Redeeming Sexual Love

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Chapter 1

Masculinity and femininity have something to do with how men and women relate in human community, how they relate by the Spirit’s power in ways that correspond to how the Father and Son relate in divine community

 [1]. L. Crabb, Fully Alive

Purpose Statement: To see that God’s purpose for creating us relationally, is to reflect Him. And to realize how vital relationships are to restoring God’s image and personal fulfilment.

My husband protected me and valued my virginity, perhaps more than I did. I intended to stay a virgin. He made it easy. Naïve, when I pushed for more than hand-holding affection, kissing aroused a passionate struggle that was confusing. I thought marriage would free Mandla from what he couldn’t shake. Never doubting his promise of love and commitment, after five years of marriage, why did I feel unloved?  I thought the problem with our sex life was me; some people like peas, some like carrots, some like sex …but I dont! With time, I realized my emotions seared with every sexual encounter. I was dying. Overcome by the numbness enveloping my heart, a void within deepened. Passion, distorted by a lie, left us defeated and broken.

On a late summer day, not expecting an answer, I asked God a pleading question. Why did He create sex?! Marriage and pre-marriage books hadn’t given me what I needed or settled the questions I longed to resolve. Blinded to God’s greater plan, we’d developed unhappy patterns. His sexual advances combined with my sexual avoidance created an atmosphere of building tension which mounted as he battled to keep frustration and anger at bay. I would relent, and we’d experience the release necessary to bring our home back to an atmosphere that seemed stable.  Balanced on the outside, the insincerity of our sexual intimacy created a coldness I couldn’t shake. Healing came gradually when compassionate responses established patterns of listening and forgiveness. Finally, trust accompanied our repeated attempts at trustworthiness, and God created heart changes through intimate understanding.

It didn’t make sense to me that a good God would prohibit something so fantastic as sex! We were a strong, religious family; and I knew the rules. I heard talk of saving sex for marriage, but who did that? If I entertained the question of why I should wait, it was brief. Certainly, I didn’t come up with good answers. I could confess my sins to the priest. What did it matter anyway?!

Fast forward. Married, and facing the realities of our marriage commitment, I began to see that by expectations created in previous experiences, I had deeply hurt my wife. After almost 20 years together, we had worked through so much baggage! Yet, the Lord continued to clarify my offences. Compelled by my growing understanding, I found Belle to say how sorry I am to have robbed her of the pleasure and joy of discovery in sexual intimacy. Through the sincerity of heartfelt confession, God lead Belle and me to deeper healing than we had experienced to that time.

A Biblical view reveals sex is about becoming one in what is both physical and spiritual. Sex is spiritual unity pointing to God’s Tri-unity and physically joins Him in the procreative work of humanity. When people attempt physical intimacy without a spiritual understanding, beliefs about self, trustworthiness, and sexuality get in the way of a fulfilling experience. Everyone has a past which forms the basis for how we view life. Whether generated by relationships in the flesh or contrived through media and personal beliefs, each of us has preconceived ideas about what it means to be sexual.

Healthy views bring notions of spirituality and sexuality in line with the Truth about God’s purpose for creating us as He did. Though journeys differ, Biblical truths infuse hope in our stories. Focusing on God, we begin to set aside the me-colored glasses that create our ‘self-ish’ perspective. ‘Self-ish’ is to be limited to the perspective created by my experience; it is my perception alone. To be ‘self-ish’, in the normality of life, moves away from the negative overtones associated with the sin of selfishness. ‘Self-ish’ is a state of being; it’s how we are, you and I. Yes, it’s sin, Original Sin. Not something we knowingly chose, yet a matter of choice, none-the-less. Noted author and speaker, Rosaria Butterfield (2015) states, “Original Sin makes us not just bad, but blind. This fact -that Original Sin distorts us at the deepest level- can be an overwhelming idea. But that is not its intent. Original Sin is not meant to shame anyone. Rather, the doctrine of Original Sin is the most democratizing idea in all human history. It means that we are all in the same boat” (Preface, para 25). We’re all ‘self-ish’ until God intervenes. When God clears the fog, unveiling my narrow point of view, selfish choices are revealed and my ‘self-ish’ perspective is brought to light.

