Healthy Sexuality: Experiencing True Sexual Freedom

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: Our culture is obsessed with sex.  Spend just one hour listening to music on the radio or watching a television show, and you’ll see/hear a number of sexual references.  Chances are you’ll see well over a dozen, perhaps two dozen in just an hour.

This overload of sex here, sex there, sex everywhere has led many people to have an incorrect and even inappropriate view of sex.  From our observations, it seems the predominant view is that people believe they should be able to have and experience sexual freedom with whoever, whenever and as often as they want.  The primary misstep of this view is an incorrect understanding of “freedom”.  “Freedom”, from a cultural perspective, is all about physical sexual desire and nothing else.  And while this “sexual freedom” mantra continues to be shouted from the mountaintops, people are discovering that this view of freedom has consequences.

Severe consequences.

Those who suffer these consequences begin believing that sexual freedom must not be possible.  Or they attempt to hide their scars by engaging in “free-er” sexual activities.  And the consequences just keep coming.

If you have personally experienced consequences of a sexually “free” lifestyle, we want to take an opportunity to let you know that there is such a thing as true sexual freedom.   And this freedom is found when we understand some basic principles of healthy sexuality.  For those who have never suffered these experiences, we encourage you to keep reading as well.  These principles are vital for all who wish to fully understand sex, and sexual freedom.

1. Sex is…designed by God.

Our culture attacks this principle long and hard, and for many reasons.  One is that God (or any religious beliefs) are under attack more and more today than ever before.  People are having a difficult time on an intellectual level believing in a Supreme Being.  But without getting into too many details, let’s just say for the sake of argument that there is a God.  Now, if there is a God, and He’s completely “good”, and He created sex, then there must be something good about sex!

For the sake of brevity, this is exactly what we believe!  The question now is, “Why would a ‘good’ God dole out severe consequences for people living sexually free lifestyles?”  The answer, as we hinted above, is an incorrect view of freedom.  One of these views is that sex is merely a physical appetite.  We cover this in principle #2:

2. Sex is…not just physical.

Sex does feel good.  REALLY good!  It is a bonding experience that was purposefully designed and created to bring two people together in a way that nothing else can.  Many argue that sex is all about physical urges and appetites that need to be satisfied…but there’s more to it than that.  God tells us that He created sex to be like glue.  The wording he used specifically means a permanent bond between 2 people.  This bond, is not merely physical.  It’s very emotional and very spiritual.  Sex, therefore, is to be treated with care. This is why sex outside of marriage is dangerous.

Whoa, whoa, whoa…the objections begin pouring in.  Dangerous?  You actually believe sex outside of marriage is dangerous?

Yes, and we stand firm on this point.  Sex is for marriage only.  While the idea that 2 consenting adults enjoying the physical nature of the sexual relationship is touted as perfectly fine, it is a counterfeit to God’s best.  Consensual or not, it leads to consequences that haunt people the rest of their lives.  We’ve talked with men and women who have told us through tears how much their sexual past has hindered their personal life and/or their marriage.  Sex outside of a permanent and covenantal marriage causes pain, and as said above, severe consequences.

We wish to be blunt for one moment: those who disagree with us on this point are very likely to be currently experiencing (or have experienced) consequences for their sexual lifestyle.  Our encouragement to you is this: try changing your view of sexual freedom and continue to seek out what God says about sex.  Your way hasn’t worked, it isn’t working now, and will never work…so maybe it’s time you try something different.  This leads to principle #3:

3. Sex is…a picture of God’s Love.

We have to be honest, the Bible is so full of wisdom on marriage and sex it’s actually unbelievable.  One of the things it says about marriage (and sex) is that it’s a picture of Jesus’ love for the church.  If you haven’t read the bible much, this is pretty incredible.  Jesus lived a perfect life.  And then died a severely tortuous death.  And he did it all as a way to love us.  It was the perfect example of what God’s love towards us is like.  He was willing to literally go through hell so that we could understand his love for us.

Now, translate this to marriage and sex.  Marriage and sex are supposed to be just like God’s love.  We’re completely “one” with our spouse and this oneness is physical, emotional and spiritual.  When we operate in this oneness, the idea of sexual freedom begins to take on a whole different picture.  A married couple is completely free to enjoy one another sexually, yet at the same time operates in such a way that they willingly sacrifice their own wants and desires for their spouse.  These sacrifices happen in the marriage relationship as well as in the bedroom.  While this selfless love appears unfulfilling from the outside, couples who live this way are more sexually free and are physically and emotionally satisfied in ways that other couples will never experience.  This leads to principle #4:

4. Sex is…worth understanding.

We realize we already said a lot of things that God communicates about sex.  But we’ve only touched the tip of the iceberg. For those of you who may not be married, we want to let you know that sex is worth the wait.  As we wrote above, the number of people we’ve communicated with who have sexual regrets from their past continues to climb.  The hurt and pain they experience is very real.  While they can experience sexual freedom again, it takes them a bit longer to understand it and appreciate it.

For all: if you’ve never in life opened your bible and read and studied what it says about marriage and sex, we strongly encourage you do so.  If you want, click the link at the top of the page and go through “The Meaning of Marriage” study.  If you don’t understand sex you’ll never fully appreciate sexual freedom.  And it’s our desire that not only appreciate sexual freedom, but you experience it as well.  Freedom can be found behind closed doors.  And once you discover it and experience it, you’ll also experience a lasting satisfaction that will never be taken from you.

