Sex is the lifeline of all human life on this planet. Virtually all forms of animal life mate in one form or another. This is how they procreate their species. For most species the ability to share the physical act of sex is restricted to only a few time periods during each year. This natural observation leads me to the conclusion that God designed humans so that we have a unique ability to couple sexually much more often than most species. During each month there are several days in which a woman is fertile and can conceive a child but most of the time we can have sex and not create a child.
Let’s face it – sex is a powerful human force, for good and ill. Men have killed their rivals for it and died to protect those they are sexually committed to in various contexts.
I am old fashioned enough to believe that one of the greatest gifts that you can give to your spouse is the gift of sexual purity before you are married. This means that the wedding night is not just another evening, an evening in a long string of romantic evenings with whoever you felt like becoming sexually active with at the time, but it is a time for experiencing the fullness of sexual union with the person that you have made a lifelong commitment to in holy matrimony. Here sex has an identity that puts it into God’s purpose for it.
The consequences of sex are immense. One single act, whether painful or enjoyable, can produce a new human life. In a good marriage this is a happy event. In some marriages, and non-marital relationships, it is a time of deep anguish that will lead some to take away this human life because it is an inconvenience.
Sex can be fulfilling or destructive, sometimes it is even both in the same two people. We live in a time in history, at least in the West, when we need to reassess the role of sex in our lives at the deepest levels of dialogue. Our culture has been flooded by sexual messages. Very few of us are able to understand how to use this powerful tool for human communication which attracts and repels. We are not taught how it can be used responsibly, as an expression of the gift of love itself, or how it can bring (only) momentary satisfaction and then deep anxiety and regret. The power of sex is deeply embedded in all of human history yet we rarely talk candidly about it. Several centuries ago people talked about sex rather openly, in healthy ways, but never about death. In our time we have reversed this process, or so it seems to me.
Though divorce occurs because of many different factors we should make every effort to resist divorce as a good solution to marital problems. We certainly should resist it as the “first response” to marital problems. But abuse, alcohol, drugs, infidelity, even the breakdown of the emotional bonds of the marriage relationship can, and very often do, end marriages. No matter how a marriage is ended, and for what reasons it happens, the breakdown impacts two people and does so very profoundly. When children are involved, no matter what you may think about the improvement of their well-being by getting out of a bad or loveless marriage, they are likely going to be harmed by a divorce no matter how you handle it. This is a major reason for why the breakdown of marriage has reshaped an entire generation and their view of marriage.
I am sometimes asked if I believe in “love at first sight.” The answer is yes. However you fall in love, or grow into love over time, the real issue is not how this happens but the commitment and continuance of love within the marriage. We may feel deep emotions of love but the question is still simple: “How do we really love another person in a marriage?” As smart as most of us are we know very little about the right answers to this question. Think about this – you have to pass an exam to get a driver’s license. You must pass background checks to secure some jobs. You must even be able to read to function very well in our culture. Most states no longer require even a simple blood test to get married much less any training for the couples.
Marriage, if it is to succeed, must be reconnected with knowledge. Marriage must be based on more than animal and sexual desire for the other person. It must be based upon knowledge, sacrifice and old fashioned humane considerations. The church needs to be involved in helping people evaluate their motivations before marriage. Ministers can have a major part in this but it takes a family to really and truly make a new family. If that family is missing then the church can become the place where the solitary learns family life in meaningful ways. We have lost an entire generation that has experienced the complete breakdown of marriage in our culture. Couple this reality with a major misunderstanding of the place and role of sex and you have a massive social problem. Forget, for at least a moment, the whole debate about sex and morality. We have a major and life-transforming problem. Even the most non-Christian person can see this problem clearly if they consider it seriously at all.
God’s plan is based on one factor alone: love. Love of parents, love of husbands and wives, love of neighbors, and love of everyone that we meet, even our enemies. This is the only way that we can actually build a great marriage. God has established things so that when we honor our spouse, and treat this person as we should, our love will have great power.
Attitudes fostered by easy divorce laws, and self-styled counselors who give people permission to act as they wish, have encouraged the dissolution of marriage at an amazing rate. Rather than couples working toward the resolution of their differences they settle for an “easy” divorce. A break in a marriage rips the family apart, leaves children confused and complicates societal transitions for future generations beyond anything statistics can measure. To continue on this path will do more to destroy our way of life, and to reduce our personal freedoms, than anything else that we are doing in modern culture. Our greatest war is not with terrorists but within our hearts and homes. If we lose this war we might lose all that has been the true foundation of our liberties and success in Western culture. It is time for the church to re-create a marriage culture. Only by intentionally building such a culture do we have any answers at all that speak to the modern consequences of the breakdown of marriages and families.