I doubt I’ll ever write a marriage book.
Sure, I might joke about it. I might even write a satirical version of one on occasion. But I won’t actually write a real one. Why? Well, for one thing, I don’t have enough to say. I’m 38 and have been married for less than 12 years. Which means, I don’t know what I’m talking about. But aside from that, I’d be nervous about writing about marital intimacy.
Specifically, I’d be nervous about being kind of creepy about it. Why? Because just about every marriage book I’ve read over the last six years has gone kind of weird when it got to that subject. I suspect a lot of it has to do with trying to correct false perceptions about Christian sexual ethics (“repressed,” and “archaic,” are two charges that have been leveled at us). I think it’s valid to discuss the issue, especially in a tactful, biblical fashion, of course. But seriously guys, there are so many overcorrections out there. Instead of underselling sex, it gets presented as something unrealistic, and sometimes a bit creepy.
We overshare. And no one can have a real conversation when that happens. So what does that mean for us, especially when there’s such a great need to teach Christians about a realistic view of marriage and intimacy?
1. Avoid being prescriptive where the Scriptures aren’t.
Some folks have thrown out a daily challenge as a “sure-fire” way to cure what ails you in your marriage, others have gotten really specific about their own marriages (usually this involves being overly prescriptive about how often we’re intimate with our spouses). But I’m not sure we need that. After all, the Bible doesn’t get terribly specific at all. We’re not going to find a commandment to the effect of “thou shalt sleep with thine spouse daily.” The most prescriptive teaching on the subject would be 1 Cor. 7:1-5, which effectively says, “Be together as frequently as you both agree upon.” So, if the Bible isn’t terribly specific about something, perhaps we should avoid doing so as well.
2. Consider the influence of the culture on each of us.
In North America, we live in a completely sex-saturated culture. You can’t walk into a mall anymore without having a 30-foot tall scantily clad (and heavily Photoshopped) woman hit you in the face. As such, we would be foolish if we failed to recognize the culture’s impact on us or to think that somehow we’re immune to its effects.
Yet, we are called to not only reject sexual immorality, but to strive to not have even a hint among the body of Christ (Eph. 5:3). This should impact the advice we give in sermons and books on this subject by frequently calling us back to our own need for the gospel and to think about that which is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, and praiseworthy (cf. Phil. 4:8).
3. Remember to be sensitive to the consciences of others.
Finally, Paul reminds us to never cause another believer to stumble in exercising our freedom in Christ (Rom. 14:13-23). Love for our brothers and sisters in Christ should always lead us to be careful to consider what we teach about marital intimacy. As such, we need to remember that our experiences of freedom in this area (and any other) are not normative for all believers. Some feel free to exercise a great deal of liberty in their own marriages and that’s wonderful—but not everyone does. When we treat our own experiences as the standard for all believers, we risk causing them to experience feelings of inadequacy and shame. So instead of sharing a bit too much info, maybe we always ask, “In saying this, am I showing the greatest amount of love and respect to the consciences of my brothers and sisters in Christ or am I putting my freedom ahead of the needs of others?”
This post is based on an article written in 2012.