The word sex is horribly abused and misunderstood. The media have created an artificial meaning in many minds. Is sex a wonderful gift or nothing but smut?
God never intended sex to be debased or manipulated as we see it today. He quite clearly designed the gift of sex for committed marriages.
More than a physical act
It might be better understood by using the word intimacy. This intimate marital relationship should include the wonderful aspects of closeness, familiarity, commitment and rapport. Without intimacy, the physical union truly is nothing more than what is portrayed by TV, movies and lurid, erotic fiction.
What was meant to be a glue that keeps marriages together has been turned into something that destroys marriages.
Do you understand how the gift of sex is to be properly used? Let’s examine this age-old challenge.
An example of self-discipline
The patriarch Job no doubt knew God’s commands regarding marriage and the sanctity of the husband-and-wife relationship. God intended the love of a husband and wife to be inviolate!
However, Job was a man, and God designed men to be visually affected by the attractiveness of women. To maintain purity in his own marriage and love for his wife, he had to make sure he did not allow the masculine drive within him to lead him to be attracted to other women. What should he do?
The book of Job records what he did: “I have made a covenant with my eyes; why then should I look upon a young woman?” Alternatively, the Good News Translation phrases it: “I have made a solemn promise never to look with lust at a woman” (Job 31:1).
Not to look upon a woman? As the Good News Translation indicates, that means to not stare lustfully at her beauty or allow himself to be drawn into fantasies about her. To prevent this, Job entered into a solemn promise with himself. He made a commitment not to allow his eyes to wander or linger on other women in a manner that could ensnare his mind and heart and lead him to commit sin.
The power of the eyes
Job understood long ago the powerful temptation visual images can be. He understood how the heart can embrace impure thoughts and how even the very thought of sin can be sin.
He knew that fornication and adultery are sin (Exodus 20:14). Though he was a good man, he was not above a temptation to sin. He had to take every precaution to guard against sin, working to avoid even the appearance of anything improper.
Job realized he could be vulnerable if he did not exercise mental diligence. It would not necessarily be the fault of another woman, but the lack of self-control within himself: “If my heart has been enticed by a woman, or if I have lurked at my neighbor’s door” (Job 31:9). He knew what he had to control—his mind!
Scripture reveals that Job was a committed and faithful husband. Such diligence was reinforced centuries later by Jesus Christ when He said: “I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:28).
A committed marriage relationship requires intimacy
Marriage was designed to be more than an emotionless union on one hand or a lustful binge on the other.
Marriage is designed to need intimacy—but what that means to women and men may be two different things. Both men and women need intimacy but very often don’t understand how to fulfill that for each other.
When a woman thinks of intimacy, she generally seeks emotional intimacy
Emotional intimacy for her depends primarily on trust and frequently involves talking over feelings and emotions for a better understanding and mutual support. A woman generally needs to know that the emotional bond is there with her husband before any physical sexual activity.
Feeling emotionally attached to a mate takes physical intimacy to a level that simple physical sex cannot achieve.
For a man, intimacy generally means physical intimacy
Men are wired differently, and physical intimacy is how a man feels close to his wife. That does not mean he does not have an emotional need as well; because for a lasting relationship, this is required. However, most men need physical intimacy to feel loved.
It is important to note that sex alone is not enough. The emotional connection must be there for him if any physical expression is to be meaningful.
Intimacy and security
As we’ve seen, both men and women are designed by God to need intimacy in their marriages. But, of course, intimacy does not always mean sex. A woman may often crave hugs, kisses or some little thing that demonstrates she is special to her husband. Even if they may not readily admit it, most men appreciate such things too.
Suggestions for men
Men, take the time to talk to your wife. Hold hands, give her a hug and don’t neglect a tender kiss. This physical aspect of your marriage is a priority.
If your wife seems unresponsive, it may be that you have not taken the time to do these things.
Be genuinely concerned about her day and her feelings. Put an arm around her and show and tell her daily that you love her. This is what she desires, and it must be before any meaningful physical relationship.
Suggestions for women
Wives, understand your husband’s need for physical sexual contact in marriage. His drive in this area may not be the same as yours, but that does not make it less real or less of a need.
Seek to understand
Husbands and wives must come to understand the passions and emotions that drive each other. Failure to understand each other leads to hurt feelings, distance between you, even an emotional wall being built. Lack of understanding destroys marital intimacy and destabilizes the marriage.
Intimacy is one of the most important things in a loving marriage. Understanding how to meet your mate’s needs is the first step in building a strong, long-lasting relationship where both of you will be happy.
Paul’s suggestions for marriage
The apostle Paul taught that husbands and wives are to serve each other. He showed how the gift of sex in a pure marriage differs from the sexually explicit and crude culture of today.
His meaning is plain; but instead of using a word that might be indelicate or offensive, he uses another. The Greek word he uses is translated “affection.” It denotes kindness, good will and affection of mind. By use of the word “due,” he reminds us of the sacredness of the marriage vow and the fact that in every respect husband and wife belong to each other.
“Let the husband render to his wife the affection due her, and likewise also the wife to her husband” (1 Corinthians 7:3).
Do not deprive each other
Two verses later Paul wrote: “Do not deprive one another except with consent for a time, that you may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again so that Satan does not tempt you because of your lack of self-control” (1 Corinthians 7:5).
This is strong teaching. It means husband or wife should not withdraw their physical affection.
“Except with consent” means by a mutual understanding and specifically for the spiritual devotions of prayer and fasting.
“And come together again”—the apostle does not allow husbands and wives to have a perpetual physical separation in their marriage. He understood that this would expose them to possible immorality, which the marriage union is designed to avoid.
He adds a further warning about the invisible, evil influence of Satan the devil. A godly man and woman cannot allow unchaste thoughts or unbridled passions to corrupt their lives because of a lack of self-control. Modern divorce statistics confirm his wisdom.
Satan knows the hearts of men and women. He also knows that by allowing unresolved quarrels to remain and fester, a husband or wife may be tempted into fornication, adultery or immorality. Abstinence from marital relations should be by mutual consent and for only a short time.
Respecting the “image of God”
Both husband and wife were created in the “image of God” (Genesis 1:26-27; Genesis 2:24) and are potential members of the Kingdom of God. This is an awesome thing to consider. Understanding this, how could you or I disrespect or fail to love our mates? How dare we entertain thoughts of an act of infidelity to this person?
A faithful, loving marriage, combined with our understanding of God’s purpose in our lives, should motivate us to always pursue and develop a loving intimacy, enjoying the gift of sex with our marriage partner.
Look upon your spouse as the delight of your youth
We all age. Husbands do. Wives do. And there will be attractive younger men and women who might express an interest in you. But remember, in a committed marriage you both age together.
It is important to view your mate as the husband or wife of your youthful days. You’ve already shared many years together—perhaps decades together that you can never share with anyone else. Keep doing the things necessary to make your bond stronger and your relationship happier than it ever could have been in your youth.
Wise King Solomon wrote about continuing to nurture God’s gift of sex: “Let your fountain be blessed, and rejoice with the wife of your youth” (Proverbs 5:18).
Alternatively, as the Good News Translation puts it, “So be happy with your wife and find your joy with the woman you married.”
For more on the beauty of marriage, see the article “How Great Marriages Work.”