God has given no more beautiful a gift than the sexual union He makes possible between a husband and wife. It is the fullest expression of “having one’s back” – understood as total commitment. There is good and credible evidence the Jews invented romantic love as expressed in their practice of kissing and making love in the frontal position, making possible the intimate engagement – looking one another in the eye – we associate with “knowing” in the Biblical sense. Sexual union is also the way we give birth to children, whose purpose is to provide an opportunity for sacrificial love as much as to reproduce our species. This approach to union is unique to humankind.
God clearly intended this as His gift from the beginning. A proper translation of Genesis 2:18 reads literally as “one who can look him in the face,” as egalitarian a term as anyone could ask for the status of a wife; “helpmate” is simply not it. Meanwhile, Genesis 2:24 depicts God declaring a man leaves his parents and becomes one flesh with his wife. Jesus calls this foundational in Mark 10. Only then is sex the gift He intends.
Tragically, we have not been content to walk out God’s plan; and California leads the nation in walking out the tragedy. Many studies – conducted by major secular universities over the past four decades – show marriages are sturdier and stabler when the couple marries prior to co-habitation. Others show children are far less at risk for poverty, crime, or addiction when raised in traditional families. Studies touting the benefits of raising children in alternative households have been debunked as junk science by studies actually employing the scientific method and painting a picture much more grim. Although there are times when a marriage cannot endure the strains placed on it, and the one entrusted with the children does the best (and often successful) job possible against odds, there is no alternative model in which adults and children consistently thrive than the Biblical one. Yet we keep trying to do the same dysfunctional stuff while expecting a different result for ourselves and our children.
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California plays host to the worldwide pornography industry. Between eighty and ninety percent of pornography produced worldwide comes out of the greater Los Angeles area – ironically a place named for the angels of God – and its use is as common in the Church as outside it. Pornography is by definition an appeal to the absence of covenant relationship, in which only the pleasure associated with sexual union is entertained. The people on both sides of the screen are treated as objects – pieces of meat in essence – and even Christians tend to deny the destruction this wreaks on authentic relationships, although numerous studies document the reality. Add that to the social tendency for engaged couples to focus more on the wedding than the marriage in their preparation times, and it is small wonder our state leads the nation in divorce and marital dysfunction. What can we do as people of repentance?
For openers, we could check out Ephesians 5:21-25 in God’s Book. The world was grounded in sacrifice from the beginning. (I have made my case for this in previous blogs and will doubtless do it again herafter.) Verse 21 calls on husbands and wives to submit to (read: sacrifice for) one another out of reverence for Christ. The rest speaks to how wives and husbands can accomplish this mutual submission within their respective spheres – and nothing more, nor less. There is no subordination in marriage, only mutual submission leading to mutual joy–if we accept the counter-intuitive precept God gives.
We are indeed called to repent in this season of spiritual drought leading to physical drought. Repentance is not about beating ourselves up over our own behavior, much less that of others. It is about re-focus on God and on the life He offers to us. The people of God who observe the lifestyle of repentance as the privilege it is will look first at how they can be better spouses and parents according to the Biblical model. They will re-discover the joy of covenant engagement with one spouse viewed as a person and not as an object. And we will beg God on an ongoing basis to lead the rest of us Californians back to Him and to His ways. Repentance is about seeking abundant life from its Giver through practical acts. And we can start by celebrating that – while there are sexual sins and they are rampant in our state – there is no necessary connection between the one and the other. Authentic sex is anything but sin.
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