If there’s one thing Christians agree on it’s the deal around love and sex. Everyone knows when to do it and when not to, who touches what or doesn’t, how to have a brilliant marriage with a #hotwife or hubby and sexy-times date nights, and how to make it all look easy. And they know why too, rest assured, there is complete consensus on the reasons. Yay and amen.
It seems like there is more variation than ever. Whether uncoupled or married, young or bursting with life experience, a different absolutely-true-the-Lord-told-me take on God and romantic relationships emerges depending on who you ask. Having been drawn into many conversations about modern life and relationships over the years, I have recently been delving specifically into the thorny topic of love between a man and a woman and what Christian culture has to say about it.
There are several widely established options, of which just a few are summarised here.
Men and women are wired differently – like hyper-realistic robots with hair and Bibles – because God made it so. We are princes and princesses in a spiritual fairytale. We are the embodiment of Song of Songs, though nobody touches anybody’s gazelles until after sundown, and even then only in a vineyard (I think…). We are despicable fleshly humans fighting lust yet forced together for the sake of procreation with gross women who are, like, the worst thing ever (thanks Augustine for that one). We are created equal in the eyes of God and partner with Him and each other to live out our divine call, bumbling through the same old life issues as everyone else. We are designed to complement each other, equal but different, with men and women having distinct roles. Marriage is designed to sanctify us and reflect God’s love for the church – if it’s possible to find the way there from a dating app swipe. Mutual submission is the requirement for some, though what that looks like seems to vary. And although the Bible is big on singleness, and the early church thought it pretty much the ultimate call, somewhere along the way, marriage shoved it off the pedestal and took gold.
Seen anything that resonates yet? Are you completely clear on where you fit in all of this? A quick peruse of relationship books aimed at Christian men and women looking to couple up with each other suggests no shortage of God-ordained advice extrapolated from ancient texts.
From your zim and zum (by Robert and Mrs Bell) to How to be a Helpmeet handbooks – for they are legion – all claim to posses wisdom from on high, or somewhere near it, and I find myself intrigued. Intrigued by the sheer range of dilemmas and problems I hear about every day about what’s OK and what isn’t, and how we navigate the real life questions of prolonged singleness and unchosen childlessness. Of marriage in the years after the wedding, or after it ends. The impact of the internet, for good and bad. The imbalance in numbers of men and women in the church, and that uncertain world outside it, with its sexting and sperm donors and hook ups and intimate piercings – not always all at the same time.
So I have decided to investigate further and I want to know what you think. Are these worlds really separate? (spoiler: it seems not). Have you flowed seamlessly into the perfect marriage without a bump along the way? Do you turn to Captivating, Keller, Driscoll, or The Marriage Book when you need a helping hand? Or has Christian relationship advice not helped you? Are you Tinder-averse or swiping and believing? Did you commit young or are you waiting for The One or not waiting at all? Anything goes, or no kiss until I do? Was marriage not what you were led to expect? Might you feel called to be single or relaxed about whatever your future holds? If you’d like to share your thoughts and experiences and be part of the Real Life Love survey, here’s the (totally anonymous) link to do so. I think we might just be able to help each other along the way.
If you want to explore how the Church deals with sex and relationships, come along to our event on Thursday, 21 July. Book your tickets for Sex: is the Church a prude? here.