This is both a moment of great joy, as well as a little bit of sorrow. We are now in our final post in our first ever “Read With Us” campaign. For those of you who have read the book along with us, we hope you’ve enjoyed reading through “The Meaning of Marriage”. For those who have only read through our brief summary of each chapter over the past 8 weeks, we hope you’ll one day take the opportunity to read the book AND go through the participant’s guide we’ve included here on the blog.
It should come as no surprise that the Keller’s saved this chapter for last: Sex and Marriage. While Megan and I enjoy writing about these subjects on a regular basis, here is a brief summary from this chapter of the book.
Similar to Mark Driscoll’s message, “Sex: God, Gross or Gift” (which is included as a part of our study guide materials), the Keller’s begin this chapter by focusing on 3 myths about sex. These include:
1) Myth #1: Sex is Just an Appetite
Our culture subconsciously sends the message that sex is “primarily for an individual’s fulfillment and self-realization, however he or she wishes to pursue it.” But sex is much more than a physical appetite. “Sex affects of heart, our inward being, not just our body.”
Being that sex affects every aspect of an individual, Tim Keller notes here that the Christian standard for sex is between one man and one woman. Strangely, the Keller’s chose not to get into the subject of homosexuality too much throughout the book. Outside of a couple of brief references to “one man and one woman” and some comments in the footnotes, the subject isn’t mentioned. To their credit, we believe this is because they wanted to focus only on what Christian marriage IS and not on what it is not. And even though this subject is not mentioned in extreme detail, it is obvious to the reader that the Keller’s understanding of marriage/sex according to God’s Word is that it is only between a man and woman, and is much more than physical in nature.
2) Myth #2: Sex is Dirty
I remember having a number of high-school friends refer to sex as “doing the nasty”. It’s amazing how many people in our culture refer to sex as nasty or gross. Sure, it can be messy, but messy isn’t anything like being disgusting. On this point, the Keller’s note that the Bible not only allows sex within marriage, but also commands it (1 Cor. 7:3-5). It is something to be delighted in (Prov. 5:19), not something to be ashamed of in any way.
3) Myth #3: Sex is Strictly a Private Matter
Sex isn’t only about one individual being pleased. It’s about 2 people, before God, uniting as one-flesh. This shows that sex isn’t private, or an individualistic event, but is instead something to remind each person in the marriage of the covenant they made to each other and God. It’s a reminder of their promise to one another. A reminder that each person lovingly accepts the other, and their junk. It’s a way for each person in the marriage to avail every aspect of who they are, and still experience love and acceptance from another person.
This is one of the reasons why marriage is compared to Christ’s relationship with the Church, as well as one of the reasons why Christianity stands above all other possibilities for religion. In Christianity, an individual cannot fully receive God’s love if they’re wearing a mask, or if they’re trying to earn his love. They receive God’s love only when they put all their junk out in the open and allow God to love them in spite of it. It is here in this grace that they are now able to love others in the same way.
Marriage is a picture of just that. We can look at our spouse, know their flaws, their inconsistencies, and even their sin, and we can choose to love and accept them anyway. And not only love them, but be completely united with them. To experience them. This is what makes sex so much more than physical. It’s emotional, spiritual, full-on, vulnerable, naked, acceptance of one another.
Due to this, God gives some pretty specific guidelines for sex in marriage. Not, “You can’t do ______________” kind of guidelines. But instead, guidelines that say, “Have it, enjoy it, and even use it as a way to please your spouse and not yourself.” For example, 1 Corinthians 7:3-5 (HCSB) says:
A husband should fulfill his marital responsibility to his wife, and likewise a wife to her husband. A wife does not have the right over her own body, but her husband does. In the same way, a husband does not have the right over his own body, but his wife does. Do not deprive one another sexually—except when you agree for a time, to devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again; otherwise, Satan may tempt you because of your lack of self-control.
Regarding this passage, the Keller’s are sure to note the revolutionary statement made in this passage. This was written at a time when wives were basically considered property of their husbands. But Paul wrote that a husband’s body also belongs to his wife. Translation: If she wants sex, you should make yourself available for to her.
Many men are just fine with this, but we should let you know that we’ve had a few men ask us if it’s ever OK for them to say no to their wife. While illness and other factors may creep in from time to time, the scriptures are pretty clear that a couple should work together, making themselves available to their spouse. Again, this isn’t because sex is all about physical pleasure, but because it’s a picture of what your marriage relationship really is – a picture of Christ’s relationship with the church. Who doesn’t want that reminder on a regular basis?
1. How important do you believe the sexual relationship is in marriage?
2. Read 1 Corinthians 7:3-5; Proverbs 5:19, and Deuteronomy 24:5. What, if anything, surprises you about what is written in these passages?
On Your Own:
Men and women are naturally inclined to use the 5 senses (sight, taste, touch, sound, and hearing) differently in the bedroom. Which senses do you think men prefer more? Which senses do you think women prefer more?
Take the opportunity to read the Song of Songs (also known as the Song of Solomon) this week. Pay specific attention to how the 5 senses are used in the couple’s sexual (and nonsexual) relationship. Then discuss the following questions together.
- Which of the 5 senses are you more drawn to during sex?
- Are there any ways we can better incorporate the 5 senses in order to better improve our current sexual lifestyle?
- How can I better serve you in this area of our marriage?
Some things to look for in Song of Songs may include:
Hearing – 2:12, 4:1-15, 6:4-10
Sight – 4:1-15, 6:4-10, 8:10
Touch – 7:8-9
Smell – 4:16, 7:13
Taste – 2:3, 5:1