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Russell Wilson, an abstinence pledge, and two key truths about sex

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It is always a curious occurrence when morality makes headlines. For instance, in the summer of 2014, The Huffington Post led with the headline, “More Than Half Of People Believe In 'Saving Yourself' For The Wedding Night, New Poll Says.” In light of America’s amorality, people practicing sexual abstinence before marriage makes the news.

Making headlines recently is Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson and his girlfriend Ciara Harris, an R&B singer. The couple has stated they are abstaining from sex until marriage. Wilson mentioned the pledge of abstinence in an interview with Miles McPherson, pastor of The Rock Church in San Diego. Wilson said Ciara agreed to put “that extra stuff off of the table and [doing] it Jesus’ way.” Many news outlets have reported on the couple’s publicly stated celibacy. One paper, however, ran an interesting follow-up piece that explored the issue further.

The Daily News article includes the experience of New Yorker Aurin Squire who, at times, has been celibate for non-religious reasons over the past few years. Yet, from a biblical standpoint, his experience has been quite religious. He told the Daily News, "Celibacy allows you to take a holiday from constantly objectifying people. . . . When you abstain, [you see that] other people aren't just for the purpose of having sex.“

The story unknowingly revealed some key truths of biblical anthropology relating to sex.

The first truth is the overall beauty of mankind. At the creation event of man, God declares man’s design is based upon himself. He said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness” (Gen. 1:26). Mankind images God, reflects God, and represents God in a complex range of areas. God also informs us through David in Psalm 8:5-6 man was made “a little lower than [himself]” and that man was “crowned with glory and majesty.” Man holds a position of great honor in the world seeing he is fashioned in such a manner.

Therefore, viewing ourselves and others in this reality should spur us to honor one another, not objectify. Sexual sin, and sin in general, distorts the view of a person causing one to focus on what a person possesses physically and not who the person is holistically. In the midst of his sexual abstinence, Squire began engaging people at more than literally a skin-deep level. Due to God’s grace, he reclaimed some of his “eyesight” enabling him to see more of the overall beauty of mankind.

Sexual sin not only distorts, but it also kills. It kills basic, human joy. Sexual sin has the ability to darken a person’s soul in a unique manner. When one refrains from sexual sin, there is the possibility that his God-given enjoyment of life returns. Squire experienced this firsthand. When he entered his first period of celibacy, he was “anxious” and “depressed” the first few months. He, however, eventually “started waking up in the morning and laughing with a feeling of what he calls ‘ethereal joy.’”

Sexual sin’s heart-darkening power lies in its unique nature. The Apostle Paul wrote in I Corinthians 6, “Every other sin that a man commits is outside the body, but the immoral man sins against his own body.” An adulterer or fornicator rebels against God’s design for a specific, physical act to unite the emotions, the wills, the lives as well as the bodies of a man and a woman in marriage, and this unity is reaffirmed in subsequent times of marital intimacy. Sex affects the whole range of a person. Consequently, sexual sin, more than other sins, causes a person to experience less of his basic, human joy.

The second key truth is the biblical utility of sex. Several experts were asked to provide their opinion about Wilson and Ciara’s celibacy. Jennifer Berman, a urologist and sexual health expert, wonders if the “ambiguity of the time frame” is a concern. (Wilson and Ciara have not provided a possible engagement date.) She added further, “Sex is the glue that holds a relationship together.” This is the prevailing use of sex in society today. It is seen as the reason couples get together or stay together. Beauty magazines, TV shows, blogs and a host of other media provide a myriad of sex “tips” plus numerous ways to stay fit and look young in hopes of being a viable sexual partner. The mantra is “If the sex is good, the relationship will be good.”

In marriage, God designed sex to be used as an expression of relational love and service, not as relational glue. Sex cannot hold a relationship together for its character is expressive. God designed sex to express the spousal unity in a marriage achieved by fulfilling the roles he has given to each spouse. The roles can only be fulfilled by the power of God’s Spirit for these roles represent spiritual realities. The roles are substantial seeing they are based upon Christ’s selfless service to the Church and her response grounded in willful obedience and adoration. The husband’s role is to follow Christ’s example and the wife’s is to follow the Church’s (Ephesians 5).

In his design for marriage, sex is a reflection of the biblical, spousal roles. The spousal roles are based on the interactions between Christ and his bride, the Church. Realizing this hierarchy helps us view sex properly. Sex is based on something greater than itself and therefore cannot be the relational glue. Hence, Berman’s assertion is the inversion of God’s order and lethally dangerous to any relationship.

The waters of America’s amorality are teeming with constant sexuality. There is the temptation for Christians to fail to recognize how they have become wet living in this toxic environment. Wilson and Ciara’s pledge is a needed reminder of how the Church must resist being carried by the sinful current and prayerfully swim upstream toward holiness.

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