Following our recent livestreamed event on the topic of “Can we live without sex?”, many questions around the subject were raised. In this special episode, we welcome back our guest speakers, Dani Treweek and Chris Thomson, to answer some practical questions related to living without sex—including, “Is it wrong to desire sex and marriage if you’re single?”, “Why would God give us such strong desires for sex without also giving us a spouse?” and “If sex isn’t ultimate, is it okay to have a sexless marriage?”
Links referred to:
- Video from our August event, “Can we live without sex?”
- Audio and transcript from our August event from episode 045
- “Rethinking contentment” by Chris Thomson
- Details of our October event: “Facing infertility as a church family” with Professor Jonathan Morris and Dr Megan Best
- Our recent interview with Dani Treweek in episode 044
Chase Kuhn: At our recent Centre for Christian Living event, we addressed the question, “Can we live without sex?” During the event, we took questions from the audience, and we received so many questions that we’ve returned with a special podcast episode dedicated to answering some of the questions about how we are to think about sex and sexuality in the Christian life.
CK: Hello, and welcome to the Centre for Christian Living podcast. My name is Chase Kuhn and I’m coming to you from Moore Theological College in Sydney, Australia. Centre for Christian Living exists to bring biblical ethics to everyday issues, and today’s special episode is a follow-up to our most recent live event on the question, “Can we live without sex?” This podcast today is seeking to continue our question and answer time from that event: we had so many questions come through that we thought we’d bring our guests back, and they’ve been very gracious to come and give us more time. So today I’m welcoming once again Dani Treweek and Chris Thomson, who have so helpfully brought material to us. Thanks for being back with us!
Chris Thomson: Thanks for having us!
Dani Treweek: Thanks!
CT: Good to be here.
CK: Just to begin, for those that maybe haven’t listened to the audio yet or weren’t a part of that event, would each of you mind giving us just a snapshot of what you presented on so that as the questions are coming, we can at least have a general frame for what you spoke to. Dani, why don’t we speak with you first since you presented first?
DT: Sure. So the question that we were really engaging with across the night was “Can we live without sex?” and the particular perspective that I was tackling was, “Is a life without sex a truly good life?” Can we actually say that it is a life that is intrinsically good? And if you go back and listen to the talk, you will discover that what I was arguing was that we actually need to do a bit of digging underneath our current thinking about sex and, really, its goodness in our life before we can answer that question as God’s word would have us actually bring that answer to it.
And so, we spent a bit of time, perhaps surprisingly, looking at some historical movements in the last couple of hundred years that have really shaped our thinking about the place of sex and also romantic love—and that kind of tied in with marriage in our life—to actually help us to see why and how it is that we think sex is so ultimate in our Western secular society today and the way that we as Christians have kind of absorbed some of that thinking so that we can ask the question, “Well, can we live without this thing that we think is so ultimate?”
And so, then we went to God’s word and we had a bit of a think about the fact that in Matthew chapter 22, Jesus says that we as humans won’t be married to each other in heaven, which, then, presumably means we won’t be having sex with each other in heaven, and so, where I wanted to sort of get us really thinking was if sex isn’t even going to exist in heaven, then how can we think of it as kind of the ultimate human experience here on earth? And so, helping us to think through how does eternity change our thinking about the place of sex now and actually recognising that a life without sex actually can be a really good and fulfilling and wonderful life in light of eternity.
CK: That’s great. Thank you so much! That’s a very clear and succinct summary. I really appreciate that—
DT: You should still go and listen to the actual thing , though!
CK: You should definitely listen to the talk! I’ll commend it to you. Can I just make a couple of comments on that? I love the historical framing of it, because you showed us how a pendulum has swung—too far one way, perhaps, towards chastity; too far back the other way towards marriage—and what you’re trying to do is help us to grab hold of, once again, a theological vision for these things. And, again, keeping in sight the ultimate things that are true—that is, that we belong to the Lord—and now that sex is a good, but not the ultimate good, and that helps us frame up its place in our lives. Very helpful. Thank you!
