, do we need to nurture and maintain ourselves at this level than any other? And how much better lovers will we be if our spirits make us pure, loving, and trustworthy? These qualities would bless our sexual union at the deepest level possible.

Most people reading this article likely haven't ever given thought of their marriages (or future marriages) as a model of the inner love of the Trinity. Words like faithfulness, sacrifice, and service take on a new and powerful meaning in our relationships when we begin to realize this is precisely how God loves us.

Despite any past mistakes or wounds, our marriages have the potential to become what they were intended to be. Jumpstarting this transformation process requires realizing what we were intended to experience and then reforming where we have failed to match up. The Old Testament book of Ecclesiastes provides a timeless picture of marriage. Here we see two designed to function as one – with the help of God working behind it all.

Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work: If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up! Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken. – Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

What's Good About Sex?

Sex clubs, Internet porn, AIDS . . . with so much bad news, it’s easy to forget what God intended sex to be.

by J. Budziszewski

Is sex bad? A case could be made for that view.

Not quite what my generation expected when it invented the sexual revolution.

Although still not quite willing to give up that enslaving liberation, feminist writers like Naomi Wolf and Katie Roiphe exhibit signs of fatigue and confusion. A few secular people toy with the idea of abstinence—an abstinence not so much of purity as of boredom, fear, and disgust. In Hollywood, of all places, it has even become fashionable to talk up Buddhism, a weary doctrine that finds the cure of suffering in the cessation of desire, and the cure of desire in the cessation of existence.

What's more, some Christian writers give the impression they hold the same dismal view. Overwhelmed by the sheer number of things to warn about, they have forgotten how to do anything but scold.

Maybe the sexual revolution was an even grimmer joke than we thought. Maybe there is nothing good about sex. Maybe sex is just plain bad.

A Gift of God

What's wrong with this picture? Although there is plenty of bad in the contemporary sexual scene, it's clear that we're forgetting something. The only way to get something bad is to take something good and spoil it. Whenever you find a bad thing, look for a good thing somewhere in the ruins.

The idea that sex is inherently bad doesn't come from the Bible. It comes from ancient gnosticism, which taught that the Creator wasn't God, but a lesser being who made a botch of things. Gnostics thought spirits good, bodies bad, and sex just a matter of bodies.

But the Bible calls God the Creator. He invented sex; it was His idea. And let's not forget that after He finished His work, He called the whole creation "good." Dazzled by His handiwork, Christianity espouses a higher view of sex than any other religion. That's why it also has the strictest rules about it. Anything so important has to be handled carefully.

So what's good about sex? Sex serves not just one great good but three. However, they need marriage to come into their own.

First among the goods of conjugal sex is procreation. God told Adam and Eve to "be fruitful and multiply." This was part of their dominion of the earth.

Second is union. When Adam was lonely, God didn't give him a man, an animal, or a crowd of people, but a woman—different than he, yet made with him in God's image. When Adam first gazed upon his new companion, he was so astonished that he cried, "This at last is bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh."

The third good of conjugal sex becomes real only when the spouses are united to Christ, for that is when they become a living emblem of His sacrificial love for the Church and the Church's adoring response. Paul is so awed that he calls matrimony one of God's secrets. "This mystery is a profound one," he says, "and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the Church."

These three goods are the point of sex. They are what sex is for.

What about pleasure? I hear you ask. Has Christianity got something against that? No, pleasure is great. God is for it. But by His design, pleasure is a byproduct—an outgrowth of other things that are more important.

If you pursue pleasure for its own sake, two things happen. First, it disappears. Philosophers call this the "hedonistic paradox." Second, it steers you wrong, because pleasure can result from doing wrong as well as doing right.

Three Great Goods

Let's talk about each of the three great goods of conjugal sex in turn.

Procreation. In procreation we cooperate with God, offering our bodies, marriages, and homes as the occasions for His creation of new life. This is an incredible privilege. It is even more mind-boggling to consider that the birth of a child is the birth of an image of God who will live forever, who will one day be older than the sun and stars are now.

Procreation isn't just about your kids. Once grown, the kids will have kids, remember? How we parent will affect the parenting values of our offspring.

Union. Love isn't just romantic feelings. Love is a commitment of the will to the true good of the other person. Otherwise, how could a bride and groom promise to love each other? You can't promise to have a feeling.

If love is a commitment of the will, then what has sex got to do with it? Consider procreation again. Do you see how different—how special—it is? In every other biological function, such as eating, digesting and growing, the man and woman are separate organisms. For procreation, they join to become a single unit, functioning in covenantal harmony. Conjugal union is a true merging. They become a one-flesh unity—and I'm not just talking about their bodies.

When I say that I'm not just talking about their bodies, I mean that at every level, male and female were designed to complete each other. In sexual self-giving, the hearts and minds and spirits of the husband and wife cooperate with their bodies. They are united not just in their bodily dimension, but in every dimension.

