Category: Marriage (Page 4 of 6)

Sex Is From God

“A man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife and they will become one flesh.” ~Genesis 2:24

The first explicit mention of sex in the Scriptures is in the second chapter of Genesis. This is the same line Paul quotes in Ephesians 5 and 1 Corinthians 6 when he’s talking about marriage. Man and woman, husband and wife, are to be united to become one flesh.

You know, when we read this, it looks like it’s only talking about a physical, sexual union between two bodies. But it actually means a whole lot more. When Genesis 6:12 says all flesh had corrupted their ways, it doesn’t just mean bodies. It means all people. When Joel 2:28 says God will pour out his Spirit on all flesh, it means people, not just bodies. It’s like if I said I was going to “count noses” in the worship center on Sunday or do a “head count.” I’d say, “I’ve got 985!” (preacher count) and you would know I’m not talking 985 noses or 985 heads; I’m telling you how many people are in the room (more like 700). It’s very common to use a part of a thing to represent the whole thing.

So marriage is leaving your father and mother and uniting with another so profoundly that the man and woman actually become one new single person. We’ve talked about the word “united,” or “cleave” in the older translations. It means to make a covenant or a binding contract. Every aspect of the two lives are sworn together. The man and woman merge into a single, legal, social, economic, emotional, physical, spiritual unit. They give up a lot of their rights and their independence. They give themselves completely to one another.

To call the marriage “one flesh” means that sex is a sign of that personal and legal union and the means to accomplish it. It’s the God-created way to help you give your entire self to your spouse. Sex is God’s ordained way for two people to say to each other, “I belong completely and permanently and exclusively to you.”

Now, we’re not done with this. Today’s post just really sets us up for tomorrow and Thursday.



Sex and Marriage


I wrapped up our six-weeks sermon series on marriage here at Central a couple of weeks ago with a sermon titled “Sex and Marriage.” As soon as church was over, one of our elders, who will remain nameless — his initials are Ira Purdy — approached me and asked, “What is this? Sweeps week?!?” At about the same time, two of our teenagers, Josh and Boyd, came up from behind me with a couple of prayer cards. “You said the word ‘sex’ 84-times during the sermon!” They pointed proudly to their two separate scorecards with all the penciled-in tally marks. Both cards added up to 84.

My first thought was, “Wow, that’s got to be some kind of Church of Christ record.”

Sure enough, we contacted the Christian Chronicle the next morning and they verified it last week. Saying the word “sex” 84 times in a 27-minute sermon broke the previous Church of Christ mark set by Marvin Phillips at the Garnett Road Church of Christ in Tulsa, Oklahoma when he said the word “sex” 51-times in a 32-minute sermon in 1979.

Most sermons about sex and most youth group talks about sex seem to center around the idea that sex is wonderfully great but it needs to wait until marriage. Sex is incredible, but you can’t enjoy it until you get married. And while all those sermons and youth talks are made by well-intentioned and sincere Christian leaders, the impression can almost be taken that sex and marriage are two separate things.

Like a house with a swimming pool in the backyard.

Sometimes we act like marriage is the house and sex is the swimming pool out back. Sex is the add-on that doesn’t have much, if anything, to do with the structural integrity of the house itself. The marriage relationship and the sex are two different things. We’ve got the marriage in one place — this is where we live and this is what we pay attention to and this is what’s really important — and when you sign the contract you walk into the house and open up the back doors and say, “Wow, check out this awesome swimming pool!” It’s a fringe benefit that comes when you buy the house. It’s a really nice extra.

Or maybe just the opposite. Maybe sex is the foundation for the marriage and relationship is the add-on. Maybe you’ve understood sex as the main house —sex is everything, I’ve got to get married so I can have sex, I’ve got to get married so I can be fulfilled sexually — it’s the foundation, the walls, the floor, the ceiling, the roof, everything. And the relationship is the pool out back. It’s nice. I’m glad I’ve got it. Two separate things.

