Wednesday, September 15, 2010

business time

i've mentioned this before - it's been a real treat for me, over the past couple of years, to begin to really connect with people outside of the church. i've learned many things about what we have in common that have affirmed in my mind that all of us are made in the image of God. how beautiful.

now, every once in a while, a particular topic arises and seeing eye-to-eye becomes slightly more difficult. one of these topics is sex. sure, i get teased from time to time about my life-choices in this area, but for the most part, people just avoid the topic altogether.

in my experience, people avoid topics that they assume will cause the people involved to have to pick one side of an enormous conversation-chasm, over which no bridge can ever be built (think religion, politics). i assume this is why no one wants to talk to me about sex - they think that, because i'm a christian, we'll have nothing to say to one another that will resonate. that, or they think it will make me uncomfortable. it usually doesn't. i am an adult after all, and have seen a few R-rated movies.

i've decided that the chasm-fearing among us expect the conversation to go something like this:

chasm-fearing: hey katie, what's the big deal about people having sex before they're married?
me: what's the big deal? what's the big deal?! haven't you read the Bible? [scowl]
chasm-fearing: ...
[awkward silence as chasm-sides are chosen]

i hope that i'm never in the same building as that conversation. i got the chills just typing it.

sure, the Bible has a lot to say about sexy things. i googled the most popular parts of the Bible that talk about sex. most of the "don't do that" texts refer to "sexual immorality." when i noticed this, i thought to myself: "what, exactly, is sexually immorality?" immorality is defines as the quality of not being in accord with standards of right or good conduct. that's the opposite of helpful and specific. so, sexual immorality is sex that is not in accord with standards of right or good conduct. what standards? whose standards?

no. the people who wrote the Bible were not trying to be frustrating, nor is God trying to confuse us. rather, i think, anyway, this is when we need to remember that every part of the Bible was written by a person in a language to an audience in a cultural setting. i'm sure "sexual immorality" made perfect sense to those who heard it then (in their language, of course). but, what about those hearing it now?

for instance, sex was a much economically-significant when the Bible was written. women, with their dowries and such, were bought and sold, in a way, into marriage. part of their worth was their sexual purity, so if they had sex before they were married, or committed adultery once they were married, they were stealing, in a way, by detracting from their value. this is just one thing to consider when reading ancient texts about sex and marriage.

see, sex is tricky, though, because it's not like getting tattoos or eating pork. it can have real, soul-altering consequences. people are conceived, diseases are transmitted, intentions are misconstrued, lust clouds vision, deep connections are made (and than severed?), hearts are broken, self-worth is altered. all of this makes drawing the lines around "sexual immorality" a bit impossible. we know what's in the middle: rapists, pedophiles, and the like. [scowl] but we don't know what lies around the edges.

so, in order to discern any truth, we want to read these bits of the Bible in the context of the whole gospel story - a story of love, acceptance, grace, self-sacrifice, and reconciliation (all good things, right?). where does sex fit into all of that?

sure, i could try to build an argument here for not having pre-marital sex based solely on trying to protect myself and others from the heart-ache and general life-ache that can be brought about by people with even the best intentions. but, i think that at least some of you would say "katie, that's silly. all you have to do is be smart about it and you'll be fine. plus, the good usually outweighs the bad. wink. wink." and you would have an excellent point. maybe it is possible to have sex outside of marriage without stumbling into "sexual immorality," if only you are smart and mindful about it. maybe sex between two consenting adults in a committed relationship is all that God asks in this day and age. i will allow for that possibility.

allow me, then, to proffer my biggest reason for seeing sex as part of marriage in my life:
marriage is hard. fidelity (not just sexual) is hard. relationships are hard. through observing the relationships around me, i have learned this. i have also built a stronger resolve to have the best marriage in town. i want it to be life-giving. i want it to thrive like my basil plant. i want it so bad that i'm working on it even now, even though i don't even know if it will ever happen, or with whom it will be. i want my faithfulness to start now. i want to offer myself as a healthy, whole person. well, as much as i can, anyway. i don't want to place a U-Haul full of baggage at my betrothed's feet. maybe just a few suitcases. (plus, i think it would be neat (God-ordained, even) to only share that kind of vulnerable, spiritual connection with one person. call me sentimental.)

for me, this view of sex fits into the gospel. it's Biblical. it's practical. it protects me and those around me. it's loving. it encourages fidelity and intentionality in my life. it's for me and i think it makes sense.

so there. if you've read this, it's like we had the conversation. hopefully there was no chasm, and hopefully i've convinced you that sometimes there's something in the "because the Bible said so" answers even for those who could care less about the Bible.

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