This unity also helps prepare them to be parents, and the hope of children joins them in solidarity with every past and future generation.

Casual sex can't achieve that. It endlessly joins and severs, joins and severs. Imagine what it would be like to repeatedly tear off and reattach your arm. There would come a day when no earthly surgery would suffice; the reparative power of your body would be lost. It is the same when you repeatedly tear off and reattach your various sexual partners. Eventually they will all seem like strangers; you just won't feel anything. You will have destroyed your capacity for intimacy.

Mystery. Think again of Paul's words regarding the union of husband and wife: "This mystery is a profound one, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the Church." What was he talking about? So far in salvation history, we have only hints; we won't know the whole until it happens.

Think of the Song of Songs, of the Old Testament love poem that begins, "Kiss me with kisses of your mouth." Many readers are mystified as to how it got into the sacred Scriptures, but the ancient rabbis had an explanation. They said it not only portrayed the love between husband and the wife, but symbolized the love between God and His people. Shocking! Yet the New Testament speaks in the same way. The Revelation of John foretells the coming "marriage of the Lamb"—a future union between Christ and His Church, more intimate than anything we have known, not to be consummated until He comes again.

In some way that passes our present understanding, and for all its present flaws, conjugal intimacy is a symbol of that piercing heavenly intimacy. The little humilities and the mutual sacrifices of the husband and wife are a training for heavenly union; the awe of their wedding night and the ecstasy of their embraces, a glimpse of it.

So is there any good in sex? In marriage, yes! God the Giver has made conjugal union the vaulted arch into two great goods, and the mysterious emblem of an even greater good—a good in this life we cannot comprehend. That's why we dare not uproot sex from marriage, the garden where God has planted it. Too much good is at stake to treat it lightly; too much power and danger to waste it on selfish games.

From the best gifts come the worst miseries, if we are too foolish to follow the Giver's directions.

How We Dishonor God in Our Sex Lives

We dishonor God when we fail to mirror the Trinitarian reality and beauty in our relationships.

by Glenn Stanton

We can dishonor God in our sex lives just as we can dishonor Him in any other area of our lives. We dishonor Him when we serve ourselves. We dishonor God in our sex lives when we fail to mirror the Trinitarian reality and beauty in our relationships.

God's instructions for our sexual lives serve Him by bringing Him glory when we obey them, and they also benefit us. God's rules are not limiting prohibitions, but rather ennobling, enriching guidelines.

As theologian George Weigel explains, when we view God's directives for our sexuality this way, "the first moral question shifts from 'What am I forbidden to do?' to 'How do I live a life of sexual love that conforms to my dignity as a human person?'"1

This explains why Christian prohibitions against certain sexual practices aren't based on reactive moralism in an effort to keep us from having fun. Quite the opposite! They're based on how we can flourish in our God-given humanity and how we best reflect the image of God in us.

As reflections of the nature and qualities of the Trinity, our sex lives should be shaped by the qualities of the Trinity. Three primary principles apply to all of us and, if we keep these in mind, they'll guide us in a life that is pleasing to God and beneficial to our families and ourselves.

We May Never Use Another Person as an Object, Sexual or Otherwise

The members of the Trinity never relate to each other as objects, to be used for their own good. They relate to each other in love, seeking to serve the goodness and glory of the other. Love is a self-donation. It never uses others as things or an end.

When we use others, we diminish their dignity as well as out own. Animals do this. People shouldn't, because it's not what we were created for. It's not what sex was created for. This is why pornography, masturbation, and rape fall outside of God's intentions for us.

Pornography dehumanizes sexuality and depersonalizes people by turning the viewer into a taker and the one viewed into an object. The danger is that we start to see others in our lives the same way we see the object in the magazine, movie, or website: as a nobody, a thing that exists for our pleasure.

It also dehumanizes the user because we are made for intimacy with the other sex and intimacy can't occur with illusionary images. It should take place with another person—a spouse.

Similarly, sex is much more than mere physical stimulation. God created it to be a very intimate communion between two people.

Therefore masturbation, like pornography, is incomplete because it doesn't involve the communion of two self-giving people, one to another. It's sex for one and isn't God's ideal for us; it's merely taking from one's self and doesn't mirror the nature of the Trinity.

No member of the Trinity turns in on Himself in any manner.2 Their relational expression is always to the others. Remember, God said it was not good for man (or woman) to be alone, and in sexualized form, that's what masturbation is.

Rape isn't about sex, but about control and domination. It's about taking by violence. It's always wrong because it's the complete opposite of what love is. It's one of the most egregious violations of the Trinitarian ideal and, therefore, of human dignity.

The Monstrosity of Premarital and Extramarital Sex

The human sexual embrace, this most intimate and ultimate of all human giving and vulnerability, ought to take place in a union of total and permanent surrender of two people. That's what marriage is: both the public and personal dedication of a man and woman to forsake all others and give themselves fully—body, mind, and spirit—to another.