That kind of thinking, seeing sex and marriage as two separate things has led to a whole lot of sex without marriage and a whole lot of marriage without sex. And both of those situations are a distortion of God’s holy will and doing untold damage to God’s holy people.

I’ll post every day this week from that “Sex and Marriage” sermon I preached a couple of weeks ago. In the meantime, don’t call the Christian Chronicle or contact Marvin Phillips. It’s a joke.



Singles and the Church


Married couples with kids need the support of the Church. They deserve the support of the Church. But unmarried people do, too. Big time. Our singles are practicing celibacy in a culture that can’t even comprehend the concept. Our singles are struggling with the fact that fewer and fewer people are getting married and with the idea that their hopes for a spouse and children might possibly go unfulfilled. Our singles are fighting loneliness and trying to live good, responsible lives. And in the middle of all that, they’re also dealing with the ways the Church can make them feel like they don’t belong. Church has to be a lifeline of support for our singles, not an anchor dragging them down.

“In Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.” ~Romans 12:5

God’s Church is not a civic club or a special interest organization. There is a bond between Christians that is stronger than any other connection — stronger than blood, stronger than race, stronger than country. Ephesians 2 says in Christ we are fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household. Family.

That means single people in a strong Christian community can and should experience family relationships, especially sibling-type relationships between brothers and sisters. But they can also benefit from the love and support of close relationships with members of the opposite sex.

My wife, Carrie-Anne, makes me a better person. Being in an intimately close relationship with her, just being around her, makes me more like Christ. She is not like me. We are very, very different from each other. She thinks differently, she acts differently, she sees and understands things differently. She’s operating on a whole ‘nother level! Sometimes I get into a tough spot at work or into a rough patch with a daughter or a weird place with a neighbor and I think, “What would Carrie-Anne do?” Now, I don’t ask that when I’m on the baseball field or driving in heavy traffic. But I do occasionally try to imagine Carrie-Anne’s response. She’s more careful and much more thoughtful than I am. She’s more gracious and compassionate than I am. And she is slowly rubbing off on me. I do the right thing, the Christ-like thing, more now than before we got married. I’ve got a broader range of possible words and actions. Sometimes I can look at life the way Carrie-Anne does and I’ve got a greater spectrum of responses. I’m more likely to honor my Lord in my behavior.

That’s one of the ways Carrie-Anne and I complete each other and reflect the glory of God together. But that’s not something only married people can do. This kind of thing happens pretty naturally in a strong Christian community where we share our hearts and our lives and experience together what God is teaching us and how he is shaping us and growing us into the image of Jesus.

The Church is not a family-training center in which people who don’t fit the nuclear family model get pushed to the sides. Jesus calls all people to his table without distinction. And the Spirit says all gifts are equal.



Singleness is a Gift


“I wish that all people were as I am. But each person has his own gift from God; one has this gift, another has that.” ~1 Corinthians 7:7

A lot of people think Paul is talking about someone having no interest in marriage or having no desire for a sexual relationship with a spouse. So people who have this gift of singleness from God have no struggle, there’s no desire to get married. That’s why when we read the above verse we make a joke about it; a very loud and demonstrative joke: “Well, I sure don’t have THAT gift!!!”

Remember, every time Paul uses the word “gift” he’s talking about something from God that’s intended to build up others. If you’re single, your gift of singleness is not for you. It’s not to make you good so that everything’s great in your life. Your gift of singleness is so others around you can be good. So you can serve and minister in ways that married people can’t.

Maybe Paul wanted to be married. Have you ever wondered about that? Maybe Paul tried to get married. Maybe he had three accounts on Christian Mingle dot com and he hung out every day at Hobby Lobby. I don’t know. But he was single. And in his singleness, Paul lived a life of ministry and service to God and others. He took advantage of his single life, the time he had and the flexibility and freedom, to serve and minister in ways that changed the world.

