In the ultimate sense of the transcendental will and purpose of the Eternal, humans will become so changed as to make our concept of male and female almost irrelevant. In a simple sense, it is clearly taught that there is no male or female in Christ and that there will be no marrying and giving in marriage in the heavenly state. Perhaps this is too remote from the very urgent tensions and desires humankind experiences in the here and now to be helpful? However, what can be understood from this is the need to limit our sexuality discussions to the context of our present world, encompassing as it does the framework of present time and mortality.
The teaching, of the Christian church, as with many other great faiths, proposes that humanity has been created and placed within this framework of mortality for a purpose. He or she has a place and function, and our thoughts and attitudes have need to be subordinated to this divine purpose. Hence all our activities are to be governed by the righteousness and love of God. He purposed all of creation, and has the fulfilment of all things in His care.
To be Christ like and walk with righteousness before God, humanity has one primary choice. If one is to be a child of God and part of the eternal plan, obedience is better than self-indulgence and a victorious life begins in submission to the Creator.
As the fundamental of the Christian faith this requires obedience to the inerrant Word i.e. the Scripture as contained in the Bible.
Given these ideas of obedience as the basis of discussion about family and sexual choice in the Christian faith, it may be helpful to make an observation as to the purpose of sex in the primary sense. From the very simple bi-sexual creature to the complex organism that is humankind, the sexual function of living creatures has as its prime function the reproduction of the species. Any pleasure principles involved are mechanisms to bring this reproduction to a successful end and nurture the product i.e. the young.. Note also that the idea of pleasure in the animal context is by necessity supposition. It can be argued that instinctive drives may well be sufficient to motivate the creatures of the non-sentient animal world. However, it is still true that in the primary sense humankind also has a basic motivation to reproduce the species. The imposition of this imperative may be suggested as instinctive or by command, never the less its primacy is found both in experience and in Scripture. The latter is apparent in God’s instruction to populate the earth. Consideration of primacy is important in understanding sexual choice. It helps us realise that sex is an ” other than self” activity in the first instance. i.e both a racial imperative and a divine imperative
The pleasure and self-satisfaction comes as a by-product of the prime species goal of reproduction. To argue that we are completely fulfilled by the satisfaction /pleasure of the act alone, is ignoring this prime directive or at best setting it aside as a secondary motive.
Consideration of the scriptural teaching will show that the vision for God’s people finds its clearest pattern in the idea of family. e.g. The Ecclesia is to be the “bride” of Christ, we are “children” of God, and Jesus is portrayed as the “bridegroom, the Ecclesia is to produce “the manchild” Earthly obedience and the Christian answer to reproduction of the species is found in the family; expressed as man, woman and their biological offspring; children. There are, it should be noted, a small group of persons, who by their unique calling enter the celibate life as an offering to God. There are some also, who, for many reasons of lack, or no opportunity, never marry, but the calling to reproduction remains as a heart desire of the Creator.
Humankind inherently seeks the opposite gender as a sex partner. In Christian teachings this motivation is in every way wholesome and good but as with all things good and beautiful it can be corrupted. The Scriptures acknowledge this, but further teaches that believers should not join themselves to unbelievers. This points to a basic ground-rule in the matter of personal relationships.
The beginning of a sexual relationship that in its fulfilment will have the blessing of the Lord God must have, for the two people concerned, a commonality of spiritual things. On this common ground of shared belief, a love is possible between two people that has as its “pillar” the quality of “agape” or transcendental spiritual love. This kind of love goes beyond the grave and may be said to be eternal. Having a spiritual beginning in agape love allows the growth of “phileo” love (companionship, brotherly/sisterly, friendship) and so forms in the mind/soul a balanced and spiritually guided relationship. As this closeness grows the couple establish understanding and knowledge of each other. Then begins those exchanges which come as blessings to two sharing minds. Ideally from such a pattern springs “eros”. A love that as the name implies involves the physical nature.
In very simple terms the Christian teaching on relationships is first spirit, then mind/soul, and lastly body.
