Last 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.