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A Celebration of Sex
By Douglas E. Rosenau
Thomas NelsonCopyright © 2002 Douglas E. Rosenau
All right reserved.
Chapter OneA Biblical Celebration
Isn't it fascinating that making love reached its peak expression in the Garden of Eden with Adam and Eve before the Fall? That is still the model for the twenty-first century. And in this chapter we'll develop a theology of sexuality from Genesis on. Since the Fall, sex has been in a downhill spiral of immaturity and distortion. As Christians, we have a responsibility to redeem and reclaim God's wonderful gift of sexual union as we experience making love in its Garden-of-Eden fullness: naked and unashamed.
Genesis 1:27 states, "So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them" (NKJV). Wow! God's image is reflected in both maleness and femaleness and the way they interrelate. As we better understand the Creator of man and woman and the interaction of the Trinity, we gain an intimate glance into the nature of gender and sexuality: differences and similarities within a complementary partnership and the needs for intimate relationship, excitement, and nurturing procreation and recreation. God wanted to reveal Himself and the value He places on intimate loving relationships, so He created sexuality.
In exploring these concepts, we must be careful not to anthropomorphize God. (Anthropomorphize is a five-syllable word that simply means "to make human.") We as human beings are limited to our experiences, and they do not give us enough vocabulary and concepts to truly understand God. We as Christians should also be careful not to keep God so far away from sexuality and marriage that we lose our Creator's insights into the importance of gender and becoming one flesh.
We can gain helpful understanding of gender differences by observing the different relational qualities of the persons of God. God the Father is an excellent model for the male role. God wanted to be respected by and to be a loving Father to the Israelites as He led and provided. God the Son is an excellent model for the female role. Jesus said He wanted to protect and nurture "as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings" (Matt. 23:37 NIV). At Lazarus's death, Jesus wept and showed His emotions (John 11:35). Jesus gave us insights into femininity with His enjoyment of nurturing, intimate relating, and maternal protectiveness of people important to Him. He appreciated the nourishing wholeness of valuing emotions and disclosing Himself within intimate friendships, embodying the concept of femaleness He created.
Another fascinating aspect in God's creation is that there is as much similarity in two-gender humanness as there is in the three-person Godhead. Males and females have more common emotions, needs, and attributes than they have differences. Each human being contains aspects of both genders. Carl Jung called these two principles anima and animus. I, Doug, am male but also have a female side to me that I can acknowledge and maximize. I can be a mother hen as I hover protectively; I will sometimes gently hold someone's hand as we cry together. Each of us, whether male or female, has both genders' traits interacting in us in a way that brings a richness to personality and meaning to relationships, along with an awareness and appreciation of difference.
This idea of course leads into perplexing speculation about what exactly are the differences between maleness and femaleness, between husband and wife. The physical differences are readily apparent. There are other God-created differences, but it is easy to confuse them with prejudice, stereotypes, and power struggles. This is not God's design, for in Christ men and women are different but equal (Gal. 3:28; Col. 3:5–13).
We need to understand that some of these differences are not God-given distinctions but learned behaviors. For example, you have probably heard the saying that "men give affection to get sex and women give sex to get affection." This is not part of God's gender and sexual design. As a society, we have squelched female sexuality while allowing males to diminish the importance of emotions and intimate relating. These attitudes and actions should be disputed and changed by Christians.
We cannot deny that there are definite differences, and we can learn from each other as we incorporate the best of both gender worlds. What if men are more sexually immediate and women do value romance more? What if men do want challenge and adventure and women do desire security? Then our goal should be to combine the best of both genders, with men becoming more sensually romantic and women more assertively sexual.
Some gender differences will always be a mystery, much as is the image of our wonderfully complex God. However, recognizing basic differences is important because these differences directly affect your understanding and ability to please your mate, create an intimate marriage, and be a great lover. Here are some common generalizations. They may or may not apply to your situation, so be careful not to panic because your spouse does not conform to the universal concepts of masculinity and femininity. Most people blend characteristics from both lists.
God stated in the beginning of creation, "It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him" (Gen. 2:18 NKJV). Not only did God create the genders, but He designed a special, unique mating relationship. The scriptural account details, "A man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed" (Gen. 2:24–25 NKJV).
