I tend to have interests that are obsessions for short periods of time, sometimes a few weeks, sometimes a quarter, sometimes 6 months. But the two main interests of my life are Theology and Sexuality. Lately, I’ve been delving into Hebrew, I want to learn it to be able to dig deeper into scripture. So, I’ve been learning the Hebrew aleph-bet (not a typo), listening to podcasts, watching YouTube videos about Hebrew, and listening to some talks on Hebrew language and culture as well as reading a lot about Hebrew and Judaism in general. Now, keep in mind, I’m not a Jewish or Hebrew expert by any means.
In my reading, I came across some articles on the attitudes of the Jewish people towards sexuality and I was amazed. Here is a quote from one of the sites I came across:
In Jewish law, sex is not considered shameful, sinful or obscene. Sex is not thought of as a necessary evil for the sole purpose of procreation.
Now, granted, Jewish law isn’t necessarily reflected by Jewish people, or certainly all Jewish people (just as Christian teachings aren’t often reflected well by Christians), but this is an amazing statement. How many Christians grow up believing that sex is shameful, sinful or obscene; a necessary evil that is only acceptable for procreation. Why is this teaching around?
This is a bit of a sideline, and if you don’t care, you can skip over this indented part, but there are two reasons, I think.
The first dates way back to the classical Christian theology that Adam and Eve eating from the tree of life in the garden was a euphemism for sex. In other words, the original sin is sex, therefore all sex is sin and any person born of such a union (all of us) has a sinful nature. Now, anyone who actually reads the rest of the Bible and sees’s the tree of life come up again in Revelation knows this cannot be. (If eating from the tree = sex and sex = sin, and we’re all going to eat from the tree in heaven, then there would be sin in heaven after redemption. Not logically possible). But you can see where they get this idea, particularly if you follow the thought through to Jesus (who was born without his mother having sex, ergo, no sinful nature).
The second reason is the Greek mythology of dualism, that many Christian denominations have adopted as theology. This is the teaching that man is two parts: body and spirit or flesh and soul. The body/flesh is evil and the spirit/soul is good. So, of course, anything we do with the body must be evil. But, this was never a teaching in Judaism and you will not find dualism in the Bible. Here’s what you do find:
And the LORD God formed man [of] the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.
Now, I should point out that the Hebrew word for wind and spirit are the same. So when God says he “breathed” into Adam, every Hebrew boy would understand that connection.
So, we have body + spirit = soul
Take the body away or the spirit and you cease to exist. This is a teaching that has been lost in most Christian churches. The Jews know it, but we’ve forgotten. We’ve been too influenced by Greek mythology.
So, what does this mean? It means we are body and breath. We are each a soul, and God looked at the whole package and said it was good. He didn’t say “Well, that spirit part is good, but we’re going to have to fix that flesh stuff later, that’s just pure evil what I made there, but it will do for now, they’ll just have to put up with it.” No, it was good, from the start. Anyways, back to my original point.
We as Christians do an amazing job of telling people who aren’t married “Don’t have sex!” “Sex is evil [outside of the context of marriage]!” “Wait!”. But we completely drop the ball when people get married. We fail 100% to tell people that, “hey you’re married, and now 90% of that stuff we told you doesn’t apply anymore”. We spend 20-30 years trying to squash sexuality and tell people it’s evil and then wonder why there are so many issues with sexuality once people do get married.
We (as Christians in general) have dropped the ball on teaching sexuality properly.
Now, this is ridiculous given that the New Testament spends a fair bit of time on the subject of marriage, sexuality and love. Picking up God’s intent for marriage should be much easier for Christians than it was/is for the Jews. Nevertheless, I’d argue that the laws in the Talmud are far closer to God’s intend than what most of our churches are teaching.
For example, regarding frequency, in Christianity there are endless discussions about who has the right to demand sex, how much is too much, how little is to little. The Jewish solution is quite simple.
- Sex is the right of the wife, not the husband. Jewish Rabbis have traditionally held that women are more sexual than men. What have we done in Christian culture to kill that mentality?!
- The husband is required to give his wife pleasurable sex whenever she wishes. (In fact, there is traditional teaching from the Rabbis that if the husband has an orgasm first and they conceive, they will have a girl, if the wife orgasm’s first, they will have a boy. Of course, the desire is to have more boys (as in many cultures), so this is an incentive for the husbands to pleasure their wife)
- Furthermore, he is to be watchful of clues so that she never has to actually ask.
- If he fails to satisfy her, this counts as grounds for divorce with a full settlement.
- Because of this, the husband may not fast from sex or take a long trip, because that would deprive his wife of his sexual services.
- The wife cannot unilaterally decide she doesn’t want sex.
- She cannot use sex as a weapon or a punishment.
- If she does either, this is grounds for divorce without settlement.
Now, I think divorce is going a bit far myself, but it does have the advantage of everyone being clear about what the consequences are. In fact, there is a marriage contract in orthodox Judaism that clearly spells the terms of the marriage. I think more engaged couples would discuss frequency before they got married if they knew they had to sign a document saying if they failed to meet their partner’s needs, they’d be divorced and penniless.
So, how do we fix this?
- We stop telling people “Don’t have sex!” We change it to “Wait to have sex!”
- Don’t tell people “Sex is bad!”. Change it to “Sex is awesome! Within the right context.” I actually had a teacher tell me “sex really isn’t THAT good”. Either he was lying, or he was doing it wrong.
- We need to drop this idea that sex is taboo, that it’s dirty, that it’s something we can’t talk about. Sex is amazing, God created us as men and women for a reason. He designed sex, don’t call His work dirty. As well, sex is the easiest barometer to see how a marriage is doing. It is extremely rare to find a marriage on the rocks that is having frequent sex. It is just as rare to see a solid marriage that rarely enjoys sex. I’m not suggesting you start prying into your neighbours’ sex lives, but with your close friends/accountability partners/cell group members of the same gender? “How’s it going? How’s your marriage? How’s your sex life?” OK, maybe our culture isn’t there yet. But I can think of a few guys in my church that wouldn’t pretend they didn’t hear me if I asked. Note, if someone asks you, don’t give any information your spouse wouldn’t be comfortable with them knowing.
- We need to start preaching about marriage and sexuality within marriage from the pulpit. I know some churches are starting, but it’s few and far between. I’ll be honest, I’m not sure I’m ready to stand up and preach about sex in front of 100+ people. Writing anonymously is one thing. But, I would talk to 10 or 20 guys about it. Preaching doesn’t always have to be from a pulpit at church.
- Pray. We’re going to need God’s help if we’re going to beat this mentality.