Chris, over to you: give us a summary of your talk, if you don’t mind, from the other night.
CT: Sure. So the focus of my talk was “Is it realistic to live without sex?”, and this was responding to the idea which, I think, is quite—it’s quite common. Dani gave some examples from figures—both past and present—in church leadership who said, “If you don’t get married young and unless you’re one of the very few people with a special gift that empowers you to live a godly life as a single person, then it’s inevitable that you’re going to commit sexual sin.” And so I was trying to respond to that by showing from the Bible that it is possible to live without sex—not just for a few people, but for anybody who belongs to Jesus and who has the Holy Spirit dwelling in them.
So we looked at the example of Jesus, who was tempted in every way, according to the Bible, just as we are, yet was without sin. And he shows us that it is possible for a human being—and Jesus was fully human—to live without sex. But then we also looked at Galatians chapter 5 and the way that Paul describes the struggle between the flesh and the Spirit. So the power of this world, if you like, and the power of the world to come, and those two forces are pulling us in different directions. But he says, “If you walk by the Spirit, you will not gratify the desires of the flesh” (Gal 5:16).
And so we talked about the way that—for all of godliness, not just sexual purity, but also to battle for kindness and goodness and all of the other fruit of the Spirit, it is a lifelong battle, but the Spirit empowers us. And so the Spirit is the gift that we need.
And then I looked at 1 Corinthians 7 just to respond to some specific exegetical questions that people raise that say, “Well, surely you need to get married. Isn’t Paul saying in that passage, ‘Get married to avoid sin’?” and I argued that’s not quite what Paul is saying in the context.
CK: Yeah. Thanks, Chris. Again, a very clear summary of that, and I really appreciate you walking us back through your points. I think what you addressed in your question was really the heart of what got us into thinking about this particular live event—that is, we were talking about people’s perception that a full life must involve sex. And I think the way that you helped us move and build on what Dani was doing (and I appreciate the way that you collaborated—the two of you—thank you for that; that’s a lot of work)—the way that you built on that and showed us the fullness of life in Christ, and that’s something we enjoy by the Spirit. But actually that Jesus himself had a full humanity. And that he is actually the paragon, if you will, for humanity: we see perfection in humanity in Christ. And Jesus lived without sex. And so that was a really helpful corrective, I think, to many of us. And I—I actually loved your working through 1 Corinthians 7 the other night; it was great. So once again, I hope you’ll listen to the event. I hope that you’ll glean such rich truth that was presented there, and again, thank you both for your work.
Getting into some of the questions that have transpired from that event, I’ll just start firing away and we’ll answer them in conversation. None of this has been prepared, so everybody that’s listening, we decided it would best if we actually sat around, the three of us, just like we would over dinner, and talk about these issues as they come to us. So here we go.
Desiring marriage and sex while single
CK: The first question is, “Is it wrong to desire sex and marriage if you’re single? I think people feel this tension in them: “I’m single, but I really wish I could be married.” “I’m single; I actually really want to have sex. Is that bad for me?” And how do you face this longing when it seems like it may never be satisfied? Is there some secret to contentment?
DT: Well, let me take the first bit. Is it wrong to desire marriage and sex as a single person? No, not at all. I mean, both marriage and sex are good gifts that God has given us. They are part of this creation. They’re part of the way that we have been designed as humans to relate and to long for. And so, no, not at all: I think they’re good things—to recognise they’re good things—to desire for ourselves.
The trick is to not get caught up in that longing. The trick is to acknowledge the grief that comes with actually those desires not being met—or, at least, not being met at this stage—to actually inhabit the sadness of not having received one of these good gifts, but not to be consumed by that grief—not to allow that grief to embitter us, but to actually come to God’s word and see how it helps us think about the place of living in this world where not all of our desires are met. And particularly as Christians where we embark on lives of godly obedience that are costly and sacrificial, and actually say “No” to taking hold of those good gifts outside the context that God has actually designed them for.
