God’s Design for Sexuality
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By Jeff Johnston
People have always had questions about sex and sexuality, and the Bible gives some powerful answers to many of those questions. When Jesus was asked about divorce and remarriage, for example, He pointed back to the very beginning, to God’s design for humanity at creation. He talked to people about the way things were supposed to be, the way God intended before man disobeyed Him.
Male and female
Jesus first reminded his followers that God made us in His own image, male and female. Our masculinity or femininity reflects something of God’s character. Justice and mercy. Strength and beauty. Initiative and response. These complementary qualities show us something about who God is.
The male body and the female body show us that we are complementary, made for another. But being a man or a woman isn’t just about biology. It’s also about the masculine or feminine characteristics that are part of our personality, part of our very soul, and made visible in our bodies.
It’s very politically incorrect these days to talk about male-female differences. If you want to see a good argument develop, just ask a group of people if there even are any differences. The unique and wonderful complementary qualities of masculinity and femininity have been blurred so that many see men and women as virtually interchangeable. Or the differences get exaggerated into over-the-top caricatures. But despite these distortions, we still see God’s separation of humanity into male and female, different but complementary, and equally of great value.
Jesus also pointed His followers to God’s plan for marriage. When God took Adam and formed Eve out of his side, God blessed them and said that His creation was very good. He established marriage to be a life-long, faithful relationship between a husband and wife, full of joy, love and intimacy. Sex is a good thing, created by God. Sexual desire moves us toward intimacy with another and toward a relationship that brings unity, pleasure and new life.
Marriage is designed by God as the one place for sexual desire to be expressed. In the physical union of a husband and wife, there is a spiritual union that also occurs. In fact, when someone is sexual with another person, both the sexual experience and the person they are intimate with are imprinted onto them. Powerful chemicals are released in the brain, connecting the two people and etching the experience on their souls.
The marriage relationship was also intended to be fruitful. After all, one of the more obvious results of a sexual relationship is children. The husband and wife bring a new life into the world and create a family. A father and mother were intended to model healthy relationship, and they nurture and provide for their children.
Marriage between a husband and wife is such an important relationship, that God used it all throughout the Bible as a picture of what our relationship with Him is supposed to be like. God is portrayed as the husband who loves us, and we are like the wife who responds back to Him. Likewise, the Bible compares God’s grief when we turn from him to that of a spouse whose wife has cheated on Him. That’s how much jealous love He has for us!
So God designed us male and female, and intended marriage between a man and woman to reflect His image, to be lifelong and faithful, to nurture and provide for the next generation, and to model our relationship with Him.
But as we look around us, we can see that things have gone terribly wrong with God’s design. When man disobeyed God, the connection between God and man was broken, the relationship between husband and wife was affected and healthy masculinity and femininity became damaged and confused.
Just take a look around and you’ll see many people who have been deeply wounded and hurt through the misuse of sexuality, through such wrongs as abuse, unfaithfulness, pornography, lust, rape or casual hookups. Often it’s young people or children who get hurt the worst, through fractured relationships or through being taken advantage of.
Grace and restoration
Without God, and without following His intentions for us, all the good of sexuality is distorted. The good news, in the midst of our sexual brokenness, is that God still loves us deeply. He longs to reconnect with each of us and to begin healing, restoring and transforming us. He invites each of us to respond to His love.
All throughout Scripture, we see that God has a special place in His heart for people who messed up sexually. Jesus’ ancestors included prostitutes and adulterers, and He brought forgiveness and restoration to many people who were caught in sexual brokenness. In the same way, Jesus is standing with His arms open to each of us. We’ve all had our identity, relationships, sexuality and desires impacted by sin. He invites us to experience new life, forgiveness, true relational intimacy with Him and healthy relationships with others.
As Christians, children of God and followers of Jesus, we have a unique opportunity to offer this good news to our classmates and those around us. In a disordered and hurting world we can offer hope, healing and renewal.
Jeff Johnston is a gender and homosexuality analyst for Focus on the Family.