Like glasses, ‘self-ish’ points of view color everything we see. Though they prevent us from identifying with one another, ‘self-ish’ perspectives are often reasonable. After all, how can I interpret anything, except by what I have personal knowledge of, understand, or can see? Unable to disregard these glasses, relationships are riddled by miscommunication and dysfunctional patterns. ‘Self-ish’ perspectives, while understandable, prevent us from sharing in meaningful relationships that are ultimately fulfilling.

Integrating sexuality and spirituality moves men and women, meaningfully, toward a shared perspective. Trustworthiness becomes evident as we set aside the ‘self-ish’ glasses to heal. Whether a couple or a community, people enjoy a sense of fulfilment when they connect and heal by a shared perspective.

Zakar and Neqebah: The Image of God!

Read Genesis Ch 1&2

  • Who was created in God’s image? Man       Woman      Both
  • After God created them in His image, what did God want the man and woman to do? (1:28)
  • What activity is necessary for this mandate to be followed?
  • After God completed the creation of humankind, what did He say about it? (1:31)

Chapter one overviews the creation story with Elohim, doing the work. Genesis chapter two is a more specific account of the creation of man. Beginning with 2:4 we find further insight regarding the work of God, it was Jehovah Elohim (Yahweh) who created all that we know and love. The person of Yahweh becomes important as we get to know our Creator God.

Before Eve’s creation, imagine the process of Adam identifying and naming the various species in creation. Amid the beauty of Eden, Adam’s joy of discovery was diminished by a growing awareness.

  • As Adam searched for another like himself, what did Adam conclude? (Genesis 2:20)

Already Adam felt alone and desired another, like him, with whom he could share the goodness of life. Intimacy. This beginning of human longing indicates something was incomplete. Fully created in God’s image, Adam remained unfulfilled and lonely. Then as now, God’s image cannot be realized in isolation.

According to Dr. Larry Crabb (2013), the Hebrew words, zakar and neqebah, used in Genesis 1:27 for male and female are words that demonstrate God’s image is both masculine and feminine. In his book, Fully Alive, he suggests zakar, masculinity, mirrors God’s penetrating and powerful love by moving deeply into another’s soul with life-changing impact. Dr. Crabb proposes that neqebah, femininity, reveals God’s relational nature and irresistible beauty that invites others to join Him in unity that reflects the relationships of the Trinity (pp.23-78).

  • After God had created Adam (zakar), and before He created Eve (neqebah), how did God evaluate humankind? (2:18-20)

Without the presence of the opposite sex, the creation of humankind was “not good.”  In other words, before God created Eve, the fullness of God’s image wasn’t entirely evident! Knowing how together men and women reflect God’s image is vital to a healthy view of self and purpose! Theologian T.F. Torrance (1984) said, “The basic unit of creation is not man or woman but man-woman, man and woman in a divinely ordained unity” (p. 7). This unit explains the loneliness and longing we struggle with as singles. It also evidences why loneliness persists in marriage when solitary thinking is the norm.

Equal or Complimentary? …Teleological!

Read John 1:1-5&14

  • From the Genesis accounts, and John 1, who was present at Creation?
  • What was the Spirit’s role? (Genesis 1:1)
  • Fill in the blanks from Genesis 1:26: Let ________________make man in ______________own image.

A teleological view of God believes He created us purposefully, with a goal.[2] God referred to Himself in the plural. These accounts of creation, demonstrate His nature and purpose! Jesus existed in the beginning, and the Spirit moved over the deep. So, when Elohim created, who was in charge? Were they equal or complimentary? Did Jesus do the creating? How was He there? And why did the Spirit move over the surface of the deep? Yahweh, the LORD is One.

  • From the scripture we’ve read so far, who is Yahweh our Creator, and what is He like?

Elohim, the Spirit (Ruach), and the Word (Jesus) individually are each a part of the US who created you and me. One God: Yahweh. Becoming flesh so we might conceptualize God’s intention for humankind, Jesus’ life reveals that both God’s nature and human nature are inherently relational. Created like God, in His image, relationships complement one another, and are most satisfying, very good, when we function productively together as equals. We’ll struggle with a conviction that there is “something more,” until we experience the relational health of God’s design.

Understanding God’s purposes reveal something about Himself. A teleological viewpoint gives substance to His created order, and definition to our deepest longings and the connected relationships we desire.

