This week, we conclude our Better Half series, in which we’ve been talking about the principles for a flourishing marriage. In conclusion to this series, we’ll look at a topic that’s popular in our culture: sex. As much as our culture talks, sings and writes about sex, God actually values it much more than our culture does.

Question: What messages does our culture give about sex? How do you think God views sex?

The first mention of sex in the Bible takes place right after God created man and woman. These firsts offer two insights on sex and marriage.

First, they show that a man leaves his parents and is united to his wife. In Hebrew, this word for “united” is “dabaq, which means to cleave, cling to, be joined or stick to. It’s the same word that was used when making a binding covenant or contract. Thus, the union that happens between a man and a woman in marriage is so profound that they essentially become one person, completely giving themselves over emotionally, financially, socially and physically.

Second, these verses tell us that the man and woman “[became] one flesh”. In reading this, we usually think of sex, and rightly so. However, flesh here is used as an expression that stands for the whole person. God tells us that sex is both a sign of whole-life commitment to your spouse and a means of whole-life commitment to your spouse. While our culture views sex as no big deal–as a simple way to fulfill animalistic urges, God says sex is the expression of the deepest kind of commitment, and thus holds it in high regard.

Question: How have you committed yourself fully to your spouse? How does sex impact this commitment?

These verses reiterate that, since sex was God’s idea, He has a pretty positive view of it. Contrary to what some people may believe, God is the number one fan of sex in the Bible. God doesn’t view sex as negative or degrading but as part of His perfect plan for humanity.

Further, because God views sex in such high esteem and understands its vulnerability, He knows that it belongs in a safe and secure place–marriage. Just as we keep valuables tucked away in a safe place, so we must protect sex by keeping it in the context of marriage.

By engaging in sex outside of marriage, we’re essentially giving away the most vulnerable parts of our lives physically while refusing to trust the person with our whole lives. Many couples belief that moving into together and experimenting sexually before marriage will help them see if they’re compatible for marriage. However, this plan actually backfires– couples who live together before they get married get divorced at far higher rates than those who don’t. In engaging in sex outside of marriage, we’re building distrust into the very foundation of our relationships

Question: How are you actively protecting sex in your life?

Now that we understand God’s vision for sex, how do we live out that vision?

These verses offer three principles into how married people can live out God’s vision for sex. First, God intended sex to produce sexual pleasure to both men and women. Sexual intimacy is a crucial part of a healthy marriage. This flies in the face of the view of sex in the ancient world; in the ancient world, marital sex was viewed as the way to produce children, while sexual enjoyment was found outside of marriage for men and unthought of for women. Paul redefines the culture’s understanding of sexual relationships.

This text also shows us that it’s important to have sex regularly–”do not deprive each other”. While sexual relations are a normal routine for some couples, for others, this routine has been interrupted by a multitude of life’s distractions–busyness, fatigue, kids, illness. It’s important to get back into this rhythm because our marriages need it.

Finally, this passage frames the whole conversation of sex in terms of what we’re giving to our spouse. In other words, God cares more about what we’re giving in sex then what we’re getting. The reason that some people become so frustrated with their sex lives is because they’re only focused on what they are–or aren’t–getting rather than focusing on their spouse. While God cares about our needs, He fills us with greater joy when we focus on the needs of others.

When we discuss these needs, we’re not talking solely about our physical intimacy. Rather, we want to give our spouses everything that they need to feel love, which includes emotional intimacy. Brilliantly, God created us that when our emotional intimacy increases, it usually strengths our sexual intimacy as well because we feel more deeply connected to our spouse.

Now that we understand how married people can live out God’s vision for sex, how can singles do the same?

Saving sex until marriage can be incredibly difficult in our culture. Our culture often sends the message that, if we are to have a fulfilling and satisfactory life, we must have a great sex life. However, sexual intimacy is only a foretaste of the joy and glory that will come when we see Jesus face to face. If we are to have any hope of living out God’s vision for sex, it’s essential that we are intimately acquainted with the love of Jesus. While we will experience this joy and glory fully when we meet with Jesus face to face, we can experience a taste of this right now through prayer, worship, and Scripture.

Further, in pursuing God’s vision for sex while single, it’s important that we’re part of a community of friends who are following Jesus in that same desire. Being with people who are likeminded offers encouragement and accountability. These people don’t believe that they must be married to be happy, recognize that God calls some folks to singleness (just like He did with some of the most important biblical leaders) and allow us to be real with them.

Finally, in living out God’s vision for sex while single, it’s essential that we handles our sexual thoughts and feelings in a way that’s marked by grace and truth. We must hold tight to our convictions of what God says about sex, especially when our emotions and desires try to drive us away from these truthers. We must also gracefully accept that it’s natural to have sexual thoughts and feelings. Rather than beating ourselves up for a natural passing thought, we can accept that this is natural while also refusing to dwell on these thoughts so that they take on an unhealthy life of their own.

Question: How does God’s vision for sex compare with your own? What are you doing to pursue God’s vision for sex?

In discussing sex, it can often bring up all kinds of pain, regret, and shame. Often we’ve done things sexually that we’re not proud of. Do you know that the devil wants us to get stuck in this shame and guilt? God, however, is a God of grace, restoration, help and healing. God wants us to take hold of the freedom, forgiveness and fresh starts that come through Jesus.

Question: What sexual sins is the devil throwing in your face? Take a few moments to ask God to forgive you for these things. How can you move forward in His grace?