Thoughts on Sex

I attended a meeting last week with a group of fellow Vineyard Pastors and one of the things we discussed was singleness — particularly how to honor that in our churches. After all, Jesus was single, so one can clearly be Godly even if one isn’t married. Same thing with Paul. In fact, the Church has a pretty great history of championing singleness as a viable, even desirable, lifestyle. But that is a topic for another day.

What I want to talk about today is sex. Particularly, I want to meditate on some passages in Genesis and point out how those passages can apply to our sexuality in the Church today. I want to put two texts (Genesis 1 and Genesis 4) side by side and observe a few things. Just so we are all on the same page, here are the texts in question.

Genesis 1:27-28

So God created man in his own image,
    in the image of God he created him;
    male and female he created them.

 And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”

Genesis 4:1

Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain

If you’ll allow a slightly crass paraphrase, right after God creates humanity, he tells them to have sex. Why, then, does Adam not have sex with Eve until after the Fall? Genesis 4 starts with the word “now” as in “now, after all these things”. What the heck? Adam is married to the most beautiful woman on the planet, the most beautiful woman who has ever lived (who also happens to be completely naked), and they don’t get frisky for three chapters? What gives? I feel like we are missing some pretty important pieces of the puzzle. I also think that sex may not be as important/essential as we all seem to think it is.

Does anyone else think it strange that the biological desire to reproduce is the last function to develop in human beings and the first to go? For instance, take our other biological desires/necessities — air, water, food, sleep. Those things are with us for life. Indeed, if deprived of them for an extended period of time we die. Not true with sex. One can live a long, happy and fulfilled life without ever having sex though our Western culture would scream to the contrary.

Let’s circle back to our story in Genesis. First, how cool is it that God’s first command to Adam and Eve was to have sex? I don’t know about you, but my experience in church has been that sex shouldn’t be talked about much and that it is kind of dirty, taboo. We know people do it, but we don’t want to think about it, hear about it or see any evidence of it until there is a baby bump. I don’t think the Puritans did us any favors in this department. But the Truth is that we have a God who loves, even celebrates, sex (see the end of Song of Solomon if you’d like additional biblical evidence). Sex isn’t dirty or taboo, it isn’t even an uncomfortable subject in the Bible. I think that can free us to talk differently about sex in our churches.

But what really fascinates me is the fact that Adam and Eve waited so long to get together. Now, we don’t know how much time elapsed between the end of Genesis 1 and the beginning of Genesis 4, but I think we can assume there were at least two or three days — long enough in  my book! So what’s the deal? Adam and Eve are in paradise, naked, they have no obligations except to tend to the Garden and exercise their dominion over creation, and they take a walk with God every evening — sounds like an ideal setting. I think that is the point. Adam and Eve were doing what they were created to do and were in right relationship with God and one another. They were intimate and loving in nonsexual ways so sex wasn’t really on their minds all that much. It was only after the Fall, after they felt the chasm of relational distance between themselves and God and between one another that they finally turned to sex as a means of trying to bridge the gap. Quite literally, Adam got inside Eve and he still wasn’t as close to her as when they were working side by side in the Garden. That breaks my heart. I’ve always taken the verse “It’s not good for man to be alone” to mean that a man needs a wife (i.e. someone to have sex with). I’m not sure that is what it means at all. I think that verse means we need companions, people to help us in our pilgrimage through life, not sex buddies or friends with benefits.

My heart really gravitates towards this idea of companionship, of friendship between men and women that is intimate and nonsexual. I also know that, historically, this hasn’t worked out well in general society. And so I’m caught in the “now and not yet” of God’s Kingdom.

A few closing thoughts:

  1. This story of Adam and Eve challenges my beliefs about modesty and holiness, especially taking every thought captive. Adam was able to behold a beautiful woman totally naked in paradise and his first thought wasn’t to jump her bones — that same ability is in my DNA. Are we as men really so far gone, really so fragile, that we need to clothe women head to toe in burkas in order to control our sexual desires? If so, what does that say about us as men? What does that say about our relationship with God?
  2. The intimacy I long for comes primarily from nonsexual sources.
  3. Multiplying ourselves is a biblical command, and for Adam and Eve it certainly meant having sex. That isn’t true today. Jesus is arguably the most “multiplied” person on the planet and it had nothing to do with having sex and everything to do with investing his life in others.
  4. Single people may have the potential to influence greater numbers of people than married people. They may be especially suited for work in ministry.
  5. Being married is great. Being single is great. There isn’t any need to push people one way or another. Single people aren’t deficient in any way (it may be that married people are).