But I know that Chris has done—because I have heard—a lot of great thinking on contentment. So I’m just going to—I’m going to throw the microphone over to him—
CK: That’s great, that’s great!
DT: —because he’s done some really great thinking on this.
CK: Before we get to Chris, I just want to comment on what you’ve said, Dani: I think it’s really helpful to take it out of the frame something that feels so massive—which it is, but also recognise that there are other spheres of life too that any given person will be living without something, and actually keeping that in the perspective of what godliness looks like is a really, really—
DT: That’s right.
CK: —important for us.
DT: And I think, you know, we have to keep remembering that the Christian life is a cruciform-shaped life.
DT: It’s a life where Jesus himself says it will be a costly life. But great—great growth and godliness and spiritual maturity can come as a result of that cost—
DT: —as well through the work of God’s Spirit in our lives.
CK: Yeah. One of my old lecturers—Doug Webster, who I think Chris quoted the other night—says that anybody can get married. And he says that it’s actually a godly decision not to if you’re single and Christian, because you don’t run after anyone that would say “Yes” for any reason to get married, but you’re actually saying, “Lord, I’m yours, and therefore I’ll have what you give to me for these things, because I care about honouring you more than anything else.” And so I thought that really reframed it differently for me. It’s a cruciformed life: it’s a life of particular kinds of sacrifice, because you know the Lord Jesus.
DT: That’s right.
CK: That’s really helpful. Thank you. Chris, what would you add to that, if you would add anything—to contentment in particular?
CT: I think maybe a—a couple of things, and one is that I think there is a significant place in the Christian life for unfulfilled longings and desires. I think—it’s something that I touched on—the work that Dani mentioned that—you can find it on the internet: I wrote an article for the Sydney Diocesan magazine, Southern Cross. But it’s also on the Moore College website. So if you were to Google—
CK: We can link to it, actually.
CT: Yeah. We can post the link.
CT: Yeah. But “Rethinking contentment”: if you Google “Chris Thomson”, “Rethinking contentment”, it will come up on the Moore College website. And one of the things I was trying to argue there is that actually, contentment isn’t about necessarily being happy: when you read the Bible, lots of very godly people express discontentment with various things in their lives. But they bring it to God and they pour out their hearts to God, and they trust God to work through that. And I think the Apostle Paul is an example in 2 Corinthians: he talks about the thorn in his flesh, which, whatever it means, was clearly something that was not pleasant—it wasn’t something that Paul wanted—three times he pleads with the Lord to remove it, and the Lord’s response is, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is perfected in weakness” (2 Cor 12:9).
And so, I think as Christians, we can always approach those unfilled longings with the knowledge that God might be working things through them that we’re not aware of. And I think part of contentment, it’s not necessarily seeking to be free of those longings, but it’s bringing those longings to God and trusting him to know what’s best for us—to trust him as our loving heavenly Father. We can cry out to him, but we can bring that to him. And so, we turn to him, rather than turn away from him in that. So I think that’s one thing I would say about desire is that it—it is something that God can use and use to make us aware of our dependence on him or use in all kinds of different ways.
The other thing is I think it’s important to have our desire in its right place, and I think that’s largely about having a biblical perspective. And so I think when you—when we read 1 Corinthians 7, for example, Paul says very striking things not just about singleness and marriage, but in the course of making his point, he talks about slaves and freed people, and he says in verse 21, “Were you a slave when you were called? Don’t let it trouble you—although if you can gain your freedom, do so”. And there’s a little bit of debate about exactly how to translate that verse. But I think Paul is saying, “Look, it’s okay to seek to be free if you’re a slave.” But he also says, “Don’t let it trouble you,” and then he says, “For the one who was a slave when called to faith in the Lord is the Lord’s freed person; similarly, the one who was free when called is Christ’s slave” (1 Cor 7:22). So you’ve got this dichotomy between slave and free that’s really significant in Paul’s world, but he says, “Actually, it’s not that significant in the scheme of things when you view things in the light of our relationship with Christ—when you view things in the light of eternity.”
