Marriage and Sex (1)

wedding_vow_rings.jpgLast evening, I began a new class at our church that is entitled "Marriage, Sex, and a Cloud of Confusion."  This is intended to be a practical class focused on the meaning of marital sex.  You might be interested in a few of the major discussion points.  

Basic Realities of Marital Sex 

1.  Marital sex is holy (like time, family, possessions, words, and life).  Like every other thing, marital sex can be blasphemed by sin.

2.  Marital sex reflects the tone and temperature of a couple’s relationship.  It can also contribute to the tone and temperature of a couple’s relationship.  Yet, when we focus on sex ("our sex life") in isolation from the rest of the relationship, we likely miss the point.  Sex is intimate sharing that both contributes to and is the fruit of a marriage.  Since marital sex is rooted in a covenant relationship, we actually contribute to marital sex as well as other aspects of the relationship when we pay attention to how we have been called to treat one another.  In other words, we married people would do well to pay attention to growing in character so that we practice love, patience, forgiveness (not keeping a record of wrongs), kindness, etc.

3.  Many people feel conflicted about sex because of past experiences or memories.  Some people carry much guilt into marriage because of the way they have lived prior to marriage.  Others have suffered as children through molestation, etc.  These experiences can powerfully impact a marriage.

4.  Sex can cause a person to feel deep shame or can make a person feel fully alive.  Therein lies the complexity, beauty, and vulnerability of human sexuality.  Yet, as Christians, in marital sex we are focused not on ourselves but in serving our spouses.  In other words, our role is to offer self and practice acceptance (I Corinthians 7:1-5).

Finally, I read from Lauren Winner’s fine piece in Christianity Today (May 2005).  The article is entitled "Sex in the Body of Christ."  (Unfortunately, the full article is not available; however, you may enjoy her outstanding book, Real Sex.)  The following is an excerpt from the article:

 … What is chastity?  One way of putting it is that chastity is doing sex in the body of Christ — doing sex in a way that befits the body of Christ, and that keeps you grounded, and bounded, in the community.

Sex is, in Paul’s image, a joining of your body to someone else’s.  In baptism, you have become Christ’s body, and it is Christ’s body that must give you permission to join his body to another body.  In the Christian grammar, we have no right to sex.  The place where the church confers that privilege on you is the wedding; weddings grant us license to have sex with one person.  Chastity, in other words, is a fact of gospel life.  In the New Testament, sex beyond the boundaries of marriage — the boundaries of communally granted sanction of sex — is simply off limits.  To have sex outside those bounds is to commit an offense against the body.  Abstinence before marriage, and fidelity within marriage; any other kind of sex is embodied apostasy. 

Chastity, then, is a basic rule of the community, but it is not a mere rule.  It is also a discipline. 

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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19 thoughts on “Marriage and Sex (1)

  1. Can we return the beauty to such places? Has our argument over facts clouded this and if so what steps must we take to return the beauty? Is it classes? Sermons? Modeled?
    We are trying to get our Dynamic Marriage Course off the ground again. I appreciate your message and efforts.

  2. We have unfortunately stripped the beauty of marriage away to laws, can and can nots. How do we return marriage to such a beautiful place? Sermons? Classes like your own?
    We do Dynamic Marriage and it is a great tool but the beauty of it all…

  3. JeannaLynn and I do marriage ministry together.  Our goal is to help churches develop marriage ministries so that we can turn the tide and stop the decline of marriage in our culture.
    You may already have this resource, but just in case…. Christopher McCluskey’s book When Two Become One is an excellent book about the meaning and how to’s of Christian sex.
    Hope your class is successful.  We’ve got lead the way to change the state of marriages in America.

  4. Marital sex? You do realize that many in the younger generation see it as an oxymoron. My peers in the secular world groan when the subject comes up — after all, they say, sex was so much better BEFORE marriage. Why is that?

    And in my own marriage, it feels complicated. Sex is great, but with three little kids, too often it feels like one more thing on the list. One more thing to feel guilty about NOT doing.

    I really like the above quote about marital sex being a discipline. Like other things in marriage, good sex takes commitment and a decision to reserve time and energy to invest in the marriage.

    Good luck with the class! I hope your congregation appreciates you. You sound like an awesome pastor.

  5. Darin,Thanks very much.  You touch on one tragedy of the place of sex today–the loss of beauty.Thanks for your comment. 

  6. Robyn,Thanks for the kind words at the end of your note.Regarding "marital sex."  Interesting what you say re the younger generation.  I hear the same response from a variety of age groups.  (Both young and mid-life)It is interesting.  I’m thinking of the comment you made regarding your peers view of this.  One of the issues that I think the church/Christians need to grapple with is the meaning/purpose, etc. of marital sex.  What expecations do we have as we enter marriage?  Where did we get those expectations?  (I’m just thinking aloud. Anyway, thanks Robyn)   

  7. Richard, So glad you and your wife have this ministry.  How wonderful!  And—it is so very needed and important.  May God bless your work.(Thanks for the book recommendation)

  8. Now you’ve got me questioning whether I’m “young” or “middle-age.” (For the record, I’m 35!)

    I think you touched on part of the problem — expectations. If we get our view of sex from TV and movies, “real life” will never measure up. After all, in the movies couples are never cleaning the kitchen before sex. Or putting the kids to bed. Or breastfeeding a baby. The list goes on…

    And at my church, nobody talks about sex. I would love to have an honest dialogue about sex at church with a woman who could offer a biblical perspective on the issues I face in my marriage. But the subject seems taboo. Oh, the topic of fidelity comes up. And abstinence before marriage. But actual sex in marriage? Nope. I know people are having sex, since the nursery is full…but nobody is talking about it!