Well, I think I’ll wrap things up here. Thanks for reading friends and, as always, I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Ben

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6 thoughts on “Thoughts on Sex”

  1. Oh my goodness! This is so good! Speaking as one who spent a long time being single in the church, further discussion on this is so needed! Today’s church generally has no clue how to handle people who are single past…oh…their mid-20s. You know, aside from encouraging them to attend the latest marriage seminar because it will be helpful in non-marital relationships too (<- not true). Speaking as a now married person, the idea of the timing of Adam and Eve's coming together relating to lost intimacy with God…wow! Gonna need to sit with that for a while!

    1. Thanks Amanda — so good to hear from you! I agree with your comment about churches not knowing how to handle aged 23+ single people, my church is no exception. Part of the problem for me is that I haven’t been single since High School — I have no idea what it is like. From your perspective as someone who was single through their 20’s how would you suggest we go about fixing that problem?

      1. Just noticed you replied to my comment! Oops! How to fix the problem…excellent question. Partly there’s a need for a culture shift, where singleness is treated in the church as honorable as marriage is, where it is talked about as frequently as marriage is covered. So many times well-meaning church people would ask me when I was going to finally get married…as if I was actively avoiding all these opportunities to procure a husband, or I was somehow broken or lacking because I was still single. Part of it may be a lack of vibrant young adult ministries in churches, which could also be why so many people go off to college and leave the church until after they’ve married and started having kids. Singles ministry didn’t cut it for me as it was populated primarily with divorced people a decade or two older.

        I would hate to see the church minister less to married couples and families because those are important groups who need support. It would be nice to see provision for people who don’t fit into that category, provision beyond simply preparing them for their eventual entry into the ranks of marriage.

  2. Interesting post, but I don’t know about your premise.

    I see no evidence that Adam and Eve didn’t have sex in the garden. If God commanded them to be fruitful and multiply why wouldn’t perfect man and woman obey? God cursed Eve promising to “multiply your pain in childbearing”. Adam worked in the garden and then knew what work was like after the garden. That would suggest that Eve knew childbirth prior to the curse as well. We know that Adam and Eve had more than just Cain and Abel before Seth because Cain found a wife.

    So, I appreciate the post, I’m just not convinced of the premise. I would imagine that every aspect of their relationship was perfect including their sharing in God’s gift of sex.

    1. Thanks for the comments Matt. By the way, I just realized I never responded to your comments on my previous post — so sorry about that. I got sucked into a conversation on Facebook and forgot to come back and respond to you.

      I like your thoughts on Eve and childbirth, I found that really compelling. I think I stand on my premise for simplicity. For instance, if Eve had children before the Fall why aren’t they ever named? I would also have questions about sin entering the human race like Paul talks about in Romans 5:12. He argues that death spread to all men (humanity) because all had sinned, but that wouldn’t be true if the kids had not participated in eating the forbidden fruit. So if there were human beings who hadn’t sinned, and didn’t have an inherited sin nature, why wouldn’t God work more closely with them in the future and instead move to Seth?

      One other possibility is that Adam and Eve did have sex, they just didn’t get pregnant which is its own interesting subject. Still the way Genesis 4 reads, I still lean towards this being the first time because of the use of “now” for the conception of Cain and “again” for the conception of Abel. I think it depends on how we understand the word “now”. I understand it to mean “now, after all this had transpired Adam knew Eve” as opposed to “now when Adam and Eve had sex this time she conceived.”

      As for your question about why perfect man and perfect woman wouldn’t obey God… brother, I wonder the same thing. I especially wonder why Eve wasn’t properly informed about the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. If we follow the chronology of Gen. 2 and 3 then Adam was created first and told “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, 17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat[d] of it you shall surely die.” Yet, when Eve is questioned by the serpent in Gen. 3 she says, “but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’” The problem is, God didn’t say they couldn’t touch the Tree and since Eve wasn’t around to hear the original command, she must of heard that from Adam, which was a lie. It was probably a well intended lie, but a lie nonetheless. That piece intrigues and frustrates me to no end.

      In any event, thank you for you challenges and feedback. I really appreciate you reading, thinking and responding. I wish I had more people willing to do that in my life. Thanks, Ben

  3. A missing piece is that Satan takes what God has created good (in this case sex) and perverts it to use for sin. We think an action can replace the relationship to receive intimacy. We desire human over God. We obey hormones rather than Holy Spirit. The world’s path rather than The Way….

    Yes, we can choose differently: be transformed by the renewing of your mind in Christ Jesus. And talk about that in church and life, learn and teach that it is possible and normal.

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