To touch or not to touch, that is the question. Is it nobler to suffer the pangs of lust, and in celibacy oppose them to their end? Or shall we fall headlong into lust’s embrace, drinking deeply of all she has to offer? Ay, there’s the rub.
There is no rub for the Christian who has a balanced understanding of the Scriptures. However, the Corinthians were anything but balanced. They were vacillating between two extreme positions concerning sexual relations for Christians: if it feels good, do it, and running away from all of it.
On the libertarian end, there is incest (5:1-13) and sex with prostitutes (6:12-20), and on what some perceived to be the holy end, there is celibacy. This then begs the question; which position is correct? Free-wheeling, care-free, and uninhibited sexual behavior doesn’t sound very Christ-like, so the holier route must be to suppress all sexual expression and live without it. Paul’s response is that both extremes are wrong (1 Cor 6:18-7:1, 7:3-5).
Sex was meant by God to be an incredible gift, but to some, it is an incredible curse. What was meant to be beautiful, shame-free, and monogamous, is exemplified by the Corinthians as crass, self-indulgent, and destructive. The immorality of the Corinthians was well known, so Paul responds to their question about sex and its appropriateness (7:1); it is well and good for people to engage in sex, but only in the context of marriage (7:2-5).
We read in the last chapter that during the sexual union, there is more going on than just a physical act, there is a spiritual connection, a bonding (6:16a).
In marriage, as a man and women leave home and cleave to one another (Gen 2:21-24), they share unity, a bond, and themselves with one another in an exclusive relationship. In this special relationship, there are mutual rights to each others bodies (7:4). A husband is to satisfy his wife just as he is to receive satisfaction from her (v.3). Sex is to be enjoyed within the stable, safe, and shameless context of marriage, providing pleasure for both spouses.
There may come a time when sex must be set aside, but that should be during times of fasting and prayer (v.5a). There may be other legitimate reasons, but it should never be in the context of punishment or leverage against your spouse. And once you are able to get back to it, get back to it. Satan will use sex, and the weakness of men (and women) to wreak havoc in your life if you do not stay on your guard (v.5b). How many people have succumbed to sexual temptation because they did not keep the home fires burning?
We live in a perverse society, and I know I am not telling you anything new. I can get so used to saying no to everything that is wrong with our culture, including the vulgarity of the sex that I forget to say yes to the Gospel and righteous living. Christ died so that nothing in this world can claim mastery over me, including sex, and I am now empowered to say NO to unrighteous behavior.
Say YES to the Gospel and begin to reclaim the beauty of sex as God created it. Enjoy one another, but if you must stop, do so and return to one another ASAP. Pleasure and enjoy your spouse so that both of you will be able to stand against Satan and his temptations, which are meant to destroy what God has joined together (Matt 19:5-6; Mark 10:8-9).
Sexual immorality doesn’t belong in your life and celibacy doesn’t belong in the marriage bed.
Grace and Peace,