[Editor’s Note: Congrats to the Philadelphia Eagles on their well-deserved Super Bowl win. As a Patriots fan, of course I wish it ended differently, but that call to go for it on 4th down was a baller move and the Eagles earned it.]
Over the next 5 weeks, I want to work through a series of sorts in these blog posts. We’ll be working through issues related to sexuality, relationships, and gender. With Valentine’s Day around the corner, it seems a good time to talk about these things, as we consider them in our own lives and in our ministries. Sexuality and these related issues are prevalent in our culture, but I don’t think we do a good enough job thinking through them critically and theologically, and addressing them in our ministries. To set a foundation for the weeks to come, we’ll begin with a theology of sex.
A Theology of Sex
When I was studying at Nyack College, I had to preach a topical sermon for my Intermediate Homiletics course. Our professor told us to pick any topic we wanted, and as I thought about it, I decided to preach on sex. I wasn’t sure if I would ever have the opportunity to preach about sex in a church, and knew that if I dropped the ball a classroom was much more forgiving than a congregation. In my study for that sermon, I looked through the Bible for all the times sex was discussed, and landed on a few central ideas the Bible presents about God’s design for sex. The theology of sex I’ll be discussing in this post comes from my study for that sermon.
I don’t imagine I need to convince you why a theology of sex is necessary, but allow me to provide a few reasons. First, because sex is so prevalent and so celebrated in our culture, it is incredibly foolish of us to not know what we believe about it. Second, (and I’ll address this when I elaborate on a theology of sex) God created us as sexual beings, and so it behooves us to understand what he intends it for. If we’re a follower of Christ, we need to be concerned with how we can glorify him in our sexuality.
There are 3 components I think a biblical theology of sexuality will include. First, God’s design for sex is that we experience it within the framework of marriage. In both the Old and New Testament, adultery is condemned as sinful:
“You shall not commit adultery.”
“And you shall not lie sexually with your neighbor’s wife and so make yourself unclean with her.…Do not make yourselves unclean by any of these things.”
“For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander.”
“Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality.”
“Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous.”
Our theology of sex must begin with this first parameter. From a practical side, sex outside of marriage leads to a higher risk of sexually transmitted disease, as well as increased issues with consent and related issues. But from a more important side, sex is designed by God to bring 2 people together as one flesh, with increased intimacy and knowledge. And that’s the second aspect I think a theology of sex has to include – God designed sex to create deeper intimacy and knowledge between a married couple. Again, the Old and New Testament speak to this:
“Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.”
“Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain, saying, ‘I have gotten a man with the help of the Lord.’”
“For the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. Likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does.”
“However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.”
I think that too often, our theology of sex only includes the first piece – “sex is for marriage!” becomes our war cry. If we leave out God’s intent that sex lead to deeper intimacy and knowledge, however, we reduce sex to a physical thing, and that’s troublesome. That’s when we see loveless marriages where sex is demanded for one person’s pleasure. Or, we see marriages where sex is a chore, simply intended for procreation. The verses above do not present sex in this reductionist way. Sex is intended for the husband and wife to know each other, to become one flesh, and to grow in intimacy to the point where mutual love, respect, and submission occurs – giving oneself to the other.
So, a theology of sex needs to include these two pillars: sex is within the framework of marriage, and it leads to deeper intimacy and knowledge. There is a third aspect I think is crucial, however. Sex is designed to be exciting and delightful. I’ll lean on the words of Solomon for this one:
“Let your fountain be blessed, and rejoice in the wife of your youth, a lovely deer, a graceful doe. Let her breasts fill you at all times with delight; be intoxicated always in her love.”
“How beautiful is your love, my sister, my bride! How much better is your love than wine, and the fragrance of your oils than any spice!”
“His mouth is most sweet, and he is altogether desirable. This is my beloved and this is my friend, O daughters of Jerusalem.”
“Your stature is like a palm tree, and your breasts are like its clusters. I say I will climb the palm tree and lay hold of its fruit. Oh may your breasts be like clusters of the vine, and the scent of your breath like apples.”
I know that Song of Solomon is a picture of God’s love for us, but if that’s all we see it as, we’re missing something. The language used is incredibly graphic (climbing the palm tree and grabbing its fruit?!) and speaks of excitement and delight. The reason that sex feels good and is enjoyable is because God created it that way. Not to be crass, but the female clitoris only has 1 purpose – pleasure. God intends that sex is enjoyable and delightful, and it is fully experienced when that excitement and delight integrates with a deeper intimacy and knowledge, in a monogamous and God-honoring marriage.
So that’s my theology of sex. God created sex to be enjoyed, to be exciting and delightful, and he created sex to lead to deeper intimacy and knowledge, all within the framework of a marriage. As we see this multi-faceted theology of sex, that should translate into loving and good sexual relationships. Only emphasizing one of these aspects leads to serious error – whether it is marriages with dysfunctional and harmful sex lives, a cycle of deeper intimacy and knowledge being broken by uncommitted relationships, or unbridled pleasure that rings hollow.
As I mentioned, over the next few weeks we’ll dive into some more specific issues related to sexuality and relationships, but I hope this is a good foundation to build on. I also want to mention as we start this journey that we as the Church need to do a much better job of balancing grace and truth in this area. We need to have our convictions without withholding grace and villainizing those who have fallen short. All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God – let’s not forget that. But let’s understand what God has designed sex to be, and lead people back to the God of grace who redeems our mistakes and makes broken things whole.
What does this have to do with youth ministry?
If you’ve spent any time with teenagers at any point in the last 100 years, you know that sex is a topic they’re thinking about. And while there may be less teenagers engaging in sexual activity than those who claim they are, teenagers are at a formative time in their lives. Their bodies are developing sexually, and they are looking for guidance. We have a responsibility to present a biblical theology of sex that is well-thought out and that is not reductionist.
In addition to that, we have a responsibility to demonstrate our theology of sex in actual living. We have a responsibility to extend grace and work through the mess teenagers may be in. And we have a great responsibility to partner with parents in this regard, who are the most influential people in their teenagers’ lives and need to be the primary voice they are hearing on this subject. Maybe that means we have to help parents formulate a theology of sex, but to do that we have to have one of our own.
So join me over these next 5 weeks as we talk about why we believe what we believe about marriage, parenting, homosexuality, and gender issues. We cannot afford to sit back and be lazy in our thinking, because real life is happening in all of these areas. Let’s get to work.
 Exodus 20:14 ESV
 Leviticus 18:20, 24 ESV
 Matthew 15:19 ESV
 1 Corinthians 6:9 ESV
 Hebrews 13:4 ESV
 Marriage is certainly not free from these issues as well, and marriage is not the silver bullet to cure sexual assault and problems with consent uncertainty, if I can coin a term. In a proper, loving marriage, however, there is trust developed over years that simply cannot be present in a casual hookup.
 Genesis 2:24 ESV
 Genesis 4:1 ESV
 1 Corinthians 7:4 ESV
 Ephesians 5:33 ESV
 Proverbs 5:18-19 ESV
 Song of Solomon 4:10 ESV
 Song of Solomon 5:16 ESV
 Song of Solomon 7:7-8 ESV