This order of developing relationships is the responsibility of the two people concerned and clearly it is unlikely to be achieved overnight. The primary instruction to partners to be is the same as for all believers. Jesus said,” Love (agape) one another as I have loved you” His was the example of a love, being the pure form of agape, which placed the spiritual first in relationships. We should do likewise.
It would hardly be realistic to think that this order of Spirit first is the only acceptable first attraction. Our humanity responds at any or all levels of love, when meeting another person. How we deal with this situation is the important factor. Do we for example, allow our minds to be seduced by ” eros” and fall victim to lust, or are we so spiritually prudish as to allow our minds to be shocked by what are natural feelings?
In the final analysis of love and its living out in a family relationship the pathway to successful union and becoming truly one with each other depends on which part of the partners three part being they decide to give headship.
If a relationship is guided by bodily needs the erotic becomes master or mistress, if the mind or soul is the boss then partners try to think it all out, if their inner spirits seek to find the way to spiritual rule there is a chance that they might get to understand what life is really all about. (see table attached for more detail on the meaning of love)
There are those who enjoy humanist and reasonably successful marriages based on “phileo” love guiding the “eros” love of the physical. However, these two forms do not include the love Jesus was guiding us to display and lacking “agape” love these unions have no active spiritual guidance.
The Christian answer is to be walking in the light of God and being guided by His Holy Spirit. He can and will establish balanced order in this critical decision. In so doing, we learn to avoid the pitfalls involved in sexual choice by placing the Spirit and the Word in the position of headship in our lives. The committed Christian acts as directed by the Holy Spirit who instructs our regenerated spirit. This is done by revealing to us the truth written in the bible. This truth shows forth as Christ, who standing in the midst of the Word of God is always saying, “This Word is the way, walk in it”.
Incidentally no amount of trying achieves a regenerated spirit. This state begins with repentance (complete turning away from our old Adamic nature.
Part One: Understanding love in Bible terms
Jesus said, “That you love one another as I have loved you”.
|Meaning||From the Greek, Eros = god of love and more particularly erotikos = sexual love; linked with the fleshly body and our behaviour at that level.||From the Greek; phileo = love as intimate affection. It has a friend/brother sense and is more a product of the mind & soul.||This is the love that ennobles human kind. It is impossible to generate ourselves. from the Greek; agapo = love. The highest and noblest form of love which sees something infinitely precious in its object.|
|Things to consider||This principle dominates in flesh thinkers.
Main aim: self satisfaction.
Main result: excesses of behaviour in bodily needs, e.g., drink, food, sleep, exercise.
Ways of thinking which creep in:
hedonism: if the act gives pleasure it is right
sensualism: unbridled enjoyment of body senses on the basis of “if it feels good do it (so the doing is right)”
existentialism: do as you like if it doesn’t hurt others.
|This principle has its working in many. Paul speaks of them as carnal believers. A mixture of the flesh principle and the soul principle dominates their lives. they become mind and soul dominated. they seek and in fact find happiness but it continually slips through their fingers.
Main aim: happiness.
Main result: pride and insecurity.
Ways of thinking that creep in:
speculative science: tries to explain everything by theories, no faith walk.
humanism: man is the highest good; over emphasis on man’s achievements.
materialism: nothing exists or is as important as matter and things.
|This love is a fruit of the Holy Spirit in our lives. It springs up out of a willing and committed life. It loves enemies and those who have and do persecute us. It demonstrates proof of discipleship and is the essence of the great commandment given by Jesus, “Love one another as I have loved you” This is the love that casts out all fear. Not something you do but something you are. We are to be like Christ.(God is Love)
Main aim: to please God.
Main result: joy unspeakable.
Ways of thinking that creep in:
the mind of Christ.
|Outworking in marriage||“If I feel the need I have a ‘right’ to satisfaction”. Partner’s need comes second. Concentrates on self needs and self satisfaction. Overindulgence in food, drink, sex, sleep, exercise, etc., sweeps aside the purity and refinement of ‘first love’.
Grossness leads to lusting for the things that satisfy the body. The body says ‘the more I get the more I want’. The ‘Alcoholic syndrome’ begins. Instead of being blessings, food, sex, sleep, exercise, drink etc become drugs.