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Have you experienced an incorrect view of “sexual freedom”?  What impact has it had on your life or marriage?

Have you experienced a correct view of “sexual freedom”?  What impact has it had on your life or marriage?

Standard of Beauty:

Marriage books come and go.  While there are great marriage books out there (including the one we’re looking to study in depth this Fall), stepping back to look at much older literature often helps us to see things about the  marriage relationship that authors today may not naturally pick up on.  For example, the Bible shares immense wisdom in the realm of marriage.  It includes wisdom on how to be loving, the excitement of the sexual relationship and oh, so much more.  But there’s another piece of wisdom that’s sometimes overlooked, and it’s one that ought to be of great significance, even in today’s culture.

After God creates everything in existence and continually deems everything to be “good” or even “very good”, something in the script changes.  In Genesis 2:18 says, “It is not good for the man to be alone.”  Afterwards, God creates Eve, and when Adam sees her for the very first time he says a phrase that is the first piece of poetry ever spoken:

This one, at last, is bone of my bone
and flesh of my flesh;
this one will be called “woman,”
for she was taken from man.

It goes on say that both the man and his wife (terminology indicated they were indeed married) were naked, and felt no shame.

Now, there’s a lot going on here.  We could write about how they were naked and felt no shame and the significance of this in their sexual relationship.  But there’s something else going on here as well.  Adam was the first man.  Eve was the first woman.  There were no other human beings on the planet at this time.  Therefore, Eve was the standard of beauty for Adam.  And Adam was the standard of beauty for Eve.

Adam wasn’t tempted to look at other women.  Eve wasn’t tempted to look at other men.  All they knew was that they could look at each other and feel no shame.  He didn’t have to feel like she was comparing his body to anybody else, and she didn’t have to feel like he was comparing her body to anybody else.  Visually, emotionally, spiritually, they each defined one another’s standard of beauty.

Indeed the world has changed a lot since then.  Today, there are over 7 billion people in the world.  Men see scantily clad women in advertisements dozens of times a day.  And sadly, men today are often shown in one of two extremes, either as strong and sexually attractive, or as unintelligent, unattractive oaf’s who don’t know how to lead their family.  Given this onslaught of attention our culture gives to sexual appeal, we would do well to remember our own standard of beauty – our spouse.

As Adam looked at Eve and broke out in poetry, so today should men be able to look at their wives and see her for who she is.  Not comparing her to anybody else.  His standard of what’s attractive, what’s beautiful, what’s alluring ought to come from his wife, and only from his wife.  The same goes for women.  Women ought not see attractive men in advertisements and visually compare them to her husband.  Instead, her standard of beauty comes from her husband.  He ought to be encouraged about his looks just as she should, and he ought to be encouraged about how he can lead and not be ridiculed because another man may be a different type of leader.

Looking at our spouse as our standard of beauty will change the way we view other relationships as well.  Indeed, other friendships outside of marriage will come and go through the years, but our relationship with our spouse will surpass them all.  They are our standard of beauty in all areas of life.  They are the one with whom we can share everything.  They are one with whom we can be vulnerable in all areas of life, physically, emotionally, and spiritually.  Truly, it is with them and them alone that we may be naked and unashamed.

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In what ways does your spouse define your standard of beauty?  What precautions do you and your spouse keep in place to ensure you remain one another’s standard of beauty?

Over The Edge:

We often receive questions about what orgasm feels like or why someone can’t achieve orgasm regularly.  People often want to know if there is a magic secret that will push them over the edge every time they have sex.  We always answer, “Not that we can find.” There is no certain technique that will work every time nor is there some magic equation that guarantees that your toes are going to curl and your voice will wake the neighbors when your spouse does such and such.  Sex is far more complicated than just having a few good moves.  Great sex is a combination of mental, emotional, spiritual and physical factors and learning to appropriately prepare in all of those areas may just be the push to help you fall over the edge. Today we will take a look at some of the factors that may be keeping you from going over the edge.

1. Mental – Just where is you mind going?  If there are business meetings, household repairs, parenting concerns crossing your mind before or during sex, they can prove to be a distraction. Taking time to clear your mind of these distractions, as best as you can, is an important step to take.  If you need to make sure you and your spouse are on the same page about a parenting issue, a bill payment or a scheduling conflict then by all means talk about it.  It may deflate the mood for a moment but that can be recaptured.  What you don’t want to happen is to be only half-present during your time of intimacy because your mind is filled with thoughts of things other than how good it feels to be together.  If you struggle to remain present while making love because you feel that it takes too long, recognize that being half-present will make it take longer with less satisfaction.  Being mentally prepared for sex has far greater rewards than just presenting your body to your spouse for their benefit. *

2. Emotional – Being angry, frustrated, discontent or annoyed with your spouse will affect your sex life and your ability to orgasm.  Unlike the things that distract our mind from being ready for sex, when our emotions are not ready for sex it takes more effort than just a few minutes of talking before sex.  Being emotionally prepared for sex takes effort because it means not letting things build up, continually clearing the air.  There are some offenses that need to be released without discussion and there are some that need to be brought into the light.  Openly communicating about the things that hurt you, upset you or frustrate you is the only way to live in freedom in this area.  While it is impossible for you to change your spouse and how they respond to your openness, you can know that you have done your part by not holding bitterness and resentment toward them.

