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sex is divine

“When we touch the place in our lives where sexuality and spirituality come together, we touch our wholeness and the fullness of our power, and at the same time our connection with a power larger than ourselves.”

-Judith Plaskow

Whoa.

Slow down there, Grandma.

Sex?

God?

Touchy subjects.

But they’re deeply related.  And please comment below, because I need some feedback on this one.  As a sexual being who is also following Jesus, these are things that I need to think about.

So sexuality.

I think Christians have almost been taught to be afraid of that word.

Like it’s naughty.

Sexuality isn’t often discussed, except perhaps when it’s being shunned or narrowly preached about (within the context of marriage!).

When our parents and our churches don’t take responsibility for teaching us about sex, we turn to the world for answers, to a culture digitized and saturated and obsessed with it.  We learn that it’s gaudy.  Synthetic.  Sex becomes sanitized, independent from the love, commitment, and human emotion that should fuel it.  To the world, it’s the most important thing in the world.  It’s free, cheap, artificial.

We can very easily lose the spiritual side of it.

Now, the moral outrage at our “highly-sexualized” culture can lead to a school of thought just as dangerous as the “licentiousness of Hollywood.”  Some individuals, rather than seeking to engage and transform culture, choose to withdraw from it entirely.  The adherents of this philosophy see themselves as the guardians of their particular faith tradition, and decline to participate in or work to redeem the heathen world around them.

What I have summarized for you here is essentially the religious movement called “fundamentalism.”  These are the people you may hear throwing around phrases like “the culture wars,” “secularization of American culture,” or (if they’re feeling particularly edgy) “Californication!”

Sex takes the opposite of the liberal view here.  It’s something that is rarely explicitly talked about, but something that you probably need to feel very guilty about.  It’s an understandable backlash to our sex-soaked culture.  But what sometimes kind of gets insidiously worked in here is the idea that sex is somehow wrong, dirty, inherently sinful in and of itself, that Christians should not want to have sex.  This could not be more off base.  Any faith tradition that ostensibly teaches its adherents to unilaterally suppress their God-given human sexuality is one that carelessly abandons one of God’s greatest gifts to His children.

Talk about throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

So one philosophy, the popular view, focuses exclusively on the physical.  Sex becomes just rote mechanics, a purely biological function no different than eating or sleeping or thinking or breathing.

Another forgets all but the spiritual.  Sex is something to be avoided, if at all possible.  God is stripped from the act and sex becomes only about procreation.  It becomes…boring.

But both schools of thought, whether they glorify or vilify it, reduce sex to a simple biological function.

Obviously, I reject both of these hypotheses.

It’s overlooked by both extremes that humans were created by God as entirely holistic beings.  Holistic, not as in holy, but as in made-up-of -many-parts, amalgamated, biopsychosocial.

We are not just body, but neither are we pure spirit.

And because we are both body and soul, fulfilling our physical needs (like hunger, or say, needing to breathe) does not give us an excuse to neglect our spiritual needs.  And vice versa.  There are equally real consequences to either set of needs being overlooked.  Both need to be catered to.  Both sides are wrong here.

Are you with me?

All I’m saying is what many of you (religious and irreligious) have known all along – sex is not just an inherently meaningless physical act.

I want to recapture the spiritual side of sex because spirituality and sexuality are connected.  I believe they’re inseparable.

Or as Rob Bell writes in Sex God:

“You can’t talk about sexuality without talking about how we were made.  And that will inevitably lead you to who made us.  At some point you have to talk about God.”

He’s right.

They are connected.

They’re both about connectedness. They’re connected in their being about connectedness.

Yin and Yang.

Spirituality, in the mystical sense of the word, is all about connecting with a higher force or being. It’s about the force, the individual plugging in to that power, to that greater whole.  There’s a horizontal side to this as well.  Practically, when we live spiritual lives, they are rarely in solitude; we generally seek out an authentic community of fellow believers to join us in this journey.

Sexuality, in its purest form, likewise taps into that raw, primal power, that arc of supreme passion throbbing a thick heartbeat at the center of the universe.

I’ll break that down.

Like spirituality, sex is all about connectedness.

It’s even in the language we use, isn’t it?

Having a connection.

Getting together.

Hooking up.

Sex and sexuality aren’t things you can discuss as an individual.

Sexuality is also about connecting, about synergy, about joining together and becoming a part of that bigger whole, even if it’s just for a few minutes.

Sex is an act of more than just one person.  It is a holistic, integrative act of two individuals forming one.

both this artwork and the image at the top of this piece were brilliantly designed by my friend David Huettner.  Thank you for adding to this piece.

both this image and the artwork at the top of this piece were brilliantly designed by my friend David Huettner. Thank you for adding to the feel of this post.

Two forming one.

There’s a very special Hebrew word for this: אֶחָד.

In English, it reads “Echad.”

