But because there is so much sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife, and each woman should have her own husband. The husband should fulfill his wife's sexual needs, and the wife should fulfill her husband's needs. The wife gives authority over her body to her husband, and the husband gives authority over his body to his wife. Do not deprive each other of sexual relations, unless you both agree to refrain from sexual intimacy for a limited time so you can give yourselves more completely to prayer. Afterward, you should come together again so that Satan won't be able to tempt you because of your lack of self-control.
I Corinthians 7:2-6, NLT
The letter to the Corinthians by the Apostle Paul is startling in its frankness about sexual relationships. This letter had been in response to a letter sent from the leaders of the Corinthian church regarding issues of sexuality. Corinth was renown for its pagan temples and rites that often included having sexual encounters with temple prostitutes. As a young church, without the benefit of a New Testament (hadn't been written yet!), they were struggling to know the standards for sexuality.
The letter to the Corinthians is a letter for today. Using Pastor Jeff Harrold phrase, there has been a cultural "normalization of nasty". There are no longer limits of sexuality, nor does society seek boundaries of what is healthy, wholesome, or Godly. In fact, there is an undercurrent that remains from the Victorian age, that suggests that Christian sexuality is really being asexual. This letter to the Corinthians shows that to be patently false. God created us as sexual beings and gives us guidelines for its promotion and protection.
Lets make several observations regarding this text:
1. Marital sexuality is highly encouraged. Our culture, particularly in the media, portray married couples as sexually frustrated, inept, and discouraged. Most of the sexual encounters on TV and movies portray unmarried or uncommitted partners engaging in erotic pleasure without any consequences. This is a gross deception. Most studies have shown that sexual intimacy is highest among committed, married partners. In this text, it is marital sexuality that is single-mindedly promoted and protected.
2. There is an egalitarian approach to marriage. Contrary to first century beliefs, there is an equal submission of man to woman and woman to man. This was unheard of at the time. Marriage was created to be a union based upon mutual submission.
3. Intimacy is a gift. Notice that the wife and the husband are to give themselves to the others. There is no demanding of the right for intimacy. Intimacy can not be coerced or demanded, but given freely. Demands for sexual encounters or withholding sex for manipulation are trumped by the generous giving of oneself as an act of submission and unity. (see previous blog on intimacy as a gift.)
4. The focus of intimacy is the other. Notice that both husband and wife are encourage to attempt to satisfy the needs of the other. Most marriage counseling comes in the form of a marriage partner describing the flaws of the other and stating how their particular needs are not being met. While there is nothing wrong with doing that, it misses the point of this text, which asks us to focus on the married partner's needs and our own flaws.
5. Maritial intimacy is to be deeply satisfying. A goal of intimacy is to help fulfill and satisfy the other. There are no prudish limitations here, but encouragement to celebrate the uniqueness of one another. What is satisfying is completely subjective. It is time, transparency, and trust that develops to allow a vunerable but passionate portrait of intimacy within a marriage.
5. Marital Intimacy is deeply spiritual. The Apostle Paul defines marital intimacy in terms of spiritual health. A healthy marital sexuality aids in self-control and even our prayer life. American culture attempts to separate sexuality from spirituality. It misses the point that humanity was created in a way that our sexuality is deeply vested in our spirituality. This is why we are told that sexual sin is unlike other sins: "Run from sexual sin! No other sin so clearly affects the body as this one does. For sexual immorality is a sin against your own body (I Corinthians 6:18)".
I recognize that this is ideal and possibly oversimplified. I understand that marriages are significanly more complex than this but I truly believe things would be simplified if we understood the basic principles of God's desire for marriage.
I am praying that you would develop a closer relationship with God and a deeper understanding on how God wants to bless you thoroughly, including your sexuality.
May God bless you,
Pastor M Traylor