Yesterday I started talking about the purposes of marriage by touching on the idea that the ideal context for childbearing and child raising is within a family headed by married parents. There is more I could say, most of it controversial nowadays, about the desireability of having a man and woman, married to each other, heading up the family: how the complementary nature of each gender adds to the child's "well-roundedness," how children raised in single-family homes tend to do worse in many social measures than those raised in two parent homes, etc. But I'd rather move on to the next topic (if you want to discuss the child-raising aspects of marriage, and the ideal, please do! Comments and email are welcome.)
That next purpose of marriage is: Sex.
And no, this isn't an attempt to drive traffic to the blog (though the combination of controversial statements about differences in gender and sex seems to attract search engine notice.) No, providing a place in which sexual relations are appropriate and safe is a major purpose of marriage.
First the disclaimer. As an evangelical, I probably belong to a class seen by some as rather prudish and anti-sex. Nothing could be further from the truth. The Bible itself describes passion and sex as pleasurable and desireable for both men and women (Song of Solomon.) Since most Christians I know have children, I don't think that most Christians really are anti-sex. Even the Apostle Paul's position on sex is often misrepresented. (He wasn't anti-sex, but was a single man completely focused on evangelism. It wasn't that he was anti-sex, but that he was all for people focusing on God - even above good things like sex.)
So I will stipulate sex is good, pleasurable, desireable and Biblically blessed.
But. Only in the right context is sex all it can and should be. God created marriage to be the sole outlet for sexual relations. Any sex outside the marriage relationship is adultery - something not only disallowed in the Ten Commandments, but also condemned by Jesus. Even when sex outside marriage is "only mental" it is considered adultery! Sex before marriage is therefore as wrong as infidelity within a marriage. This is why Paul says that those who cannot control themselves should get married. If sex before marriage was okay, this comment by Paul wouldn't have been necessary - there would have been no problem with "burning" if premarital relations were okay.
There are many reasons sex outside of marriage is not all Hollywood makes it out to be. Increased risk of STDs and unplanned pregnancies; lack of formal commitment leads to broken relationships and higher risk of emotional abuse; studies showing that cohabitating (ergo sleeping together) couples divorce at rates higher than those who don't cohabitate - God's rules against adultery are there for good reason. Sex within marriage, assuming fidelity, not only provides for emotional and spiritual intimacy (not to mention pleasure and enjoyment of one's spouse), but it also provides for protection. Sex outside of marriage, as with all sin, increases risk of harm to health, emotions, spirituality and life.
So yes, the Bible is pro-sex. God's first command in fact relies on sex. But there is a place for it, one that protects both spouses and allows them to capture intimacy with each other. That place is marriage.
With that, I'll move on to the weekend. Again, comments are very welcome.
Have a good weekend, and God bless!