It was a drizzly autumn morning. I was marching my 7-year-old daughter through the rain trying to get her to school on time. While I was trying to hurry her along, she was gazing curiously at billboards along the street. "Dad," I heard her call, "is that poster supposed to be selling shower gel?" I looked up, having been oblivious to the view. "Yes, I answered." "Then why daddy is the bottle of the shower gel so small compared with the naked woman in the shower!"
Quite innocently, she had observed for the first time, what familiarity can blind the rest of us to. Using our desire for sex is generally deemed a better sales tactic than desire for the actual product. There are few things in our culture that are more discussed, deliberated, sung about, or the basis for stand-up comedy than sex. As my daughter had spotted, it's used to sell everything from toothbrushes to TVs. But among all that talk there are many competing viewpoints. What has God got to say about it?
1. It doesn't make us fully human
You might say that this is obvious. After all, birds and bees do it! But our culture often seems to suggest that to not have sex is to somehow be less than human. Recently a group of Christians approached me and a friend in the street and asked if we would like to be prayed for. For some reason, we must have looked particularly in need of it that day. In any case, we were happy to accept their offer. Half way through their prayer, they began to pray for my wife. About a minute later they asked if I actually had one. When they discovered that the friend who was with me didn't, their prayers focused on asking God to provide the right wife for him and preparing him for that day. Of course they meant well, but the whole assumption behind their prayer was that life would not be complete until this happened.
The thing is, if a sexual relationship makes us complete people, then Jesus was subhuman. And Paul was temporarily insane to say to the unmarried in 1 Corinthians 7, "It is good for them to stay unmarried, as I do." But Christians believe that Jesus was in fact, the most perfect human that ever lived. If he, Paul, and other key figures in the Bible didn't need to have sex, it can't be central to what it means to be fully human. To put it another way, you can be a complete bona fide human being—without sex.
2. It's a gift from God
The casual observer might think of Christianity as the religion that says no to sex. In fact, the opposite is true. The Bible teaches that God is not ashamed of sex. He invented it (Gen. 2:24)! In fact, 1 Timothy 4:4 tells us that "everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving." Enjoying what God invented, his way, and giving thanks for it, is how to do religion right. Forbidding people from enjoying sex in that context is not described as holy, but demonic.
Enjoying what God invented, his way, and giving thanks for it, is how to do religion right.
It's worth saying that it’s an explosive gift—like fireworks. I live near a big London park and get to enjoy huge firework displays synced up to Stormzy George Ezra and the Jackson 5. They are precious and powerful. But we treat them with respect so that we don't get hurt. It's the same with God's gift of sex. The fun is enjoyed best with the right framework.
3. It's not the only way to experience intimacy
Intimacy is about being known well by another. It can happen in family relationships, friendships, and sexual relationships. A few years ago Morgan Freeman and Tim Robbins were interviewed by Vanity Fair about the movie The Shawshank Redemption. Both of them have been stunned by its success. Even Nelson Mandela wanted to talk about it when they met. One of them said that perhaps most surprising is the fact that “it’s about the friendship of two men without a car chase in it . . . two men who really loved each other.” Closeness, affection, even love, without sex. In other words, intimacy is not the sole privilege of those in a sexual relationship.
Despite the fact that intimacy can be found in different kinds of relationships, as a culture we seem to increasingly neglect nonsexual forms of intimacy. We have fewer friends than ever, so much so that some have spoken of a "friendemic." The technological power to connect with more people seems to have left us more alone. Perhaps it’s time to nurture friendship a little more than we have.
4. It points to something better
One of my favorite verses in the Bible is Psalm 84:10. It says "better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere." To be near to the living God blows any other relationship clean out of the water. It is a mind blowing privilege to know the warmth, love, and care of God from now into eternity. I may never travel to all the places on my bucket list. My relationships may not live up to my hopes and expectations. And yet there is a Kingdom waiting for God's people that shines like the sun from the brilliance of its King. A touch from his powerful hand and a word from his marvelous mouth will make any sacrifice worth it.
This is an excerpt from Swipe Up: A better way to do love, sex and relationships. Check it out here.