This is, by conservative accounts, my fourth attempt at writing about sex. With three years of marriage celebrated just months ago, this is the only place I can land on the topic. Whether for right reasons or wrong reasons or a garbled mix of both, I saved sex for marriage. I even saved my first kiss for the altar.
And if there’s one resounding theme to my relationship with Jesus and the words He compels me to write, it’s that life is always more intricately bound to Him than what meets the eye. Temptation and pleasure and grief and rejoicing—not one aspect of life is left unexplained or unanswered by Jesus.
Perhaps this is the distinction we are all too often missing in our conversations about sex. Jesus does not give us answers, He is the answer. And He does not show us the way, He is the way. So it should come as no surprise that when we face the culture’s questions about sex with anything other than Jesus, His very self, we’re all left bumbling and fumbling and shame-ridden or legalistic or everywhere else but found in Him.
So, yes. Sex is about Jesus.
And if that sounds extremely boring it’s because the enemy has a way of twisting God’s love into something we’ll see as restricting and punitive. This tactic is anything but new. Did God really say…you shouldn’t have sex outside of marriage? The familiarity sends shivers up and down my spine.
What Satan accomplished with Adam and Eve at the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, he is still accomplishing with us. They. Had. God. And they had ALL the good things God had made and simply, freely given. Yet somehow He said, Marry me, and they saw, Stingy.
It’s easy to look back on Adam and Eve with scornful eyes and wonder how they could be dissatisfied with perfect communion with God. How could they look around at creation and still believe the lie that He was holding out on them?
But then how can we look at the cross and still believe the lie that He is holding out on us? About sex or about anything.
He has paid the ultimate price to give us Himself. At great cost He died to redeem our whole lives, even our sex. He has not stolen the good stuff from us. On the contrary, this is the sex life Jesus longs to give you, beloved.
One of faithfulness. Where you give yourself unreservedly to the one man who has given his life to you, all of this representing the glorious mystery of the God-Man who has given His life for you in unending faithfulness.
One of freedom. Where you are giving and receiving covenant love and acceptance as have been given you in Christ.
One of pleasure. Where you learn and laugh and delight to serve one another in sheer ecstasy, marveling that the joy of the Triune God which dreamed up sex as a foretaste of oneness is infinitely greater than anything you’ve ever known.
One of sanctification. Where even when sex is difficult or you’re not in the mood or whatever other hardships may come, you have been promised by your good God that He will use each and every moment to work for His glory and your good. Even in the most disappointing sexual encounters, He will never fail to remake you more like Jesus, more into Life.
Outside of marriage, we find none of these. Perhaps we come close to pleasure, but it will always be clouded by the pressure to perform. Sex may consist of the same physical activity inside or outside of marriage, but this will be the only comparison. On all other accounts these are two totally different things–one a gift from a loving Creator, the other a destructive and insatiable god of its own.
But perhaps the best part? When Jesus is the point of sex, even without sex, we still get Jesus. Whether single or widowed or military wife during deployment, Jesus has offered us Himself in the fulfillment of our desires or the heart-rending disappointment of longings unmet. He died to be found by us when we’re satisfied or desperate, and He is faithful to use all our seasons to give us Himself.
With Jesus as the point of our entire lives we see the beauty of sexual redemption as well. The invitation to repentance, the faithful love of God for His idolatrous people, and the power of the cross to cover all our sins. Sexual sin is no longer the greatest blunder of a believer’s life. It is no longer the thing we harp on incessantly or berate non-believers for.
It’s all about Jesus.
If you’ve lived in sexual sin, He still wants you! And if you live in Him, abstinence is His gift of protection and a function of ultimate satisfaction in Christ alone.
Yes, it’s all about Jesus. It’s all about worshiping Him whether we eat or we drink or whatever we do. And this is what it all comes down to—that there is no forever happiness apart from God, and He has graciously refused to let us think there is.
We cannot enjoy God while we have sex outside of marriage,
and if enjoying Him is truly our greatest good,
He would be cruel and unworthy of worship to let us seek elsewhere what only He can give.
So I’ll leave you with the words of C.S. Lewis on the topic of first and second things. Jesus is the First Thing. He always has been. And the glory of the Gospel is that all our second things find their fulfillment in Him. Let’s elevate Jesus to His rightful position and give Him glory in our gratitude for all our second things.
“The woman who makes a dog the centre of her life loses, in the end, not only her human usefulness and dignity but even the proper pleasure of dog-keeping.
The man who makes alcohol his chief good loses not only his job but his palate and all power of enjoying the earlier (and only pleasurable) levels of intoxication.
It is a glorious thing to feel for a moment or two that the whole meaning of the universe is summed up in one woman—glorious so long as other duties and pleasures keep tearing you away from her. But clear the decks and so arrange your life (it is sometimes feasible) that you will have nothing to do but contemplate her, and what happens?
Of course this law has been discovered before, but it will stand re-discovery. It may be stated as follows: every preference of a small good to a great, or partial good to a total good, involves the loss of the small or partial good for which the sacrifice is made.
. . . You can’t get second things by putting them first. You get second things only by putting first things first.”
–C.S. Lewis, “First and Second Things,” in God in the Dock: Essays on Theology and Ethics(Eerdmans, 1994), p. 280.
What do you think? I would love to keep the conversation going.