Why should Madi Simpson have all the fun?! I loved her article on sex last week, and decided to build on it by discussing another very common and completely understandable reason why people might think Christians don’t like sex: we keep saying not to do it. There’s no getting around that. We do. The question is, why? Do we ask some people to abstain from sex because we think sex is wrong, or is there another reason?
Well, perhaps an analogy might help: imagine you just bought a $300,000 Ferrari. Believe me, there would be plenty of “don’t”! “Don’t crunch the gears.” “Don’t park there.” “Don’t even think of bringing those muddy shoes on my floor.” Now, obviously this isn’t because you think the car is evil or unseemly, but actually because you think it is precious. Well, the same with Christians and sex. That leads to a new question – why is it precious?
The answer is actually tied up in a mysterious word, sacrament. A sacrament is something that is a sign (and a little more), pointing to something greater and more beautiful than itself. Christians have long seen sex as sacramental, pointing to an amazing reality – God’s Triune nature.
A few months ago, Dave Benson wrote a great article for Wondering Fair about the idea of perichoresis, of the Trinity being in a relationship often likened to a dance. This is fine, but we could go further. The constant inter-penetrating relationship of love experienced by the Triune Source, Word and Spirit is of an intensity unparalleled in all of existence. Totally self-giving, totally trusting, ultimately fulfilled, constantly emptied, eternally beautiful. And in an astonishing mystery, God invites us to join in this intense relationship.
Now, before you freak out, I’m not suggesting God is having sex with Himself, or that He’s having sex with us. To think that would be like looking through a telescope the wrong way. What I’m saying is that the act of sex was designed by God to be a symbol, a sign, pointing to this incredible reality of love, intimacy, trust and relationship. It is the small end of the telescope, from which the larger end becomes clearer. A healthy sexual relationship should tell you something about God’s Triune relationship, and His relationship with us.
You see this throughout the Bible: in the creation of man and woman in Genesis 1 and 2, the Bible’s “sealed section” the Song of Songs, and Paul’s description of marriage in Ephesians 5.
So what does it tell you? It tells you the Triune Person/s are/is faithful and trustworthy, and that this allows absolute honesty – a vulnerable nakedness. That God’s love is full of joy, anticipation, fulfilment, passion. That the relationship can become so intense that the separate become one – unioned. So you can’t even tell sometimes whether He’s three Persons or One, or whether a husband and wife and Him, all in relationship, are three or one. Sex is thus designed to be part of the romantic “glue” that unions two people with each other, and with Him. I see that in my relationship with my wife, and while I don’t see other couples having sex, I see the outworking of that “glue” in the way they talk to each other, laugh with each other, raise a family, live out their dreams together. When I’m amazed to see a great and loving marriage, I’m drawn to be amazed at a great and loving God.
That sounds even better than a Ferrari.
I’m going to be cheeky. I am going to do this because I was a student of yours once and I think you’ll take it in the right light and not as a personal comment (and given the crux is purely an assumption of your stance, it truly isn’t intended to be personal).
What if that Ferrari were only driven in the suburbs? You knew how it operated on winding turns and open roads but felt more in control in the inner city under 50 zones. You feel so in control in the suburbs you take it out any time, weather be damned. You don’t want to deal with the risks associated with high performance driving (of course there are risks – wear and tear, extra maintenance, even death or injury). It would take a high level of devotion to develop the skills required to drive such a magnificent machine at speed too.
You’d be missing something though, wouldn’t you?
Sure, if you were devoted to driving it at an optimal time, you couldn’t always take that beautiful car out . You would only use the roads that let it fly. You’d have to be more considered in your use in general. Check the road conditions, check if your skills are up to par. But what reward!
You’d think suburban drivers were nuts!
I’m of course talking about contraceptive use.
I think it’s easy to talk about sex as a sign pointing to the loving exchange of the trinity until you decide someone’s fertility isn’t a part of the exchange.
Cheeky and over-extended use of your analogy over ^-^