Daily Readings: Numbers 35-36, 1 Corinthians 7
Now for the matters you wrote about: “It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman.” But since sexual immorality is occurring, each man should have sexual relations with his own wife, and each woman with her own husband. The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband. The wife does not have authority over her own body but yields it to her husband. In the same way, the husband does not have authority over his own body but yields it to his wife. Do not deprive each other except perhaps by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control. I say this as a concession, not as a command. I wish that all of you were as I am.
1 Corinthians 7:1-7
The Bible is God’s word and full of truth, but it is also important to remember that God used human beings to write it and sometimes certain sections probably could have been phrased differently to convey God’s truth slightly better!
When reading this section of 1 Corinthians today, I had to laugh and shake my head a bit at Paul’s advice on sex and marriage. There is a great deal of truth in there, but, if we are not careful, it can be interpreted in a way that drastically misses the mark.
When using words like “duty” and “do not deprive”, Paul paints a picture of sex as nothing more than a physical release. In this moment Paul is basically a 23 year old with no kids looking at a parent on an airplane with a crying 3 year old and judgmentally shaking their head while saying, “Parents really should discipline their kids so that kids are more respectful.”
Of course. Yes. No one would deny parents should raise respectful kids. That statement is absolutely and obviously true. However, if you are a parent you also realize that non-parents can never fully realize the challenges of parenting and that the best kids in the world occasionally throw fits, misbehave, etc.
Paul is not married, a self proclaimed celibate, and wishes that the entire community in Corinth was capable of following his lead. That is the perspective he is coming with as he gives this advice. “Just meet each other’s physical needs and be done with it…”
God created sex to be a beautiful and intimate part of marriage. God created it to be so much more than a physical release. It is an emotional and spiritual connection with your spouse. There is no time that a married couple feels more connected and truly living out the truth that God gave us in Genesis about marriage when it was written, “That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.”
We were designed by God to make love with our spouse. Society, media, entertainment, porn, etc. has turned love making into nothing more than sex. This was no different in the time of Paul. Satan had already taken something that was meant to be beautiful, corrupted it, and used it as one of the primary tools to enslave men and women in sin.
Husbands and wives have the ability to do battle against that corruption and take back love making to what God originally intended. This battle must be fought together. It is not a battle that can be won individually. Spouses must be battle partners.
This is part of the reason why this passage frustrates me a bit. There are too many marriages where the husband or wife have read this passage in 1 Corinthians, truly desire to be a good husband or wife, want to follow the Bible’s advice on love making in marriage, and have sex out of “duty” and try to “not deprive their spouse”.
Obligation sex may be a step above not connecting physically at all, but it misses the mark. I tried to imagine what Paul might have said in his message to the Corinthians if he was a married man in an amazing marriage, where they went to battle for each other and for their marriage. What if Paul was in the type of marriage where both the husband and wife truly seek to pursue each other’s hearts, connect on an emotional level, and live a beautifully connected life?
If you are married, when was the last time you spoke with your spouse about what makes them feel most connected and fulfilled when it comes to making love? When was the last time you asked, “How can I make you feel more loved, respected, desired, and needed?”
Every person and every marriage is different. If you simply read a book about what men want out of sex and what women desire, it may be great advice, but it may miss the mark as well.
Have the conversation.
If it feels like your marriage is having 1 Corinthians 7 type of sex, driven by duty and obligation, there is a good chance that there is emotional connection lacking throughout your marriage as well. There is a reason that you are feeling disconnected and that making love has simply turned into sex. There is a reason that one or both of you is viewing it as simply a physical release needed by the other and not the beautiful, connected, essential part of marriage that God designed it to be.
The source of this emotional disconnection and lack of desire is is a conversation that should be had as well. In fact it is the more conversation because it gets to the illness instead of simply looking at the symptoms.
Marriage should be filled with emotional, physical, and spiritual desire.
Break away from the 1 Corinthians 7 duty and obligation mindset as articulated by an unmarried man that viewed sex as a nuisance! Remember that God also gave us these words in the Bible in Song of Songs 7:6-13
How beautiful you are and how pleasing,
my love, with your delights!
Your stature is like that of the palm,
and your breasts like clusters of fruit.
I said, “I will climb the palm tree;
I will take hold of its fruit.”
May your breasts be like clusters of grapes on the vine,
the fragrance of your breath like apples,
and your mouth like the best wine.
May the wine go straight to my beloved,
flowing gently over lips and teeth.
I belong to my beloved,
and his desire is for me.
Come, my beloved, let us go to the countryside,
let us spend the night in the villages.
Let us go early to the vineyards
to see if the vines have budded,
if their blossoms have opened,
and if the pomegranates are in bloom—
there I will give you my love.
The mandrakes send out their fragrance,
and at our door is every delicacy,
both new and old,
that I have stored up for you, my beloved.
Many people reading this probably have a marriage that is already more closely mirroring Song of Songs and not merely a marriage centered on duty and obligation. Diligently guard this! Never stop pursuing your spouse’s heart. Some may feel like their marriage is falling into “duty” mode. Fight for your spouse. They want to be pursued. They want to know they are loved and desired. We all crave this, even if we have forgotten that we crave it for a time.
Your marriage is not meant to be an obligation.
Your marriage is meant to be an epic love story.
Epic stories are worth fighting for.
Thought to ponder
How have I viewed love making in my marriage recently? Is there a disconnect between me and my spouse that has caused love making to turn into duty and routine?