When Paul calls singleness a “gift,” he’s not saying it’s super easy or that it’s really miserable. Yes, there are struggles. But God’s Spirit works through those struggles to help you grow in Christ and bear fruit in the lives of others. So, being single is not just a gift for a select few. And it’s not necessarily a gift for life. But it is a gift and it’s intended for the sake of others.



Singles Are Blessed by God


If you are unmarried — divorced, widowed, never married — please allow me to remind you that your identity, your peace, your wholeness, your value, is never going to be realized in a spouse. Your identity, your worth, is found and made complete in Christ Jesus our Lord.

“You are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God — that is, our righteousness, holiness, and redemption.” ~1 Corinthians 1:30

This is so important for us to hear, both married and unmarried: We are only made complete in Jesus. We need to recognize that in our marriages, we need to stay grounded in that. And if you’re not married, you need to understand it, too. You are perfectly whole in Christ. And the Church should never pressure you to change your status. We all need to stop trying to set up our singles with every neighbor’s grandson or second niece that comes along.

Singleness is not a disease and marriage is not the cure. Yes, singleness can be a struggle and single folks can become discouraged and weary. But can’t you say the same thing about married folks? Marriage can certainly be a struggle and there are plenty of married men and women who become discouraged and weary. But we don’t jump in and offer to help them get a divorce! No, we encourage them and support them and help them grow and persevere and serve and continue to be changed into the image of Jesus.

It’s OK to be single. Single Christians belong to God and are made perfectly complete in Christ. Scripture affirms that being single is a gift from God — stay tuned, that’s for tomorrow’s post. In the meantime, if you’re unmarried, believe that if you’re in Christ you’re already perfectly whole. Everybody else, let’s stop feeling sorry for our single brothers and sisters and stop butting in to their business as if they’re not complete without a spouse.



Your Marital Status is Not the Point


Whether you’re married or single is not important. Your marital status is not the key concern. The question is: Are you being faithful to the Lord? Paul’s main concern throughout 1 Corinthians 7 is that we “live in a right way in undivided devotion to the Lord.”

“The time is short. From now on those who have wives should live as if they had none; those who mourn, as if they did not; those who are happy, as if they were not; those who buy something, as if it were not theirs to keep; those who use the things of the world, as if not engrossed in them. For this world in its present form is passing away. I would like you to be free from concern… I am saying this for your own good, not to restrict you, but that you may live in a right way in undivided devotion to the Lord.” ~1 Corinthians 7:29-32a, 35

The time is short, he says. The old order of things is doomed. Because of Christ Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection, this present way of life is on borrowed time. It’s passing away. But not quite yet. We live in the in-between times. Paul calls it the “present crisis” in verse 26. Jesus calls it the “days of distress” in Mark 13. So, yes, the world goes on as we know it. All the social and material concerns are still there. We’ve got to plan and work for tomorrow. We can’t just lay around and watch Sponge Bob until Jesus returns. But what we know about the Kingdom changes our attitudes about all of it. We ought to be glad about our successes, but not overly glad; we should be sad about our failures, but not overly sad; we should enjoy this present world and the things of this present world, but not be engrossed in those things. All those things. Including marriage and family.

Both being married and not being married are good conditions to be in. We shouldn’t be overly happy about being married or overly disappointed about being single. And vice-versa. You shouldn’t be super excited that you’re single or down in the dumps because you’re married. The question is, married or single: Are you becoming more like Christ?

Paul addresses every possible situation in this chapter: singles, virgins, married people, divorced, widowed, all of it. And in each case he makes it clear that the particular situation is fine, it’s inconsequential, it’s not worth worrying about. In fact, he urges all people in each situation to remain just as they are. The specific circumstance is not the pressing issue. Our energies should not spent on worrying about or trying to change our marital status. Married or single, the focus is on our undivided devotion to the Lord.



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