Therefore, to give someone

is to isolate one kind of union, the physical, "from all the other types of unions which were intended to go along with it and make up the total union, C.S. Lewis said.3 That's why sex outside marriage is a monstrosity. Extramarital sex dissects us at our deepest level, giving out one part of us without giving all the rest intended to go with it. It's not what we're made for.

Where did we ever get the idea that we can separate our bodies from our minds and spirits and that our bodies could do whatever they like without consequence for the rest of our being? This is why the sexual revolution has been such a dehumanizing failure, diminishing our God-given humanity in painful ways.

Theologian Karl Barth expressed this well when he declared, "Coitus without coexistence is demonic."4 We can't connect ourselves with someone sexually without connecting all the rest of our being.

Wendell Berry laments, "Because of our determination to separate sex from the practice of love in marriage and in family…our public sexual morality is confused, sentimental, bitter, complexly destructive, and hypocritical."5

Only the sexual embrace within marriage mirrors the nature of the Trinitarian relationship in creation. In the ideal, it's loving, permanent, exclusive, and self-giving. Premarital and extramarital sex can't mirror this reality. This is why it's not surprising research shows that faithfully married people enjoy the deepest levels of sexual satisfaction.

The Challenge of Homosexuality

Male and female are not cultural constructs but God-created parts of humanity made for each other to show forth the image of God in the world. Remember Genesis 1:27: "God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them."

Male and female, together, are the fullest picture of the image of God in creation. That's why they need each other. Adam wasn't complete without Eve.

In everyday terms, this means that only the difference and the complementary interplay of male and female uniquely reflect the image and likeness of the persons of the Trinity in creation. As a result, sexual love between a married man and woman is a life-giving act of mutual giving and receiving that mirrors the Trinity like nothing else on earth.

Homosexuality denies this and falsely states that differences in male and female don't really matter. Nothing could be further from the truth. Homosexuality violates the Trinitarian image of complementarity in a profound way.

All sexual sin is wrong because it fails to mirror the Trinitarian image, but homosexuality does more than fail. It's a particularly evil lie of Satan because he knows that it overthrows the very image of the Trinitarian God in creation, revealed in the union of male and female.

This is why this issue has become such a flashpoint. It will become even more contentious because nothing else challenges this image of the Triune God so profoundly and thoroughly as homosexuality. It's not what we were made for.

We love God in our sex lives by living in the fullness of what He intends for us. This has both positive and negative aspects.

Positively, we're to live fully as the sexual beings God has created us to be. He wants that for us because we mystically show forth a primary part of the nature of God.

But He doesn't give us an unqualified green light. There are stoplights and caution lights we need to pay attention to as described previously. These are not given because God is a killjoy, but for just the opposite: He wants our relationships to mirror His image and likeness. He knows this is best for us, for it's how we're created and what will bring us joy.

1George Weigel, The Truth of Catholicism: Ten Controversies Explored (New York: Cliff Street Books, 2001) pp. 104-105.
2God is the only One for whom it is permissible, and even necessary, to be self-absorbed because He is the proper focus of the whole universe. But because the Christian God exists in Trinity He is not narcissistic. While He is self-focused, each member is focused on the other members, marking a God who simultaneously reflects both a proper self-centeredness and an other-centeredness.
3C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, (New York: Macmillan, 1960), p. 96.
4Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics, vol. ¾ (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1961), p. 133.
5Wendell Berry, Sex Economy, Freedom, and Community (New York: Pantheon Books, 1993) p. 140.

The Glorious Story of Sexuality

Christians have a far more beautiful story to tell about the glorious nature of human sexuality than most imagine.

by Glenn Stanton

Christians have a far more beautiful story to tell about the glorious nature of human sexuality than any other story occupying the cultural stage now or ever. None of the rivals are even close.

The Christian story of sexuality is true to the fullness in which God made us as humans and true to the nature of what is ultimately behind everything in the universe: God, who is love and who dwells in loving intimacy. We shouldn't be shy about telling it with the power and beauty of our lives.

Loving Christ in your sex life means being pure. It means being chaste. Purity is so much more than what you don't do. It's who you are. Both purity and chastity are positive virtues and not merely an absence of wrong behavior. Pope John Paul II describes chastity very nicely in one of his pastoral letters:

The chaste person is not self-centered, not involved in selfish relationships with other people. Chastity makes the personality harmonious. It matures it and fills it with inner peace. This purity of mind and body helps develop true self-respect and at the same time makes one capable of respecting others, because it makes one see in them persons to reverence, insofar as they are created in the image of God and through grace are children of God, re-created by Christ who "called you out of darkness into His marvelous light" (1 Peter 2:9).1

To love God in our sex lives means to be pure in the fullness of the person God created us to be—physically, emotionally, intellectually, and spiritually. To do so is to live in wholeness.

1Pope John Paul II, The Truth and Meaning of Human Sexuality: Guidelines for Education Within the Family (Boston: Pauline Books & Media, 1996), p. 20.

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