Over the next several weeks I am going to be posting a series of messages related to biblical principles and how ancient texts written thousands of years ago still apply to modern times. (Yes, really)
Today we begin with the principles of relationship.
I became a newly re-dedicated believer around the time I separated from my husband. I had one foot rooted in the word of God. Actually, it was probably more like a toe, rather than a foot. The rest of me was still firmly planted in the world. During this hazy, scary, exciting experience of being a single adult for the first time at the age of 28 (I married at 19), I wrestled with the modern concept of dating and I struggled to balance everything that television and movies taught me about it over my lifetime thus far, versus what the church had to say about it.
A friend of mine pointed out one night over cocktails – How ‘Sex and the City’ of me, I remember thinking – the Bible does not actually say “thou shalt not have sex before marriage.” She went on to state that while the Bible is definitely emphatic about God’s feelings on sexual immorality, it never draws the line between marriage and dating and when sex is or is not acceptable. Besides, she said, Adam and Eve were never actually married.
These words gave me permission to live as my flesh wanted to live, even as I faithfully showed up to church every Sunday and most Tuesdays. Of course I knew the truth. I just didn’t want to see it. It took a lot of heartbreak and frustration for me to finally admit that my new “Sex and the City” lifestyle wasn’t working. Only then did I look up to God and ask Him what he thinks about the whole thing.
What I came to understand is that the Bible is a singular story told through various perspectives of mankind during a particular period in history. Like any good piece of literature, it has a way of gently unwrapping its themes so that they are better understood as a complete and complex weaving of ideas and concepts. It’s like a tapestry: countless threads of varying colors and lengths, tied and woven by an expert so that it produces a recognizable picture. You might be able to look at the individual threads, or a particular section, and maybe garner an idea of what the whole thing could be about, but you won’t get the big picture until you take it all in.
If you are looking for the “thou shalt not have sex before marriage” thread, you will not find it. But that doesn’t mean God didn’t say it. The concepts of sexual purity and sexual immorality are actually in the Bible quite a bit. God has a lot to say about it if you bother to pay attention. After my divorce, I didn’t want to see it. So I didn’t. It’s funny how that works.
The concept of sex starts with the idea of relationship, the Bible’s overarching theme – its picture. The story of salvation is centered in God’s desire to rekindle His relationship with mankind, and this salvation message is the main thread running through every story in the Bible.
The universe, everything in it, and all of time was created on the foundation of the relationship of the trinity:
In the beginning was the Word [Jesus], and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. (John 1:1)
No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known. (John 1:18)
The creation of Adam then became an extension of this divine relationship:
So God created mankind in his own image. (Genesis 1:27a)
Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being. (Genesis 2:7) In contrast, God also formed the animals from the dust (Genesis 2:9), but he did not breathe life into them as he did for Adam. This part of creation was very special, indeed.
Adam was alone for a while, and although he had direct contact with the Father in the Garden of Eden, God still created a suitable helper for him (Genesis 2:18).
But first, God gave Adam a ministry:
Now the Lord God had formed out of the ground all the wild animals and all the birds in the sky. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds in the sky and all the wild animals. (Genesis 2:19)
God gave man dominion over the animals. The Bible doesn’t tell us how long Adam had to serve in this ministry while he waited for his helper, but we can assume that naming all the animals of the earth took some time. We can also assume that Adam was lonely because God said “It is not good for man to be alone” (Gen 2:18). Up to this point everything in God’s creation was “good.” This is the first time he mentions something not being good.
This brings us to the marriage of Adam and Eve. The claim that they were never married could not be further from the truth. The creation of Eve from Adam’s rib was the marriage in the most complete sense of the word. As Adam was created from the dust of the ground by God, Eve was created from the flesh of Adam’s flesh and bone of his bones (Genesis 2:23). They didn’t just become one flesh through marriage, they began as one flesh.
The word used for marriage in the Bible is the same as the word for holiness: kiddushin. It refers first to the marriage between Christ and his bride (the church), a holy communion signifying the rekindling of humanity to God, which will occur at Jesus’ second coming (Matthew 25:1-13).
According to Google, one of the modern definitions of marriage is “the combination or mixture of two or more elements.” This definition fits so beautifully with the biblical concept of marriage, and equally so with the salvation message because marriage and salvation both rest on the foundation on which earth and time began: relationship.
The marriage between Christ and his bride (the Church) will be all about bringing humanity back to God, because of the breakup that occurred with the fall in the Garden.
Before the fall, it was already put together. God walked with Adam and Eve in the Garden. There was no separation. No need for rekindling.
The first sin was the divorce. Christ’s return will be the re-marriage.
Today, marriage is about the uniting of two people to become one. The act of sex within the context of marriage is a representation of the spiritual union of a man and a woman as a reflection of the relationship amongst the trinity. Just as Jesus is in closest relationship to the father (John 1:18), a husband and wife are as physically close as they can possibly be during the sexual act. It is as close as they can get to being one flesh in the physical sense.
The bible gives many examples of the holy act of sex within marriage. It also gives us examples of the brokenness displayed through adultery and other sexual acts outside of the marital relationship. But I won’t go into that here (another blog post, maybe). My point is that while the Bible does not state “thou shalt not have sex before marriage,” it shows this concept thoroughly, not only in examples of specific relationships, but also through the biblical concept of relationship.
As a writer of fiction I live in the world of “show vs. tell.” “It was a windy day” (tell) doesn’t have the same impact as “She braced against the wind’s assault” (show).
The Bible tells us a lot. It shows us even more.
You just have to get out of the tangled threads and take in the complete picture.
And once you understand the bible’s overarching concept of relationship, the foundation is laid for our discussion on the godly model of relationship, and how we should apply that to our human relationships, which we will be talking about next time in Character: the first pillar of relationship.