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JOHN PEARRELL: God created sex as a sacred expression of love between a married couple

Sex. Got your attention, didn't I? We live in an age permeated by sexual images, ideas, words and behaviors. Modern media is filled with sexual messages, sometimes blatant, other times subtle, but recognizable nonetheless. How does the saying go? "Sex sells."

You may be surprised to be reading about this provocative subject in the Religion section (think how surprised Gateway is going to be when we start a whole series on this subject).

If you are surprised, it is only because you may have forgotten that God created sex. I think some people have the idea that sex was one of God's cruelest jokes: "Hey, let's create something everybody loves and then tell them, 'You can't do it!'"

Here's what I know: sex can either be a beautiful expression of the deepest of intimate relationships or it can become a destructive force in a person's life.

Frederick Buechner wrote, "Lust is the ape that gibbers in our loins. Tame him as we will by day, he rages all the wilder in our dreams by night. Just when we think we are safe from him, he raises up his ugly head and smirks, and there's no river in the world flows cold and strong enough to strike him down. Almighty God, why dost thou deck men out with such a loathsome toy?"

If you are not a church person (or perhaps even if you are), you may be surprised to learn that God created sex as a good thing. We who are Christ followers do not (or at least should not) view sex as something dirty or evil. I know, I know, some of you just gasped when you read that last sentence. But the Bible says, "Honor marriage, and guard the sacredness of sexual intimacy between wife and husband. God draws a firm line against casual and illicit sex." (Hebrews 13:4, The Message).

I believe God wants a husband and a wife to have the sexiest life possible; again, He's the One who gave us this wonderful gift. But with the gift came instructions and that is where the rub is with many in our world today.

We want to make the rules when it comes to sexual relationships and we want to call the shots. When we find ourselves in hot water because of crossing the boundaries God set around this wonderful gift, instead of facing the issue honestly, we want to blame God and the church for making us feel guilty.

Years ago, I was teaching a class of nurses on the subject of counseling the adolescence (that was the topic assigned to me). I remember one nurse stating, "I can't wait until the stigma religion places upon sex is so far a thing of the past that young people will be able to have sexual relationships and not feel guilty about it."

Another young lady admitted, "I have sexual relationships, and I don't understand, but I don't even believe in God, but I always feel guilty." The answer of the nursing student in my class would have been, "That's because of the false confines of religion."

I happen to disagree. The reason this young lady and others feel guilty about sexual relationships outside of marriage is because, quite frankly, they are guilty. "God draws a firm line against casual and illicit sex" (see Hebrews 13:4 above).

Before you start arguing, consider the possibility that maybe the reason God does place boundaries around His gift is because He is trying to protect you from harm. Think of it for a minute -- have you ever had a casual sexual encounter with someone who is not your spouse and come away thinking, "My life just got easier." No. You know that such an encounter just made your life more difficult.

Two quick concluding thoughts. Consider the possibility that maybe the Creator of the concept of sex knows best when it comes to telling you how to get the most out of it. If you have failed in this area, know that the Creator stands ready to forgive you and counsel you as he did with the woman caught in adultery. "I don't condemn you but leave behind your sinful practices." (John 8:11).

Dr. John Pearrell is pastor of Gateway Community Church in Covington. Visit the Gateway website at www.gatewaycommunity.org.