19 November 2010

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

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

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"In a relationship conflict,
crying is often a woman's response to feeling unloved,
and anger is often a man's response to feeling disrespected."
~ Dr. Emerson Eggerichs

Love and Respect Ministries, Inc.

Let each one of you in particular so love his own wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.
~ Ephesians 5:33 (NKJV)

The same contrasts between a man and woman which cause differences also have potential to bring distinction to their relationship.

The entire fifth chapter of Ephesians weaves back and forth in discussion of union between the believer with the Spirit, between a man and wife, between Christ and His bride. Paul blurs the lines throughout the section, so that all he says may be applied to marriages both spiritual and human. He ends on the emphatic point of love and respect—Greek agapaō and phobeō.

This verb phobeō (from which we derive the noun "phobia") is translated "fear" every other time it appears in the Bible. There is only one reason to justify the deviation of most translations, which render this verb as "respect" rather than "fear" in this exceptional verse.

Here, phobeō is coupled with love.

Men must be respected by their wives, or they will not feel loved. If a man thinks his wife does not convey respect—whether in her assessment of his judgments and capabilities, or by her words spoken to him and about him—he will not feel loved, and he will have difficulty conveying love to her. She may even think she intends respect, but what will matter to him is what he perceives.

Likewise, regardless of how a man actually feels about his wife, a woman who feels unloved will not only be utterly crushed, but will also have some difficulty showing her husband respect in a way which is meaningful to him.

Few things are as vulnerable as a man’s ego and a woman's heart.

The bedroom has more potential than anywhere else as a place for love and respect to be displayed or denied. Here, where a man and woman are most vulnerable and exposed, a marriage may be bonded or broken.

The man who wants a wife to respect his judgment and capabilities anywhere else will first demonstrate them here. When he unlocks her emotions with his love and tenderness, he finds the key to her passions and responsiveness.

If a woman struggles to show respect to a husband she feels unworthy of it, even that must be communicated with respect. If she would invite him to love her unconditionally, she will respect him unconditionally.

The soul of a man's ego and a woman's heart are where they are most easily injured—or where they find most exquisite delight.

When sin and immorality and injury persist via sex, without repentance, marriage breaks down.

When love and respect flourish via marital sex, they will likely bloom throughout the marriage—with her as his most passionate champion, him as her most devoted lover.

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For more on love and respect, see "For Guys Only."

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.


  1. this is an EXCELLENT post, Anne!!! didn't think i was going to be able to leave any comment on this series. but this last post really helps me in giving me so much of an understanding in relationship to "why" certain things in my own marriage are missing. Thank you!!!

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  3. This thought process would have been tough in most prior stretches in our country. Porn was never acceptable outside of very limited families. Books, magazines, TV, movies, billboards, and I-net have allowed this whole element to slowly expand to the point that people are sucked into it... the ignorant frog "cooking" process. My opinion: we're in trouble. Even Christians are not seeing the seriousness of this, because they are just in the "lukewarm water".

  4. "Few things are as vulnerable as a man’s ego and a woman's heart." This is powerful. Great job tackling a very tough subject. And I agree with Caryjo's comment. Slowly we are being exposed to more and more depravity. Soon we won't know the difference.

  5. Bud ~

    *smile* It's good to hear that these tough posts make sense. If only they weren't so hard to learn first ...

  6. Caryjo ~

    I suppose there's nothing particularly new about sexual immorality, adultery, homosexuality. But I get a sick feeling in my stomach to see the increasing acceptance of what has previously been considered the worst of the worst: pedophilia.

    You make an excellent application of the boiling frog analogy. It is a reminder and warning to all of us to take seriously how far compromise can lead. It's not simply a matter of our own compromise, but how willing we are to take a stand against the compromise around us. If we love others, we have to be willing to speak the truth in love, gently but ever so firmly.

  7. T ~

    A valid criticism I hear about Christians is that we have plenty to say about what's wrong, and little to say about what's right. It's important to understand what's wrong and avoid it. Unless we fill the voids in our lives with something good and godly and loving, evil is bound to fill it. I hope I've kept a good balance here by taking three posts to highlight why the latter hurts us and why the former should appeal to us.

  8. I wonder if a woman's heart and a man's ego are not just conduits to the same thing, an individuals sense of self.

    We look to our spouses for a sense of completeness. But, if love and respect are not properly ordered: God, People, Creation, then even love and respect for a spouse will fall short. Our sense of self will become disordered.

    I could not begin to convey in words how much pain I have caused myself and my family learning this lesson. Thank God and His son for second chances.

  9. Russ ~

    I'm gripped by the notion that respect is to be as unconditional as love. (The concept is introduced in For Women Only by Shaunti Christine Feldhahn.) And I wonder where our "sense of self" stops being healthy awareness and becomes unhealthy selfishness.

    You raise a critical point about looking to our spouses for a sense of completeness. We are one flesh—how can we be complete without each other? Failure to keep love and respect properly ordered will indeed bring a sense of self which is disordered.

    Paul (Ephesians 5:28-29) provides plenty of food for thought, as well as motivation, by pointing out that "one flesh" means what I do for/to my spouse, I do for/to myself—and likewise what I do for/to myself is done for/to my spouse.

    It all brings us back to the original question (#2): where does the sin of my spouse affect me so deeply that I rightly refuse to be part of my spouse?

  10. *** Few things are as vulnerable as a man’s ego and a woman's heart.

    this was the part that i was questioning in my mind and was trying to figure how to word it. it struck me as odd because i thought it to be as reversed. but maybe that's just in my line of thinking.

  11. Bud, there's no doubt that a man's heart and a woman's ego can be hurt—that they require sensitivity. But Scripture paints a picture of the Creator making man the head, in leadership, and woman the heart, in relationship. It is a wonderful thing when the two complement each other and are in right relationship to each other.