And so I think part of what enables the slave in that Corinthian context to be content to live for God as a slave is the knowledge that, actually, Jesus has freed him in a spiritual sense and the knowledge that his identity is not rooted in his social status. And I think in the same way, our identity is not rooted in our marriage or our singleness, but actually our identity is in Christ. And so I think letting that biblical perspective inform our desires is really important.
And when it comes to sexual desire, I would say, as well, not fuelling that sexual desire in an unhelpful way in the media we consume and so on, but actually seeking to be self-controlled sexually, I think, will help us with that desire.
CK: That’s very very helpful. I think what you said there about identity and fulfilment in Christ—particularly in 1 Corinthians 7—is such a useful piece of advice for us, where, I guess, in so many different places of longing—say it’s the barren woman, longing for a child—say it’s the person with little longing for more, in terms of worldly goods and money, or stability financially—the single person longing for a spouse—I think history shows us that none of these things ever actually fully satisfy. So I think you always get that “grass is greener” mentality: “It will be better if …” Or “It will be complete when …” But actually every time you turn that corner, you find yourself still—if that’s where you’re putting your identity and your satisfaction in—you’ll always find it either skewed or you’ll find it just actually wanting still. And yet, Jesus actually brings us a deep and long-lasting satisfaction.
DT: Yeah. And I—
CK: It’s really good.
DT: I was—as you were speaking, I was reflecting on Philippians chapter 4, where Paul talks about, you know, knowing what it is to be in need—to be brought low—knowing what it is to abound, but in every circumstance, actually learning the secret of contentment, because he can do all things through Christ who strengthens him.
DT: And so that idea of contentment is one that we actually turn to Christ and we seek to find that fulfilment that we’re longing for in all these other ways, actually, in him instead.
CK: That’s excellent. Thank you so much for that. Really helpful answers from both of you.
Strong desires and God’s sovereignty
CK: Just building on this question, then, why would God give us such strong desires for sex—or we could fill in the blank for a whole lot of other things, but let’s just say sex right now—sex without giving us a spouse soon or ever? I guess, in one sense, is God our tempter in this?
CT: Well, I think the fact that we have a powerful sexual drive, I think is theologically significant in two ways: one that the Bible talks about the relationship between a man and his wife as a “one flesh” union, and the two actually becoming one body. And I think there’s something about the strength of that sexual desire that it actually is one of the things that God uses to bind people together. It also speaks, I think, to the power of the bond between God and his people—between Christ and his church—that there’s this thing that we experience in everyday lives as we feel sexual attraction: it speaks of the intensity of God’s desire for his people. So I think there’s theologically significance there in why most of us as human beings experience sexual desire.
In terms of why God would allow that to be unfulfilled for some people, I think it goes back to what I was saying before—that sometimes God wants us to experience unfulfilled desires in order to perhaps work something in us or—I mean, I don’t think we can ever be dogmatic as to, you know, “Why is God doing this to me?” I think “why” questions are always quite hard when the Bible doesn’t give us a clear answer. But I think the kinds of things that God does, and I think we see this with Paul, actually work his power through Paul—show his dependence on him. 2 Corinthians 1, you’ve got Paul saying that “We despaired even of life itself … But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead” (2 Cor 1:8, 9). And so whenever bad things happen to people, you know, there’s always this sense of, “Well, perhaps God is working something through that.” And I think it doesn’t take the experience of longing away—
CT: —but I think it enables us to kind of sit with it and wrestle with it before God in a way that makes us long for him and long for the last day when that longing will be met in our—
CT: —our relationship with him.
DT: Yeah. And can I build on that a bit further as well in that I think, as I was listening to Chris speak then, I thought there’s a sense in which—and, again, this is descriptive rather than prescriptive; it may not be everybody’s experience. But there’s a sense in which having the unfulfilled longing for that one flesh union, I think is able to give those Christians who are single—who are celibate—perhaps a unique appreciation for how much they just want that final union between Christ and the church—how—
DT: —how that longing of not having that one fleshness fulfilled on earth provides almost a certain unique impetus for, “Oh, this is going to be—if that in eternity is going to be better than what I’m longing for now—”
DT: “—then focusing that longing on the one that is guaranteed—”
DT: “—in eternity”. Which is not to say, of course, that married people—I think—
CK: Of course!
