Volume 13, Issue 1: Husbandry
Directly contrary to the spirit of the age, ongoing sexual affection must be thought of in terms of marital duty. In our era, we must think of duty-as opposed to all that spontaneous combustion stuff we think is guaranteed by the Bill of Rights-in order to protect the great blessing contained within it. In this fallen world of ours, every pleasure is surrounded and protected by corresponding duties. The greater the pleasure, the more important the duties. The more precious the diamond, the better the security has to be. Without the maintaining of those duties, all pleasures are left unprotected and are destroyed soon enough. Duty is to sexual joy what roof and walls are to the one who would be warm and dry.
This is why I do not want to write in terms of sexual "fulfillment." One of the reasons there is so little fulfillment these days is because people lust after it. But in the economy of the gospel, the one who would be first must be last, and the one who humbles himself is exalted. In the same way, when it comes to the bedroom, the one who yearns for personal fulfillment is sent away empty, and the one who gives himself away is the one who actually loves.
This said, there are many obstacles to sexual discipline and enjoyment which a little attention to duty would overcome. First, husbands must come to understand their responsibility to be students-we have to be disciples of Christ on the subject of sex. The alternative to this is not the status of "not a student." In this regard, on this subject, men have to see the inescapability of being disciples somehow. We were created male and female, and this datum confronts us on every side. The only question concerns whose disciples we are. Men do not have the option of deciding whether or not to "enroll in the course." Rather, they are deciding whether to transfer from the devil's course to God's.
We are instructed on this subject all day long. Songs on the radio, billboards, magazine covers, co-workers telling a joke in the next cubicule, the evening news, a passionate kiss in a movie you rented, all conspire to teach us things. Much of our lives is sexually didactic. If, in the presence of this, we then refrain from studying what the Bible teaches-and it teaches a lot on this subject-then by default the only things we learn are the items which are currently on the world's sexual curriculum guide. Christian men therefore have a responsibility to study what the Bible teaches about sex, marriage, men, women, unlawful lusts, and lawful desire.
Secondly, double-mindedness is also a problem. Many times Christian couples have strict views on birth control, but do they not have a correspondingly high view of children. They think of birth control as something which the Bible prohibits, rather than thinking of children as a biblical blessing. Since sexual intercourse is thought in some quarters to increase the likelihood of pregnancy, this creates a dilemma. The couple refrains from sexual relations because of a fear of pregnancy-because they don't want to disobey the Bible. But then they find themselves disobeying the Bible, which expressly states that "due benevolence" is one of the means God has given us to resist a temptation to immorality (1 Cor. 7:3). Whatever our position about the biblical teaching on birth control, I think we can all agree that the teaching which requires consistent sexual relations within marriage is much plainer. Whatever we do, the plain passages must not be sacrificed.
Third, a theological error lies beneath many common problems in the sexual relationship. Gnosticism is the view that the material realm is somehow corrupt or spiritually unworthy. Far from being an ancient error, long since dead, gnosticism is a fundamental American assumption. Once this view is accepted, people head off in one of two directions. First they do whatever they can to minimize their contact with "things material." This is the tack taken by the ascetic. But the second option is no better. This is when it is decided that since the material has no possible connection with the spiritual, it doesn't much matter what is done with the material body. Because earth and heaven are divorced, heaven no longer has any authority over earth. What matters here is the "heart," and not what is actually done with the body.
The antidote for this is to understand sexual activity as part of our spiritual worship. It is not something neutral, but rather is part of what it means to live, work, love, and die as a living sacrifice. God does not look the other way, but rather does what He commands of us (Heb. 13:4).