3. Spiritual – Yep, you read that right, spiritual. Some may be reading this and thinking, “I don’t need somebody telling me about God and how I respond to Him matters in my sex life.  Sure, my intimate life isn’t great but I’m sure I can figure this out on my own.”  Well, if you haven’t fully figured it out on your own, perhaps turning to God isn’t such a bad idea now is it?

Sex IS a spiritual affair and when there are problems on a spiritual level they can and will show up in the bedroom.  Holding onto hurt, unforgiveness, anger and pain will lead to problems with intimacy.  Husbands and wives are meant to be one and sex is the greatest example of this oneness that exists.  When either the husband or the wife is unwilling to accept the spiritual side of sex there is a great void in intimacy. Dealing with the spiritual depths in life is time consuming and often uncomfortable.  In this area you’re often confronting yourself, not your spouse.  You’re realizing some of your inadequacies, which are often judgmental thoughts toward your spouse or others.  Once you release this hurt, unforgiveness and anger over to God, you’re free to experience what He created, naked and unashamed.  Make no mistake, it is the most crucial aspect of sexual intercourse.

4. Physical – When there are physical insecurities or embarrassment in marriage they can prevent the over the edge feeling of sex. If you don’t know how to enjoy sex because you feel you “don’t know how to do it right” then take the time to figure it out. Reacquaint yourself with your body through your senses.  Invite your spouse to explore your body and explore theirs as well.  Allow them to touch, feel, tickly, kiss, blow, etc. various parts of your flesh and let them know what you enjoy and what turns you off.  Enough practice will get them reading your body language as to how they can please you the best.  Just be sure to keep your head clear of the emotional/mental stuff, and enjoy the wonders of oneness with your mate.

*If part of your mental struggle with sex is that sex is dirty, not good or unimportant we recommend you check out what we have written about that.

Sex: Over, Under and Around

Sex: Understanding

Sex is..Not a Dirty Word

Messy Equations:

Sometimes we are our own worst enemy.  Our self deprecating and self sabotaging ways often cause needless conflict in our lives.  We try hard to make our relationships with others something really special but there are times when we derail ourselves.  Our desire is for a wonderful marriage filled with passion, tenderness, fun and lasting commitment, however, our own selfish tendencies often lead us down roads we never intended to take.

What oftentimes happens is this: we  sense some struggle within our own marriage relationship and we understand that change is necessary for our marriage to improve.  However, we sometimes set out to “improve” the marriage in own self determined ways of effecting change.  The plan mostly involves changing our spouse to be the person we think they should be.

Criticism and comparison are two of the first techniques we try.  They are among the worst offenders and become fast friends when we allow them to fester and take root in our marriage.  Being married to someone who is entirely different than you easily sheds light on their faults, flaws and peculiar habits.  (Of course it’s also true that it sheds light on ours as well but we can brush that off with a simple, “I wasn’t like this before.”)   It is easy to become critical about annoying habits and perceived character flaws, regularly making mention of them.  Criticize, scoff, nag, reprove – take your pick from the ugly line-up of  human ways of effecting change.  The criticism is made even worse when comparison is added to the mix.  Thoughts about so-and-so who never does such-and-such leaves room for nasty discrimination towards our spouse who obviously has “issues”.

When criticism and comparison team up it leads to a disastrous and messy equation.  Criticism + Comparison = Condemnation & Contempt

Maybe for you the first part of the equation looks different.  Feel free to fill in any number of different negative behaviors that affect marriage.

Complaining + Withdraw =Condemnation & Contempt

Busyness + Over scheduling = Condemnation & Contempt

Selfishness + Unmet expectations = Condemnation & Contempt

Whatever the equation is for you, it is messy.  Marriage in our own efforts is filled with contempt and stands condemned.  The outcome is messy and chaotic and we are shaken by it. Despite our best efforts to ensure a healthy marriage we will fail countless times, with trials and problems one day becoming the norm.   So, if our marriage stands condemned is there anything we can do about it?

Yes.  Marriage is designed to be an expression of grace and unconditional love.  Condemnation and contempt are far easier to come by naturally and they do so as a result of our own self efforts.  But it does not need to be this way.  When we walk in our own strength and our own effort, marriage is chaotic, unfulfilling and miserable.  But the God who gave the gift of marriage knows a thing or two about chaos.  He knows how to make something out of nothing.  He knows how to transform something that is ugly into something that is  truly beautiful.  He knows how to breathe life into that which  is dead.  He makes beautiful things out of dust.  This we would be wise to remember.

All marriages encounter messy equations, times when our own efforts only serve to fill our lives with contempt and condemnation.  It is at these times that we need to turn in our marriage.  Trade it in for a new one.  Not a new spouse but a new marriage with that spouse.  A marriage that is led by The One who can bring order to chaos, the One who can breathe new life into any situation.  When we do this, our marriage will no longer stand condemned but be a reflection of a magnificent Creator.