DT: —they have their own unique perspective, having actually understood this one flesh union. But the unfulfilled nature of the longing, I think, actually can be a gift for single, celibate Christians in being more compelled to live in light of eternity, rather than being really quite settled here on all the good things that we have in earth.
CK: Yeah, absolutely. I completely agree. And I think you’re right: we each experience these trials, if you will, and they create in us a deeper dependence upon God—a prayerfulness. I mean, you think about Jesus in Gethsemane: here he is on the eve of his death, he’s crying out, “Lord, if there’s any other way …” In other words, “I have a longing for something else. But not my will but yours be done” (Matt 26:39, 42). In other words, “I trust that you are a good Father and I will go wherever way you lead me. And that will be the best way.”
I think of a friend of mine who very sadly died this year. He’d been battling with some very difficult health challenges for a decade, and watching him long as a single man and as a sick man—he longed for intimacy and he longed for wholeness in his body—restoration—and to watch the way that actually drew him closer to God and an intimacy that he knew was God in some ways that I’ll never know—kind of like Paul—like “My power is made perfect in weakness; my grace is sufficient for you”. I mean, in some ways, he knew a deeper level of grace in his experience than I’ve known, because of the struggle he faced. And I think if we can look through the eyes of faith at some of these challenges, we get really great perspective on an opportunity for intimacy with God, even as we’re crying out to him and depending on him and leaning into him and trusting his word. So my friend’s longing for the resurrection, it far exceeds mine. His longing for intimacy with God far surpasses mine. And in some ways, I’m actually envious of that circumstance—not that I envy his circumstances, but I envy what he shared with the Lord because of that.
DT: Which I think also means that, you know, to bring it back to the specific question in terms of longing for unfulfilled sexual and relational desires, those of us who experience that longing, we need to not just sit back and be complacent and kind of think, “All right, God: do your work in me. Make me long for eternity. Make me long for the resurrection.” But actually chase after that—want that. We need to be able to seek that out, rather than just become complacent and kind of go, “All right. Here I am. Do your thing.” There’s actually this wonderful gift and promise and offer from God that we’re called to embrace and chase after and invest ourselves in.
CK: That’s excellent.
Richer fellowship as a community
CK: As we think about doing just that, how do we frame it up into a community? So we often talk about the church being a place where we need to be helping one another through life; how do we think about the ways that, perhaps, married people can encourage single people, or single people can encourage married people? Sometimes I think we think this is illegitimate space, you know: “You’re married; you don’t understand me”. Or “Sorry, you’re single; you don’t know my world”. How do we actually cross over this thing so that we can actually see deeper, richer fellowship and greater help in pursuing this?
CT: One of the ways that I’ve really appreciated married friends encouraging me is actually by doing exactly what we’ve just been talking about and longing for the day when Jesus returns and shaping their lives in the light of that eternal perspective. And so, I think when married people don’t live as though their goal is to see their kids growing up successful—when the goal isn’t to achieve family goals and family unity, but when actually it—as a family, they’re committed to living for Jesus, putting him first, not settling down in this world, but living as just—as the Bible says we are: temporary residents who are longing for an eternal home—I think all of that helps us as single people to feel like we’re not being asked to do something that isn’t just normal for every Christian. But as every Christian, we are only passing through this world; we’re all called to make sacrifices; we’re all called to suffer in different ways for the Lord Jesus. And I think when married people kind of invite us into how that looks for them as couples or families, I find that’s something that’s very encouraging towards me in my walk with Jesus as a single person.
CK: That’s great.
