July 21, 2007

Sexual Maturity

One of the great gifts of the Reformation was restoring the right of priests (pastors) to marry. On the basis of God's Word, this return to the earlier Christian practice emphasized this great truth, which applies both to the clergy and the laity alike: God created man to be a sexual being, but the sexual activity of the man was not intended to be purely for his own physical satisfaction. Instead, the beautiful Hebrew word yadah--to know--is used to describe one of the chief purposes of sexual relations (along with, of course, procreation):

Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain.

Men and women are not simply to "have sex," but they are to know each other - body and mind. Making love finds its arena within the holy bond of love that is marriage. Lovemaking is not simply an event that happens from time to time in the bedroom, but is the substance of every act of married life. What happens in the mundane moments builds the basis for the moments of passion and fills them with meaning, such that the marital act becomes sacrifice and an act of kindness, the deepest sharing, and not just a moment of pleasure where one is present with another person in the body but absent in the soul. The whole life is shared together: when the woman cooks a meal for her husband, when the man obliterates the spider for his wife, when each spouse cares for the other in a myriad of ways, these also are making love--and without it, the sexual life is impoverished, a physical act between two souls who neither know nor care for one another.

What is astonishing, then, is that we allow the worst kind of corruption of God's intent for sexuality--pornography--to be labeled "mature." It is anything but. Pornography twists the Lord's beautiful intention for sexuality by making it entirely curved in on the self. A man looks at a picture to seek pleasure, instead of finding it in the one whom God gave him. The picture is unreal (often altered), while the woman God has given is far more beautiful precisely because she is both God's child and God's gift. "Ah, this is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh! She shall be called woman, for she was taken out of man."

To reject the wife of one's youth in favor for pixels on a screen is not "mature." It is the height of immaturity. So join with me in a campaign: whenever we refer to porn, let's call it not "adult/mature material," but juvenile, immature material. And then let's pray for those men wrapped up in this immaturity, that they might grow up in Christ and receive maturity from Him.


Richard Townes said...

I appreciate this post, though I am curious why this topic is often hushed among Christians. Is it partly due to the early Puritan influence on this nation? I think open discussion about sexuality in marriage, as you have done, positively influences young Christians. What do you think?

Rev. Christopher S. Esget said...

Random thoughts:
1) Cultural spotlight is on perverted pastors. (I get stares most times I'm in public in clerical garb. You learn to not let it bother you - but it's always there. Can't figure out if it's better or worse when my wife is with me!) Thus, we don't want to even appear to be "one of those." So, topic is off-limits.

2) A pastor begins to learn who has a problem with porn, adultery, etc. Preaching about it may seem like singling out those individuals. Better to avoid it.

3) Talking about the topic may make the pastor (or his wife!) uncomfortable if people perceive the pastor might "know what he's talking about," if you follow. Such thoughts we don't want in the minds of our parishioners.

4) Lutherans (perhaps Protestants in general) don't really think about this issue at all. We've embraced birth control, winked at sex before marriage, not disciplined porn users, etc. We have adopted the mindset of the rest of the culture: Sex is purely for pleasure. We just have a few rules about it. But those rules have no real rationale other than "the Bible says so."

#4 is probably the most important reason. We simply don't know what we are talking about. Nobody has taught us, and it didn't really come up at sem. Yet, it is an intrinsic part of the human experience, and wrapped up in the divine institution--marriage--that preceded even the Church and the State!

Rev. Christopher S. Esget said...

What I was trying to say above with #4 is this:
We know what the Bible says, but we don't know why. And we don't bother asking.

Richard Townes said...

I can understand how members of the clergy are restrained from talking about human sexuality. Especially in these days of increased clergy hunters. Perhaps the laity should pick up the ball. Where Pastor's may be restrained in talking about this topic, surely laymen are not. Many apologists are educated laymen who have extensively studied their topic. Why shouldn't layman tackle this problem as well? There must be material on the topic in the church fathers, and at the very least the reformers. I will have to do some reading.

Richard Townes said...

I just thought of this as I was logging off. I remember telling you after taking your Didache course that I knew my faith before, but I didn't understand my faith. I think this is exactly your point. We should bother to "ask why." That is how we understand our faith. If we treat this topic like other topics in Christendom and "ask why," then we will be given an understanding of this wonderful gift.