My husband and I just hit our 13 year anniversary a few months ago. In that time, we have had a lot of opportunity to navigate the ins and outs of cultural and religious philosophy regarding marriage, intimacy, and sex.
I recently read a blog post on the topic of sex that, in my view, was very antagonistic towards men regarding their sex drive, and presented women as morally superior on this end.
Though I disagree with the general tone and focus of the author, I do agree with the overarching theme of the message: Women are not simply the providers of sex for their husbands in a marriage, and spouses must grow in the area of understanding through various life seasons.
The problem, though, is that culturally we tend to give an overly simplified approach to marital happiness through the means of sex that suggests if only a husband and wife had more sex than most of their problems would be resolved.
I even recall seeing Sex Challenges from pastors some odd years ago to encourage marriages to engage in sex once or more a day to strengthen their marital bond.
Look, I get it. Sex is an absolutely wonderful and beautiful aspect of a marriage, but it is NOT the most critical piece. It is a piece of the whole, not its sum total, and to neglect this crucial truth is to feed wolves.
I strongly contend that a happy and beautiful marriage can exist with varied amounts of sex at times.
Sex is NOT the Most Important Thing in a Marriage…
You see, when Yeshua walked upon the earth, He repeatedly and unabashedly spoke about the most central and foundational characteristic of His Abba.
What is this most critical characteristic?
‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” ~ Matt. 22: 37-40
Without love as the most central and foundational piece of any relationship, abuses, neglects, and slavery occur, in one form or another.
To propose sex as an end point of marital bliss is to put the cart before the horse.
I recall another section in scripture where Yeshua rebukes the teachers at the time, correcting them for their strict adherence to the Mosaic Law of tithing, but their absent application, nor teaching, of the MORE critical truths:
Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel.” ~ Matt. 23: 23-24
Let us not be blind guides, nor hypocrites, but rightfully discern the whole Truth of the Word.
In Marriage (and Everything Else) LOVE Conquers All
I have good friends who have terrible marriages, even in the midst of an active sex life. What is missing? Love.
I have experienced seasons in our own marriage where sex was carried out faithfully, and yet we felt lightyears apart. What was missing? Love.
And, to drive home this concept to a different level, I think it is culturally relevant today to explain what this love really means and looks like.
Let’s put it this way: To LOVE one’s spouse is to be best friends; to like each other, admire each other, respect each other, uphold each other, challenge each other, grow each other, uplift and support each other, speak kindly and generously about each other, to care for and consider the well-being of each other, and on the list goes.
Friendship in a marriage IS love in a marriage.
One cannot say, “Yes, I love my spouse,” if one is not also doing the work to say, “My spouse is my very best friend.”
Do not misunderstand me. I am certain some of you may not yet have this friendship in your marriage, but you WANT to. I’ve been there. I get it. I know how it feels to walk alone.
That’s the point. Want it, work for it, nurture a friendship, and live out your marriage in a way that will build up a true friendship between you.
As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.
My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.
You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. This is my command: Love each other.” ~ John 15: 9-17
In Marriage, Sex is Never Central, but Always Circumstantial to Love
Some seasons of life are busy and chaotic. Moms may be fresh from having babies, and/or nursing a little one, and truly are exhausted. Love shows understanding and compassion in this time, and offers up one’s own desires to serve and honor the limits of one’s spouse.
Other seasons are emotionally difficult and painful, where one spouse or another is struggling for some reason. Love empathizes with the struggle and seeks to encourage the spouse to process through the emotional struggle to emerge whole on the other side. Love sacrifices self to ensure the well-being of the beloved.
Then, when support, understanding, and compassion lay the groundwork, sex can return to its restorative place of intimacy between two respected and adored spouses.
Love Leads. Sex Follows.
When is love not leading? When sex is used as a weapon, withheld to punish and harm the other, or forced, coerced, manipulated as one’s “duty,” and stripped of virtuous giving.
Friends, let us not be naive to our culture. Pornography runs RAMPANT. Sexual iconography is plastered to our televisions, internet ads, and pretty much anywhere we may look. Men AND women are in the throes of its grasps, whether in addiction or under its spell of confusion. The effects of the Jezebel spirit are effectively amongst us.
What is beauty? What is femininity? What is manhood? All of these concepts have been hurt and abused, and we must be wise to discern this present need, for it exists within the Body.
We must be crystal clear about these things to clearly and cleanly clarify the Light from the darkness.
Sex is no different than money: it is a tool that can wield AMAZING and BEAUTIFUL blessing, or a weapon of MASSIVE destruction and greed.Sex is no different than money: it can wield beautiful blessings, or be a weapon of massive destruction. Click To Tweet
Sex is no longer clearly understood to be sexual “intimacy,” but rather an entitlement on one end or the other.
Teach the BEST Thing, and All Else Surely will Follow
Church, let us teach the Good Thing, the central thing, from which ALL the blessings and goodness shall flow: LOVE.
If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poorand give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” ~ 1 Cor. 13: 1-13
When love leads, sex will have its proper place in a marriage. If love and friendship with our Abba reigns in the lives of individual spouses, sex becomes a beautifully unifying element in a marriage, no matter how often or not it occurs.
Let us keep things in proper order of importance. Love leads. Sex follows. Never can it work for very long in the other direction.