Beastly with Two Backs

God created us as sexual beings, and the Bible accepts our sexuality, but sex is not an end in itself. The Bible rejects sex for its own sake – the separation of sexual pleasure-seeking from partnership and marriage. Genesis Two describes the creator’s purpose quite clearly. As partners who complement each other, the two “become one” (Gen 2:24). Both Jesus and Paul base their understanding of sex and marriage on this passage and especially this verse. (Mark 10:2 compare Mt 19:3ff. & 1 Cor 6:16)

Jesus feels so strongly about infidelity that tears apart what God has joined that he calls “just looking”, adultery of the will1 (Matt 5:28). One sin, surely, that few healthy humans escape!

In the story of Ruth, however, the Bible holds up an example of chesed “loving-loyalty” that, though sexy, goes beyond sex. Ruth, the wife of Bethlehem boy, Mahlon, is a foreigner – a gentile. When Mahlon tragically dies, the young widow meets and marries Boaz. The narrator hints at the mutual respect and desire of Ruth and Boaz. Yet even more strongly we see how, in finding love, Ruth displays her faithfulness to the family she had joined when she married Mahlon.

The Bible is also full of stories where sex goes wrong, from the Sodomites seeking to make sex into a symbol of dominance, through unfaithfulness and abuse of power for sexual ends… but this abuse of God’s gift of sexuality is not the whole story, as we are shown another way in Ruth, the Song of Songs, and by implication in the laments and harsh judgements over infidelity.

Ideally (and the Bible is nothing if not real, and so tells of many cases where the ideal is not realised) such partnership “makes love” and produces babies. The possibility of pregnancy is not a sine qua non of good sex in the Bible, but it is a desired and desirable culmination. As the passion and faithfulness of two people is widened to include others.

  1. The “heart” in the Bible is seat of the will not of the emotions – emotions live in the “belly” or “guts” of a person.  []

One comment on “Beastly with Two Backs

  1. Bob MacDonald

    Have you considered the Rabbinic advice I think at this time of the year for Shavuot that the male should read the Song and identify with the bride. This image perhaps when thinking of children, is the image of the Anointed being born in us. There is more to this than meets the eye as C.S.Lewis commented in his comments on Psalm 45. I will repeat what I wrote about this even though I scarcely touch the intent of my citations:

    Craigie, when he deals with this psalm under ‘explanation’, points us to the last chapter of C.S. Lewis Reflections on the Psalms as an example of a psalm with ‘a second meaning’. Lewis (p. 101 ff) commends the understanding within Judaism of the allegory of God as Bridegroom. His comment is telling:

    Lewis: Thus the allegory which at first seemed so arbitrary – the ingenuity of some prudish commentator who was determined to force flat edifications upon the most unpromising texts – turned out, when you seriously tugged at it, to have roots in the whole history of religion, to be loaded with poetry, to yield insights.

    Bob: The king, the groom, he is your Lord, has made us kings and priests to God and his Father (Revelation 1:6). If I come to this intellectually, I fail. It is ‘flat’ as Lewis comments. But if I come at it in obedience, the unplugged ear, the prepared body, of Psalm 40, that is, in the obedience of faith, I find that more than I asked or imagined arises out of the text.

    Hence I might add, both the need for purity and the seeking of it. But purity and completeness in the Anointed as the Bride is not solely embraced in the terms you have suggested.