Emotions are NOT a Choice!

  • What was Adam’s response when he discovered Eve? (2:23)
  • What kind of partner did Adam find in Eve that he could not find in 2:20?

Creating zakar in a single being, to reflect the divine US required neqebah in another. We are sexually diverse, and that was intentional! God pronounced His creation, “very good,” only after He had created perspectives, juxtaposed, yet intimately united to reflect Himself.

When God brought a woman to Adam, he was overjoyed and finally felt whole! “Bone of my bone…” Adam finally felt complete when he discovered Eve. Celebration and joy took the place of longing.

  • What did that celebration look like? (2:23-24)
  • How do we know that Adam’s longings were, initially, completely satisfied? (2:25)

A suitable helper and diverse community were essential to God’s “very good” image in humankind. Together the strengths and characteristics of men and women reflect God’s image more completely than either can do alone. Without the intimacy of connection, God declared that humankind is “not good.” Alone we are insufficient to sustain physical and emotional life that reflects the greatness of Him.

Just as with Adam, emotions evidence something of goodness and “not good.” They indicate something about who you are, how God created you. They also indicate where we stand in relationships. Alone until God created another, Adam’s emotions came alive when he met Eve!

Feeling incomplete, zakar and nezebah are often plagued by thoughts of “not good,” and “never enough.” However, God didn’t stop at “not good”, and neither should we. Our Triune God is diverse and complicated, yet intimately united. He is one: the author of what is “good” and “not good.”  In His image is a wholeness that drives us to find fulfilment in diverse relationships that reflect His triunity, which is always enough!

Sabotage to the Celebration

  • How do we know there was nothing to hinder Adam and Eve from enjoying and sharing vulnerably in life and intimacy? (2:24-25)

One flesh. No shame. God established physical intimacy in marriage, beginning with Adam and Eve, which is good. The Hebrew words translated as “one flesh” in Genesis 2:24 means to be united[3] in the flesh of their bodies.[4] In the Bible, becoming one flesh refers to the act of sex, and was created as a celebration of divine intimacy.

Sex is vital to the wellbeing of humanity. In addition to being required for procreation, sex is an activity, an experience, and a picture that celebrates God-ordained unity. We weren’t created to be alone. The fullness of God’s image, the imago Dei, is complete and very good only when people function in unity and community. Celebrating relationships is integral to understanding and celebrating God. Yahweh is one God, but never alone.

The story doesn’t conclude with the fulfilment of Adam’s deepest desire. Somewhere in The Garden, God’s opposition was crafting its own plan. The satan[1]  hinted that God might not be trustworthy.[5] Listening to another, Adam and Eve relinquished their authority by trusting a perspective that was not God’s perspective.  Trusting the adversary’s words set in motion relational patterns where trust and trustworthiness are questionable. Failing to consider how choices affect unity, from that time onward, zakar and neqebah continue with a ‘self-ish’ perspective in place and miss out on the belonging and intimacy we were created to enjoy.

The unity, trust, belonging, and intimacy lost in human relationships, are necessary to experience the personal value that we possess because God’s image remains. God’s design, His image, unity, is targeted by Original Sin. In broken relationships, shame and fear have replaced the honesty and certainty we long to share.

Adam and Eve felt uncomfortable for the first time, after eating the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Understanding evil, the vulnerability they once enjoyed with God and one another became unpleasant because of uncertainty and lack of trust. Disregarding God’s boundaries violated their unity with Him and one another. And the only one willing to take responsibility for broken relationships was the satan.

No longer in authority on earth, uncertainty passed from Adam & Eve to every generation and broken relationships along with it. Without unity, questions of trust still linger: Can I trust you? Can you trust me? Can we trust God? Lack of trust and fear prevent intimate understanding: even invading the marriage bed.  Without intimacy grounded by trust, in and out of marriage, we cannot reflect the unity of the Trinity. 

Though our relationships fail to reflect our Creator, His intrinsic nature remains. Diverse people, driven by deep-seated needs, long for connection and fulfilment both spiritually and often sexually. In an environment of brokenness, heart connection does not feel safe. When trustworthiness is compromised in this way, we separate the spiritual from the sexual in a disconnected pursuit of both. Outside of God’s design, religious practice and sexual practice diametrically oppose one another and drive people apart.

