Monday, April 13, 2009

Single OR Married: Intimacy = Not a Sliding Scale, But a Step

Dr. Michael Lawrence, a Pastor at Capitol Hill along with Mark Dever and others, put out what I think is an EXCELLENT series on Christian sexuality, dating, and marriage, with one topic directed at men, one topic for women, and Q & A sessions for both groups.

Jerod has grouped them all here in one nice & neat blog post for ease of accessibility. Each selection takes roughly one hour, and they are all highly relevant and quite engaging. Please take time to listen to any and all of them that fit your needs or interest.

I want to share one particular clip that gives a taste of the unique wisdom you'll find in the series, and also invite you to share your thoughts about this quote in the comments. After explaining that the act of sex is a part of marriage, he asks:

What about everything else, though? What about everything that falls short of actual sexual intercourse/penetration?

Well, I think typically, we as evangelicals have bought into a very secular idea that views other acts of sexual intimacy on a sliding scale. And we all in our own minds, in our own conscience, try to draw a line somewhere. And we say, "Okay, on this side of the line, that's far enough away from sex that it's okay, and on that side of the line, okay, that's beginning to feel enough like sex that it must not be OK, or it might lead in the wrong direction."

I want to suggest to you that when God created sex, He knew what He was doing. And He created sex and sexual intimacy and all the things that are associated with sexual intimacy, in such a way that they work really well. The married men in the room know what I'm talking about.

What I want to say to you single men is that most of the things, well, probably all the things that you put on this side of the line that are "safe", and you think in your dating/courtship relationship, "I can do this because it's not sex", married men do with their wives and they call it foreplay. And the reason they call it foreplay is because God designed it in such a way that it leads to sexual intercourse.

It's like a one-way street. There are a lot of things that you pass on this one way street called "sexual intimacy", and there are a lot of things you can do on that one way street short of actual intercourse. But God made that street to run in one direction. It's heading somewhere, guys, and you know it's heading somewhere. That's why you like it; that's why it feels good. Because God designed those things to lead you to enjoy an experience of that full intimacy in the context of marriage.

So I want to suggest that at even the pragmatic level, if you don't intend to go where that street's leading you, then don't get on it. ...Sexual intimacy is designed to escalate and proceed to a goal that God designed. Foreplay works; it gets you to sex. If you buy the biblical teaching that sex is designed for marriage only, then don't start playing with the things that lead you there.
He later makes the point that intimacy should not be seen as a sliding scale, where you kind of slide into intimacy--but rather, as a step, where once you get married, you step into a relationship that now includes the sexual intimacy that you have not enjoyed prior to that point.

I wish I had heard such straightforward, commonsense advice when I was a teen & college student. I certainly fell into the trap of thinking of sexual intimacy as divided into two categories: actual sex, and "things other than sex". This kind of transparency about God's design for & God's delight in marital intimacy is so crucial in this day and age when sexual intimacy is treated as just another valid option on the smorsgasborg of enjoyable choices for a date night as a single. Putt-putt? Make out so he'll ask me out again? See the latest movie? Wear something revealing since it's our third date?

Clearly, the current system and view of sexuality (even in Christian circles) isn't producing successful and faithful marriages. Or even, as it often promises, more "free" and happy people. In fact, when we follow the cultural systems presented to us, it leads to bondage, depression, and brokenness. I think this kind of biblical picture of intimacy needs to be painted loudly and often to this oversexualized-in-all-the-wrong-ways world.

So tell me your thoughts. Dating. Intimacy. What's expected. Why you think this advice is right/wrong. How we can communicate these things to our children and offer this kind of biblical view of intimacy as God's gift to married couples.

Let's talk about it!


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