Did you know that the Bible actually commands you to have sex? It’s a rule, one of those God-says-so things. But don't take my word for it - check it out in Genesis 2:24:
Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.
They shall be one flesh. That’s a man and a woman commanded to become "one". This is no ethereal symbolic statement! One flesh is precisely what happens when a man and woman make love, or have sexual intercourse. It’s plug and play and perfect unity as they fit together just like the Designer intended. One flesh.
Without doubt, this physical union is part of a much deeper union, where a male and female, in a covenantal relationship, mirror the union of God in the Trinity. Looking deeper, it becomes obvious that both the men and women bear different aspects of God’s character in their genders, but once united as male and female, the union represents a much fuller picture of Who God is.
Eve is a life giver; she is Adam's ally. It is to both of them that the charter for adventure is given. It will take both of them to sustain life. ~ John Eldredge
Just the same, God clearly mandates that they make love, have sex, get it on, make out, couple, ___________ (fill in the blank). I like the sounds of that, but you’re not convinced?
How about we take a look at 1 Corinthians 7. Now I realize that this is a tricky passage, because Paul is repeatedly saying that this is free advice, rather than a “word from the Lord”. Still, it’s in your Bible, and you should pay attention. In fact, I would say it has the sound of a Word from God, whether Paul felt confident about it or not.
To set the stage, there are some people in the Corinthian church who have started proselytizing the idea that it’s good to not have sex in marriage. Why would they say that?! Perhaps they had similar issues to the traditional church today, where sex is often viewed as a dirty thing, or maybe they were promoting an aesthetic lifestyle of denying pleasure.
Here’s a few interesting thoughts out of that chapter:
1) It is good to abstain from sex…but only for the unmarried!!
In fact, it’s hard not to think that Paul is advocating for sex, sex, and more sex - IF you’re married. If you’re not married, the emphatic answer is NO sex at all, zero, zilch, nada. She’s pretty black and white.
I like the way the Message puts it:
Sexual drives are strong, but marriage is strong enough to contain them and provide for a balanced and fulfilling sexual life in a world of sexual disorder. 1 Cor. 7:2-3 (Message)
2) The husband and wife should fulfill one another’s sexual needs.
The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband. 1 Cor. 7:3 (ESV)
The order is inspired here: he makes the first move towards “her needs”, and she responds towards “his needs”. This protects wives from stupid husbands who like to use Scripture for selfish reasons, misunderstanding the concept of submission and leadership. Look, if your sex-life sucks as a married couple, I’m gonna start with the husband in terms of looking to fix things. He’s the lead here, and as I heard someone say, everything rises or falls on leadership (pun definitely intended).
Research shows that when she cums first, things just go better. Heed God's Word and thrive :).
If she comes first, she comes forever. ~ Ian Kerney
The marriage bed must be a place of mutuality—the husband seeking to satisfy his wife, the wife seeking to satisfy her husband. Marriage is not a place to “stand up for your rights.” The Message (1 Corinthians 7)
3) The husband and wife should give one another “authority” over each others bodies.
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. Do not deprive one another... 1 Cor. 7:4-5
This means you surrender to one another’s wishes in the bedroom, within reason. Gotta love the Apostle Paul, no religious prude here! And remember, he’s writing at a time when society was very patriarchal, and women were generally considered to have no authority over men, viewed as objects or property more than people (this is not unlike the porn-industry of modern times).
This definitely means that one partner can still give their spouse their conjugal rights, even when they're not in the mood. In fact, if sex only happens when both partners are in the mood, it will certaily become more and more infrequent. That's just the way it works, and may be the reason that Paul uses the word "duty" to describe one's obligation to their partner - though I wouldn't ever describe your Wednesday night rendezvous as a duty :). Either way, a sex-life that's limited by the mood of either partner will quickly dissipate into virtually nothing.
4) Sexual abstinence in marriage is only exceptable for fasting and prayer.
Do not deprive one another, except perhaps by agreement for a limited time, that you may devote yourselves to prayer; but then come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control. 1 Cor. 7:5
The only acceptable time not to engage in frequent, consistent sexual activity with your spouse is for a limited season of prayer and fasting. NO other reason is good enough no matter how reasonable it sounds, including headaches and bad moods.
And if on the rare occasion you decided to fast from sex, you both have to be in agreement. And when that limited season (say a few hours) is done, get back in bed. This exception is so unusual that Paul underlines the fact that it’s "not a command”, in case someone decides to write a book about sexless prayer, of the mandated “sex fast”.