DT: I think you’re right, Chase: we kind of think, “You know, you’re married; I’m single; we don’t understand each other’s circumstances”. And so therefore we can’t really with any legitimacy speak into those circumstances. I think that’s such a tragedy, theologically, because—
DT: —the Bible says that as I look at your marriage, you ought to be giving me a glimpse, again, of eternity: they ought to be pointing me towards the relationship that Christ has with his church and will have in the new creation. And so, if you’re not talking to me about your marriage—if you’re not sharing with me the joys of your marriage—then you’re not actually helping me in the way that your marriage is designed to. Likewise, as I, as a single person, don’t talk to you about the delights of being single in this time and this place as a Christian, I’m also failing in loving you well by actually pointing you to Jesus through my own life.
Now, clearly, I think, we have to be respectful and careful and not bring all sorts of unread assumptions to each other’s lives. But if we’re not actually sharing—not just sharing life, but sharing specifics of our lives with each other, then I think actually we’re missing out—not just ourselves, but we’re actually not loving each other as we can and should be as Christian brothers and sisters.
CK: I agree. I mean, if you press this logically to its end, who can speak to anyone? The only person that can speak to you, then, would be the person that has the exact same affinity groups, status, whatever it may be—gender—any of these things. Those are the only ones that can speak to you with experience that will resonate with yours. It’s not the way we believe Christian truth works. We actually believe that we have truth to speak to one another. That’s very helpful.
CK: As we take a break from our episode, let me tell you a couple of announcements from the Centre for Christian Living. Our most recent live event, “Can we live without sex?” is now available in various formats through our website. You can listen to the audio, watch the video or read the transcript.
Also, our next Centre for Christian Living live event will be held on October 21st on the subject of “Facing infertility as a church family”. Infertility is one of the most difficult challenges that couples can face, and at any given church, there will be couples that are family members, friends, fellow Bible study members, or maybe even you, who long to conceive, but seem unable. In a time of incredible medical advances and seemingly on-demand treatments, how should Christians think about wise and godly options? More particularly, what do Christians need to be aware of in the midst of the marketplace of assisted reproductive technologies?
I’m delighted to welcome guests to present on this topic: Dr Megan Best, a bioethicist and author of Fearfully and Wonderfully Made, and Professor Jonathan Morris, who is the professor of obstetrics and gynaecology at the University of Sydney. I could not think of two better Christian thinkers to help us consider how Christians can face infertility faithfully—whether personally or in support of others in our communities.
The event will be livestreamed only: as we’ve done with the recent events, you can register online for your household, or your church can register for the whole congregation at a reduced rate. More details are available on our website at ccl.moore.edu.au. Now let’s get back to our program.
Singles and marrieds in church
CK: As we think about church, then, what kinds of things do you think need to change in our culture at church around how we think about people as single or married? I know both of you have done a lot of thinking on this. Probably we could do a whole podcast on this again, but if you give me just a couple of hidden gems—
DT: I feel like I did—I feel like I did a podcast with you about this about—
CK: You did!
DT: —three weeks ago! [Inaudible]
CK: You did! [Laughter] And listen to that podcast again, everybody! It was very good.
CT: It was a great podcast. I really enjoyed listening to it, so, yeah, I would encourage you to listen to it. And I don’t think I have much to add to that.
CT: But I love my church and I think we have a very healthy culture where married people and single people invite each other into their lives. And I think carefulness around just the language that we use in church is really important. So I’m always a bit wary of talking about a particular service as a “family” service.
CT: That’s something that, even if we mean by it that we’re all one family, it can come across as a bit exclusive. Sometimes we talk in ways that single people feel on the margins. I remember once being in a prayer meeting and one of the pastors at the church I was then at said, “Let’s pray for all the new families and students arriving.” And there was this sense of “Oh, so I’m not in either of those categories” and I was new at the church and, you know, I know I am welcome, and I—I didn’t, you know—I think it was a sort of slip of the tongue, but I think we can slip into not thinking about single people as people who are equally in need of welcoming into the church and—
CT: —and actually are part of the church.
