Note: This post will be tasteful, but will deal with adult issues in marriage.
Over the years of working with Knights’ Quest I have received some interesting questions about Christian sexuality, whether it is about talking to kids about sex or God’s plan for marriage.
One type of question comes up fairly often, usually by anonymous means. The two most common versions of this question are:
Is ___________ OK for Christian couples?
What are God’s boundaries for physical love between husband and wife?
Let’s face it. They didn’t cover this in Seminary all that much, either. At least, not in the ’90s. And it really isn’t suitable for Sunday Morning Worship unless you have a strictly”18 and over” service (I’ve preached one of those….).
Still, it is a subject that sometimes arises both in pre-marital and post-marital counseling, as well as on marriage retreats. Plus, with the highly sexualized nature of our society, such questions are valid. We are far from the day when sex was never talked about, anywhere; when it was only on Thursday night, between 9:00pm & 9:15pm, lights out, etc. etc., etc., (An exaggeration? Probably not!)
Let’s look at the landscape. In our society we hear about, and can watch, sexual activities on prime time TV shows that were NEVER even talked about or alluded to in an R-rated movie during my youth! The subject of discussion on talk shows (on cable, at least) is now about subjects and activities once left to the X-Rated and early NC-17 movies (not the traditional porn kind, but like LAST TANGO IN PARIS.) And, the variety of experiences that are mentioned in entertainment and media range from the “routine” to “kinky” to “downright scary”.
So, what is a Christian couple to do?
First off, let’s get Biblical. If we are very honest we’ll have to admit that the Bible does not give many specifics about marital relations. It DOES give a lot of specifics about what constitutes sexual sin. But, within marriage there just isn’t a lot to go on, specifically.
Song of Solomon, if you know the metaphors and imagery, does provide some insight, but such insights are not MANDATED as the only acceptable things to do. I recommend “SOLOMON ON SEX” if you are interested, or one of the many studies on Song of Solomon that you will find within the Christian publishing field.
Proverbs tells us that we should be passionate and enjoy ourselves. (Proverbs 5:17-19) In fact, the Hebrew indicates that we should be drunk with passion for one another.
But, what are the boundaries??? What’s OK, and what is not?
Christians, in good conscience, are asking such questions about sex. Just go to the local Christian bookstore and look at the titles devoted to marriage and sex.
In answering our question of boundaries in the bedroom we need to look, not at details, but principles.
First off, we all must agree that God has limited sexual expression to God’s Safe Zone, marriage, and only between husband and wife.
Secondly, we need to filter whatever we have uncertainty about through 1 Corinthians 13. Don’t worry fellow theologians, I’m not saying the passage is about sex. But, it IS about love, and they are connected. When pondering the “correctness” of an act or activity it is good to filter our desires and motivations through verses 5-7. (That’s a whole ‘nother post.)
Using the chapter’s framework that describes what love is, and what it is not, helps us to evaluate what we or our mate are considering. It helps us develop a proper mindset for how we approach the marriage bed and it establishes an attitude of love and care instead of an attitude of power, lust, and control. Christian sexuality has no place for violence against the one we love. Ever. Even if they “ask” for it.
Keep in mind, that what is OK for one couple may not be OK for another. Not because of the act/activity, itself, but because of how it is perceived or responded to by a spouse, or its effect on them. In other words, there is room for personal preference in the bedroom. And THAT is where the “PISTACHIO PRINCIPLE” comes into play.
“THE PISTACHIO PRINCIPLE”
Go to the store and shop for ice cream. (Not now, after you finish my post!)
There are a jillion flavors and combinations of ice cream. Some of it is not even ice cream!!!
Sure, you’ll always find the BIG THREE, the old standards: Vanilla, chocolate, & strawberry.
But, depending on where you shop you may have many other choices:
- Orange sherbert
- Raspberry (Hmmmmm…)
- Mocha Almond
- And many more.
Now, most folks will enjoy one or more of the Big Three, but many of us have varied and, sometimes, diverse tastes that we wish to indulge from time to time.
(Don’t go TOO far with this metaphor, OK?)
Let’s say that you just HATE Pistachio! Maybe it’s a little bit not to your liking or maybe just you find it positively GROSS. That’s fine, but it doesn’t then mean that all Pistachio Lovers are sinning and therefor headed straight to Hell for liking Pistachio ice cream. Nor does it mean that they are bad people for liking Pistachio, or for even wanting to give Pistachio a try.. It just means that YOU don’t like it! That’s cool.
