Monday, March 2, 2009

In Search Of Truth, 1st Corinthians 7:1-9


In pop culture, we put sex on a very high pedestal. If someone is physically attractive or very sexually active with one or more attractive people, we tend to think of them as successful or "living the life". Starting in elementary school, boys display their masculinity by talking and joking about sex. And if someone is not sexually active or at least dating in high school or college, we begin to wonder if they are a homosexual or mentally assign some other label that identifies them as different. Maybe even defective.

So is sex good? Is sex bad? What does the Bible say about this? Well, we won't comprehensively explore the issue right now, but we can find a few answers by looking at the beginning of this chapter and a couple other spots in the Bible.

In 1st Corinthians, chapter 7, Paul begins responding to some issues the Corinthians had apparently written to him about. Verse 1 says "it is good for a man not to touch a woman". The word "good" here doesn't imply "preferable". It simply validates this scenario. And in this context, the Greek word for "touch" refers to marriage or the sexual union that defines it. So Pauls says that it is perfectly fine to live unmarried, without having sex. But if we are sexually tempted or at risk of adultery, we should look for a spouse. (v. 2)

Let's be clear: Sex is a great thing in marriage! Sex is designated exclusively for marriage and God wants married couples to have lots of it! In verses 3-6, Paul says that husbands and wives should submit to each other when one of them wants to have sex. Couples should be constantly communicating with each other about this issue and the "non-bedroom" issues that effect it. (See also Ephesians 5:22-33) Lots of great sex should be going on all the time (barring physcial/medical restrictions) in every marriage! Paul makes an allowance for temporary abstinence if both husband and wife are in agreement(v. 5-6), but this is definately the exception to the rule!

Yet Paul strongly suggests in verse 1 and verses 7-9 that remaining unmarried and sexually inactive is a wonderful thing if that is the way God wired you to be! Paul acknowledges the natural challenges that come with marriage and wishes to spare anyone not desiring marriage the unnecessary troubles they would find if they married without really wanting to be. (See verse 28 of this chapter)

What Paul teaches here is consistant with the words of Jesus and the Old Testament prophet, Isaiah.

In Matthew 19:12, Jesus says, "For there are eunuchs who were born that way from their mother's womb; and there are eunuchs who were made eunuchs by men; and there are also eunuchs who made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. He who is able to accept this, let him accept it."

And Isaiah 56:3b-5 says, "Neither let the eunuch say, 'Behold, I am a dry tree.' For thus says the Lord, 'To the eunuchs who keep my sabbaths and choose what pleases me and hold fast to my covenant, to them I will give in my house and within my walls a memorial and a name better than that of sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name which will not be cut off.'"

Usually, when we think of the word "eunuch", it refers to someone who has been castrated. Although in the original Greek, it doesn't always mean this. The word Jesus uses in Matthew 19:12 can also simply have the meaning of a man who does not marry, or that isn't sexually active. The same goes for the Hebrew word for "eunuch" in the Isaiah passage listed above.

So the verses in Matthew and Isaiah can be applied to men (and women) who have no real sexual drive for the opposite sex. As we look at these verses, we can see the Bible painting a very positive picture of life without sexual activity! Not many people are wired to live this way and scripture doesn't indicate that this kind of life earns people more "points" with God or that a lack of marriage makes them more holy. It's simply a different way that people are potentially wired, with its own unique benefits.

This remains an issue with many unanswered questions. We might now wonder, is it possible that some have found themselves in sinful circumstances as a result of misunderstanding their own God-given sexual configuration? Is it possible some have pursued homosexuality(or other form of unbiblical sexuality) not initially out of attraction to their own sex, but for lack of attraction to the opposite sex? Is it possible some religious leaders have become pedophiles or had other inappropriate sexual desires because they have taken a vow of celibacy that God never intended them to take?

How many throughout history may have missed the opportunity of living focused and purposeful lives undistracted by the complexities of marriage? How many others have missed the incredible experiences that marriage has to offer because of a self-imposed celibacy? How much pain and how many victims have been created for lack of understanding here? We may never know.

Next Week- "mixed" marriages

Coffee House Question

What distractions or painful things in life could be avoided by someone who has no sexual desires?

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