12 November 2010

Question of the Week:
Can Marital Sex be Sinful?
Part II

by Anne Lang Bundy

Is pornography adultery?
~ Anonymous
Am I obligated to sleep with a spouse who I do not think loves me anymore and is just using me for sex?
~ Anonymous

These were submitted as two separate questions. Both might receive a simple 'yes' based on Matthew 5:28 and 1 Corinthians 7:4-5. But addressing sin in context of marital sex deserves far more depth, and three posts are planned to offer some answers:

Part I: Sexual Immorality, Unique Sin
Part II: Sex Drive, Unique Motivation
Part III: Sexual Contrasts, Unique Solution

: : :


"In real love you want the other person's good.
In romantic love, you want the other person."
~ Margaret Chase Smith

Once upon a time, in a world without sin, the Creator gave woman to man as a companion. In all creation, she alone was like him, and yet she was wholly different. Their ideal lives had nothing to challenge unconditional love for each other.

Then sin came into the picture. Agonizing toil and labor would now consume both the man and woman in their respective occupations, and newfound self-centeredness would forevermore put their relationship in continual jeopardy.

Little might compel a man and woman to unite if the Creator did not also give the man a fight-to-the-death sex drive and the woman a drive for relationship ("your desire shall be for your husband"—Genesis 3:16). While there is no doubt that men were also created for relationship, and women were also created to enjoy sex, it's generally understood that most men are more driven toward physical satisfaction and most women are more driven toward emotional satisfaction. *

Ideally, each partner prompts the other to find both kinds of satisfaction in sexual intimacy—the Creator's super glue to permanently bond together two otherwise ill-fitting creatures in the institution of marriage.

Super glue is interesting stuff. It is reputed to create a bond stronger than the materials it unites. It forms that bond with incredible speed. And if not used with sufficient care, it will bond things not meant to be bonded, or otherwise cause damage.

The same is true of sexual intimacy. Blog host Russell Holloway noted in his comment last week that sex has recreational and procreational components, but is most importantly a form of communication. Sexual intimacy creates a unique vulnerability and opens channels of communication in marriage which can strengthen it as nothing else. If intimacy includes immorality, sexual intimacy can also injure a marriage as nothing else.

The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. And likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. Do not deprive one another except with consent for a time, that you may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again so that Satan does not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.
~ 1 Corinthians 7:4-5 (NKJV)

It’s been said that women learn to fake pleasure and men learn to fake relationship.

Dishonesty and vulnerability are a dangerous mix.

Faking might seem preferable to facing how weak the marriage is. Indulgence of sexual immorality might look like a way to revive the sexual bond of marriage. But sin can never deliver on what it promises. What it does always deliver is consequences greater than its fleeting pleasure.

Not-faking might seem an adequate excuse to avoid sexual intimacy. But frustrated desire—whether a man's physical desire or a woman's emotional desire—makes a person vulnerable to seeking some manner of satisfaction outside of marriage, and is a recipe for marriage failure.

God’s Spirit provides another, better option, to be examined next week.

~ ~ ~

* Paul mentions that for the sake of God's kingdom, the Holy Spirit gives some people a gift to appreciate celibacy (1 Corinthians 7:7-9;32-34).

: : :

For more on the consequences of sexual immorality, see "For Beauty, If She is Listening."

What questions do you have about Christianity or the Bible? You're invited to leave them in the comments below (anonymous questions welcome), or email buildingHisbody [plus] @ gmail.com.

© 2010 Anne Lang Bundy, all rights reserved.
Image source: homepages.ius.edu


  1. In a resent conversation another therapist told me, "a person can never get enough of something they do not need." We see this played out in love and sex addiction. When love or sex become disordered, no matter how hard we try, they do not satisfy.

    Love, (the Hollywood type of love), and sex, can become disordered in marriage, too. I guess that is what you are saying Anne. And, I agree.

    The problem is compounded by the fact that our society is love/sex addicted. It is our nations diagnosis if you will.

    Thank you Anne.

  2. Excellently stated, Anne. Thanks for all you do.

  3. Russ ~

    The word "addiction" inherently defines that something is being misused. Is there anything, however good, that cannot become an addiction?

    In God's language, an addiction is an idol, something used in a futile attempt to obtain the fulfillment found only in God Himself—or in receiving His gifts (such as sex) as He intended.

  4. Jason ~

    Thanks for all you do as well. I caught your post today. You are also appreciated. : )

  5. Coming from a family with background of sexual "addictions" including porn [before it was anything similar to today's style and accessibility] and pedophiles, prostitutes and other sexual sinfulness, dealing with anything "south" of godliness, is a real challenge for me. I certainly wasn't perfect in that area b/4 coming to the Lord, and not even along the path since. My former husband, a Christian, was a porn addict and unfaithful many times and blamed it on me for not being pretty enough or "good enough". My present husband thinks I'm beautiful and an absolutely wonderful lover. We avoid any TV shows/movies/books/I-net aspects that would draw either of us into something sexually ungodly and risk tossing ourselves into the middle of the cultural stream.

    I realize I said too much, too long, too bluntly ... but you really hit my spirit. You're good at that sort of thing with your straightforwardness connected to your heart for the Body.

  6. CarryJo ~

    You've not said too much. I do have a heart for the Body, and I think we've failed to be as straightforward as we need to be.

    The Christian community is very quiet on this topic. I sense that marriage is seen as the end solution to sexual immoriality—once married, sex isn't immoral anymore. That attitude does nothing to repair or restore the deep, deep injuries of sexual immorality within marriage. Porn is probably the biggest component, but it's only the tip of an iceberg made up of many, many other components. To see the suffering caused ... it hurts me so.

    I've spoken with and counseled a number of Christian women hurt by sexual immorality in marriage. My birth family was deeply injured by pornography. If I were able to work toward healing in the Christian Body for only one kind of injury, it would be the injuries caused by sexual immorality, both before and during marriage. I pray the Lord might allow me such a ministry. (It is an emphasis in my fiction.)

    I'm so very blessed to hear that the Lord has brought you into a marriage where healing can take place, CarryJo. He wants healing for so many more.

  7. Thanks. Some of what I try to do is be as clear with Christians re: my sexual background and the family issues and the family generational history and what a blessing it has been for the Lord to break into my life and redeem, restore, renew, recreate, and on and on. If it hadn't been b/c of His love and mercy and grace, I would've been a domestic-violence victim [or caused someone else to be the victim] or committed suicide b/c of the piles of guilt. Oh, how I adore the Lord. If I can help others who are going through this sort of thing, I'm more than pleased.

    Again, thanks for the encouragement.

  8. I love how you refer to intimacy as super glue. It sure can be!

  9. caryjo ~

    I'm so sorry for misspelling your name before. :o

    And I'm glad to encourage you, in any way. You encourage me by sharing that. :D

  10. T ~

    There's so much that might be said here, that must wait for other times. In the back of my mind, I always want to somehow touch on the model of human marriage to help us understand the model of union with Christ. The Holy Spirit is the VERY best super glue! (Or would that be Super Glue ?)