Let’s say that you just LOVE Pistachio! It is the best. Its a great flavor and you could order it at Braum’s three times a day! SUPER! But, that does not mean that God has ordained that everyone must love Pistachio ice cream. People who don’t love it are not outside God’s will. They are not close-minded or old-fashioned. Not at all. It just means that YOU love Pistachio while they do NOT, and that’s OK, too!
I hope you see the application. God made us all different. We each have different likes and dislikes. We should not let attitudes and comments of others influence us when such are “Pistachio Issues”. Just because someone on TV, at a meeting, or some such voiced an opinion, it does not mean that their likes/dislikes are universal.
Not only are do we need to consider that there may be differences from couple to couple, but also within a marriage, itself. Husbands and wives need to find ways to discuss differences and agree on Godly approaches to resolving any conflicts.
In the same way, we should not be too quick to refuse to try a “new flavor” if our mate asks. But, it should be a request and never a demand. Any activity suggested or requested must ALWAYS be righteous and holy in its nature, maintaining the purity of the marriage. If you have differences, they should be prayed over and calmly, unselfishly talked out. (Unfortunately, just talking about sex is “Pistachio” for some folks.)
Conversely, it is always the spouse’s right to decline an activity if they believe that it is gross, weird, sinful, or harmful to them in some other way,
Let’s look at some scenarios where there are differences within a marriage relationship:
- You want to try making love in a hot tub (you’ve seen it in the movies). You have one on the patio of your home. Your husband is OK with that until he realizes that the patio is not totally private. Some of the neighbor’s windows are visible from the hot tub. It’s a “Pistachio moment” for you both. After talking about it, you decide to escape to a hotel/resort one weekend and make sure that the room/suite/bungalow has a private hot tub. That way, both desires are addressed and the purity/privacy of the marriage bed is then maintained.
- Your wife may only want to make love in the bedroom suite. She says that is because of the feeling of security in the bedroom, and of being in your “special nest.” You enjoy that too, but you would also like to try out having sex in other rooms/places. You discuss it and, without pressure from you, she agrees to try a different location (ensuring no one else is home, of course). Later, she says she wants to keep sex in the bedroom suite. In filtering this through Biblical texts, you see that to demand your way would be selfish and sinful. So, that is how things stay. Of course, you are still enjoying love, just in a setting that she is comfortable with. While it is sinful for you to nag her, it is totally acceptable if SHE later requests or suggests a different location.
- You’re on vacation. Your room is on the 23rd floor, on the beach, in a resort complex. The tropical setting ignites your wife’s passion and she calls you to make love to her out on the balcony in the fresh air with the roar of the surf. You don’t feel comfortable with that because you feel that it would violate the privacy of your marriage bed. (Folks on the balcony next door could look around the wall, there may be other buildings visible, etc.) So, you respectfully decline.
- Your wife has returned from the lingerie store with a present for you. Your anticipations are met with a “sexy outfit for men”. You voice concerns/dislikes. They are not superficial. You have strong feelings about the outfit. Still, she cajoles you until you reluctantly give in, just to shut her up and be done with it, disliking the whole experience. That, folks, is not love, it is sin. It would not be sin to encourage new things, but nagging turns “new ideas” to sin
- This one should be obvious, but unfortunately it is not: You both want to view pornography as a part of your lovemaking (it’s on the late night movie channels). Neither of you is hesitant. Because you both agree wholeheartedly, you feel that this is not sinful, especially since you are “just watching”. WRONG! You are, through technology, involving others in your love life. You are “lusting in your heart”. (You sure aren’t watching the screen and thinking about how the actors/actresses stay in tip-top shape and are working on their relationships!!!) This is sin. No gray area. It is a sin regardless of how you both feel about it. The important factor is not your standards and agreement, but God’s standards.
These are simple examples, and each can have many variations that might alter the right/wrong determination (except that last one).
God designed us to have healthy, active sexual experiences with our mates. He gave us wide latitude within His Safe Zone of marriage and even designed the human race so that a healthy sex life (within marriage) is a positive contributor to both mental and physical health.
Within the Zone, and inasmuch as you and your spouse agree: “Let the games begin!”
PS: The “adults only” Sunday Morning Worship Service I preached? It was packed, standing room only, even without the youth and kids!
PPS: Oh, and I personally, positively, HATE Pistachio ice cream! Chocolate, Raspberry or Coffee? Three scoops, please!