11. How Fair Is Thy Love!
Much to the surprise of some Christians, sex was God’s idea! “Male and female created he them… And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good … Therefore shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall cleave unto his wife; and they shall be one flesh.”150 God created men and women with physical differences that complement each other, and He pronounced it good. He indicated that a husband and a wife should adhere to each other and become “one flesh,” a reference primarily to their sexual union.151 Sex is part of God’s plan for the human race.
God made the sexual union of husband and wife to be both pure and pleasurable; both sacred and satisfying. The writer to the Hebrews reveals its sanctity by declaring the marriage bed to be undefiled.152 Other passages, such as the one in Proverbs, indicate its sheer joy: “Let your manhood be a blessing; rejoice in the wife of your youth. Let her charms and tender embrace satisfy you. Let her love alone fill you with delight.”153 While some wonderful spiritual applications can be made from the Song of Solomon, it can hardly be denied that the Book refers to the sexual experiences of a husband and wife. In utter delight and appreciation, the bridegroom affectionately exclaims to his bride, “How fair is thy love!”154
Unfortunately, the sex life of many Christian couples is anything but beautiful. It is instead the source of deep dissatisfaction and repeated disagreements. During their courtship days the couple eagerly anticipated marriage, thinking it would relieve their sexual frustrations and result in instant paradise. The honeymoon shattered the illusion. The first week’s crises were followed by many more as the years passed. Finally they concluded that good sexual adjustment does not come naturally—that it takes time and effort and a great deal of unselfishness.
So widespread are the problems of sexual adjustment in marriage that many family counselors rank it as a principal cause for marital discord. God says sex is good. Many people say it is a problem in their marriage. Why the difference of opinion? Why do Christian couples have such problems in their sex relationship?
One pitfall is the practice of sex before or outside marriage. Almost all good things can be misused. Food is good, but too much of it or the wrong kind can bring discomfort or disease. Fire is useful, but when it is misused it brings destruction and death. God says that sex within the bonds of marriage is beautiful and blessed, but outside these limits it is dirty, ugly, and sinful. Premarital or extramarital sexual experiences can be a mammoth hindrance to a satisfactory sex life in marriage.
We live in a day of growing permissiveness. While animal-like promiscuity is universally rejected by almost all professing Christians, premarital permissiveness is becoming increasingly tolerated. The idea seems to be that if two people truly love each other, there is no reason why they should not enjoy the full expression of their love right now. The only satisfactory answer I can find lies in the couple’s personal relationship with their Lord. If they think anything of him at all, they will certainly want to listen to what He says, and He has said a great deal about this subject in both the Old and New Testaments.
The Apostle Paul writes, “For this is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye abstain from fornication.”155 The word “fornication” refers to all sexual intercourse outside the bonds of marriage, whether premarital or extramarital. No matter how deeply a man and a woman may feel for each other, God says that it is His will for them to abstain from illicit sexual intercourse. If He commands them to abstain, He will give them the grace to obey.
The Apostle goes on to amplify this concept: “That no man go beyond and defraud his brother in the matter.”156 Fornication defrauds other people; it robs them of their rightful affections. It also robs them of their virginity, which should be presented to their future spouse. It likewise robs them of their self-respect—the precious possession of a clear conscience. Even if the thought of robbery does not prevent you from indulging, read on: “… because the Lord is the avenger of all such.” He can avenge your self-willed disobedience in various ways—venereal disease, unwanted pregnancy, guilt feelings, or lurking suspicion. Some will say, “But medical science and progressive attitudes are eliminating these dangers.” None of these prevent God from rendering just vengeance; He is greater than antibiotics, contraceptives, or current community attitudes. If you are now dating, God wants you to map out a carefully planned strategy that will allow you to enjoy each other’s company and get to know each other well without indulging in sexually stimulating activities.
Maybe some are saying, “We’re married now, but the scars of past guilt and the seeds of past suspicion are sabotaging our sex lives. What can we do?” Each party can acknowledge the wrong he has committed against the other, asking forgiveness for his own part of the blame. Each can confess his sin to God. He is a merciful Father, ready to forgive. The sweet assurance of forgiveness from both your mate and your Lord will help you make a new beginning in this most important area of your life.
A second obstacle to a satisfying sex life seems to be improper attitudes toward sex. Some Christians think sex is dirty and sinful, a necessary act for the perpetuation of the race but certainly not a legitimate enjoyment. They hesitate to mention the subject and become embarrassed by reading even sanctified literature on the subject. They forget that the greatest Book of all, the Word of God, has much to say about sex! If God thinks sex is important enough to discuss, we ought to examine what He says. Paul, inspired by the Holy Spirit, advised the Christians at Corinth about sex, and God saw fit to preserve it in His Word. He knew that we would probably need the same advice.
“Nevertheless, to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband.”157 The purpose of sex is not merely for procreation, but to satisfy a biological need that we would be tempted to satisfy sinfully were it not for marriage. Paul recognizes that this drive is present in both men and women. A woman should have a husband in order to help her avoid fornication, just as a man should have a wife to help him avoid fornication. Even though some people have thought otherwise, it is normal and wholesome for a wife to have sexual desires, just as it is for her husband. While a woman’s desires are usually less intense than a man’s, it is interesting to note that God has placed an organ in the female body, the clitoris, which serves no function except to provide a pleasurable sensation. He must have wanted her to enjoy physical relations with her husband!
