Sex Should Be Faithful image

Sex Should Be Faithful

This is the third of a four-part series of posts on marriage and sex. Today I am going to consider the place of faithfulness in marriage.

It is not only in our attitude to children that western society is going through huge change. Marriage itself is under attack as never before. In the UK now most adults are unmarried, something which has never before been the case. It used to be taken for granted that once people became adults they would get married, they would have kids, and they would stay married. Now the expectation is that you might live with someone for a while, or just sleep around while still living at home with your mum doing all your cooking and ironing like you are a little kid, even if you are actually 35!  Of course, lots of people do get married, but lots of people also get divorced.

Things are not as straightforward as they used to be.

For the Christian there are some positive reasons for not marrying. Staying single – and celibate – is not a disaster for a Christian, because all Christians are part of a family that is bigger and more important than our flesh and blood families. All Christians are children of God, and have countless brothers and sisters in Christ. Every one of us is also meant to experience fruitfulness because as Christians we are grafted into the vine that is Christ, which means we will be fruitful (John 15:5). Having babies is just one way of being fruitful, not the only (or even the most important) way.

But when it comes to sex we can see that the decline in the number of people marrying and staying married reflects a decrease in faithfulness. And this is not good.

The reality is that we are afraid of making commitments. We prefer to keep our options open. This attitude might be because we worry that if we commit to one thing a better thing might come along later and we will end up disappointed and miserable. How do you know that if you commit to marry someone who you think is pretty fit, funny and talented that a year or two down the line you won’t meet someone who looks better and makes you laugh more and earns more money?! This is a real issue for us because our consumer society trains us to always keep our options open and expect to trade up to a better model when one comes along. No-one expects to drive the same car their whole lives, or listen to the same mp3 player, or wear the same shoes. That would be just so last year.

The trouble is that the attitudes driven into us by our consumer society are not helpful when it comes to building happy and healthy relationships. They do nothing to encourage faithfulness. Can you imagine a company like Nike changing their advertising so it said something like, “Never buy a new pair of trainers from us again! Those ones we sold you two years ago are still really cool!”? It’s not going to happen.

And where this leaves us is bouncing from one relationship to another, always looking for perfection, and always being disappointed.

Another reason we might be afraid of making commitments is that so many of us have experienced what happens when a commitment is broken. If your experience growing up was of all the people who were meant to be most trustworthy letting you down, it’s not surprising if you have trust issues. If your mum walked out on your dad, and you never saw a relationship that lasted, why should you want to try and make any lasting commitments yourself? And even if this wasn’t your experience, the fact that it was the experience of lots of your friends will have left you burnt about commitment.

The reality is, we live in a “divorce culture” where every one of us is affected by the general lack of faithfulness we see all around us. As well as making us nervous of commitments, this divorce culture also makes us look for legal guarantees. When we can’t trust people we need to have a contract with them, so we can sue them and screw them if they try to screw us. This is why we live in a society with evermore rules and regulations, and stupid warnings on cups of coffee saying “This will be hot.” Where there is a lack of trust – a lack of faithfulness – then all we have to rely on is the law.

God is faithful
Throughout the Bible the relationship between God and his people is described as one in which God is faithful, even if often his people are not. This relationship is likened to a marriage, in which God is a faithful and jealous husband pursuing his straying bride. This “marriage” gives us some of the most shocking language in the Bible. For example, chapter 16 of Ezekiel describes God’s people as a whore, and explains with terrifying intensity how judgment will be poured out on them as a result. But the story doesn’t end with judgment – it ends with the faithful love of our faithful God: I will atone for all you have done.

It is God’s example of faithfulness that we are to pursue in our relationships, and especially in marriage. Where sex is involved there needs to be more faithfulness. Why? Because of what sex is meant to produce. Part of this is the production of babies, because sex is meant to be fruitful, and children do best when raised by parents who are faithful to one another. But sex is also meant to produce a deepening of relationship between a couple. Sex is the most personal thing you can do – it requires complete self-disclosure – and this kind of intimacy deserves the protection of faithfulness.

Sex isn’t just a matter of connecting pieces of plumbing.

If God is faithful, we have got to come to the place where we believe that he can help us to be faithful too, and that this is actually the best way to live. God’s faithfulness is the antidote to our consumerism. Think about it – God could definitely have chosen a better model than me, but choose me he did, and he will never let me go. If God treats me like this, then I must be able to reflect the same kind of faithfulness in relationships without always worrying about whether I have made the right decision. This is why one of my favourite expressions to sum up how I feel about my marriage is, “I’ve settled it in my heart.” Faithfulness is a decision I have made, and by the grace of God is a decision I can keep. It is settled.

God’s faithfulness is also the antidote to the nervousness we feel about commitment because of the way we have seen others break their commitments. In the end, our model needs to be Jesus, not anyone else. When we start to get a handle on the faithfulness of Jesus – a faithfulness that went so far it ended at the cross – we can start to live faithfully ourselves. We’ve got to believe that the power of his faithfulness at work in us will enable us to live faithfully, even if all our human models have failed.

Faithful marriage is the bedrock of society. Faithfulness in marriage extends to faithfulness from parents towards their children, and from the family to neighbours, and from neighbours to the neighbourhood. This means sex should be part of the glue of faithfulness, and not a wrecking bar that shatters it.

Be faithful – don’t have sex with anyone you’re not married to; and if you are married, faithfully (and regularly!) make love to your spouse.

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