Not Your Own

Every Thursday afternoon I teach a class at the Rescue Mission’s residential recovery program for men recovering from drug and alcohol addiction.  Every Friday afternoon I do a similar thing for the women’s program at Bethel House.  It’s a fairly regular changeover of folks as a small percentage graduate the program and larger percentages of new people come into the program.  People come from across the soci0-economic spectrum, and across (and outside) the spectrum of faith.  I give both groups free rein to ask questions on things that they’re interested in regarding the faith, the Bible, Christian history, etc.  Every week is excitingly different.  My purpose is not to make these people Lutheran, though obviously what they hear from me is Lutheran theology.  My prayer is that they would come to faith in Christ regardless of what (valid) Christian faith tradition they identify most with.

This week a new guy in the program brought up his surprise at 1 Corinthians 7:1-5.  (Frankly I suspect that a lot of the guys just look up passages that have to do with sex, and that’s fine by me because it still provides food for thought – as well as some rather frank discussions at times.)  He was particularly surprised about Paul’s words in verse 4: “…the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does.  Likewise, the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does.”

What an amazing concept in this age where we are each a god or goddess (or changing between the two) unto ourselves, answerable to no one, accountable to no one, owing no one anything!  What an incredible teaching, that the institution of marriage is not simply a platform for my own personal betterment, but an arrangement whereby two become one, and therefore our thinking about ourselves and each other alters!  How dare Paul contradict the mantra of the pro-abortion lobby, that a woman’s body is exempt from any other accountability or authority!  At least within the bounds of marriage (the only place where sexual intimacy is appropriate, according to Biblical standards), this is not the case at all!

The gentleman wanted clarification, as it sounded to him as though Paul was justifying marital rape.  This is not the case!  Paul is exhorting husbands and wives individually to recognize the necessary change in their thinking about themselves that is part of marriage.  They are no longer two individuals but one new creation.  As such, neither party has the right to unilaterally decide the intimate aspects of the relationship.  Marriage presumes physical intimacy, as it is the only proper arena for such intimacy.  Paul will go on to suggest that people who don’t feel a particular need for physical intimacy of this sort should consider remaining single.  But certainly, marriage is the place to go for those who are pretty positive that sexual intimacy is something they want and need.

Note the Paul nowhere says to the husband (or wife) that they have permission to force their spouse into physical intimacy.   Rather, each one is to consider this on their own – that intimacy is good in such a relationship and that their partner benefits from it and therefore so do they.  It is a right that each one can expect from the other, not as a demand to be made, but as an offering to be given and received.  Similar to his teaching in Ephesians 5:22-33, Paul’s intent is for each partner to consider what they offer to their spouse – and why.  It must be offered in faith – it can’t be demanded in faith.

Both spouses together may agree that for the purpose of prayer they will abstain from sexual intimacy (1 Corinthians 7:5), but this should be something that they agree upon together, with some clearly defined and agreed upon time frames.  Paul is clear that the reason for this is temptation.  Sex is a powerful thing, and married couples are by no means exempt from the temptations of the world in regards to seeking sexual satisfaction outside of marriage (obviously!).  In fact, an unhealthy lack of intimacy heightens the dangers of those temptations, which should give all the more encouragement to each partner to take seriously the needs of their spouse.

No doubt marriage would be stronger today if we taught people these truths rather than pretending marriage is all about making sure that I’m personally as happy and fulfilled as possible – on my own terms.

 

 

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