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Linking to: Women Living Well, To Love Honor and Vacuum

Death of Perception:

I (Megan) remember our first year of marriage very well.  The passion, the excitement, the newness of it all.  Spending every day with the love of my life, being intimate, learning to love each other.  I also remember our first year of marriage for other reasons.  The fights, the tears, the emotions and the torrent of words I can never take back.  Marriage has a way of drawing out the best in you.  It also has a way of drawing out the worst.  Being fully honest, open and real in marriage is necessary, but it’s oh so very ugly at times.

This can be especially painful when we see and discover things about our spouse and ourselves that we didn’t know were there.  This is when our marriages experience death.  Not death of the marriage itself but death of perception.  Death of what we think marriage should be and what our spouse should be.  All strong marriages experience this type of death.  This death of perception is often unexpected and painful.  Before marriage we thought that our spouse was so great.  We were so “in love” that we knew we could handle any punches life threw at us as long as we were together.  We just never knew that some of the hardest blows would come from within our marriage.

Marriage reveals many things about who we are and who we married.  We see how our spouse resolves conflict differently than we do.  We discover who fights dirty.  We see just how much sexual past’s affect our present.  We come to find out we married an entirely different person than we thought.  A different person than we perceived.  In fact, we discover, we are different.  In these instances it is not our spouse or ourselves that is the problem. It is the perception that is the problem and we need to put it to death.  If we fight this type of death our marriage cannot flourish.  It cannot grow and thrive.

Blame is often a guttural response.  We blame our spouse for lying to us and deceiving us before we were married.  Oftentimes this is not the case but we believe it just the same.  Seeing the ugliness in someone else often makes us blame them and believe lies. We also blame them for bringing out the worst in us.  “I wasn’t this way before we were married!”  Yes you were! You just didn’t have someone there all the time to notice it.  Our perception of our self changes.

While the pain of this death of perception is fresh we have several choices.  We can choose to believe that the person we are married to is not the person we thought they were and we want out.  We can choose to recognize their flaws and though we want out we just stay in the marriage anyway. We check out emotionally and mentally though we remain legally married.  Or, we can grow through this death and build something better.  Something better than we ever imagined or dreamed possible.

Life is a journey.  On this journey we learn, mature, grow and yes, change.  Change is always the one thing that is constant in life.  So, when we come to realize that the person we fell in love with has changed it should be expected.  If, however, we have never put to death our perceptions of who we think they should be the change knocks the wind out of our lungs.  If we never reconcile the fact that the ugliness we see in our spouse is mixed right up with the good, our marriage will end.  It may not end in divorce but it is ended in intimacy, friendship and companionship.  All the things that make marriage worth it are stunted because what we want (perceive) and what we seem to have are too different.  They cannot work together.

So reader, are you ready to put to death your perceptions and build a better marriage?  Are you ready to learn to accept your spouse and dream big dreams for your marriage?  We sure hope so.  It is not easy, it won’t always happen in the manner or the timing we would prefer but it is the only way to move forward in life.

“(God) allows the hours of destruction for the purpose of building something better in its place.  Our part is not to run away from the pain but to walk through the briars and thorns and let Christ teach us how to turn each scratch into positive learning about the depths of God’s love.”  – C. John Miller

Defining Marriage:

A debate about the definition of “marriage” is not something new.  In fact, conversations about marriage have been going on for centuries.  Within the United States, the debate has taken on a feverous pitch as of recently due to a number of factors.  One factor is a proposal to redefine “marriage” in the UK.  Another reason is that the President of the US, Barrack Obama, stated in May 2012 his belief that gay marriage should be permitted by law.  Adding fuel to the already contentious debate, the president cited his Christian beliefs for his view, saying, “The thing at root that we think about is, not only Christ sacrificing himself on our behalf, but it’s also the golden rule — you know, treat others the way you would want to be treated,” he said. “And I think that’s what we try to impart to our kids, and that’s what motivates me as president.”

Since these comments were made, the debate throughout the US has been strong.  Not wanting to make a rash reaction to the debate, I took it upon myself to study out the subject at length.  Since early May, I have read hundreds of pages about the subject, ensuring to read arguments for and against a “traditional” view of marriage, as well as arguments for and against gay marriage.  I’ve also taken opportunities to listen to intellectual debates on the subject, again, giving equal time to individuals who hold opposing views.

During my research, I was disheartened to see how some chose to communicate.  Those maintaining a traditional view of marriage occasionally used inappropriate terminology and spoke in harsh judgmental tones.  Additionally, those who advocate gay marriage accused those who don’t agree with them of being bullying, bigoted, and unloving.  Yet through it all, I came to quickly understand one truth: not everybody is having the same discussion.  There are some Christians who debate exactly what it is the bible has to say about marriage and homosexuality, with specific arguments being made as to whether or not the New Testament actually says anything about homosexuality or not.  Additionally, there are other debates that are political in nature.  These arguments focus on whether or not the church, or Christians should intervene with the state or whether the separation of church and state should be violated.  Due to the fact that these are two different discussions, I wanted to break down each one separately.

What does the Bible say about marriage?

