The other night I was teaching a class to a group of newlyweds and engaged couples. We were spending time brainstorming about the wrong messages that we receive about sex and then contrasting them to God’s truth about sex. We were talking about sex being a protection against temptation and someone brought up 1 Corinthians 7:3-5 which says,
3 The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband. 4 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. 5 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 have to be honest – this has never been my favorite verse about sex.
In fact I have probably avoided this verse because I could never make much sense out of it. It made me feel like I was supposed to have sex with my husband just to fulfill his physical needs so that he would not stray. How could just going thru the motions for my husband be what God intended? Couldn’t my husband control his own urges? Honestly, this verse made me feel used, like a piece of property.
But when the verse was brought up the other night, I felt like the veil was suddenly lifted, and the verse made sense to me. God was saying, Do you realize how powerful sex is – in a good way? Do you know how important sex is to your marriage, so that you will be one? Everything in this world will fight against your marriage and against living selflessly. Everyone will tell you that you need to do whatever it takes to protect yourself -it makes no sense to be selfless – especially with your husband. But when you are having great sex with your husband, on a regular basis, you will get to this amazing place where you don’t even know where his body stops and yours begin. Sex will make you into one – it will. And for your marriage to make it, you need to be one. You need to be so glued together that you don’t care about what anyone else thinks. You need to be so glued together that all you want to do is pour yourself out so that you can meld together. You need to be so glued together that you sense your spouse’s needs even before you sense your own. Opening yourself up to each other during sex will glue you together like nothing else.
It is not just that our bodies are not our own, it is that our spouses bodies are ours. Not because we own them, but because their wholeness is as important as our own. It helps us to feel them and we know when they are weary, discouraged or under attack. We know when to reach out and when to just hold their hand. It is not just about fulfilling each other’s physical needs, it is about being one, and through the mystery of oneness we can love each other better.
These verses, probably more than any other, have been used to guilt women into having sex with their husband. They have been used to manipulate women to serve their husband while in their heart they hated everything about it. But we know that God does not want us to just operate out of obligation. God wants us to operate out of an outpouring of an abundance of love. God wants your heart not just your actions.
(A word to the husbands – This verse does not say, “you have authority over your wife’s body”, it says, “she yields it to her husband.” It is her authority to give. The more your wife can trust you, the easier it will be for her to give. The more that she knows that you love her no matter what – not just to get sex – the more she will trust you. The more that she knows that you will protect her and provide for her, the more she will open up. )
God calls us to a lot of tough stuff in the bible and sometimes it seems impossible. To forgive 7×70 times, to love our enemies, to give up authority of our own body? How can we?
We cannot do it on our own. Our lives must depend on Christ. Our husband will let us down, he will say the wrong thing, he will hurt our feelings, and he will fail to reach out to us when we are aching. But God will always be there. He will provide what we need, He will fill us when we are empty, and He will show us what it means to love.
Nobody can make you give up authority of your body – not God, not your pastor, not your husband. It is your choice. It is something that we do out of a fullness and a sureness of who God created us to be. It is something that we do as we gain trust with our husband and see their humanness in contrast to our God that steadies us. Ultimately giving up authority is our choice.
What God is calling us to is radical. It is what we aim for in this messed up world, but it is hard work. Giving yourself to your spouse – mind, body and soul, is the most terrifying thing you will ever do. But what a sweet thing it is.