Self-Focused Sexuality

Why are we having a debate over the marriage question? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

I was in a debate on Facebook on same-sex marriage when someone wanting to respond to my view told me that if my view is correct, then divorce should be illegal.

It was at that moment that I got a further realization of how depraved our culture is.

“If marriage is a lifelong sexual commitment between a man and a woman, then divorce should be illegal.”

“But divorce should not be illegal because divorce is a good.”

“Therefore, marriage should not have to be a lifelong sexual commitment between a man and a woman.”

Was this said explicitly of course? No. The argument does seem to assume that divorce is some kind of good and we ought to have it. See how ridiculous my position would be then? I take this thing that is a good and say that if my view on marriage is correct, this should not be.

In fact, my reply was to congratulate the person on agreeing with Jesus. Jesus, if you remember, when asked about divorce, said that Moses granted divorce because of the hardness of hearts, but it was not always this way. God did not design marriage to be separated by divorce. Now Jesus did grant it in the case of unfaithfulness to the covenant, and there are such sad cases, but those cases are for when the good thing has already gone incredibly bad.

It would be a mistake to start with divorce as the good. We must start with marriage as the good. We should not be seeking to protect the state of divorce. We should instead be seeking to protect the state of marriage.

Could this be part of the reason why we even have the debate on SSM to begin with? Every argument is built on premises and there are times that those premises themselves have to be questioned. If marriage is just simply about the happiness of the people involved, then I agree, there would not really be an argument against SSM. Now marriage can and does bring happiness to the two, but is that what the institution is all about? Does marriage exist simply to make us happy?

As Christians, we are to believe that our happiness is found ultimately in God. There are things here that can make us happy, but they cannot be the source of our happiness. Our spouses can make us happy, but they should not be our happiness. Sexual union can also bring about happiness, but it should not be the source of happiness. If we make either of those the source, we make a huge mistake as we end up creating an idol.

For our culture, sex is the big one. We live in a society that says you are not living a complete life if you have not had sex. I happen to have friends who are single and still virgins and I am convinced they are living lives of much higher quality than those people I know of who are shacking up or who are having one-night stands regularly.

It is my hope that they will marry, because I do think marriage provides a great joy and I want them to have it, but at the same time, if for some reason they decide to not marry, then that is alright. They are not living incomplete lives. It is possible to go through life without ever having sex and still to have led a rich and full life.

Yes. You heard that right.

Now as a married man, supposing, and God forbid, my wife suddenly died. I would be without sex in my life then. It would be something very hard, no doubt, and something I would miss assuming I never remarried, but it would be entirely possible still. My life is enriched by sex, but my life does not depend on it. You will not find a medical report anywhere that says “Cause of death: Lack of sex.”

Our society just finds this incredible to think about. We have films like the 40 year-old Virgin. After all, who could reach the age of 40 and still be a virgin? How bizarre would that be?

Yet I wonder if anyone would really describe our society overall as happy with this. We might have some temporary pleasures every now and then, but could we not be more like addicts seeking more and more pleasure from various places and needing more and more to get us the necessary high each time?

A married couple should not have this problem. It is the constant growing with the other person physically, emotionally, intellectually, socially, and sexually that shapes things. The intimacy is regularly built that you become one with the person and rather than wading in many shallow pools of sexual flings, we end up diving in a sexual ocean with one person becoming more and more aware of them every time.

The great danger is to come seeking solely your pleasure. Now you need to be aware of your own pleasure so your spouse can know what does and doesn’t bring you pleasure, but if you are just seeking your own pleasure entirely, you are not loving the other person. You are treating them as an object.

For this reason men, we should sometimes be thankful our wives tell us “no.” Men tend to be the ones that want to enjoy sex the most and women don’t. Why is it that a man should be thankful for something like this? Mark Gungor, a Christian pastor with the “Laugh Your Way To A Better Marriage” says in his DVD presentation that there are some men who marry a woman with a strong sexual appetite and that he thinks he speaks on behalf of all men when he says to those guys “We hate you.”

Without some limitations, we could tend to dominate our wives. We could think they exist solely for our pleasure. They do not. Keep in mind we also exist to bring them happiness. In fact, in Deuteronomy, if a man got married, he was not to go to war for a year so he could bring cheer to his wife. That’s right. The man was supposed to avoid defending his country so he could make his wife happy.

