A few weeks ago, Pastor Siby preached a sermon on the question “What Does the Bible Say About Sex?” He focused on two truths (sex is good; sex is profound oneness) and two tensions (sex is not ultimate; sex exists in a broken world) present in Scripture. Because of my current season in life (singleness), I wanted to focus on that first tension in particular. As a single man, the tension of “sex is good but it is not ultimate” comes with it’s own secondary tension: “despite the goodness of sex, in my current unmarried state any and all sex is bad.” To violate God’s sexual ethic would be to do violence against myself and to “sin against my own body” (1 Cor 6:18).
That being said, I’m going to break social norms and confess something to you– I still desire to have sex. Moreover, I believe that desire is good and even godly in its origin. Before sin entered the world, there was one thing in the world that was called “not good”: man being alone. Solitude goes against our design as God’s image bearers, so the good creation of Adam was made “very good” by the creation of Eve. Adam and Eve became man and wife and experienced profound oneness in accordance with God’s good design. I would argue that the desire for sex comes from the God-given desire for profound oneness with another person in the context of marriage.
However, the fall changed everything. Like all human desires and faculties, our sexuality became distorted when sin entered the world. Sex especially seems easily distorted by sin. A desire for profound oneness can quickly become a desire for pleasure, for conquest, to “possess” another person, to use another person’s body, all of which are a special kind of harrowing to contemplate. So please don’t for a moment think I am letting lust off the hook. It is not a sin to be entertained or celebrated but rather mortified.
That being said, as an unmarried man, I am still left with a potentially good, albeit easily distorted, desire for sex. The question then is: “What am I to do with it?” I don’t believe the answer is to seek to kill all desire for sex (even if that were possible). Rather, I can glorify God in my unfulfilled yet godly desires for marriage and the profound unity that accompanies it by displaying Christ’s sufficiency for my joy and my ultimate fulfillment regardless of the fulfillment of this desire.
Sex (and marriage) is not the ultimate good of this world, Christ is. The two ultimately point to the consummation of history when Christ is united with his Bride, the Church. Therefore marriage and sex are at their most God-glorifying when it points to Christ. Singleness and celibacy also point to Christ, but rather than showing us the shape of the gospel, they show us its sufficiency (see Sam Alberry for more on this). Christ is truly all that we need in this life and the challenge of finding contentment in Christ while having unfulfilled godly desires is a witness to all creation of Christ’s all-surpassing worth and ultimacy.
The final question is then “How am I supposed to do that?” A few truths have proven helpful for me. When I become tempted to believe that it would be better to disobey God than to obey him, I remember that God has not given me second best. 1 Cor 7, among other things, fully affirms the goodness of singleness. It is not a second-class state in the kingdom of heaven reserved for those whom God loves less. Also, I reflect on Matt 7:8-11”For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” I have asked my Father for a wife, and, in His infinite Wisdom, He has not given me one at this time. I don’t know why, but I do know that He has not given me a stone in the place of bread. My loving Father has given me a good thing in my season of singleness. Among many other blessings, He has given me the opportunity to declare Christ’s total sufficiency for my life to all who see me.
So if you are reading this and you are married, go have sex to the glory of God and celebrate your single brothers and sisters in the Lord who do not. If you’re reading this and you are single, go not have sex to the glory of God and instead declare Christ’s sufficiency for your life to the cosmos.
1 Cor 10:31 “Therefore whether you eat or drink, [have sex or remain celibate] or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”