Peter Brain reminds us of the biblical foundations.
That there is an endemic confusion about our sexuality is clear in our society. So many are hurt by this confusion. Some nurse broken hearts as trust has been betrayed in serial sexual relationships. Growing numbers experience ongoing harm from sexually transmitted infections (evidenced by the alarming increase in chlamydia). Our deep longing for intimacy fails to find consummation since it is increasingly sought outside of the God-ordained parameters of a committed and mutually considerate, sexual relationship between a man and a woman, who are married to each other. Sex without commitment or even friendship can never deliver God’s gracious purposes.
The fundamental texts for the proper expression of our sexuality are to be found in Genesis 1:26–27 and 2:24. Being found in Genesis, they are creational, applying to all people of all cultures for all time. The two passages are found in the complementary creation accounts and teach us fundamental truths about ourselves, marriage and the sexual relationship.
Genesis 1:26–27 reminds us that God created both men and women in his own image, thus establishing our equality in God’s eyes and our dependence on God. The truth established here is that we are real people as individuals, independent of our being married or in a sexual relationship. Intimacy is not found primarily in our human relationships, but in our relationship with God. Procreation is clearly seen to be a reason for the male–female relationship, which is so clearly evident from our anatomical makeup. That same-sex relationships are unable to procreate is evident to all.
Genesis 2:24 establishes the complementarity of men and women. Eve does not complete Adam. They are both fully human beings made in God’s image and able to relate to God as individuals. Eve and Adam complement one another and so in marriage we make the personal choice to leave parents and unite publicly with our spouse before experiencing the private sexual one-flesh relationship.
The public relationship means that there is a decision to tell others and commit openly, thus locking all other sexual partners out. This decision, along with the commitment to transfer allegiance from parents to each other underpins and safeguards the new one-flesh relationship. Couples who save sex for marriage, as Genesis 2:24 teaches, are saved not only from sexually transmitted infection, but also those inevitable comparisons and heartaches of pre- and extra-marital sin. The wonderful forgiveness for sexual sin to be found in true repentance and faith in Christ, does not remove the consequences of our sin. Obedience to this text will bring the freedom of learning to relate to each other with consideration and respect. It would also lend support to the suggestion that pornography and romantic fiction be avoided, since they inevitably set up expectations of the other and oneself that are often unrealistic and always inimical to the caring and considerate building of marital intimacy.
The two texts rule out all other forms of sex including same-sex, pre- and extra-marital sex, polygamy, group sex, incest, rape and bestiality. That they are both quoted by our Lord in Matthew 19:4–5 helps us understand his attitude to same-sex sex. They form the basis for the joyful male–female sexual relationship proscribed for us so lovingly in Scripture (e.g. Proverbs 5; 1 Thess 4:1–8; Heb 13:4). For the same reason they underpin the numerous passages that affirm male–female sex over and against same-sex sex (e.g. Rom 1:18ff.; 1 Cor 6:9–11).
The Apostle Paul in Ephesians 5:21–33, where he quotes our foundational Genesis 2:24, deserves to be heard for the following reasons:
At a stroke of a pen in 5:25, Paul elevates women above his own cultural norm — where they were seen as either chattels, mistresses or second-class citizens — to those who were to be loved and respected by husbands in the same way that Christ gave himself on the cross for the church. Our primary relationship is with God through Christ (5:32). We do not need to marry to be a complete person. This is vital since we are all single once, and for many twice. Biblical mathematics is not ½+½ = 1, but 1+1 = 1.
We value Christ and his ways (as outlined, for example, in Ephesians 4:1–6:4) as these fit us for a life of fellowship and freedom in the church, marriage and community. When these are worked through by married couples, they become the nourishing cake of marriage. Sex may well be the icing on the cake, but where there is no cake, sex will soon lose its appeal. The full range of non-sexual friendships, built upon this cake of respect, will deliver true intimacy to all who are not married, and give sex its true meaning for those who are. The intimacy derived from our relationship with Christ (5:32) and with each other (5:18–21) at one and the same time contributes to a healthy marriage and renders sexual relationships unnecessary to those who remain single, whether of same or opposite gender attraction.
The expectation for a single person of either orientation to refrain from sexual relationships is neither unreasonable nor harmful. To expect a married couple to be servants, not only of each other but of others, flows out of Christ’s example and teaching.
Peter Brain, formerly Bishop of Armidale, is now the rector of Rockingham in the Diocese of Perth
What will our children inherit?
The French proverb ‘be sure that you want the consequences of what you want’ alerts us to the fact that arguments for same-sex sex work against the male– female security of marriage. The summary of J. D. Unwin’s monumental study of 90 cultures, Sex and Culture (OUP, 1934), is salutary:
Every civilisation is established and consolidated by observing a strict sexual moral code, is maintained while this strict code is kept…, and decays when sexual licence is allowed… Any human society is free to choose either to display great energy, or to enjoy sexual freedom: the evidence is that it cannot do both for more than one generation.
Dr John Court, in his book, Law, Light and Liberty (Lutheran, 1975), notes, ‘Aldous Huxley has paid considerable attention to Unwin’s proposition that the viability of a culture depends on the extent to which controls are exercised over sexual impulses. He describes Unwin’s book as ‘a work of the highest importance’ and, after spelling out the main conclusions that Unwin comes to, Court concludes:
The evidence for these conclusions is so full that it is difficult to see how they can be rejected. They are conclusions which will certainly seem unpalatable to the middle aged relics of a liberal generation. Such Liberals are Liberals, not only politically, but also in the sense in which Shakespeare’s ‘liberal shepherds’ were liberal. They have been ‘heard to declare’, very frequently and loudly, that they ‘wish to enjoy the advantages of high culture and to abolish compulsory continence ‘. Living as they do upon the capital of energy accumulated by a previous generation of monogamists, whose wives came to them as virgines intactes, they can make the best of both worlds during their own lifetime. Dr. Unwin’s researches have made it certain, however, that it will be impossible for their children to go on making the best of both worlds.
Our children and culture are at risk. The capital of monogamy and fidelity has been selfishly wasted and those who have wasted it so recklessly are not wise or humble enough to own up to their foolishness but compounding their sin are hell-bent in commending their own folly and dissolute ways to their children. The resultant heartache, hurt and confusion can, and will, only increase if we fail to heed God’s ways. It is said that when a man spits into the wind he spits at himself. To put it another way in the words of St Paul: ‘We reap what we sow’ and ‘God cannot be mocked’. The chilling phrase, thrice repeated in Romans 1 — ‘Therefore, God gave them over…’ (1:24, 26, 28) — can be road-tested by our observation of the sexual confusion seen amongst us. Any governmental legislation that approves of same-sex marriage can only add to our already confused community, which in commodifying sex has contributed to the denigration of women and the lustfulness of men. Nobody wins in this equation. Churches that endorse same-sex relationships by condoning non-biblical behaviour, whether through ordination or the blessing of relationships, can only expect a withdrawal of God’s blessing. Judgement, the Apostle Peter reminds us, ‘begins with the household of God’ since we should know, from Scripture and experience, the joy of his better way. — Peter Brain