First love begins to die. Person allows the entry of serious drugs, alcohol, tobacco, and gambling in order to satisfy their erotic cravings.
|Legalism: thinks of marriage as man’s role vs woman’s role. Mixes worldly thought about marriage with Christian teachings. Is a ‘baby’ and not aware of partner’s needs on a day to day basis. Doesn’t truly become one with partner so doesn’t help unless asked.
Inconsistent in virtue and right behaviour. Finds it hard to forgive. Experiences highs and lows in contentment.
Uses emotional blackmail, e.g., ‘don’t you love me any more?’ ‘if you loved me you would…'(used when deprived or fails to get own way.
|Agape love dominates every corner of the partnership because Jesus is at its centre. The partners, because they are one in His Love, are able to bring divine order into their relationship.
Not possible without the ‘I’ principle becoming ‘we’ and the ‘get’ becoming ‘give’. Husbands understand that they are to be like Christ and lay down their lives for their wives (no self indulgence possible). They are to bless their wives with example and righteous outworking of the living Word in their lives so that, she — the wife — as does the church, will respond with the continuing fragrance of first love and share a willing partnership rich with agape love.
Thus the Song of Solomon will become a reality to them both.
|Typical comments heard||‘Why not?’ ( blackmail)
‘It’s my turn’ or ‘It’s your turn’ (self interest)
‘I’m cold/hungry/sexy/lonely’ (self pity)
‘I need a rest you do it’ (selfishness)
‘Its too hard’ (laziness)
‘I give up’ (cowardly)
‘You aren’t doing what the Bible says’ (Judgemental)
‘That’s just how I am so you will have to put up with it’ ( a direct rejection of the healing work of the Holy Spirit)
|‘I think….'(self glory)
‘when I get rich / powerful / successful / etc.’ (excuse for failure)
‘if you tried what I think, it would fix everything’ (egotism)
‘I do it this way’ (pride)
‘women/men are all the same’ (when speaking of spouse)
‘I’ll never speak/talk, etc. to him/her again’ (sitting in judgement)
‘I can’t change’ ( limiting God)
|‘We are going to’ . . . not ‘I am’
‘What does the Bible say about this’
‘I’m sorry’ (from a truly contrite heart, God’s forgiveness first. Husband should lead and speak apology and peace first)
… and many more positive, constructive, sincere remarks aimed at giving joy and building up the partner.
|Some behaviour patterns||Sulking and withdrawal if frustrated
Gross or coarse behaviour
Physical contact mostly for self gratification
Expressing love always seems to end in physical sex
Eye for beauty dulled
Beautiful sounds lack interest
Expressing thanks and showing appreciation fades
Sleep patterns interrupted, uses sex, drugs or negative behaviour as a way of relaxing.
|Talks about rules, thinking out what’s best and law
Difficult to teach and slow to learn about righteous things
Has fixed and rigid ideas and opinions
Continually corrects spouse and friends
Tries to dominate conversation
Frequently has opinions unsolicited by the circumstance
Has little sense of protocol (the appropriate thing to do)
Has an on-again off-again relationship with God
Fails as a novice to rightly divide the word of truth
Tries and tries again in their own strength and continually fails as a result
Talks letter of the truth not the Spirit.
|Remembers little things
Recalls joyous occasions from the past
Notices all the beloved does and expresses appreciation and joy for them
Is ‘aware’ of the ‘beloved’ in their needs, sorrows and trials
Understands the needs for freedom and makes opportunity possible for the loved one to be alone (not smother love)
Behaviour is sensitive, gentle and perceptive with respect to each others needs and person
Uses imagination and anticipates possible joys and sorrows
Understands that male and female are different and devotes sincere effort to live in harmony with this difference.
