The Golden Globe Awards were Monday evening and the big focus of the night was the response to the sexual harassment issues currently going on in our culture. In a very real sense our culture is wrestling with the broad topic of sexuality.
Sexuality is a very broad category. It includes identity (we have a very active conversation going on right now about orientation and gender identity) as well as relationship.
I want to focus on a very narrow aspect of this in my blog. I want to look at sexuality and physical intimacy through the lenses of power vs. peer, and object vs. person.
Within the context of relating to others sexually we have to understand whether we are focusing on truly relating, or using others sexually. The Bible clearly teaches that God intends for sexuality to be a mutual relationship. In the New Testament we have clear teaching about the importance of not only giving ourselves to each other, but also the importance of not abusing power over another. This includes the area of physical intimacy. 1 Peter 3 talks about husbands treating wives with honor and recognizing that they are “weaker”. Colossians 3:19 commands husbands to love their wives and not to be harsh with them.
On top of these particular commands addressing the relationship between the husband and the wife, we have many general commands to be gentle, kind, mutually submitting, and commands not to dominate or use power over others. Matthew 20:25 tells us that among believers we are to lead by service and never by domination.
When we apply these teachings to the topic of how to relate to others, it is clear that we are not to use power to gain what we want. We are never free to dominate, control, or demand the fulfillment of sexual desires. Any attempt to exert any kind of intimidation within the arena of sexual activity is always sin. It is always evil. Even in the context of marriage. While this was not the law of the land in all 50 states in the US until 1993, a proper reading of Scripture reveals the use of power to get what we want sexually is selfish, sinful, and evil.
As we look at the issue of person vs. object this becomes even more clear. In much of our history in laws concerning marriage wives have been objectified and considered “property”. The Bible does not present this view and in fact it does not even allow for it. Men and women are both bear the image of God. The Bible clearly presents that men and women are created in God’s image. Genesis 1:27 states that God made man in his image, male and female. Both are equally saved by Jesus. Both are equally loved by Jesus. To treat any person as an object is to deny their identity as bearing God’s image. As members of the church men and women are equally the bride of Christ whom He deeply loves as taught in Ephesians 5. We can use objects. We cannot use people. When we use intimidation or power to get what we want sexually, we relegate our partner to an object. This is sin.
I have spoken at some length about what God condemns in Scripture, but I want to end with a brief statement of what God has created sexuality to be. Humanity is created to reflect God. We are made in His image. The triune God has a conversation in Genesis 1 where God decides to create “man” in His image with the complexity of community. That community is a community of male and female. God says, to Himself, in Genesis 2 that the male, Adam, is not complete alone. God creates a suitable partner for Adam when He creates Eve. The language in Genesis 4 describing Adam and Eve’s physical intimacy is the beautifully interactive word, to know. Adam knew Eve and she became pregnant with Cain. In its description of love and marriage, with extensive focus on the physical relationship, Song of Songs talks about the physical relationship between Solomon and his wife. This model of marital love clearly presents that the physical relationship, as God created it, is to be mutual and mutually pleasing. The relationship described between the two is intimate emotionally, spiritually, and physically. There is no place in this relationship for the selfish use of power and domination.
I believe if we commit to live in line with the Biblical teaching, we have tremendous opportunity to influence our culture with the beauty of the way God calls us to live with one another. We have an opportunity in this time to shape the discussion about what it looks like to love one another. In fact, Jesus taught his disciples the night He was arrested (John 13:34-35) that if we love one another as He loves us, the whole world will take notice that we belong to Him.
May we live like Christ and lead the world to Him.