When trying to understand marriage, many Christians immediately open to a few specific passages.  Genesis 2:18-24 is argued by many as the first “wedding”, with God as the one overseeing the ceremony.  If indeed this is an historical event, it is difficult to argue against what is taking place.  Adam, the first man, is alone.  Therefore, God creates a “helper” suitable for him.  When Adam first sees his wife, he breaks out in poetry, “This one, at last, is bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh.”  He sees distinct differences in his newfound partner, but realizes the “oneness” in which they were created by God.  The passage uses distinct language, using the terms “man” and “wife”.  These terms verify that from the beginning, the marriage relationship is between a husband and wife, man and woman, male and female.  God created marriage.  He designed marriage.  He was purposeful about who should marry, why they should marry, and the meaning of the marriage relationship.

Some balk at this understanding, maintaining the viewpoint that Genesis 1-11 is allegorical in nature, and not historical.  According to this view, Adam and Eve were not historical, but merely a story illustrating God’s handiwork.  While there is much that could be mentioned on this view, it doesn’t hold water when compared with other passages within scripture.  In Matthew 19, Jesus himself quotes Genesis 2 as if marriage were specifically designed between a man and his wife.  In Ephesians 5, Paul writes specifically about the role of wives and husbands.  Elsewhere, Paul takes note of husbands and wives, as does Peter.  Indeed, if one is able to come to a different conclusion from the scriptures other than marriage being the union of a husband a wife, male and female, then the subject needing to be discussed is not the subject of marriage, it is the subject of scripture, and whether or not it maintains any true authority or not.  If any Christian believes that scripture does not contain any authority or is not relevant in today’s culture, they would also have a difficult time making a God-centered case for or against marriage in any capacity, as they would be able to provide no foundational evidence as to what God says about the subject.

We must turn now to the subject of homosexuality.  Like the subject of marriage, many Christians and denominations have been debating what, specifically, the bible has to say about the subject of homosexuality.  Many immediately turn to such passages as Leviticus 18:22, or the Genesis 19 account of Sodom and Gomorrah.  Others maintain that we are now under the new law and that one cannot adhere to the Old Testament account of the law as there are many other laws maintained there that we certainly do not adhere to today.  Therefore, the discussion often turns to the New Testament, where three passages are the focal point of the discussion.  These passages include Romans 1:26-27; as well as the modern day English term of the word “homosexual” found in 1 Corinthians 6:9 and 1 Timothy 1:9-11.

First, the passage in Romans 1:26-27.  Again, the “traditional” Christian viewpoint maintains that this is a clear passage condemning homosexuality.  However, some scholars have maintained that if we truly understand this text within the appropriate culture of which it was written, the text has no such meaning.  The first major advocate for this view is that of John Boswell.  Boswell’s case, in short, is that homosexual practices were condemned only because in this culture, they were affiliated with idolatrous cults and/or temple prostitution.  Others maintain that the sexual acts committed here are not homosexual in nature, but instead refer to the act of pederasty.  The vast majority of Christian scholars disagree with these two viewpoints.  Greek language scholars affirm that the language used here has nothing to do with pederasty and is certainly homosexual in nature.  Additionally, while many scholars agree with Boswell’s claim that the text is regarding cult practices and temple prostitution, they also maintain that the text indicates that the act of homosexuality itself is wrong in the eyes of God as the act is a form of idolatry.

While there is much more that can be written about the passage in Romans 1, I again concluded that the vast majority of Greek scholars agree that Paul is indeed writing specifically about homosexuality.  Nevertheless, many maintain that the term “homosexual” did not appear in the English language until the 19th century, therefore Paul’s words 1 Corinthians 6 and 1 Timothy 1 should not contain the specific word “homosexual”.  The Greek term that has been translated as “homosexuals” in 1 Corinthians 6:9 and 1 Timothy 1:9-11 by many modern bible translations (including ESV, HCSB, NET, NLT, NASB, NKJV, and the NIV rendering of “men who have sex with men”) is άρσενοκο (arsenokoitai). The debate about the term is whether the term is active, or passive, and whether or not the term is specifically about homosexuals or whether it is about male prostitutes.

The main arguments for the latter understanding was made famous once again by John Boswell.  Boswell claimed that the Greek word arsenokoitai is passive in nature, not active.  Additionally, Boswell’s argument is that the vast majority of Greek writers (including Plato, Herodotus, Aristotle, and Plutarch) as well as Jewish writers (Philo and Josephus) never use the Greek word in their writings and/or don’t ever translate the term as “homosexual”.  He vehemently maintains the same view he has of Romans 1 – that Paul is only discussing the act of homosexual prostitution.

Against the translation of Boswell (as well as similar arguments made by authors Bailey and Scroggs), other Christian scholars have noted that early church fathers have written about Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13.  These writings come from church fathers such as Eusebius, Clement of Alexandria, Tertullian, and Origen.  Additionally, while Boswell maintains that church fathers never used the specific Greek term used by Paul, this, too, is incorrect.  Chrysotore used the term in his writings more than a few times, and was sure to include it in a homily he wrote outlining the meaning of Romans 1:26.  Again, I came to the same conclusion as the vast majority of modern-day scholars (which includes hundreds of textual translators of modern-day English bible translations).  The historical and linguistic evidence is quite strong, making the translation of arsenokoitai as “homosexual” well-founded.

The conclusion of the biblical argument is simple: marriage is an institution created by God, not by the state.  The Bible defines marriage as being between one man and one woman.  While some argue that the Christian argument is lacking because the bible never condemns polygamy, it must be noted that the bible never encourages it either.  To be sure, every biblical marriage that included polygamy has serious consequences for their actions.