Probably by accident, Paul also creatively answers the questions of frequency of sex in marriage. Everybody wants to know how much sex should a married couple by having?! Here it is: how long would you fast food for? Most people I know who regular fast do a 1-3 day fast, with longer fasts (4-40 days being extremely rare). So the magic number might be at least once every 3 days.
5) After fasting and prayer, you shouldn’t waste any time having sex.
6) Sexless marriages are a hotbed for immorality.
"...but then come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control."
I find it fascinating that this is actually in your Bible: sexlessness can lead to sexual immorality.
The answer to sexual purity in the marriage is...lots of sex - exactly the opposite of purity outside of marriage, which is no sex.
This is a stunning realization: God’s answer to sexual immorality is a frequent and satisfying sexual relationship between a husband and wife. Marriage is clearly presented here as the answer…the answer…to sexual immorality. So we know that it’s possible that marriage can actually help a person deal with pornography or any other of the sexual sins so prevalent in our culture.
Our bes shot at seeing sexual wholeness, is in celebrating, nurturing, caring for, teaching on, and discipling couples into great married sex!! Ironic isn't it, that even though marriage sexuality is pure and beautiful from a Biblical perspective, we diminish it through our silence to some ugly, secret, dirty thing?
7) A husband and wife should focus on how to please each other.
But the married man is anxious about...how to please his wife. 1 Cor. 7:33
Her pleasure is always on his mind. And vice versa. If you're married, and you never thinkk about sex with your spouse, you should view that as a warning signal.
Remember, the resounding emphasis in this passage is that she comes first, her pleasure is first up to bat. If you get that guys, she’ll very naturally fall into wanting to return the favour. You can launch your bottle-rocket whenever you want to, but only after her diesel engine is nice and warmed up. Take your liberty then, and not before.
As another fascinating sidenote: Paul’s teaching here very much acknowledges that women, not just men, crave sexual pleasure.
Traditional Christianity has unwittingly perpetrated the idea that sex is mostly a chore for the wife. Not so! Paul's teaching underscores what recent discoveries about the clitoris have shown us - women are incredibly sexual! I'll dig into that more in another boog.
8) Sex is actually a good reason to marry.
"If anyone thinks that he is not behaving properly toward his betrothed, if his passions are strong...let them marry..." 1 Corinthians 7:36
IF his passions are strong. It's men we're talking about here, right? A little tongue-in-cheek from Paul.
Funny, I’ve heard well-meaning Christians say exactly the opposite! Don't get married because of sex?! It might sound sanctimonious but it's not Biblical. Additionally, Paul is asserting that whatever the potential difficulties of marriage are, they are infinitely more preferable to a sexually tortured life as a single.
Here’s the bottom line:
It is actually immoral to be married and not be having regular and frequent sex. A sexless marriage IS sexual immorality.
And I'd put money on the fact that this type of sexual sin is far more common in our culture than any other type of sexual immorality, with most couples my age (45) lucky if they make love three times per month. Put that against Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 7 about frequency (the length of a fast), and this is definitely classed as too much abstinence - the kind that starves people and leaves relationships dead. Note: there could be justifiable issues for this lack-of-sex, but none are without reasonable solutions. Seek and ye shall find.
Here’s the problem as I see it, specifically in the Christian’s world: we are usually very loud about pointing out the sins of others, crying “foul” on any and all sexual immorality, be it same gender issues, sex before marriage, or what have you. But it’s hard to point fingers at sin, while you invariably hold up the standard of God’s version of sex - one man and one woman for life, while living in sin - a sexless marriage. Or to put it another way: don’t be a pharisee, hypocritically trying to take the “speck” out of someone else’s eye while ignoring the “log” in your own. By the way, Pharisees would gladly point out the wrong in others, and declare themselves righteous or in the right, when the “right” they lived was nothing but dry, stale bread crumbs.
Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral... Hebrews 13:4
So married person, what are you waiting for? Don't just hear the word - obey with great joy!
PS. I write this assuming their is a level of health in your marriage already. For those that are deeply conflicted (all too many these days), the solutions to a thriving marriage are often a more complex. At Evangel, we offer counseling and coaching to help couples move into a place of well-being where they can begin to experience all that God has for their marriage, including some of the things I write about here!