CK: I’ll give you one anecdote about this in my own experience. There was a single man that I learned so much from at my church. But this came to my attention—how we could be in community better—through frustration. We were having child and we were getting meals delivered, and this particular guy was going through a rough patch and not being cared for at all. And he said, “I don’t understand why these people—like you or whoever else it was—get meals and I don’t.” And I said, “I had no idea that you were going through what you’re going through.” And so I remember we, then, turned up with some groceries. That’s not a pat on our back; I’m just saying we turned up to just sort of meet the need immediately. And I said, “If you’d told me, I’d have been here.”
And what I realised is that we’d had a communication breakdown: we hadn’t been sharing life the way we should. And actually through the conflict, it brought us closer together. So even the fact that he would come and voice that concern to me was a growth opportunity for us. And so, through that gentleman, I learned so much about better awareness of each other. He learned about, hopefully, being more vulnerable and sharing his needs. And we learned about what it was to be a richer community together. And I think sometimes in the hiccups we can grow together too.
DT: I think you pick up on something important there and, again, I don’t want to make this a gross generalisation, but in my experience—certainly my own personal experience, but also my experience talking to lots of singles—particularly single Christians—a lot of them do—a lot of us, not them—a lot of us do struggle to actually say we need help—that we are actually—we struggle to reach out. I’m sure there’s all sorts of reasons for that, and part of that is because we had to learn to live fairly independently in a lot of ways. I think we need to learn some humility in actually reaching out to our members of our church family who may not know precise struggles and seasons that we’re going through and say, “I need a bit of help.”
I mean, it’s very obvious when a married couple has a new baby: they don’t need to say, “Now, guys, just to let you know, we’re probably going to have a bit of a tough time for a few”— like, we all know: this is going to be hard. Those visible signs are not normally there for single people—
DT: —in the same way. Which also leads into another, you know, as we talk about church and marriage and family and—and singles, I think one very practical thing that it would be great for us as church families to think about is not just being there in the hard times and proactively so, but celebrating the good times. When you think about what we tend to celebrate from the front of churches, it tends to be engagements, marriages and babies being born.
DT: They are wonderful things to celebrate!
DT: We ought to be celebrating those. But again, the milestones—the joys—the celebrations of the single person’s life very often go unnoticed. And I don’t suggest that we actually ought to be celebrating them to give acclaim to these single people, but to just rejoice with them: rejoice when, you know, your brother and sister is rejoicing—to actually acknowledge, “That’s been really significant for you!”
So, you know, silly example—well, not silly, but, you know, not significant: when I finished my PhD, I put it on Facebook to sort of go, “Hey, guess what! I just passed!” Oh my gosh! I just was—I felt a bit embarrassed, actually, by the amount of enthusiastic celebration that people engaged in. And I thought, “Why am I feeling embarrassed? I shouldn’t feel embarrassed about this!”
DT: “If I’d just given birth to a baby, I wouldn’t be feeling embarrassed—”
CK: That’s right!
DT: “—about these congratulations.”
CK: And you basically did, by the way; a thesis is about [Laughter] —it’s about as hard of a push!
DT: It’s a much longer labour!
CK: Not from—I can speak from the thesis end, but not from the delivery end! [Laughter]
DT: But I think milestones—be proactive in working out what those milestones are going to be for people you love—
DT: —in your church family and get ready to celebrate with them.
CK: And it’s so much better if we do that together. I mean, in one sense, people would have been praying for you for years while you’re studying. And so, when they see you reach that achievement, they’re rejoicing that the Lord has brought you through this season. And they can give thanks and praise to him appropriately. Just like we want to, like you said, with a safe delivery of a child. Or when you go to a wedding of a friend. We all go there and we celebrate: we say, “Praise God for this good gift!” Well, the more that we can do that for different spheres of life, the better off we’ll be as a community. It’s great. Thank you for that!
Sex in marriage
CK: As we think about maybe one or two more questions, let me just ask this: is it okay to have a sexless marriage? There was a point made about sex not being ultimate, and if we’re living, then, in a marriage, do we need to make sex a big deal? Or would it have a good or bad impact on the marriage either way? What would you say? Chris, you talked about 1 Corinthians 7.