Can’t the Government Redefine Marriage?

Outside the biblical argument, the sanctity of marriage has centuries of evidence in favor of the institution being more of a religious institution than a national institution. Nations and governments around the globe have adopted marriage from religious institutions, not the other way around.  This turns the discussion toward politics.

Before diving into a discussion on politics, it should be noted that I am about as moderate as they come.  Within my sphere of friends and family I have many democrats and many republicans.  When having discussions with one who is adamant about one party, I am sure to remind them that Jesus was neither a republican nor a democrat.  He lived in a completely different culture.  He rarely mentioned politics.

With that said, the political argument for gay marriage, as best as I can tell, is that all people are equal, period.  Those who argue in favor of gay rights often make the same philosophical arguments that were made in the 60’s regarding civil rights.  If a law was in place that stated whites could marry and not blacks, or Jews could marry and not Protestants, would this be permitted?

This argument, as sincere as it’s made out to be, is flawed.  Again, nations the world over have adopted definitions of marriage from various religions, not the other way around.  For a government to change the definition of marriage is for the government to not submit itself to the separation of church of state, and instead absorb the church and rule over it.  At any point in time the federal government could say, “We’ve changed the definition of Sabbath…it’s now Tuesday,” or “We’ve decided it’s in the best interest of the people to change the definition of the Eucharist.”  Some may be rolling their eyes while reading this, but what would stop the federal government from changing other definitions that have come directly from religious institutions?  I can think of nothing.

Additionally, everybody has the right to marry under the current definition of marriage.  Nobody’s “rights” are being infringed upon in any way.  There are guidelines as to who one is able to marry, just as there are still guidelines in place for “free speech”.

Is there a viable solution?  I believe so.  I believe if the federal government wishes to make civil unions permissible and fully legal with all the same rights of marriage, they’re free to do so.  But the state cannot change the definition of marriage, a definition which they adopted from elsewhere.  The United States has adopted its definition of marriage from within the roots of Christianity and other religious institutions.  To change the definition would overstep all guidelines as to how religious institutions operate freely.

In summary, marriage is clearly communicated from within the scriptures.  Marriage is sacred.  The bible clearly discusses marriage as being between one man and one woman.  Additionally, this “one flesh” mentality of the marriage relationship is a bond that clearly symbolizes the relationship that Jesus has with His church.   It’s the most beautiful, sacred relationship two individuals can share with one another.  This is marriage.  It is good.  It is right.  It is pure.  It is holy.

The Power of Showing Up:

What is the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the word power? Electricity? Strength? Success? Authority? Last night we were having a small group discussion about power. During our discussion we were asked to think about a time when God used us in a powerful way. There were answers about mission trips, sharing with someone about Jesus, and a few assorted other very Christian activities.  The discussion was all well and good but it got me (Megan) thinking about what the christian life is really about. God’s glory being revealed.  That is power.

I believe that marriage can be a daily reminder of God’s glory revealed because marriage was designed by God.  Marriage is not something created by man, it was all God’s idea from the very beginning.  The problem is that in this broken and busted world the experience of marriage can often be a very hard one.  It isn’t easy to always put someone else’s needs ahead of your own.  It isn’t always easy to react in love.  It isn’t always easy to think of someone more highly than yourself.  Add to that disagreements, arguments and strife and it’s easy to wonder how God can receive any glory at all from what seems like a broken mess.

This is where I believe there is power in showing up.  When life and marriage get hard it is so tempting and seemingly easier to just quit showing up.  To emotionally check out and disengage.  That is a temptation we all face.  But the glory of God is revealed when we choose to show up.  To engage.  To fight for our marriage.  To work on what needs to be worked on and deal with what needs to be dealt with.  Now that is powerful and it can only come through the power of God in us.  The challenge then is that we show up in our marriages and allow God to use us in powerful ways.  By doing this, God’s glory will be revealed.

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Do you ever struggle with the temptation to disengage and not show up?  Do you have a story about how showing up made a difference in you marriage?

Linking up with: Beholding Glory

Understanding “Love”: Introduction

Before I (Justin) get any deeper into this post, I want to let you know something about myself…I don’t have many pet peeves.  I really don’t.  Sure, there are things in life (and others’ lives) that bother me from time to time, but not often in such a way that I have a real disdain for it/them.  However, there is one thing that makes me pretty judgmental: people who use the dictionary to define words while public speaking.  High School graduations, College graduations, other public speaking events, even the occasional blog post…it doesn’t really matter.  When I hear somebody say/write, “Webster’s dictionary defines ____________ as…” I think to myself, “Really?  I mean, C’mon…is that really the best you could come up with?”  Today, I eat my own words, because in just a few moments, I’m going to bust open the good old Webster’s dictionary.  If you have as much disdain for this sort of thing as I do, I encourage you to keep reading, as I have excellent semi-good reasons for doing so.

Anyway…now onto the post.

