This is Part 2 of my talk, ‘What kind of God interferes with my sex life?’ In Part 1, we thought about how God’s design for sex helps us enjoy sex. Here in Part 2, we think about how God’s design for sex helps us enjoy God himself.
Throughout the Bible, God gives us a series of metaphors to describe his relationship with his people. But the most common metaphor is that God is like a husband, and that his people is like his bride. This means that there is much more to sex than meets the eye. It’s not that God wants to have sex with us, but that the exquisite and deeply satisfying intimacy between a husband and wife in sex is a pale shadow of the relationship that God offers with his people.
So often we assume that God – if he’s there – grades us like a teacher. It’s as if he tots up all of the good and bad things we’ve done, and then judges us accordingly. The God of the Bible is beyond our wildest imagination. He comes as a husband to us, and offers us everything.
In the book of Song of Songs in the Bible, there’s a beautiful poem about the romantic relationship between a king and a peasant woman. The king has everything, she has nothing to offer. But when they marry, the woman becomes a princess. She has everything because she is united to the king, and he shares everything with her and experiences intimacy with her.
And that picture is used in the New Testament to describe how God wants to relate to each of us. Through coming in the person of Jesus, God has done everything to relate to us just as we are. Jesus lived the life we should have lived and then died the death that we deserve, so that if we trust him, we can be loved and accepted by God our husband forever.
Do you remember part of the marriage service, “All that I am I give to you, all that I have I share with you”? Being a Christian is placing ourselves in that scene. When we say to Jesus, “All that I am give to you, all I have I share with you”, I’m saying this: “All the times I’ve failed to live rightly, all my lovelessness, all the times I’ve reduced God to a footnote – I place these all in your hands. You take it Jesus and you deal with it, by your cross.” And in return, Jesus says to us, “All that I am I give to you, all that I have I share with you – all my love, all my loving nature, all that you need to be made right with God forever – it’s yours because you are mine.” Jesus is a God who loves us, who comes to us, who woos us, who sweeps us off our feet. He is a God who knows us inside out and yet who has paid the most costly sacrifice so that we might be his forever. Like the language of sex, he says: “All I am, for all of you, always.” He truly is a God worth loving.
In one sense, then, sex within a man and a woman marriage is a parable. Just as a man and a woman are different, so are God and humans. We don’t come to each other in exactly the same way. But as a man and woman open themselves up to another in love and intimacy, these two independent beings open their inmost selves and experience not a loss but a gain. I don’t want to push this too far – but the Bible teaches that this most human act has been given to us to reveal something of the nature of reality and how he wants to relate to us. The more that we experience sex as it was designed to be experienced, the more understand what God is like and how he wants to relate to us. And, of course, the converse is true as well. The Bible’s blueprint excludes sex with a member of the same sex, or with an animal, or by oneself because in doing so we damage our own experiential knowledge of what he is like.
God wants us to enjoy sex within marriage – and the main reason that he wants us to enjoy sex within marriage is because it’s such a powerful illustration of what he’s like and how he wants to relate to us.
And that brings me to my final point. As we consider sex, each of us will be acutely aware of our own failure to live up to God’s beautiful design for sex in some way. At some level, we have all failed. We have all hurt others, disappointed ourselves and rejected God in so many areas of life, including sex. That means that none of us has the right to point the finger, because none of us is the person that we should be.
But that leads us to the great news of Christianity that I’ve already hinted at. Jesus did not come to condemn us, but to save us. John, one of Jesus’ followers, wrote: “If we confess our sins, God is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” Jesus lived and died so that we might be forgiven and enter a marriage-type relationship with God. As he died on the cross, Jesus took the guilt and shame of all our sin. He experienced the shame of every wrong choice and every selfish motive. He took what we deserved, so that we might be accepted by God. Whatever we have done, however we have failed, we can know forgiveness and a completely fresh start. It meant that a woman who had had five husbands and several prostitutes amongst his early followers. And Jesus promises to live with us by his Holy Spirit. We will still know something of the pain of foolish choices in the past, but Jesus helps us even in pain we experience.
To those who have had their heart wooed and won by Jesus, he brings real life. Jesus once said: “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” Following Jesus doesn’t mean missing out on life, it means finding real life. Jesus says that following him will mean dying to our way of living, but discovering his new way of living.
I want to suggest that God is not out to limit our fun, nor that his blueprint for sex is repressive. Rather, in his great love and wisdom, he has revealed himself and shown how this most precious of gifts is best enjoyed. Sex is great, but it is not the most important thing in life. Rather, it points us to the ultimate thing: an intimate relationship of love with God himself. Only in him can we find ultimate joy and satisfaction.