CT: I did.
CK: There is some information for us—1 Corinthians 7, maybe, we could turn to that.
CT: Yeah, I mean I think the points that Paul makes in the first section of 1 Corinthians 7—sort of verse 2 down to verse 7—is he’s really—in that particular context in Corinth, he’s saying, “I think it’s actually good for a man to be having sexual relations with his wife and vice versa.” And part of that, I think, is related to that one flesh union that we talked about earlier—that, similarly to what Paul says in Ephesians 5, when the two become one, they are one body, and so there’s a care for one another there. You know, your body belongs to your spouse as well. And so I think Paul’s general rule is be having sex. And I think—there was a question along the lines as well of, “Well, if sex isn’t ultimate, you know, why do we need to do that?” Well, I think it’s a good thing to do to express that union. But also, I think, it is one of the ways that, for married people—I talked about some of the ways that single people and married people can keep their sexual desires under control. But I think for married people, this is something that God provides as—as a way for them to be enjoying sex appropriately.
But I think the caveat is that there are people for whom it won’t be possible, for whatever reason, to be having sex. And I still stand by what I said in my talk, which is that I think life without sex is possible: the Spirit enables us to stay self-controlled in that context. So I don’t think Paul has in mind those sort of special exceptions.
CT: But I think his general rule is be having sex. And I think if you’re not having sex, then there might be all kinds of reasons for that. But I would encourage you to talk it through as a couple—maybe talk it through with a counsellor—and if there’s some underlying issue that makes it difficult—whether it’s a sexual issue or maybe there’s some issue between you in your marriage that’s leading to sex not being something that you’re enjoying—I would suggest don’t be content with that situation.
CT: There are circumstances where it may be quite appropriate not to have sex. But I wouldn’t encourage a situation where there’s a kind of lack of physical intimacy that has some other unresolved cause that you’re not dealing with.
CK: That’s very wise advice, I think. Very wise.
How to live without sex
CK: Well, as we conclude our conversation, could you just give me 30 seconds or so as a rounding off comment: how do we live in this world that’s saturated with sex, even if we say we can live without sex? Chris, you gave us some really helpful tips the other night, I think, during the Q&A, and Dani, you’ve had some as well sprinkled throughout. But just a closing comment: I mean, what would you encourage people?
CT: Well I—I think as I said in my talk, we’ve just got to remember that there is a battle on—that it’s not peace time. And so, we need to be on our guard constantly. And I think that means being wise in the places we go—wise in what we allow to enter our minds. It’s going to be hard work, but I think we need to be prepared to fight against sin and the world and Satan. But I think also be encouraged that God’s Spirit lives in us and enables us to fight and even to overcome sin by the power of the Spirit.
CK: That’s very helpful.
DT: And I think, you know, we dismiss this as sounding trite, which is just—it’s crazy that we do. We say, “Fix your eyes on Jesus” and we’ve been going, “Yeah, here we go again.” But fix our eyes on Jesus, who was and is man—humankind—like us—who knew and knows what it is like to live as a human person in this fallen world—who lived a life without sex, but lived a good life and a perfect life. We can’t just dismiss the whole “Fix your eyes on Jesus” thing as trite; this is what we’re actually called to be as Christians—like Jesus. So I will—you know, I encourage myself and you to keep fixing your eyes on him, and fixing your eyes on the eternity that is in store for us, united with him perfectly.
CK: Amen! And that’s a word for us, married or single alike: fix our eyes on Christ. I think that’s a great place for us to finish today. Dani and Chris, I am so grateful to you and I know our listeners are as well. Thank you for all that you’ve shared with us, and the wisdom and the help. And we’ll ask the Lord to keep us until the day of Christ’s return.
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As always, I’d like to thank Moore College for making the ministry of the Centre for Christian Living possible, and to extend thanks to my assistant, Karen Beilharz, for audio editing and transcribing. Music provided by James West.