It’s human nature to avoid reality in favor of creating our own. Nowhere have I seen this illustrated more vividly than in the book, Descent Into Hell, by Charles Williams. (Very uplifting title, I know.)
In the story, Lawrence Wentworth falls in love with a girl named Adela. The irony is that Lawrence barely even knows her, so he begins to fall in love with his own made-up version of Adela. His “anti-Adela” eventually materializes into a spirit form that only he can see and touch. As the story unfolds, Lawrence falls deeper in love with this totally fake person. She’s the perfect woman for him, but she doesn’t exist.
It ends up causing Lawrence to turn more and more inward until he finally shuts himself off from the rest of the world—alone with his own creation. And he’s never seen or heard from again.
Creepy right? But this is what we do every time we attempt to recast sex in our own image.
Sex Is For Intimacy
The whole point of sex, according to God’s design, is to consummate the intimacy of a husband and wife in marriage (Gen. 2:24-25). Sex isn’t an end in itself, and sex isn’t for our own pleasure. It’s about intimacy with someone else, not about ourselves.
So what is real intimacy? It’s putting the needs of someone else before our own. It’s being fully known and knowing fully. There’s vulnerability and “nakedness” that’s not only physical, but also mental, emotional, and spiritual. In Descent into Hell, Lawrence’s infatuation with his own version of Adela killed any real intimacy he could have had with the real Adela. The same is true for us. Every time we try to define sex our own way, we show that we don’t care about the person we want to have sex with, we only care about how it’s going to affect us.
This clearly plays out in sexual abuse, where one person victimizes another. But what about the more “socially acceptable” ways we see this happen? When a person habitually looks at porn, it becomes more and more difficult for them to look at someone else and not see a sex-object that can be taken advantage of for personal pleasure. As a pastor, I’ve often seen this play out in marriages. If a husband is aroused by a fantasy, he loses the ability to be aroused by his real, living and breathing wife.
When a person believes he or she can find their identity in the kind of sex that arouses them—as in the LGBTQ lifestyle—it draws that person away from real intimacy. Sex with someone becomes a means to a selfish end, rather than a means to intimacy.
When a person doesn’t wait for sex until the commitment of marriage, sex works against intimacy instead of toward it. That person isn’t thinking of what’s best for their sexual partner, they’re only thinking of themselves. Putting their own needs first kills any true intimacy.
But pornography, the LGBTQ lifestyle, and sex outside of marriage are pervasive in our society. Is it really possible to find the kind of intimacy we all desire?
The Bible answers this question with an emphatic, “Yes.”
Sex In God’s Image
Biblically, sex is meant to connect us with a spouse so we can bear God’s image through marriage. Bearing God’s image is the very reason we exist. So, sex in marriage helps married people fulfill God’s purpose for their lives!
If you’re single, abstaining from sex helps you fulfill God’s purpose for your life. Thankfully, we have a perfect example to look to in Jesus. He never married an earthly bride. He was waiting in anticipation of marrying his true bride, the Church. Singleness gives you that honor. You’re waiting in anticipation of your Real Marriage.
While earthly marriage and sex are good, they’re nothing compared to the Real Marriage we’re waiting for in eternity. Sex and marriage are shadows that point to a greater reality. That’s why sex is such a big deal for us as Christians. How we live out our sexuality communicates what we truly believe about Jesus as our Savior. Practicing sex in God’s image will lead to greater intimacy with God and with others. And it’s only intimacy with God that will satisfy us completely.
So, if you’re struggling to put sex in its right place, trust Jesus and what he says about the intimacy he’s promised. No fake intimacy we create can ever compare to the reality of true intimacy that God has made available for us.
At the end of the day, Jesus is always better. And he is always, always enough.
-Carter Mundy (Associate Executive Director for Greensboro Pregnancy Care Center and one of our shepherding elders at Mercy Hill Church)