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Sex in America

February 13, 2018 by Eric Stillman 0 comments

For the first two months of 2018, I will be using this space to interact with “This is our time” by Trevin Wax, a book that appeared on many “Best of” Christian book lists of 2017. In this book, Wax looks at the myths our culture teaches us, affirms the good longings underneath those myths, and then challenges those myths with the gospel. I believe this will be a good exercise for us in how to be discerning as we live in our world, so that we might be as Paul exhorted the Ephesian church: “Be very careful, then, how you live-- not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord's will is.” (Ephesians 5:15-17)

The seventh chapter of “This is our time” is entitled Sex Rebels. In this chapter, Wax examines the myths surrounding sex in America. He discusses how there are two opposite extremes preached in today’s culture. One on end is the “sex is nothing” myth, where sex is simply a pleasurable activity to be enjoyed between consenting adults, with no deeper meaning or significance. Casual sex becomes the norm, nothing more than another biological itch to be scratched. On the other end is the “sex is everything” myth, where sex is essential to human happiness, something to be elevated above religious or cultural rules and restrictions, including even marriage itself. For the one who rejects the notion of God, sex may therefore become the closest one can get to experiencing transcendence.

One result of these two myths is that the cultural perspective on premarital sex has certainly changed. Whereas engaging in premarital sex used to be seen as a sign of weakness, as an inability to master one’s impulses, and restraint was seen as a sign of maturity and manhood, now chastity is seen as something to be ridiculed or pitied. Wax contrasts the ridicule heaped upon the Christian athlete Tim Tebow for his decision to save sex for marriage with the praise lavished on Jason Collins, an athlete who came out as gay. The culture’s response reveals which choices regarding sexuality are seen as noble and courageous and which choices are seen as backwards and ridiculous.

The Bible, however, teaches us that sex was a good gift given by God, designed to flourish within the covenant union of a husband and wife. It is not “nothing,” and indeed, is far more serious and mysterious than it is treated in our hook-up culture. On the other hand, the Bible also teaches us that sex is not “everything”; it will not give us the true and lasting satisfaction we are longing for. Instead, the Bible tells us that marriage and sex are signs pointing to the deeper, more eternally fulfilling intimacy that we will enjoy with God forever. Jesus teaches that when we are with God, marriage will disappear (Matthew 22:30), for the people of God will be united with Him as a bride with a groom (Revelation 21:2). This is good news for all who have never married, are widowed or divorced, or have never experienced a satisfying sex life. They are not missing out on an essential element of human life, but on something that, while a good gift, ultimately points to the true essential intimate relationship that will forever satisfy.

As C.S. Lewis put it when asked about sex in heaven: “I think our present outlook might be like that of a small boy who, on being told that the sexual act was the highest bodily pleasure should immediately ask whether you ate chocolates at the same time. On receiving the answer, “No,” he might regard absence of chocolates as the chief characteristic of sexuality. In vain would you tell him that the reason why lovers in their carnal raptures don’t bother about chocolates is that they have something better to think of. The boy knows chocolate; he does not know the positive thing that excludes it. We are in the same position. We know the sexual life; we do not know, except in glimpses, the other thing which, in Heaven, will leave no room for it.”

Clearly our culture has continued to stray further and further from God’s original design for human sexuality. As Christians, we can continue to walk in His will, upholding Biblical morality as what is best for human flourishing, and enjoy God’s good gift of sex in the context for which it was created, while pointing people to the ultimate source of intimacy, joy, and friendship, Jesus Christ.

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