Two Sides of One Coin

Spirituality and sexuality are foundational to who God created us to be: His Image bearers. Together, what is sexual and what is spiritual are threads of the same fabric designed to draw people together into relationships as they were at the beginning: relationships that reflect Yahweh Himself.

Spirituality cannot be isolated from sexuality without destroying the essence of both. Spirituality is shallow without a proper view of sex and leads to legalism and judgment. Sexuality is out of control and destructive without a view of sex that is relevant to spiritual truth. To satisfy intimate longing, we must integrate our spiritual and sexual beliefs and practices. The result of integrating spirituality and sexuality is divine intimacy.

God became flesh to reveal what integrated spirituality and sexuality would look like. Jesus said I came that [you] might have life …abundantly! (John 10:10) …he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness but will have the Light of life (John 8:12). Take my yoke …and learn from me …and you will find rest for your soul (Matthew 11:29). Learning from Jesus, we join Him in fellowship with others, and life takes a turn for the good …toward very good.

  • From the Bible’s first reference to sex, fill in the blanks from this verse. “And God said to them, _____________________the earth, and _________________________ it.” (1:28)

 Fill! Subdue! In other words: “What I’ve created you to do, do to the full!” When God commanded Adam and Eve to multiply and dominate the earth, He affirmed sex is part of His “very good” creation!

  • From Genesis 2:24&25, after a couple becomes husband and wife what three things did God say should happen? (Answer: 1-2-3 below.)

By God’s words in Genesis chapter 2, we see God gave direction, focus and priority for men and women that is consistent with the way He designed them. He instructed zakar and neqebah to 1) leave father and mother in marriage, and 2) be united in spirit by holding fast to one another, and maintain a united perspective. The final instruction was to, 3) become one flesh in physical unity as well.

Although God gave instructions directly to zakar, He created neqebah with a specific task in mind. She would support and be a complement where zakar lacked (vs. 15-20). Together they would produce offspring to further the imago Dei and subdue on earth. Both husband and wife, and ultimately all, are designed to function in harmony, productively accomplishing the task of ruling over the earth.

Absolutely nothing separated people emotionally or physically. Before entertaining the satan’s lies, men and women were of one mind with God and one another. There was nothing unknown, uncertain, or scary about the experience of honest knowing and understanding. Though completely vulnerable, Adam and Eve enjoyed their diversity and welcomed the intimacy of spiritual and physical knowing and being known! In the unity of divine commitment and design, they shared in God’s creative work, and celebrated His goodness!

Conclusion

In physical vulnerability, there are powerfully emotional and spiritual components. To experience fulfilment, meaning, and value in relationships, worthiness must be affirmed. And yearning for unity and trustworthiness is the bottom line all share. Our Triune God is the epitome of trustworthiness. We choose to believe it or not.  We can’t shake the desire to know and be known because we are like Him! Equal in our neediness, men and women are passionately driven. Anglican Theologian Harry Blamires (1963) says, “Passionate youthful longings and dissatisfactions [are a] pointer to the divine creation … [we are] called to [His] glory” (p. 180). Passionate expression from one individual to another looks different. We are different! Though differing in appearance, our needs to connect are equally intense. Some cannot set aside their passionate drives to connect in physical ways, any more than others can disregard their drive to connect emotionally. Uniquely created, all are passionate for something of significance. This is the image of God that longs for productive expression.

We are sexual because we are spiritual, and vice versa; it’s God’s design! Author and speaker Debra Hirsch (2015) said, “sexuality and spirituality are in fact two sides of the same coin.” She suggests that “looking to Jesus as our sexual model forces us to move beyond our fixation with genital sexuality to a much broader view of human sexuality, one that includes non-genital intimacy” (pp. 26 & 51).

When people have sex without respect for God’s design, the flesh drives, without the integrity of spiritual unity. Thus, sexual vulnerability is surrounded by insecurity, shame, and abuse. Confusion reigns since we have longings we can neither satisfy nor escape. Respecting one flesh unity as God intends creates spiritual meaning in the physical expression of who we are: image-bearers. Honoring the image of God spiritually and physically draws us into fulfilling relationships beyond what is imaginable!