It is tremendously moving to think of God's original one-flesh companionship. Adam and Eve, before the fall of Eden, had the marvelous capacity of being totally naked, physically and emotionally, with no shame or fear. They reveled in a childlike trust and curiosity—laughing, exploring, giving and receiving love. Sex was a glorious, innocent celebration lived out with instinctual honesty, respect, and zest for life. It was naked and unashamed with no performance anxiety, inhibitions, pain, or selfish skill deficits. What a relationship and sex life they were able to have as they truly "knew" each other, inside and out!
Being God's special creation gives us the power to control nature and ourselves, and to make choices in a way different from animal sexuality. We can decide when we want to have children and how many we can lovingly provide for. We can love and enjoy our children and families for a lifetime of purpose and intimacy. Unlike the animal kingdom, we can choose to have loveplay and lovemaking for intimate bonding and fun. We can purposefully create orgasms and enjoy the whole sexual process for recreation and the enhancement of intimacy.
Unfortunately, sex has not always been regarded so positively. Within Christianity, sex has often been portrayed as sinful or dangerous. Not too long ago, sex was justified only as a means of procreation. God was considered distant and mildly opposed to marital sexual pleasure. Some of this type of thinking dates back to St. Augustine and his conversion from a completely undisciplined and salacious sexuality. He and other church fathers created a restrictive, legalistic sexual economy because of their own struggles and fears, and in so doing they incorporated a theology that strayed from Scripture. Church prohibitions robbed couples, and especially women, of the ability to enjoy God's intended pleasure.
One-flesh unity is an exciting concept, replete with ideas of sexual uniting and recreating. It is indeed God's plan for men and women to appreciate sexual fun and recreation, and we as Christians need to claim, sanctify, and celebrate the wonder and enjoyment of our sexuality.
However, with greater freedom and grace in our sexuality comes the ability to make both constructive and destructive choices, and that is scary. The early church fathers dealt with this challenge legalistically, requiring less thought and energy on the part of Christians. Sexuality is indeed a powerful force in our lives, with tremendous potential for intimate bonding or harmful behaviors. We must constantly make the choices that will enhance our one-flesh partnership.
First Corinthians tells about the importance of keeping sexually connected in marriage: "Let the husband render to his wife the affection due her, and likewise also the wife to her husband ... Do not deprive one another except with consent for a time ... and come together again so that Satan does not tempt you because of your lack of self-control" (7:3, 5 NKJV). In a loving partnership, enjoying sexuality and connecting with a mate are gifts each brings to the other willingly—not by demands or coercion.
Please don't use God's loving guidelines as weapons against each other. Some husbands and wives club their mates with this passage and say things like, "If you don't have sex with me tonight, you are sinning." The real sin is theirs because they usually have never taken the time, loving-kindness, and energy to make changes needed to appeal to their mates romantically. Becoming one flesh has ceased to be the loving gift of meeting each other's needs and uniting. Remember, making love is about giving—not demanding.
On the other hand, are you too fatigued or busy or inhibited to have sexual relations regularly? You too are missing God's plan for marriage and the enjoyment of one of His avenues for increasing intimacy. Failing to structure frequent sexual activity into your companionship may open you up for Satan's temptations. Please hear my heart: get counseling and do whatever God calls you to do to get sex back into your marriage! As I tell Christian couples, "A meaningful sex life in your marriage is one hill worth dying on. This is not optional in God's eyes."
Satan tempts and destroys many marriages by extreme inhibitions, extramarital affairs, and other sexual distortions. Often it is a subtle drifting apart and a lack of warm, connecting companionship. God has given spouses something precious in the ability as husband and wife to share a physical intimacy that cannot be matched in any other relationship. There is no replacement for what God intended sex to be for intimate marriages. It is the framework for expressing many powerful and exciting emotions, like joy, love, trust, and playfulness. Making love also helps dissipate and defuse negative emotions and behaviors, such as hostility, nit-picking, and defensive distancing. Spouses who frequently play together sexually stay together in warm, bonded ways and keep at bay many of the dragons that can haunt intimate companionship.
Godly Submission and Selfishness
Christians need to be able to practice both submission and a righteous selfishness. Sometimes I call it "selfness" because being selfish appears to be in direct conflict with the traditional Christian teachings of putting others first. We as Christians are indeed encouraged to be submissive. That is, we are encouraged to place our partners' needs and feelings ahead of our own. And submission is a significant part of a great sex life. Through submission, we honor our mates and nurture them unselfishly in ways they truly enjoy. We give as gifts sexual expressions they desire that are not as important to us.
