Sex and Spirituality

Holding-Hands1-300x206I ask for permission to repeat myself. Sometimes, that is what we need to do: say the same thing over again. I wrote the following paragraph in our Westside Journal as an introduction to our just completed series, More about Sex and Money, editing it slightly for my purposes here: With all of the current conversation on sexuality in our broader culture, one would think we should be moving towards more clarity.  One would think we ought to be gaining more understanding, and have less need to talk about these things.  But just the opposite seems to be happening.  When it comes to questions about human sexuality -- its meaning and purpose -- more people are confused than ever.

You might disagree with my premise, but lets agree to “follow the talk” to its root issue. And in this case, I wonder if our incessant talk about human sexuality in the broader culture is symptomatic of a more basic confusion about what it means to be human. Perhaps human sexuality is hopelessly confused without reference to God.

I am wondering if Frederick Nietzsche, that brilliant but sinister 19th century mind, might provide a clue as to why this is occurring. Nietzsche was no friend of Christian faith, just the opposite. He famously coined the phrase “God is dead”, the thought that launched the 20th century and its many experiments in remaking the world. But while Nietzsche saw the removal of God from human consciousness as a necessary and even liberating idea, he also recognized that the removal of God would require a fundamental shift in how human beings saw themselves, and at every level. The process of “de-God-ing” the world would inevitably lead to a remaking of all values and ideals, a fundamental re-visioning of what human beings were. The re-valuing of sexuality is simply one more way this project is working itself out.

Last Thursday morning, as I sat to write on human sexuality, I became overwhelmed with the task. There is a lot that needs to be said. But what I became convinced of is how this conversation needs to be backed up a bit. This is a conversation about second things, when first things need to be established. As CS Lewis reminded us, when we begin with second things we tend to find them impossible to understand or attain. But if we begin with first things, we find second things taking their proper use and shape. And so it is that human sexuality is almost impossible to understand without a clear vision of God.

Last week I mused on a line from Psalm 100:2 (TNIV):

Know that the Lord is God. It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.

It was the second half of that second line which caught my attention, especially the variant reading which says: It is he who made us, and not we ourselves. In other words, since God is God, and since we are not God but belong to him and his purposes, we do not make up the meanings of our lives. While that may seem like an odd text to bring into a discussion about human sexuality, for people of faith it does provide a necessary point of departure.

While I haven’t addressed the question about sexuality you might have thought of when you saw my title (i.e., what does the Bible says about x or y), I have said something important: that our sexuality cannot be cut off from the God who made us. Put differently, to open the question of human sexuality is to simultaneously open the question of what a human being is, what it is we need, and what it is we are looking for.

Sex is a wonderful gift, but it makes a lousy god. Its a secondary thing, not the primary thing. In our cultural confusion, with our loss of the vision of God, our talk reveals just how confused we are. I am wondering if we will ever really understand sexuality by talking about sex only. What I hope, for all of us, is that we would refuse to cut off this area of our humanity from the God who made us, who loves us, and who calls us to his true life.

This Wednesday, January 30, our next Grow Seminar will feature a discussion on precisely this topic: Sex and Spirituality. Two excellent presenters, Wendy Lowe and Daniel Kamori, will lead our thoughts and engage our questions. I invite you to be there. Click here for details.

I send this with my prayers for your complete wholeness in Christ.

Bob Osborne