“Love” is one of those words that gets thrown around a lot in our culture.  In fact, it happens so much so that I’m not completely convinced many people truly understand what it means to “love” another person.  Evidence of this sometimes comes from crumbling marriages.  When the marriage is over and the divorce finalized one spouse may say something to the effect of, “Well, the truth is…over time we just fell out of love.”  Really?  How does that happen?  How does a couple go from falling in love, to falling out of love?  Other evidence comes from casual everyday conversations.  In one day you may hear the same person say, “I love my wife…I love my car…I love this book…” and so on.  To make matters worse, people often declare, “God is love,” but then are unable to clearly describe what that means.

Now, before I go digging into the dictionary, stop reading, grab a piece of paper, and write out a definition of love.  You don’t have to tell anybody else what you write.  Just write, “Love is…” and then finish the sentence. Go on…you know you want to.

Finished?  Great!  Welcome back.

Now, here is a look at how the Webster’s Dictionary defines “love“:

lovenoun \ˈləv\

a (1) : strong affection for another arising out of kinship or personal ties <maternal love for a child> (2) : attraction based on sexual desire : affection and tenderness felt by lovers (3) : affection based on admiration, benevolence, or common interests <love for his old schoolmates> b : an assurance of affection <give her my love>

2: warm attachment, enthusiasm, or devotion <love of the sea>

3 a : the object of attachment, devotion, or admiration <baseball was his first love>

OK, the first thing I would like to point out about this definition is that it seems very culturally accurate.  What I mean by this is that Webster’s [purposefully?] puts the NOUN definition of love first.  It’s an affection, attraction, admiration…etc.  Translation…it’s an emotion.  It’s something one feels and given the right set of circumstances that feeling may be very strong, or very weak.

To be fair to Webster’s, they do provide a VERB definition of love as well:

1: to hold dear : cherish

2: to feel a lover’s passion, devotion, or tenderness for b (1) : caress (2) : to fondle amorously (3) : to copulate with

3: to like or desire actively : take pleasure in <loved to play the violin>

This is our modern-day culture’s understanding of love.  Emotion first, act second.  Sadly, as I observe modern-day culture, I think Webster’s has nailed it.  However, once upon a time, our culture was quite different.  In fact, the 1828 Webster’s Dictionary defines “love” like this:

LOVE, v.t. luv. [L. libeo, lubeo. See Lief. The sense is probably to be prompt, free, willing, from leaning, advancing, or drawing forward.]

1. In a general sense to be pleased with; to regard with affection, on account of some qualities which excite pleasing sensations or desire of gratification. We love a friend, on account of some qualities which give us pleasure in his society. We love a man who has done us a favor; in which case, gratitude enters into the composition of our affection. We love our parents and our children, on account of their connection with us, and on account of many qualities which please us. We love to retire to a cool shade in summer. We love a warm room in winter. We love to hear an eloquent advocate. The christian loves his Bible. In short, we love whatever gives us pleasure and delight, whether animal or intellectual; and if our hearts are right, we love God above all things, as the sum of all excellence and all the attributes which can communicate happiness to intelligent beings. In other words, the christian loves God with the love of complacency in his attributes, the love of benevolence towards the interest of his kingdom, and the love of gratitude for favors received.

2. Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.

3. Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. Matt. 22.2.  To have benevolence or good will for. John 3.

Quite a difference isn’t it?  You see, a couple hundred years ago everybody had an understanding that “love” was something to be offered, as well as received.  “Love” was much more than an emotion.  Not only that, but culture as a whole thrived on a Christian worldview.  God was important, very important.  So much so that scripture verses were used to help define certain words.  We’ve come a long way, haven’t we?

OK, we’ve looked at 2012, and then the 1828 [western] understanding of love.  Let’s take the clock back a little further and look at the first century:

1 Corinthians 13:4-7 (NIV)

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.

Take a moment to look at your definition of “love.”  Which of these three definitions best matches your own?  Did you use love as a noun, or as a verb?  Is it merely emotional, or is there something deeper to it?  If there’s something deeper, what is it?   Where does it come from?  How does it get there?

Regarding your marriage, take the opportunity to evaluate your marriage based only on the 1 Corinthians 13 understanding of love.  Are you loving your spouse by being patient with them?  Are you loving your spouse by showing kindness in all situations?  Are you loving your spouse by honoring him/her?  Are you loving your spouse by…not keeping any record of wrongs?  Knowing that your spouse has done things to hurt you, and may do it again.  Are you continually loving them by not keeping any record of wrongs?  It’s not merely about the emotional aspects of love, it’s about being loving.

This post is a simple introduction on understanding “love”.  We’re going to keep the theme running for a while, and continue to look into other cultures much older than our own to see how they applied “love” in their relationships, and perhaps getter a better understanding of how we can do so in our marriages as well.  Until then, here are some things to think about:

1) Which of these 1 Corinthians definitions of love do you find most difficult?

2) What does it mean to keep no record of wrongs?  What does that look like in a healthy marriage relationship?

3) What one thing can you do today to surprise your spouse in a loving way?  Don’t tell us in the comments below…just go do it!  (But be sure to come back later and write a comment…we’d really like to know!)  🙂

 

Linking with: Women Living Well, To Love Honor and Vacuum

Nakedness: Emotional

Last week we talked about how physical nakedness can be difficult.  Today we’d like to continue this series and focus on emotional nakedness.  Emotions, we believe, are severely misunderstood in today’s culture.  Emotions themselves seem to be greatly feared because many believe it impossible to control them.  Due to this, when it comes to emotional nakedness in marriage, the subject first appears quite confusing.  What does “emotional nakedness” actually mean?