|Some scripture references||Eph. 5: 4; Eph. 4:19; Gal. 5: 7-8; Gal. 5:19-21; Matt. 4: 8; Rev. 2:4||James 1: 8; 2 Pet. 3:8; Matt. 7: 1-2; Matt. 15: 3-7; Matt. 18: 21-22; Matt. 19: 26; 1 Cor. 3: 1-3; 1 Cor. 3: 18-20; Eph. 4:14-16; 2 Cor. 3:6||Jn 13:34; Eph. 5:22-27; 1 Jn 4:18; Rom. 8:21; 2 Co. 3:17; Song of Sol (all); 1 Cor. 2:16|
Part Two: Love manifest
Before continuing to discuss some of the ways to develop the inner spirit read the above chart again. It is suggesting that successful relationship comes basically from putting the partner first. Win-win comes from building the other, helping the other, seeing the beauty of the other and always seeking to enhance their level of self-worth. If your partner has high regard for themselves they are more able to have a high regard for you. It a very old truth that to love others you must first love yourself. If one walks about with personal thoughts of unworthiness, (I’m no good, I’m a loser, my live is hopeless etc.) to extend love to another person is impossible.
1 + 1 = 2 If a one tries to add “my way” to the other, i.e.” change” the other one, make them over, organize them, make them the same as me, tell them what to do, teach them to be different, the result is two. Separation continues
1 x 1 = 1 If the second one tries (always) to multiply the first, encourages, appreciates, praises, and allows them to grow in their own way the result is one. True oneness results.
Part two of this discussion will discuss the qualities that result from and are developed out of the inner spirit. Human kind has tried in innumerable ways to define, discuss, analyse and portray just what this inner spirit is, and where it comes from, but for the purpose of the following two things are taken to be so.
One: there is a Creator Spirit whom we call God.
Two: that God is responsible for, and cares for, the inner spirit of humankind.
Qualities of the enlightened spirit
To display “agape” love and live life from the inner spirit is a matter of being willing to change. Not change someone else but to allow your inner self to change the way you live. It requires a deliberate act of your own will to forsake the old ways and follow the way of Godliness. Such an act of the inquiring heart will find that very soon the thoughts will turn towards some of the qualities of the enlightened.
The greatest of these qualities is love. (agape) This has been discussed and usually the question that follows almost immediately is; how do I change?
The answer is strange; “Stop trying to change, start growing”
The aim of the inner spirit is not to change you but to grow and develop in you. As you pursue the behaviours and qualities of the enlightened spirit the things that bug you will cease to matter and they will as it were “drop off”
Understanding the nature of agape love is a beginning, being willing to live in this way is a first step, and allows the beauty of the inner spirit to flow from you as an active participant in the changing process. The process begins by being born again in the inner spirit.
a. The agape lover. (this has been discussed)
Another name for peace is harmonious relationship. It’s not the peace the world tries to achieve. That adds up to having no strife or agro. Real peace comes from a heart condition. We have an inner sense of being forgiven for all and anything that we have done in past days. Peace grows within our minds, personality and emotions as we allow the inner spirit to take control. Peace is needed in our relationships. This is not simply an atmosphere or feelings. This peace is a possession that flows from the inner spirit as we WILL to act and follow the inner wisdom. We speak peace, we act peace, we be peace, we share peace
This means kindness, graciousness and goodness of heart.. When strength and power are under perfect control then true gentleness shows it s beauty. Such behaviour reassures and develops trust in those to whom we are relating. This quality is the opposite of brutality. Gentleness is an essential ingredient of a successful marriage Power without gentleness is a recipe for disaster in personal relationships
d. Longsuffering or patience.
This quality of self-restraint in the face of provocation does not hastily retaliate or promptly punish. It is the opposite of anger and is associated with mercy . Our way of life speaks, and longsuffering is one of the great lessons we can show in ourselves for everyone to see. Patience gives others a space to readjust, helps them to grow into new situations and so develop a healthy relationship with their life and yours also..
Our ordinary understanding of trust of course applies and all are aware that it is impossible to build a marriage without basic trust or being able to rely on a person’s honesty, integrity and reliability in personal relationships.
There is however a greater meaning. This greater trust is shown by a creative affirming life. This might well be summed up by saying that all things work together for good for those who speak goodness into life.
Our words, what we say, have much greater power than most realize. The words we speak come from the heart and show a clear picture of who/what we are and as we speak those words create around us the life we are projecting onto our environment.
Every time the mouth speaks success, joy, praise, beauty, kindliness, love, and all the creative aspects of life this will happen to everything we touch or speak to. This is essential, positive, affirming trust in the goodness of the creation.