Echad is the Hebraic word for one, but it’s a very special kind of one; like many thin pieces of twine pulled into one string, echad is a One made of many.

The word is first seen in the Biblical narrative in Genesis 2:24 – “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and cleave to his wife, and two shall become [echad] one flesh.”

Sex is described as a pluralistic one.

This site is helpful in explaining the technical distinction between echad, which tends to denote a “oneness” of separate but similar elements, and yachid, the word for the numerical value 1.

Two different words.

Yachid 1=1 and Echad 1+1+1=1.

Yachid alone and Echad unified.

So Echad (אֶחָד) describes sex, but that’s not the whole picture.

What’s interesting is that אֶחָד is also the word used to describe God in the Hebrew scriptures, most notably in the ancient prayer known as the Shema.  This prayer, which Jesus directly quotes when speaking his instruction on the single greatest commandment, is a prayer that Jews recite to this day: “Shema Yisrael, Adonai Eloheinu, Adonai Echad!”

“Hear, oh Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is one!”

The Lord is אֶחָד.

So when Adam and Eve both come together for the first time sexually, it’s echad, and this union is echoed in the language that describes the very nature of God: numerous, but somehow one.

Yachid is never the word used to describe Y H V H, the Hebrew God.  It is always…אֶחָד.

Echad.

So we begin to see God as אֶחָד,  as a mysterious kind of connectedness or divine communion.  He is not alone.  We start to understand the nature of our God as some sort of family or…community.

…kind of like sex?

Is that why the Bible writers chose to use this language here?

Are they suggesting that sexual union is somehow a picture of our triune God?

Why is it that the most common metaphor used by Christ to describe the inauguration of the kingdom of heaven is that of a wedding feast?  It’s a powerful image to be sure: a celebration where we are the bride and God Himself is the groom, a picture of the Great Day that has been promised to us.

Earthly marriage, then, is meant to be an imitation, a foreshadowing of heaven and earth’s own incipient union.  Our actions on this plane point to the realities of the next.  Pleasure points to pleasure, body and bone to eternity, sex to spirit, and Adam and Eve’s echad points to the echad of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

The gap to eternity is bridged by how we live our lives today.

I mean, is sex literally a taste of heaven?  Is that how beautiful God is, that just the barest taste of His essence overwhelms us with pleasure and joy?

So sex isn’t something to be aggressively flaunted but neither is it something to be repressed and closeted away.  And never is it to be something carelessly dismissed as any other biological function.

It’s something to be cared for, channeled, celebrated.  It is a good gift from a good God.

Do you like the feel of a kiss?  The sound of her laughter?  Sex?  These are good things.

Maybe it’s worth thinking about the One who invented them.  Do these delicacies point to your Maker?

Sexual energy, if wasted or abused, is a great human tragedy.  It is infinitely valuable.

Because if how we treat sex is, in a way, how we treat our God, everything changes.  It becomes something we can’t just throw away.  No matter how much we may want to make sweet, sweet love.

I’ll write about this soon.

4 Comments Post a comment
  1. This something I’ve thought of for a long time, that sex is a gift from God.

    As Jefferson Bethke puts it, “you don’t just have sex with a body you have sex with a soul.”

    In a culture where sex is so often seen as an almost meaningless thing, churches can often take the (IMO wrong) standpoint of teaching abstinence until marriage, sex is bad, etc.

    Just to clarify, I think sex before marriage is sinful, but when it’s drilled into the heads of young Christians that sex is bad, it causes problems. I’ve seen dozens of posts on r/Christianity of people asking how they can think of their now spouse in a sexual way after years of beig taught not to.

    When the church begins teaching sex as something beautiful, I think it will have a positive impact on the rest of society.

    Sorry for the long comment 😛

    December 20, 2012
    • no apologies necessary at all my friend, thank you for the comment! I have really enjoyed the friendship our two blogs have shared 🙂

      I had a conversation with a friend just the other day who insisted that sex was gross and just a part of our “animal nature,” something that we Christians had “moved past,” something to be suppressed. She wouldn’t read my post because she thought it was an inappropriate subject to blog about.

      That attitude is exactly what I am writing against in this post. You get it. I agree with you that sex before marriage isn’t good, but mashing down our sexuality is maybe even worse. I’ve seen those posts on r/Christianity as well, man, and I know that I neither want to throw away my sexuality nor be one of those posters.

      Here’s a thread I stumbled across today if you’re interested:

      http://www.reddit.com/r/AskReddit/comments/14ksom/people_of_reddit_who_waited_until_marriage_what/

      December 21, 2012
  2. Jeff Nguyen #

    Your insights and analysis were very interesting, I agree this is a subject that should be discussed more openly so the myths can be separated from the truth.

    January 13, 2013
    • Thank you for stopping by Jeff! I read a bit of your story and am very intrigued. Blessings and please continue to live justice!

      January 14, 2013

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