It does not say so she can bring cheer to the man. (And this is supposedly a sexist culture remember)

I’ve recently been reading “And the Band Played On” by Randy Shilts on the spread of AIDS. Shilts was in fact a homosexual who died of AIDS, and regularly one hears about the homosexual experience in the book where men who just always want more pleasure would find more and more partners, and more would be needed, as well as more experiences. The number of sexual partners a man could have in his life would be astronomical.

Why does that matter? Because with no limitations placed on appetite, one can allow it to dominate, and when an appetite for that which is less than the greatest good dominates, then it will quickly lead to idolatry. Could this be some of what Paul has in mind in Romans 1?

What has this been all about? It’s been all about seeking our happiness. Marriage is not about that. It is hard work. Why? You are a fallen individual and the person you marries is fallen and when our fallenness collides with that of another, you can be sure that there will be conflict. My Mrs. and I can get upset sometimes over the craziest things. We can know it’s crazy, but hey, we’re fallen.

That being said, we both want the other person to shine in the future. My wife wants to see my ministry flourish and is excited about where she thinks I am going. Meanwhile, I see that my wife has a lot of good to her that she has a hard time realizing and I am looking forward to seeing that beautiful flower bloom more and more.

We have this idea that everything in life is supposed to be easy. It’s not. Most things in fact are hard. I’ve said on a recent blog I think that I try to read at least 100 pages a day, often more. That can be difficult with balancing time between being with my wife, helping around the house, doing any work, just some quiet pleasure time, and all the other demands of the day. It’s good to be able to answer questions, but the wrong approach to getting the ability to answer questions is not to sit down and pray “God. Give me the knowledge I need,” and then do nothing. There is nothing wrong with praying that, but be sure to follow it with actions. Be sure to be going to a library, listening to podcasts, attending conferences, studying, dialoguing with others, and taking classes at colleges and Seminaries.

The reality is that you actually have to be seeking knowledge in order to get knowledge. What would it mean to say “I want knowledge” but then say “But I don’t want to do all the things that will bring about knowledge?” If that is your attitude, then you do not really want knowledge. You might think it’d be nice to have, but it just isn’t worth the effort.

If you want a good and happy marriage, you will have to work. It does not matter who you marry. Work will be an essential. That person will change over time and you will have to love them through all the changes. This will help you to become a more holy person. When you are tempted to complain about your spouse’s attitude, it will show you much in your own attitude you need to work on.

We often hear about how hard the Bible is on women with the term “submit.” Most don’t take the time to look at what else is in Ephesians 5. I was recently talking with a friend on the phone whose wife is going through a hard time and reminding him of what it says.

What does it say? How are husbands to love their wives? “As Christ loved the church.” As I told him, that better terrify you. That is a huge calling. What man is going to look and say “Yeah. I can love a woman the way Christ loves the church?” It is supreme arrogance to think that we apart from the Holy Spirit could do that, but yet, this is what we are called to do. We are called to the most sacrificial love of all. (And keep in mind, this is in that sexist book again.)

The first step is to stop looking at other people, including our spouses, to fulfill our desires. The second step is to stop looking at ourselves as having our purpose be to fulfill the desires of our spouses. What? “But Nick, I thought you were saying we need to have that self-sacrificial love.”

Correct. We are. There is nothing wrong with seeking some of your desires to be filled and some of your spouses. The person we should desire the most to please is God. When we are loving our spouse, we should be asking if we are loving in a way that is pleasing the heart of God. If we are pleasing God, we will benefit our spouse. We can be thinking we are loving our spouse, but if we are not pleasing God, then we are not really loving our spouse as we ought.

For those who are single, live in such a way to please God as well and count on Him for your happiness. If you want to marry, that’s just fine. Go ahead and seek a spouse. Just don’t make your spouse an idol. If you don’t want to marry, then be aware of what that comes with, such as a life without sexual intercourse. You can still lead a rich and fulfilling life. You will have to ask if that is a worthwhile sacrifice. Christianity only teaches two options. You either have no sex, or you get married and have sex with only that person.

Perhaps when we realize that everything is about the joy of God instead of our joy, we can recover the hope of the world and restore marriage for a watching world. Our view of everything should be different because we are Christians and yet it seems for marriage, our thinking is usually the same as the world’s. Christ has changed everything. He changed the view of the first century peoples on sex and marriage. Let us not forsake that new view to return to the old.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

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