The opposite speech behaviours like failure, criticism, coarseness, downgrading, negation of any kind, lacks this essential trust and destroys the security of marriage.
There are other qualities of the inner spirit. You will find them for yourself, as you will to be the kind of person we all really desire to be in our inner self. These thoughts are signposts on the way and if you sit quietly and think about them, you will come to realize that you knew them all the time. Now is a good time to start practicing and willing them into reality in your life
Part Three: The deceit of knowledge
Humankind lives today in an ocean of knowledge. As a species, we have elevated knowledge to such a high place in our societies that all look upon it as the only way to go on living. If we just KNOW how everything works then our problems will be solved.
The writing about a tree of the knowledge of good and evil has substantial truth in the living reality of modern life. We read, we study, attend great institutions of learning and win acclaim for our great knowledge yet the same problems that undermined humankind in the days of the Roman Empire and the earlier life of Egypt and the Pharaohs are still very much with us. We know about “good and evil” and many there are who desperately try to change by thinking it all out, trying this solution and that, searching here there and everywhere and finding no answers in the growing accumulation of knowledge. We write thousands of books about how to do everything but somehow knowing about something is not the same as “being” something.
There is a very large gap between knowledge and wisdom. I have found that the will and thoughts of humankind can write upon the mind a vast store of knowledge but only the willingness of the individual to allow the inner spirit to direct their life can change their mind into a state of being that allows them to express wisdom. Being wise is not the same as being knowledgeable or clever. Wisdom is a state of being.
There is nothing wrong with knowing. Education is an imperative if we are to continue as a species. Problems begin when we make knowledge the source of all our life motivations.
These ideas are not new. Great thinkers throughout the ages have come to very similar conclusions about knowledge and given us guides and pathways. Buddha spent many years of pilgrimage searching for the elusive secret of “being”. Confucius also looked along similar pathways. Krishna also was concerned with the idea of an inner spirit in humankind.. The Judeo Christian ethic also teaches a similar message.
How each person answers this discussion influences their expressed life. Be it spirituality, knowledge or hedonism; we all tend to put one of these three as the central motivation of our lives.
Part Four: The erotic nature
It is interesting to consider and realize that the erotic part of our nature can become very special in family life. There are many ways that two people may share experiences and activities but only sex provides a relationship that a husband and wife can share uniquely with one another. It is a oneness experience that we can keep for one person; a special kind of unity which in a balanced relationship is treasured. It is not very difficult to see from this how destructive infidelity is and how fornication tends to lower the value of marriage.
Humankind is made to be erotic in nature. However, notice the word balanced. When partners reach the erotic level of their being, a balanced guidance of spirit and knowledge will blend together to create a union that lifts all parts of both individuals into a deep realization of the creative purpose of being “married”. If all that has been discussed so far has not found an ongoing expression in this final bonding then there is no marriage. The partners are just living together. . The creative affirming life mentioned earlier is withered and negated.
It is assumed that the act of sexual communion is known and has been carefully studied. Even so, it is surprising how many still lack an understanding of the ways in which love needs to adapt and change to fulfil the characteristic and very ordinary needs of both men and women. Sexes are different and we many times ignore this in our selfish, getting and keeping, buying and selling society. Strong relationships develop from a contrasting principle, that of giving and receiving. Be very clear that while giving makes most of us happy and we like the feeling of giving the other half is VERY important. Something offered/given should/must be graciously received. The principle is a two way street. Particularly in sexual relationships.
Love gives and in the giving supplies needs. Needs are only met by accepting the love that is given.
Sexual needs, as has been said are different for men & women.
For men the act of marriage satisfies an ever-present sex drive. It helps to fulfil his manhood. It enhances his love and closeness to his wife. Provides intense pleasure and relaxation.
For a woman the act also helps to fulfil her womanhood. It reassures her of her husbands love. and provides pleasure and relaxation. The needs are very similar but the path to sex drive satisfaction is much quieter and in a way more beautiful for a woman. Man can take part in this little journey if he remembers to first provide for the needs of spiritual love, companionship love, compassionate love, romantic love, affectionate love and then and only then opens the garden of passionate love.