Providing a Catholic framework on the truth and meaning of sexuality, love, and family

What Does God Know About Sexuality?

Family Honor National Advisory Board Member and Director of Family Formation Studies
at Focus on the Family

by Glenn T. Stanton

The people at report that their two most popular search terms are “God” and “sex”, revealing these two topics to be something a great many people around the globe have a deep interest in and many questions about.  How many of us though, think of these two words as representing polar opposites on the values-scale, with the pure-of-heart searching one topic, while the more “fleshly” and “godless” engaging the other?

I would contend that if we don’t see these two terms as very closely connected, we don’t know very much about either of them.

Sex is not a topic that God does not concern Himself with because He is either too “holy” or too shy to discuss it in good company. It is His idea. Unfortunately, this is how too many of His followers view the subject.

The absence of bold, loving and authentically Christian understanding and behavior on human sexuality from Christ’s Church is one of the primary factors that allowed the sexual revolution of the past forty years and all of its deeply devastating physical and psychological carnage. We are going to try to set some of that aright in this brief article.

Unfortunately, if Christians do speak of sex, it is typically from two perspectives:

We either tell people they shouldn’t do it if unmarried because it offends God’s laws, they could end up with an out-of-wedlock pregnancy or a sexually-transmitted-disease. These are true and good advice of course, but only part of the truth. And only part of the truth is not the fullness of the Truth God has for us.

Any positive talk on marriage is nearly always of the “how-to” type, what we read in sex and marriage manuals.

The first makes sex something primarily evil to be avoided and when it is allowed in marriage, the second makes it merely a technique to master, like successfully baking a difficult soufflé or learning the correct casting method for catching rainbow trout. Our Master has given us a grand gift in our bodies and ability for sexual communion, and we sell it far too short.

We saints of God never seem to discuss what sex is, what it really is in its deepest essence.  We never explore why it matters to God, why He created it and encourages it.  Remember the last time you heard a sermon on sexuality? It might have been the same day you had your first unicorn-sighting! Most Christians are not able to offer an explanation of why sexuality matters that is as vast and profound as the act itself.  This is a shame.

Our Sex is Rooted in Our Creation
Christians who have a proper understanding of who God is and why He created us will have little trouble understanding the relationship between God and sex.

On the first page of our Bible, we are taught that God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness…” (Gen. 1:26 NAS) In the next breath God tells us He did exactly that: “in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” (Gen. 1:27 NAS) If you are a man, you represent the image of God in the world in a way that woman cannot. If you are a woman, you represent the image of God in creation in a way that no man can. There is no more profound statement in all of human literature about what it means to be a gendered being than this statement from God’s mouth. You represent a part of the image of God that your male/female peer cannot. That is a nice day’s work and it is exactly why male and female need each other and leads us to our next big point.

But What Is This Image?   
Notice the plural pronouns in God’s creative statement: “Us” and “Our”: the God of Israel who is One speaks of Himself in the plural. Christians historically understand that God is here describing his communal nature as one God who is an intimacy of Divine, distinct persons: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. Jesus tells us that the love shared between the persons of the Trinity is without beginning (John 17:24b). And God is not mild or measured in His love; either for us or the other members of the Godhead. Being created in the image and likeness of God means we are created out of this incredibly passionate love and intimacy so that we might live in this love and intimacy, both with God and other humans. This is precisely why God utters another extremely profound statement at Creation. Moments after the human male’s creation, God looks upon him and proclaims, “It is not good for the man to be alone.” (Gen 2:18 NAS).

Man is a Social Creature
God is saying there is something about His creation that is not good, and this is before sin entered the world. God is not admitting a mistake, but pointing out something deeply profound about what man is for. Created in God’s image, man is a social creature, one made out of and for relationship and intimacy. If you doubt this, consider why solitary confinement is such a devastating punishment for even the hardest human heart.

The animals were not enough to meet man’s need for companionship. He needs someone like himself, but also quite distinct from himself. He needs another image-bearer who shows forth God’s image, but in a very different way. God provides the answer to man’s dilemma in an incredibly wonderful new type of person: woman.

The First Thing Adam Notices
And when God presents this grand, new human to Adam, what does Adam notice first?  He doesn’t recognize her searching, intuitive mind, nor her deep spirituality, nor her creativeness or sensible out-look on life. Adam recognizes something that many good Christian men would be embarrassed to admit. He proclaims that she is “bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh.” (Gen. 2:23 NAS). Man notices the unmistakable: woman’s physicality, her woman-ness!! And he does so, not to God’s disapproval or correction, but to His great delight. Adam also realizes that he now makes sense to himself, for prior to Eve, he was a physical and emotional oddity.  Some things just didn’t make sense, and that was not good.

Christian, we are not allowed to see the body as bad, or even lesser than the spirit because it was God that created the body and declared it good. It was Christ who took on a real human body and after death, arose in a flesh-and-bones body and ascended bodily into heaven, where body and spirit are finally reconciled. As a result, God will redeem our bodies at the end of time. (Rev. 21:5a)

God’s First Commandment
The moment God creates Adam and Eve as the world’s first married couple, we learn that He blesses them and calls them to get busy being humans. The first thing on God’s agenda for these new humans? Make babies, joining with God in the creative process. And God knows how this is done. Sex was one of the first things on God’s mind at humanity’s creation and I often explain this to my wife when she makes the same accusation about me.

Why is this? Why was sex God’s first command? This is the big question that ties us back to the connection of those two most popular google search terms. Each of us are created to show forth the image of the Trinitarian God in the world. And male and female do this in very different ways, not just in our sex-distinct bodies, but in our sex-distinct hearts, minds and souls. We are incomplete without the other and we find completeness in our total intimacy – body, mind and soul – with the other.

Just as the members of Trinity are distinct as God, they love and rejoice in the other’s distinctness. I rejoice in my wife’s distinctness as a female Image-bearer. And I participate in that uniqueness in the sexual embrace, as she does with me. And as the Trinity is never selfish nor self-serving in their love, neither should I.

We do not know how the persons of the Trinity love one another, that is a mystery that is not revealed to us. They are not bodily or gendered creatures. But we do know how humans love each other, and one significant way is both through their God-given gender-distinct bodies and souls. Therefore, marriage and the sexual embrace is an earthly and imperfect picture of what God is in Trinity….”Let Us make in Our image, according to Our likeness.” And out of this glorious embrace, comes the third member of this earthly, human trinity: the child, which all of us once were. Three separate beings, one human flesh; a God-given mystery.

Our sexuality allows us to reflect both the unitive and procreative aspects of God’s very nature in that Holy and Eternal communion of Persons. This is why sexual prohibitions and advice are important, but mean very little without the larger picture of who God is and what our sexuality means in that glorious light and Truth.

Glenn T. Stanton is the Director of Family Formation Studies at Focus on the Family and the author of many books, most recently, Loving My LGBT Neighbor: Being Friends in Grace and Truth.