One purpose for sex, then, is to satisfy a legitimate physical desire. This appetite must sometimes be subjugated or sublimated with physical energies redirected and released in other ways, as in the case of an unmarried person or a sickly spouse. Unlike the requirement for food, sexual needs can be sublimated by properly chosen substitute activities. By God’s grace single people can live a well balanced life without indulging in sin. However, God’s normal plan is for couples to marry and to fully satisfy each others sexual needs.
The passage goes on to state, “The man should give his wife all that is her right as a married woman, and the wife should do the same for her husband.”158 Here we are clearly told that a husband and a wife are responsible to meet each other’s sexual needs. But this is far more than a burdensome obligation; for a man and a woman deeply in love with each other it is a joyous and delightful privilege. God has constructed their bodies is such a way that the mutual fulfilling of sexual needs becomes the ultimate expression of self-giving love, bringing exquisite enjoyment to both husband and wife.
Sex as God planned it is not simply the expression of an urge or the satisfaction of a need. It is the giving of our bodies to express the deepest feelings of love that lie within us, and it results in the rapturous enjoyment of the one we love. God says that my body belongs to my wife for her gratification and pleasure, and that her body belongs to me for my satisfaction and delight. While modesty is the rule in public, the total enjoyment of each other’s bodies is a wholesome, God-ordained privilege behind closed bedroom doors.
Paul teaches in First Corinthians 7:3 and 4 that husbands and wives share equal privileges in the ownership of each other’s bodies. It is not sinful for a husband to desire his wife’s body. A Spirit-filled husband in love with his wife will admire, fondle, kiss, and caress his wife’s body as an expression of his love for her, thereby meeting her needs as well as his own. A Spirit-filled wife in love with her husband will thrill him immensely by letting him know she desires his body and enjoys meeting his needs. Even a casual reading of the Song of Solomon will show that the wife’s body delighted her husband159 and the husband’s body brought pleasure to his wife.160 Nowhere does the Bible limit the variety of ways in which a husband and wife may bring physical pleasure to each other through their bodies, assuming that each finds it mutually pleasurable and neither finds it objectionable. The only limitation is love, which will cause us to place the feelings of our mates above our own desires.
There is still another thought in Paul’s advice to the Corinthians regarding sex. “Defraud ye not one the other, except it be with consent for a time, that ye may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again, that Satan tempt you not for your incontinency.”161 Some Christians seem to have the notion that it is highly spiritual to abstain from sexual intercourse, that Spirit-filled believers are just not very interested in this kind of thing. Sometimes wives will deny their husbands sexual rights because of their own unbiblical attitudes toward sex, or as an attempt to retaliate for some injustice, or possibly even because they consider themselves too spiritual. But God regards this as theft—the deprivation of a legitimate enjoyment. Instead of being spiritual, the refusal to provide intercourse is disobedience to God.
There will probably be abstinence during the wife’s menstrual period. There will be periods of time when, by mutual consent, a couple will abstain in order to give themselves uninterruptedly to prayer over some pressing issue. There may be times when one simply does not feel like having relations. The other will not force the matter but will in unselfish love graciously refrain for the good of the one loved. But they will soon resume their normal relations with whatever frequency they have found to be mutually satisfying, lest Satan tempt them to an illicit affair.
We have mentioned Spirit-filled believers. Rather than hindering a satisfying sex life, the filling of the Spirit will enhance it. When the Lord Jesus Christ is in complete control of our lives we will be supremely unselfish, and unselfishness is the key to a successful sex life. Unselfishness causes one to recognize the inherent differences between men and women sexually, then to treat one’s mate accordingly. For example, it is common knowledge that the sight of a woman’s body can bring a man to readiness for sexual relations.
Women, on the other hand, generally respond much more slowly, and to long and tender caresses. A wife will not be disturbed at her husband for his more frequent advances, nor will a husband be upset with his wife for her apparent disinterest. She will try to respond to him graciously; he will patiently take the time to meet her needs. Both will realize that there will be some occasions when her only desire is to bring him satisfaction.
Letting the Holy Spirit control our lives will help in other ways as well. The most successful sexual experiences grow out of warm and precious fellowship enjoyed hours and days before sexual union. The Holy Spirit is the One who can help us develop this warm and loving personal intimacy. The self-giving love which He produces in the lives of both husband and wife will draw them to each other sexually, so that they can experience ultimate expression and complete fulfillment of their love. He gives us the desire to interact with each other graciously all through the day, rather than regarding each other merely as playthings to be enjoyed selfishly at bedtime. Sex that grows naturally out of this kind of warm and loving relationship is sex at its best. Spirit-inspired love can adequately meet and successfully solve almost any problem in a couple’s sex life.
This chapter was obviously not intended to provide a detailed description of sexual techniques. It was simply intended to help establish proper attitudes toward sex by examining what God has to say about the subject. These proper attitudes are necessary before we can even begin to use any sex techniques successfully.
If we have learned anything at all from the Scriptures, it has been that sex in marriage is not shameful, but holy. The Bible deals with it frankly and openly, and so should we. The best way to resolve problems in this area is to keep the lines of communication open. Husbands and wives need to tell each other kindly but candidly what they enjoy, what brings them greatest pleasure, and how they feel their sex lives can be improved. Discussing the subject calmly and prayerfully with each other will melt down the obstacles and make sex the beautiful experience God intended it to be.
Richard L. Strauss, was a 1954 graduate of Wheaton College, and received his Th.M. (1958) and Th.D. (1962) degrees from Dallas Theological Seminary. Richard authored nine books, and served as pastor of churches in Fort Worth, TX, Huntsville, AL. He was pastor of Emmanuel Faith Community Church in Escondido, CA from 1972 to 1993 when the Lord called him home. This book has been scanned and is used with permission.