  9. This was my dissertation topic, assisting parents in talking with their kids about sexuality.  66% of parents never had a sexual education course.  And the literature reveals that kids want emotional/social/moral discussions about sexuality, rather than the anatomical/biological that is usually given.  You know what I found?  Parents wanted the classes you are offering, so I am pleased to hear that you are offering it.  Sexuality is soo taboo in our churches, teaching on it was interesting!  "Sexuality and Holy Longing" is also a great resource on the topic, by Lisa McMinn who is a Christian sociologist.I would also propose that the topic is needed for couples, but also for the church at large.  Coming to terms with ourselves as sexual beings and how that influences our interactions is something that would bind us together in new and profound ways and I think would address the current and unfortunate divide in churches between singles and marrieds.  Sexuality is about more than just intercourse, and I think all of us would benefit from understanding more about that.  Lisa’s book really begins to speak to this issue.Thanks for putting the topic out — it is one of my faves in Christian circles!  I’m all about getting the "dark" topics into the light where they belong.    

  10. Jennifer,
    Good point.
    I will say  this, we offer a one night course "Helping Parents Help Their Kids: Ways to talk about Sex with your Children."
    I would be interested in finding out what I may have missed because few people come. Any suggestions?

  11. Darin, As a psychologist, I am always going back to the point of assessing what people are asking for or what their perception is of their need.  This would be my first line of thinking: developing a way to assess what people’s questions, struggles, needs are in the area of talking with their children about sexuality.  Second, I would consider the culture of discussing sexuality in the church I attend.  Is it a topic that is not discussed, so that this class is an anomoly?  Is it something that needs to be developed more richly before parents will be comfortable sitting in this class?  Our church had begun developing a support group for men who struggle with sexual addiction, we began hearing about it more (a little more) from the pulpit, and then we had Doug Weiss come to our church (he is a mental health professional from CO who specializes in sexual addiction) and talk with both men and women about sexual health and sexual addiction.  This paved the way for my seminar that happened about 6 months later.  Third, people tend to be more engaged in classes that are interactive.  The sex ed literature shows that programs/classes that allow for more discussion, interaction, role-plays, homework WITH the kids, are ways that people will engage more and retain the changes made in communication down the line.  I apologize for this being so long, I can certainly talk about this for hours!  Hope this is helpful Darin, thanks for asking.  I think if churches could address healthy, whole sexuality then a whole multitude of issues would be strengthened.  Thanks again, Jim, for opening the topic. 

  12. It is so hard to find good resource material on marital sex.  Most of it is so hokey and some just in poor taste.  The genre that scares me the most is the "use your feminine whiles to lure him…" kind.  However, I read a book several years ago and taught a couple of classes from it, Intimate Issues.  It is written primarily to women but a good read for men also.  Along with the book is a "date box" that one can buy. The kit contains 12 date cards for each partner.   Each card has a date theme and step by step instructions for the date.  We did the dates and it was a blast.  The dates that the husband is planning for the wife are designed to create intimacy via communication, shared experience, pampering.  Sex is not the goal, but often the serendipity.  The dates the wife plans for the husband all involved a sexual experience in a most creative way.  This is a great way for couples to begin a journey to a more creative, intimate, spiritual sexual life together.

  13. Jennifer,Thanks so much for your comments.  I just ordered the book you recommended.  Thanks also for what you said regarding your research.  It really confirms that what I am attempted to do is important.***I just read your second comment.  Very, very helpful.  I like your ideas and approach, Jennifer.  Besides your dissertation, have you done any writing on this subject? 

  14. I’m developing material for adult healthy sexuality for Sunday school class, as well as remodeling the seminar for parents according to what the data showed would make it more effective.  Other than teaching young girls in the youth group as a youth intern, and several papers throughout graduate school that’s all I’ve done thus far.  The books that the workshop was based on was "How and When to tell your kids about sex" and the four books designed for parents and kids to read together.  The books are good but sometimes more heady and dense than what most parents are looking for.   I also should add that I just read something I missed in Darin’s comment earlier, that it was a one night class.  The literature suggests that for any type of class where you want material to truly be integrated there needs to be a combo of lecture, discussion, and experiential.  But even more so for this topic, where people come in with such reservations, fears, and misinformation.  That parents that went through my course told me that there was more information than they could digest in even four sessions, as they had all of these other issues that they had to work through before beginning to think about how to talk about it with their children.  So in the future, I would also make it a longer course, maybe even in Sunday school if that would fly in your church.   

  15. Jennifer,That is the same material I used to develop the course. I understand your point about interactive and a longer period of time, I will have to look at it and see how it could break down over more weeks.Thanks.