Marriage is about nakedness.  Part of the reason we are not supposed to be naked physically with someone before we are married is because we must first learn to be naked emotionally.  Physical nakedness is best in the context of emotional and spiritual connectedness.  One of the definitions for the word naked is being devoid of concealment or disguise.  What better place than the marital relationship for this to occur.  When you join your lives and your bodies as one there should be no need for a disguise.  Unfortunately, that’s easier said than done.  Self-protection is a very human experience, and one which we never need to receive any training.  We often self-protect ourselves by  concealing and disguising, and we do this just as much emotionally as we do physically.  Here are some reasons we wear disguises that make emotional nakedness hard:

Hurt and pain from past experiences.  Sometimes this pain occurred in childhood.  Sometimes it happened in previous relationships or marriages.  It may even show up in your current marital relationship because of intentional or unintentional conflict.  Our past experiences affect our current relationships in incredible ways.  In all areas of life it is important to face and deal with our past.  We will always be trapped and our growth stunted if we are unwilling to look into our past and search for freedom from the hold it has on us.

Inability to trust in or depend on our spouse Marriage is a partnership.  God designed men and women to compliment and complete one another.  Whenever self-centeredness or self-reliance enter the marriage it is not as it should be.  Husbands and wives have a lot of freedom to make decisions regarding how to best use their abilities and natural inclinations to serve each other and live their lives but if there is a constant fear or being used, overlooked or put down, emotional nakedness is not happening.  In order to let go of the disguise we must learn to work as a team.  We must put the needs of our spouse ahead of our own.  The disguise can only be destroyed when we are willing to see that we need to trust and rely on someone other than our-self.

Fear of coming undone.  We live in a culture that values strength, not weakness.  Self-reliance, not interdependence.  Control, rather than the unknown.  For all these reasons and more, learning to be emotionally naked in marriage is counter-cultural.  Somewhere the fear that our spouse will reject us because of our “junk” outweighs the risk.  We become comfortable with our disguise and it stays in place because the fear of humiliation and shame don’t seem worth the effort.  We get by and resign ourselves to thinking this is just the way life is.

The only hope to experience freedom from these masks is humility.  To be emotionally naked requires humility.  It requires us to humbly admit we don’t have it all together.  To admit we don’t even have words to describe what we are feeling.  To admit that facing our past scares us so much we don’t want to go on.  To admit we have needs we cannot fill.  To admit we can’t live life in a pretty little package all tied up with a bow, we need to come undone.  None of these thing are possible without the help of God.  We can never learn to be emotionally naked with our spouse if we are not aware of our deepest need, the need for a Savior.

So, yeah, emotional nakedness is hard but it is so worth it.  The experience we have in our marriages when we become emotionally naked is just a taste of the beauty we can have in our relationship with God.

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How do you and your spouse become “emotionally naked” with one another?  What kinds of open-ended questions do you regularly ask one another to ensure you keep vulnerable with one another and your marriage stays strong?

 

Linking with : WLW and WW

Nakedness:

Nakedness.  Such a stark word.  Such an intimate word.  Strong marriages are based on husbands and wives who are willing to be naked with one another.  To be revealed, bare, vulnerable.  Husbands and wives take many twists and turns in this journey called marriage and nakedness in physical, emotional, mental and spiritual ways are all part of that journey.  Truth is…nakedness is hard.  There are times in our lives when pain, fear and insecurity overtake our ability to be naked.

Webster’s defines naked as: 1. Not covered by clothing.  2. Devoid of natural or customary covering.  3. Scantily supplied or furnished.  4. Unarmed, defenseless.  5. Lacking confirmation or support.  6.  Devoid of concealment or disguise.  This week we want to take a look at how each of these definitions affect our marriages.  How do we deal with physical, emotional and spiritual nakedness?  How can we overcome insecurities, past pain and really be free to be naked in our marriages?

From our experience, nakedness in marriage is a journey.  Learning to trust, depend on and rely on your spouse is part of the journey.  We learn through trials and victories.  Times of difficulty and times of pure bliss.  Here are some questions to spark your thinking as we discuss nakedness this week.

1. When is the first time you were physically naked around your spouse?  What thoughts and emotions did you have at that time?

2. When is the last time you were physically naked around your spouse?  How have your thoughts and emotions changed over the years?

3. Apply #1’s and 2 in the realm of emotional nakedness.  (Note: Men will generally struggle with being emotionally open more than women.  Men may discover they were once far more emotionally naked than they are now, or maybe vice versa.)

4. What do you think it means to be spiritually naked?  What does your spouse think it means?  Talk through whatever differences of opinion you may have in this regard.

5. When is the last time you allowed your spouse to openly call you out on your “junk”?  How can allowing them to do so improve your marriage relationship?  Are there any cons to doing this too often?  (If yes, how often is “too often”?)

6. What kind of impact has being physically, emotionally and/or spiritually naked had on your marriage relationship?

Take the opportunity to really think through these questions, and we’ll continue the discussion in our next post.

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Reminder:  This is the last week to enter our March Madness Giveaway.  Please take advantage of the possibility of winning 1 of 2 great marriage books.  thanks for reading!

Linking with: WLW and WW