Why sex? Why wait? Sex is a privilege and celebration designed for a husband and wife. It celebrates an eternal commitment, the unity and completion of God’s image, in men and women. Disregarding its holy design, sexual expression creates confusion about God. About love. And relationships. Discovering the sacredness of sexual union is necessary to come to a place of complete satisfaction and healing.

If you are unmarried and still a virgin, carefully consider your choices. Becoming sexually active does matter! Redeeming Sexual Love explains why sex is more about God’s righteous gift than human, passionate expression. If you are sexually active and wondering, what now? Be assured, God doesn’t intend to hold you back from feeling whole. Rather, He wants to move you forward in relationships through experiences that are healthy for you and those around you. Trust Him as He leads you to live according to His plan.

Married? Listen, feel the emotions, and learn the perspective of your spouse. Needs, feelings, and experiences are critical; they establish foundations for who we become, how we relate, and how we grow.

Married and Single, unity such as the Trinity has always experienced is the goal. Commitment to sex in marriage is a vehicle for understanding God and learning to function in the kind of unity He has always enjoyed! Restraint to honor God’s plan and His Biblical Picture is crucial to knowing God and understanding ourselves. Godly restraint creates space for us to be compassionate and experience unity with one another. Don’t give up! God hasn’t given up on you!

Time for Reflection

  • When it comes to sexuality which description is most like your view of God, an angry parent? Or a compassionate friend?
  • What does God’s image look like in you? Identify the longings that keep you engaging with others? Is it a desire for connection? Acceptance? Belonging? Something else?
  • Are you single? God’s plan is good. Waiting for His time to celebrate with someone likeminded who is also committed to His plan is mutually satisfying, and incomparable to the random experiences of today!
  • Are you called to remain single? Abstinence as a single celebrates God’s design and honors His Image embedded in your sexuality. Celebrate by serving God in fellowship with other believers.
  • Are you single and sexually active? His image remains in you; your longings reflect that. It isn’t too late. He wants you to trust Him and passionately await His timing. Having a life partner celebrates God’s eternal commitment and establishes an environment for intimacy that draws us to Him.
  • Are you lonely in your singleness? Don’t be confused by relentless hormonal desire. Find a fellowship of like-minded believers that are committed to being relevant to church and culture through the passionate pursuit of His plan for the body of Christ.
  • Are you married and not yet enjoying the commitment as you anticipated? With or without the cooperation of your spouse, God has a way forward. His plan is a hopeful place to start. He changes hearts through experience that’s consistent with His Word.
  • To reflect our Trinitarian God isn’t a matter of being married or single. Rather each of us is called to celebrate God by uniting spiritual truths with sexual design and applying it to individual circumstances.
  • What has God called you to? How can you apply these truths in your life? How do these truths apply to our relationships in the body of Christ?
  • Honor God as you consider the relevance of His Word to your experience. Sexual choices have natural and real outcomes physically and emotionally. Allow God to reconstruct solid foundations for your sexual expression.

 

[1] The authors note that in ancient Hebrew and Greek texts, God’s adversary remains unnamed, “a satan,” meaning one who stands opposed. Choosing to be consistent with the original texts, the authors choose not to honor God’s opposer with the dignity of a proper name, but to refer to it as Jesus did: “the satan,” that stands opposed, or the adversary. See End Note7

[1] Crabb, L. (2013). Fully Alive, A Biblical Vision of Gender That Frees Men and Women to Live Beyond Stereotypes. Grand Rapids. BakerBooks. (p. 28).

[2] Pearcey, N.R. (2018). Love Thy Body [Audiobook] Retrieved from https://www.audible.com/pd/Love-Thy-Body-Audiobook/B078NG97HN

[3] Hebrew Lexicon :: H259 (KJV). Retrieved from http://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/Lexicon/Lexicon.cfm?Strongs=H259&t=KJV

[4] Hebrew Lexicon :: H1320 (KJV). Retrieved from http://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/Lexicon/Lexicon.cfm?Strongs=H1320&t=KJV

[5] The Bible Project. (3 June 2019). Mackie, T; Collins, J. The Satan and Demons -Question and Response.

. Retrieved from  https://bit.ly/2FioujB .

Unpublished work. Copyright 2022, Greg and Carlene Seghers