But fulfilling sex also requires being selfish. If we are always other-focused and if we always repress or ignore our own needs, we forfeit complete sexual fulfillment. Intimate lovemaking is a partnership with both selfishness and unselfishness. Great lovers know their own bodies and enjoy their sexual feelings.
The Bible often develops two principles that seem conflicting but actually are two balancing parts of a paradoxical concept. Some examples are law/grace, masculinity/femininity, bear your own burdens/bear one another's burdens, and unselfishness/selfishness. When we emphasize only one half of these balanced concepts, their effectiveness is diminished. We must add to submissiveness and unselfishness the complementary principles of self-esteem and selfishness.
Selfishness doesn't seem to get equal time in practical Christian training. Self-awareness and the assumption of personal responsibility are crucial to building a fun sexuality. The Bible commands us to "love your neighbor as yourself" (Mark 12:31 NKJV), and it states that "husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies" (Eph. 5:28 NKJV). These teachings are based on the idea of a healthy self-concept.
As Christians, we are accountable to God for creating a good sexual self-image and accepting ourselves without comparing ourselves to others. We are answerable individually to build a vibrant self-awareness and to learn to love and appreciate our bodies' potential for sensuality. As individuals, we are responsible for developing our own sexuality and celebrating love. We need to understand our own sexual needs and assertively fulfill them. God encourages personal responsibility for our lives, our bodies, and our sexuality.
Orgasms are an excellent example of healthy sexual selfishness. Your mate does not experience your orgasm. You focus on your sexual feelings and allow them to build to a climax. This is an intensely personal pleasure within your mind and body, and you selfishly let your mind enjoy the intensity of your excitement.
As so often happens in God's complementary principles, selfishness and unselfishness balance each other and create a more complete wholeness. You selfishly enjoy your orgasm but unselfishly allow your mate to observe how much pleasure your mate brings to you. Your partner is aroused by your personal excitement and intense experiencing of erotic release. This selfishness creates a mutual intimacy that is fun and bonding. Selfishness is indeed a great turn-on to you and your mate.
The question may be hovering in your mind: Isn't there a destructive, sinful way of misusing submission and selfishness? Any principle can be distorted and become destructive when not appropriately applied. Godly submission does not imply that you allow your mate to take advantage of you sexually while you passively build resentment. Putting the other's needs ahead of your own does not mean discounting your needs or ignoring them. Submission does not prevent a mate from being assertive and confronting behaviors or desires that are personally or relationally counterproductive, damaging, or unromantic.
The downside of selfishness is being egocentric and thinking the world revolves around your needs. This creates an unwillingness to empathize with another person's needs and lovingly satisfy them. Greed, insecurity, false pride, and laziness create a negative self-centeredness and play havoc with sexual intimacy. This destructive selfishness may be quite subtle and come under the guise of caretaking so you don't have to face dealing with your needs, or you may allow your mate to nurture you ("No, let me stroke you; don't worry about me"). Or you may be a martyr and manipulate with guilt ("I've got a headache—but if you need to"). Or you may be fragile or supersensitive ("I don't think I can ever be as sexy as you need," or "I know it's been ten days, but you really hurt my feelings").
Here are two suggestions for minimizing destructive selfishness and submission:
1. Keep a godly balance of healthy selfishness and unselfishness as you practice both. You must ask for your needs to be met and relish your sexual pleasure. You must submit your needs and give as loving gifts the things that your spouse needs. Opposites need to be balanced out, and you can make a mental note when the ledger is starting to get uneven. Be evenly selfish and submissive.
2. Work on your personal spiritual growth as you humbly become Christlike. God's Spirit can help you become mature with playfulness, love, honesty, gentleness, and positive assertiveness. He can grant you a positive, sexy self-image (see Chapter 16) with fun sensuality and a warm, nurturing spirit.
A Spiritual and Emotional Union
Commenting on the beauty and depth of marital companionship, Paul wrote, "'For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.' This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church" (Eph. 5:31–32 NIV). Making love and creating a one-flesh partnership is a profound, mysterious, and dynamic process.
As we launch into our exploration of sexuality, we must remember that we lose something if we treat making love as simply physical excitement, intercourse, and techniques. Making love offers insight into Christ's relationship and modus operandi with His beloved followers, the church. It includes joy, excitement, trust, commitment, unselfish nurturing, self-esteem, and a mutually fulfilling, playful companionship. It is truly intimate, and we will never completely understand this mystery.
Excerpted from A Celebration of Sex by Douglas E. Rosenau Copyright © 2002 by Douglas E. Rosenau . Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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